Why Goldfish Bowls Should Be Banned: In-depth Discussion

Charlie Morton

Charlie Morton


Why Goldfish Bowls Should Be Banned

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One of the most atrocious myths about goldfish care is that they live happily in fish bowls. Sadly, this has led to millions of fish being kept in very inhumane conditions.

The truth is that goldfish should never be kept in bowls, and animal welfare activists have already succeeded in getting goldfish bowls banned in several countries.

With increased awareness, goldfish bowls may well receive the same ban around the world and become a relic of our history books. Here we’ll explore why.

Key Takeaway

  • Goldfish are large fish, growing up to a foot long in some cases. Goldfish bowls are simply too small to accommodate them.
  • Goldfish produce a lot of waste. A goldfish bowl is too small to install an efficient filtration system to keep the habitat clean and safe for the fish.
  • Water parameters and temperatures are less stable in small containers. Volatile temperatures and water chemistry can lead to stress or even shock, ill health, and death.
  • The curved shape of a glass bowl distorts the fish’s view of the outside world, meaning movement outside causes constant stress.
  • An open-topped fishbowl risks fish jumping out, and predators and pollutants entering.
  • Finally, goldfish are social fish that prefer to live with other fish. Goldfish bowls are too small for a single goldfish, let alone several.

Where in the World Are Goldfish Bowls Banned?

Goldfish Bowl Banned

In October 2005, the Italian city of Rome established a ban on goldfish as fairground prizes and on keeping pet fish in bowls.

The newspaper Il Messaggero claimed that fish bowls can cause fish to go blind. Other cities, including Monza in Italy and several cities in Mexico and Sweden, followed suit by establishing their own laws on goldfish welfare.

Since 2008, Switzerland made it illegal to keep single goldfish because they are deemed happier living in groups with additional goldfish.

Finland has also passed a law banning the sale of goldfish bowls, and several other countries such as Belgium and New Zealand are considering a ban.

With the efforts of animal rights activists and animal welfare experts, much of the rest of the world may be soon banning fish bowls, too.

Why Are Goldfish Bowls Cruel?

There are several reasons that fish bowls are considered inhumane.

Size Matters

Did you know that you’ll never find a goldfish living in wild natural habitats? That’s because goldfish are the domesticated descendants of a species of wild carp.

This might be surprising since carp are large fish, but most goldfish can grow fairly big, too.

Long-bodied goldfish such as Comets are more at home in a pond rather than a tank, growing up to 12 inches long. Even one-inch-long baby Calico fantail goldfish will reach at least 6 inches in length as adult goldfish.

Goldfish are quick growers and active swimmers — a cramped bowl is no place for fish of that size.

Goldfish Keep Growing Even in Small Bowls

You’ve probably heard that goldfish only grow to fit the size of whatever bowl or tank they’re kept in. But while a small bowl will slow down the fish’s growth rate, it will continue to grow, albeit with potential deformities from the cramped conditions.

Goldfish are highly active creatures that appreciate plenty of swimming space. Long-bodied goldfish are especially fast swimmers, and even their round-bodied fancy counterparts like to spend their time exploring the tank. If they don’t have space to swim comfortably, they will soon become stressed and prone to health problems and pain.

According to The French Goldfish Society, goldfish need at least 100 liters (nearly 30 gallons) of water per two fish – and that’s simply not possible in a tiny goldfish bowl.

Water Quality

The other big problem with keeping goldfish in a small bowl is that they are messy fish, generating high amounts of waste.

Goldfish don’t have a stomach like we do! Everything they eat passes through them fairly quickly, raising levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates which are all toxic to aquarium fish in sufficient quantity.

Whereas small amounts of nitrate might be acceptable in a 40-gallon aquarium, the same amount of nitrate can easily kill a fish in a bowl or 5-gallon tank because there is less fresh water to dilute it. A goldfish bowl cannot comfortably accommodate a filtration system, and, without one, the water quickly turns foul.

Although you could carry out partial water changes every day, too many water changes also remove many of the beneficial bacteria from the environment that would otherwise process the ammonia. A filter will also save you an enormous amount of work!

Oxygen Requirements

Like all freshwater fish, goldfish need a plentiful supply of oxygen to remain happy and healthy. Since goldfish bowls only offer a limited surface area, poor gas exchange leads to insufficient oxygen for fish in the bowl. Adding an air bubbler or airstone just isn’t enough!

The best way to ensure plentiful oxygen is to provide your goldfish with a rectangular aquarium with a large surface area along with an efficient filter to produce large quantities of dissolved oxygen.

Water Parameters and Stability

Although many fish-keeping beginners assume that a small fish tank or bowl will be easier to maintain, the truth is just the opposite!

The smaller the aquarium, the bigger the effects of small changes in water quality, water chemistry, and temperature, which is why tanks that offer a larger water volume are much easier to keep stable. Temperature fluctuations are also much more extreme in small amounts of water because there is no buffer to slow the changes down.

That’s bad news for goldfish, as the stress caused by fluctuating water temperature and chemistry compromises the fish’s immune system, making the critters much more susceptible to infections and health problems.

Lonely Fish

Although goldfish are not a schooling species, they are social animals that do best when kept in the company of their own species and other suitable tank mates.

Ideally, you want to keep a group of goldfish in a spacious tank or garden pond where they can socialize. Goldfish living in a pond setting often reproduce every spring without any intervention from their owners!

Keeping one lonely goldfish all on its own in a small bowl is cruel. The fish will likely become stressed and die well before the 10-20-year life spans that they regularly reach when kept in proper conditions.

Why Goldfish Should Never Be Kept Without a Lid

Why Goldfish Bowls Should Be Banned

Unlike conventional fish tanks that have a hood, lid, or cover slide, goldfish bowls usually have an open top. There are several dangers to open-topped fishbowls, such as:

Suicidal Fish!

The main danger of an open-topped fishbowl is that the fish might commit suicide!

Wild carp are perfectly capable of jumping, as you can see in this YouTube video clip. And, yes, your goldfish can jump too!

Fish jump out of their tanks for several reasons:

  • Poor water quality
  • Lack of oxygen
  • Fear of an aggressive tank mate
  • Hunger
  • Boredom and general dissatisfaction

Additionally, goldfish can become startled when you’re cleaning out their tank, causing them to leap out of the water and finish up on the floor.


Dust, insects, household cleaning chemicals, and other airborne debris can easily get into the water of an unprotected bowl or tank without a lid.

That pollution can quickly poison the water, making your goldfish sick or even killing them.


You may have noticed that your pet cat sometimes sits transfixed by the activity of the fish, swimming around their bowl. However, if the bowl doesn’t have a lid, what’s to stop Tibbles from going fishing while your back is turned?

All it takes is for one curious paw to hook out your goldfish, and Bubbles ends up on the carpet as a cat toy. Or even kitty’s lunch!

Curious Kids

Little kids can also be curious about the beautiful, shiny fish in an open fish bowl. And it’s not unheard of for a child to remove a goldfish from the bowl and take it out for a walk in the garden.

In summary, a fish tank with a tight-fitting lid is essential to keep your goldfish safe from many potential dangers!

A Distorted View?

Because of the shape of the glass, the fish’s view from inside the bowl is highly distorted. When their owner approaches the bowl to feed the fish, they simply see a huge, blurred object approaching, which is certain to startle and scare the fish.

Living with constant stress, the fish’s health is compromised, and lifespan is shortened. Although an acrylic tank or bowl creates less distortion than a glass one, the shape of a bowl still distorts the fish’s view.

Final Thoughts

Keeping goldfish in fish bowls has long been considered a very cruel treatment for these intelligent fish.

Goldfish kept in bowls are subject to lack of space, poor water conditions, distorted vision, and constant stress that severely impact their quality of life as well as their expected lifespan.

Thankfully, many countries have already banned goldfish bowls, and with increased awareness, many more will do so soon.

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96 thoughts on “Why Goldfish Bowls Should Be Banned: In-depth Discussion”

  1. Hi, just looking for some advice, we got 2 common from 9pet store who also sold us the 10g tank for them, they were baby’s, and I thought they would be OK, I genuinely thought they lived for a year or two at most, but they just kept growing, unfortunately one bullied the other and it sadly passed away after 6 months, so the other had the tank to himself, he just kept growing, and we were lucky enough to find a real cheap 30g tank for him, looked to me like more than enough room, well, now he’s 4yo and 12″ long in a 30g tank, due to covid, finance is tight, how long can he last in a 30g tank? There doesn’t seem to be a lot of room, but enough to survive, but not thrive, I don’t want him to die prematurely, how long would you give him, immediately? A month? A year? I hope you can see where I’m coming from with this, we can’t put him in a pond because we don’t have one, so it’s a tank or nothing, I genuinely didn’t do my research and feel I’m. Way in over my head

    • Hi Tonie,
      This is a very unfortunate situation, but I understand how tough things are right now. Keeping a 12″ fish in a 30 gallon tank is pretty bad and needs to be fixed immediately. There’s no saying how this has affected the fish or how much longer your fish can withstand these cramped conditions. But you’re doing the right thing by asking for help.
      I would recommend looking on Facebook groups and Craigslist for cheaper tanks. Some pet stores also offer $1 per gallon sales every now and then, so keep an eye out for those.
      If you have no luck, I would highly consider giving the fish away. You can find reputable hobbyists on local aquarium groups that could give your fish what it needs. You might even get lucky and find someone who is willing to keep your fish until you can get a bigger tank up and running. But you need to start looking now.
      Whatever you do, do not release it into the wild!!
      Good luck and let us know how it goes.

  2. Hello, I’m looking for some help. My brother wants to get a goldfish, and he intends to keep it in a bowl. I was wondering if someone could summarise the dangers in a easy to read and concise way to help me convince our parents not to let him. Also, can someone please recommend a good place to ethically adopt a goldfish? I don’t really want to buy from a pet store, but I’m having a hard time finding another option. Thanks so much!

    • Hi Adah!
      The article above is a great place to start understanding the dangers of goldfish bowls. Ammonia poisoning is the main threat with small tanks. This is when ammonia (which is created by your fish and fish food) starts to burn the internal and external organs of your fish. High levels of ammonia are the result of low water volume, lack of tank maintenance, and improper filtration. Ammonia poisoning is a slow and painful death.
      You also want to consider the ethics of keeping a fish in such a small tank.
      As for where to buy a goldfish, check out your local pet stores! Some goldfish can be pretty expensive due to pedigrees, but you should be able to find a beauty at a reasonable place in your area. If not, there are always specialty goldfish shops online.

  3. Hey, at my internyship I got to pick some store articles for up to 25 euro as a christmas pressent, and I choose goldfish in a giant wine glass.
    But when I took it home they told me that they shouldnt be in a bowl.
    My gaint whineglass holds about as much water as a full bucket filled to the edge, and the 2 goldfish are regular goldfish with a lenght from about 5 cm. If I refresh the water everytime there is a small amount of poop in it, will they be fine (enough) then?

    • Hi! I’m so sorry you weren’t informed about this earlier. As discussed in this article, no, that’s unfortunately not going to cut it for your goldfish. They will eventually die in there. Is it currently winter where you are? If it is, I’d try to get a food-safe storage tub that’s as big as possible and maybe pick up a used filter and keep them in there, refreshing the water every few days until it has warmed up a bit around springtime. Then, rehome them to someone with a pond (unless you’re in a big city I think everyone knows someone with a pond, like a friend, family member or coworker). If the storage tub and filter are too much of a hassle you could also keep them in the wineglass but there is a bigger chance of them dying before spring.

      I hope that clears things up and you’ll be able to give them a happy home. Good luck!

    • Goldfish is not a good fit even with water changes… they really do become giants (30 cm is not uncommon and they can live up to 40 years; fancy types due to their abnormalities usually become around 15-20 cm big and live to a mere 10-20 years). Might be better if you either get a big aquarium upgrade or re-home them.

      As for the giant wine glass, a guppy might work better in that. With good a bit of aquascaping, you can make a masterpiece of that!

  4. Can I have some advice please!
    I recently got two small common goldfish from a friend who wasn’t able to take care of them any more.
    I am keeping them in a 10 Litre bowl and clean and change their water weekly and I use a filter.
    Is this tank too small for them? should I be moving them to a pond? If so are they any small cold water fish species you would recommend that would be suitable for a tank this size?

    Thanks for your help!

    • Hello,

      How nice of you to “adopt” the goldfish. Unfortunately a 10 litre bowl is infinitely too small for them (as mentioned in this article). They need around 400 liters per fish to thrive, so a pond is most definitely your best bet. Weekly water changes aren’t going to keep them healthy until you find a pond to rehome them to – daily would be better. If it’s going to take long to find a pond you might want to upgrade to a larger temporary container, like a food-safe storage tub.

      Unfortunately there are no fish species that fit in a bowl this tiny. You still have one option though, which is to turn it into a planted bowl with some snails and/or dwarf shrimp! I’ve got an article that explains how to set up a planted bowl here.

    • Actually, contrary to what Mari says, there are fish you can keep happily in a 10 liter bowl provided that you meet their needs. The classic 1 betta recommendation works in a pinch, if you add a tiny heating element to your bowl, because they need a minimum temperature of 22°C. Two or three male guppies will work even in normal room temperature (minimum 18°C), as will a trio of red rosy minnows (minimum 10°C) or a trio of white cloud mountain minnows (minimum 5°C).

      I always recommend using plants, especially in smaller settings such as bowls. Plants do not only provide oxygen, filter your bowl, and help keep the water parameters stable and healthy; they also provide excellent coverage and do a lot to minimize aggression between your fish (which is essential in nano aquariums). In a bowl, I would recommend you to plant as heavily as you can (use cheap plants if necessary; java moss, water sprite, water weeds, etc. are easy to come by and care for); if your bowl starts looking like a jungle, then you’re doing your job right.

      • I wouldn’t even recommend a betta for a 10 liter (or 2.6 gallon) bowl. In my opinion, 3.5 gallons is the absolute bare minimum for them, with 5+ being better. Guppies and minnows should have an absolute bare minimum of 10 gallons, with 15+ being better, and minnows should be kept in groups of at least 6, with 8-10+ being better. A 2.6 gallon bowl with a filter (and heater for the bettas and guppies, who absolutely DO need a heater) could certainly handle the bio load of these fish, and they’re certainly all small enough to actually fit in such a bowl, but they’re all very active fish and would be absolutely miserable in such a small space.

        • Agreed on all that, although my personal minimum for a Betta is 5 gal 🙂 Guppies and other active fish are a really bad fit for tiny setups. Bowls are for plants and anything between 2.5 and 5 gal is for shrimp (if it were up to me).

  5. My sister got a goldfish at the fair and I’m pretty sure it’s a common goldfish. It’s kept in a very small bowl and has little pellets for food. I went in there today and noticed he looked bored and he was swimming against the walls as if he wanted to escape or something. There’s no plants just colorful stones on the bottom and his tank is too small to fit anything. After reading this I know he’s probably going to die in such a small space and I’m pretty sure my sister would be sad. My mom said she wouldn’t buy anything because he will probably only last a couple weeks (more like days) and I feel really bad for the little guy..is there anything I could possibly use (like a big vase) or do to make him live longer?

    • Sorry to hear about the poor goldfish. The only thing you could do is rehome him if you have any family members or friends with a large pond, as commons are strictly pond fish. Depending on whether temperatures are already getting low where you live, you might have to do so quickly before it gets too cold. If it’s already too cold, you can move the fish to a large (15-20 gallon) foodsafe/Sterilite tub and keep it in there until Spring comes back around, but that’s expensive and a lot of work so being able to rehome him now would be ideal.

      Good luck!

    • I have only had these fish for a few days and was researching how best to take care of them, thanks to your article I realised I am not able to do this and so I am doing my best to re-home them as quickly as possible. I did not purchase the ten litre tank and the fish would otherwise have been kept in these conditions for longer or be thrown away.

      • I totally understand, good on you for saving the fish 🙂 And I’m glad to hear you’ll be rehoming them quickly. Good luck with that!

  6. Would a smaller fish live longer in a normal bowl? And do they absolutely need filters. If I cleaned the tank often would they still live?

    • By smaller fish I assume you mean a fish that’s not a goldfish? No, that’s absolutely not okay either. All fish ALWAYS need a filtered, cycled (and heated if they’re a tropical species) tank. No exceptions.

      • Yes, there ARE smaller types of fish that would happily live in a fishbowl provided that the bowl is large enough. There is an entire aquarist movement dedicated to ditching the mechanical filter; terms to look for, if you want to create such set-ups, include Walstad method, no-tech/low-tech aquarium, el natural aquarium, etc. These types of aquariums and bowls are usually very heavily planted, but lightly stocked with fish, and not cleaned that much at all, because the live plants function as a biological filter for the fish waste and other detritus. Depending on the type of fish you keep and how warm you keep your room temperature, you can even ditch the heater. Guppies, zebra danios, rosy red minnows, and white cloud mountain minnows, for example, do quite well in the average room temperatures, so most people don’t need heaters; bettas prefer a warmer range, so unless you live in the tropics or your room temperature is toasty warm, having a heater might be better.

        • I am definitely familiar with Walstadt/no tech method bowls, vases and tanks. However, that has nothing to do with the classic goldfish bowl, which is usually way under 5 gallons and set up without any filtration, heating or plants. The possibility of going natural does not change my opinion at all on whether any fish can be kept in the classic goldfish bowl either. You mention guppies, zebra danios and minnows – those are all much too large and active to keep in a goldfish bowl even if it’s set up the proper way. They all need rectangular tanks of at least 50 cm. The only stock I would consider for a planted goldfish bowl under 5 gallons is a colony of dwarf shrimp or a few snails. If the bowl is 5 gallons or over and filtered/heated then a Betta would also be a possibility in my opinion. Absolutely no schooling fish, though, and no ditching the filter unless the setup is on the larger side.

          In the case of a commenter who is clearly unfamiliar with aquariums my answer is a firm NO on any fish in a bowl and a NO on going filter-less.

          • Actually, fish like guppies CAN be set up in less than 5 gallons. Especially fancy guppies. I won’t argue that zebra danios and cardinal tetras would prefer more swimming room, I’ve experimented with those two in a 5 gallon tank before and they were a tad on the active side, but I’ve successfully kept and bred guppies in 5 gallons and smaller for years, both filtered and Walstad set-ups (and yes, I HAVE ditched filters on less than 5 gallon tanks before without ANY problems), and they never displayed any of the glass bumping behavior like the zebra danio and cardinal tetra did. The guppies displayed normal breeding behavior and were always busy foraging between the plants… in other words, the same guppy behavior that they also display in 10 gallon and 50 gallon tanks. I find that long-finned and big-tailed fish such as fancy guppies are especially well-suited for 5-or-less gallon nano aquariums due to the fact that their body type forces them to be slow moving and thus less active.

            Also, I’ve seen plenty of 5+ gallon bowls before; I don’t find them out of the ordinary; I don’t see why you suddenly need to call one “classic” and the other non-traditional? A bowl is a bowl is a bowl; the distinction between a 5 gallon versus a 1 gallon or smaller is between nano aquarium keeping and pico aquarium keeping and has nothing to do with the shape of a bowl.

            It’s really not that hard to keep a guppy or two alive and thriving in an unfiltered 10 liter Walstad bowl set-up; throw in a good chunk of water weeds and you’ve done 90 percent of the work. Even my 10 year old nephew has managed to raise the extra fry I gave him last summer into healthy adults with only minimal supervision, so it’s really EASY and not the daunting horror you make it out to be.

  7. actully your right.I had a goldfish lived up to 1 year in a bowl,But then i got one put it in a tank with another they lived up soo long.I

      • My sister has a goldfish in a 3 gallon tank but he’s only going to be in there for a couple more weeks we are in the process of cycling a 20 gallon tank for him he will live for a few more weeks right?

        • Hi Reid,
          While this isn’t ideal circumstances, your goldfish should be able to survive another few weeks (no more than 3-4 weeks). The biggest problem with small bowls and goldfish is that they make a ton of waste and that translates into high ammonia levels, which can prove to be deadly. In order to increase the likelihood of your goldfish surviving until then, get an aerator and do daily partial water changes. Also, make sure that the tank is completely cycled before adding in the fish!
          Good luck and your goldfish thanks you for a bigger tank.

          • He is in the tank now and is doing completely fine we got him in today. The tank is fully cycled. We put some water from the 3 gallon tank to the 20g and he seems to be doing fine.

          • As long as the fish is doing okay and parameters are within reason, that’s all that matters! Continue to make sure that it’s eating and there are no signs of stress/disease. Keep a close eye on your water parameters as well.
            For future reference, transferring water between tanks won’t influence the new tank; the bacteria on the surfaces within the aquarium/filter is what makes the tank safe for fish. This is why many hobbyists choose to transfer filter media to ‘instant cycle’ new tanks!

  8. I have really only had a few fish (some bettas too) in my life. I felt very bad for them so I got two at the fair. I feel horrible now reading this article. My parents told me to get the betta bowls out to put them in, which I didnt appreciate but you cant really argue with the people who put a roof over your head lol. They look so cramped (we have two seperate bowls) and I feel terrible looking at them. I do think theyre doing better than they did in those bags. I have a 35 gallon tank also, but my parents said not to take it out because we dont have the room for it, which I also fought about. For now they are in those betta tanks and I do not have any family members with ponds. I really do not want to give it away and I still need to buy the plants and filter until I can move them into the big tank. How long will they survive in those tiny tanks until I can transport them into the 35 gallon tank?

    • They won’t survive long at all, sorry 🙁 and if they’re common (single tailed) goldfish then unfortunately the 35 gallon won’t nearly be enough either. You could try searching for someone with a pond through sites like Craigslist, that’s how I rehomed two turtles a while ago. In the meantime, you could ask your parents if it’s okay to set up a foodsafe (Sterilite) tub for the fish to keep them alive, at least that will provide them with some more room than just the little bowls.

      As I’ve mentioned on this site, never get fish because you feel sorry for them (you’ve probably realized this already). You’re just sustaining the market for this cruelty; the best thing you can do is ignore the companies that facilitate it.

      Good luck and sorry I can’t be of more help! I hope you’ll be able to find a solution for the fish.

  9. My son brought one home from a birthday party. It was in a very small bowl, I felt bad and got a gallon bowl. And now its a year later, im still feeling guilty. I change its water every week and blow oxygen in every day…but Im going to get it a 10 gallon or 20 and then replace it will another when it dies. Nice post.

    • A 10 or 20 gallon is still not enough for a common goldfish, which this most likely is! You’re better off finding someone with a pond to adopt the fish 🙂

  10. Thank you so much for this post, I absolutely loved reading it.

    Articles like yours inspired me to start my own blog & write my own posts like improving the lifespan of a goldfish.

    It breaks my heart whenever I see the poor things in tiny tanks & bowls!

    Thanks again,


    p.s would it be ok if I link to this page from my site?

  11. I bought two goldfish at a local walmart and was excited to put them into the bowl I had waiting, but when I put them in it I realized just how small it was… I looked up what they really needed and came across your site and wow… I almost want to cry. I can’t afford to buy a tank for about a week and they look so cramped… Will they sustain a week in that tiny bowl? I feel awful, they don’t seem to like it much.

    • Hi! Glad to hear you decided to do some research. Don’t cry! If you can get to a store, get a large Sterilite tub (at least 5 gallons but preferably more so you can use it as a quarantine tank later) and move them in there until you can get a larger setup or rehome them. Do daily water changes and they should be okay for a week or so 🙂
      Do keep in mind that if they’re common (“regular”, long body and single tail) goldfish, they won’t be able to live in a larger aquarium either. They’re strictly pond fish and you should rehome them to someone with a pond as soon as possible! If they’re fancy goldfish with a short, round body and double tail the two of them will do well in at least 40 gallons.

      Good luck! I hope everything goes well and the fish are okay.

  12. Yes the bowls should be banded. But I’d go even further and say so should winning goldfish as prizes at fairs and fetes. As generally these winners didn’t plan on getting a goldfish, and haven’t done any research into looking after them. And these are the people that will buy a small bowl – as this is how it is depicted in TV shows and cartoons.

    • Giving goldfish away as prizes is already 100% banned in my country and it definitely should be everywhere. People who win them don’t have a proper goldfish setup or pond just sitting around and the fish almost always ends up dead or suffering. Completely agree!

    • That’s actually a Ryukin goldfish, a type of fancy goldfish that’s bred to look this way. The S-shape I/m referring to is the result of bad water quality!

  13. I really do love my goldfish Kobi and I’ll do anything to make him happy even if it means taking a stretch though. Huh, I don’t know if he counts as a “fancy” goldfish or not… If you are able to tell me I’d super-duper would appreciate it. (Like icing on the cake, but if not I’m okay with that.) He looks like a regular golden goldfish except with a very distinctive fanned-out tail that is big (even a bit bigger than his torso!) and from the back looks like it’s triangle-shaped. I tried googling it but I haven’t found any pictures that look quite like it. They look too flappy compared to his which has a “sharp” edge to them. I feel like there should be a name for it but I don’t know what.

    • From your description he sounds like a comet goldfish. Because of his life in a bowl, though, he may also be stunted causing his tail to be bigger than usual. Goldfish that are introduced to each other at a later age are 100% friendly, so that wouldn’t be a problem, but since you’re mentioning a bowl I would definitely not get another goldfish. Bowls are extremely unsuitable to keep any kind of living creature in, including goldfish, even if they’re big. The minimum size for ANY kind of goldfish is 40 gallons for two fancies. Comet goldfish like yours are exclusively pond fish and my advice would unfortunately have to be to rehome your goldie to someone (friend/family member) with a goldfish pond asap (it’s the right time of the year as it’s summer right now). Until you find a new home, please move him to at least a 10 gallon Sterilite/food safe tub and do daily 70-80% water changes. Be sure to acclimate him when moving! I’d also join a goldfish forum such as Koko’s Goldfish Forum to gain ssome more knowledge about proper goldfish care.

      I know it’s sad to give up your goldfish, but please follow up on my advice. Even if you feel the bowl is very large, any bowl is too small. If you’re interested in fishkeeping, try researching bettas or fancy goldfish. There are caresheets here on Aquariadise!
      Good luck. 🙂

  14. My fish is 8 years old and I keep him in a fish bowl. He is a common goldfish and doesn’t have any diseases, he’s not a weird shape and he moves about the bowl. He has been ill once in his life and it was fin-rot, which I treated. He is however very small (maybe 8cm?) and so this article is freaking me out. He’s been in this size bowl for all his 8 years of life. I have no filter, just weekly bowl cleans. How has he managed to live this long?! If I get a 20 gallon tank and a filter will he grow bigger? Does he need anything else? I don’t have a pond and don’t want to give him away.

    • Goldfish are very strong fish and some can adapt to even the most harsh living conditions. That’s why I often say that surviving is not thriving. Yes, your fish has survived for all this time, but his growth has been severely stunted because goldfish produce growth slowing hormones that become very concentrated in a bowl. These hormones are naturally meant to stop growth in harsher times and prevent the waste production from increasing. He is being exposed to harmful ammonia 24/7. I’m not sure if he’ll grow bigger if you upgrade him to a bigger tank as it may have been too long, but it will still greatly improve his quality of life. However, because he’s used to being exposed to ammonia all the time moving him to water that is actually clean too suddenly can be such a shock that it causes him to die. The transition should be very gradual!
      Do keep in mind that a 20 gallon is still not enough for a single common goldfish and goldfish actually shouldn’t be kept alone. They are used to “safety in numbers” and will feel vulnerable and stressed when you keep them on your own. A 40+ gallon indoor pond/tub, possibly with a fancy goldfish as a “friend”, might be the best solution here. Due to being stunted your common doesn’t produce as much waste as it usually would, and it’s probably too small to outcompete a fancy goldfish for food.
      Good luck! I’m sorry I can’t give you a more satisfying answer. Common goldfish require a lot of space and care.

      • No, you’ve been so helpful. I’m looking into how to gradually change it to a filtered system and I’ve bought a larger tank but I don’t make much money so it will be a few months before I can get the size he deserves. So much for me thinking a fish would be a cheap pet! Haha. Thank you for replying 🙂 I really appreciate it.

        • Glad to hear you’re doing your best to give him what he needs. A lot of people buy a goldfish thinking it will be a nice cheap pet so you’re definitely not the only one I’ve unfortunately had to disappoint. Most people don’t want to admit their mistakes and make a positive change, though, so it’s great to come across someone who does. 🙂
          Good luck!

          • I think people under price goldfish. I know they can be used as food because my dad did that with his oscars, but goldfish are, in my opinion, worth more than under a dollar. I mean, my freeze dried bloodworms cost more than that.

          • Goldfish are funny because they can either be a few cents or top-of-the-line prices. Some goldfish and koi go for thousands of dollars!

  15. Hi,
    Thanks so much for this post.
    Until this evening, I’ve only ever owned one goldfish when I was 10.

    Today, I took my toddler to the fair and on one of the games, you could choose a prize, and amongst the teddy bears was many bowls of miserable looking goldfish. I love animals, and wanted to help at least one of them, so chose a goldfish for him.

    The shops were shut apart from my local supermarket so I purchased a plastic cereal box as a temporary home, some fish food and some dechlorination stuff….. It was all that was available to me.

    I’ve since spent the evening researching what the fish really needs and hence came accross this article. I’ve purchased online, everything I can think of, but it will take a couple of days to arrive.

    The fish seems happier than he was in the plastic bag we took him home from the fair in, but he’s mostly lying at the bottom of his new “home”, and I’m not sure if he will survive until my new purchases arrive though.

    Your article made a lot of things clear, that I’d had no reason to understand before. I know you will probably be frowning that I got this fish at the fair, but i really did take him in the hope to give him a better future than he might have faced had he spent some more nights in that plastic bag at the fair, or had someone else taken him.

    I’ll admit though, I’d not realised even at that time just how much care they need!

    • Hi!
      Glad you found this page, and sorry your new goldfish isn’t doing so well so far! The goldfish given out at fairs are usually common goldfish, which are unsuitable for life in aquariums. While he is in the cereal box, do daily water changes with dechlorinated water to keep the water values under control.

      If he survives long enough, please try to find a friend or family member with a pond who is willing to adopt a single goldfish. If you do want to keep goldfish in an aquarium in the future, fancy goldfish stay a lot smaller and a pair of them will do great in a cycled, well-filtered 40-50 gallon aquarium 🙂 If you get them from a responsible breeder or importer, you’re not sustaining a market that relies on animal abuse like the games that give away goldfish.

      Good luck with your goldie, I hope he survives!

  16. I was a douche in the past. I saw fish as ‘just fish.’

    Now I’m going at it with a fresh perspective. I’ll only be able to have 1 aquarium for the foreseeable future so I want to get high quality gear. I also want to put whatever fish I get in an aquarium large enough for them when they are adults.

    I have been researching fish for the last 6 months. There are so many cool species out there that makes this somewhat overwhelming. I want these fish to have an awesome long life.

      • Thank you!

        At the moment I’m leaning towards setting up a planted 20 gallon long for a male betta. I feel bad for those little dudes that have to live in a glass of water.

        • Mad respects for the respect you give to the proper care of fish! A betta with a heater, appropriate filtration and frequent partial water changes will do crazy-awesome in that size tank.

          • Thank you for the compliment.

            I have read that betta’s need a tank without a strong current. Is that correct?

            I have a vision in my head of what I want the tank to look like. I just have to figure out the right plants for it.

          • That is true. As long as you don’t have a whirlpool-effect whipping around the fish, you can never have too strong of a filter system. Live plants that can be used are Java fern, Java moss, Marimos, and, with a little bit more patients due to their infamous ‘melt-down’ syndrome, cryptocorynes, particularly the 50 million morphs of Wendtii spp. I don’t know if you live in the U.S., Canda, or Puerto Rico, but Petsmart sells tissue-cultured crypts that do not experience cyptocoryne rot the way potted ones do. While expensive compared to the former, the tissue-cultured are exceedingly resilient and easy to grow. I have a butt-load of them in my 2.5 gal. betta tank and they have all resisted the dreaded melting phenomenon of transplant shock. If you don’t go with a plant-based substrate, I’d recommend root tabs placed near the roots of the crypts every 3 months. Like every-other slow-growing aquatic plant species in existence, they don’t need a ton-load of fertilizer to fuel their growth so this infrequent feeding should be fine. The other species I mentioned feed from the water column and the dissolved waste normally produced by the fish should be more than enough for them, even with regular, partial water changes (think ‘manure’.) I’d love to help you out and give you advice if you have anyother questions as it’s my favorite part of my job at work as well!

          • As always, Psybur does my job of answering these questions better than I do. I agree that a 20 gal would be fantastic for a betta and the plants mentioned make a great choice as well. Good luck! 🙂

  17. I have 4 fancy goldfish in a 40litres for 1year and there still alive. Unfortuanitly here in pets at home the largest tank you can buy is 60litres and they informed me that i can keep 4 goldfish in the tank. My filtrition does 740 litres per hour which keeps my tank clean and i do 80percent water change everyweek.

    • Hi! Unfortunately, neither 40L nor 60L is nearly enough to keep 4 fancy goldfish healthy in. They may still be alive, but this says little about their health! An 80% water change each week and a big filter unfortunately won’t change that. Their current housing will cause stunted growth and unhealthy fish. I’d really recommend trying to rehome your goldfish and increasing your water changes until you’re able to find something.
      It’s a real shame you were told this housing was okay, you should be able to trust aquarium stores but unfortunately you often can’t. 🙁 I hope you’ll be able to find a solution!

  18. My uncle keeps 4 fancy goldfish in a 5 gallon “Bio-Orb”. He uses a large canister filter and air stone. His two what I think are oranda goldfish are about 5cm long, black moor is about 10cm long, and veiltail about 13cm long. I keep telling him that his so called “Bio-orb” is a torture machine for goldfish, as goldfish grow to a large size, and will become stunted if the tank is too small, but he doesn’t believe me, as I have “less experience”. I can see fungi infecting his what I think are oranda’s gills, white fuzzy stuff growing behind their gill slits, the veiltail just sits there and does nothing untill its feeding time, and the black moor seems ok, except it probably will die in the near future. My uncle keeps denying the fact that his gold fish are suffering and doesn’t want to return them to the fish store he bought them from. Apparently he used to keep huge beautifull discus in an aquarium when he was younger. I dont know the size of the aquarium then, but it was probably much bigger than his current “Bio-Orb”. Thats why he keeps raving on about how he’s been in the hobby for nearly 20 years now and I’ve only been in it for 7. He still believes goldfish have a short life span and only grow to the size of the tank. It hurts to look at the poor goldfish every time I visit his house.I don’t know how to stop him from continuously torturing his fish. He started with cichlids, then gouramis, then finally goldfish, in less than a 2 year span this happens as his fish die, he replaces them with other types. Keeping goldfish over a one year period more than 10 types, all dieing in less than a month.He knows that goldfish produce a lot of waste, and he says thats what the huge canister filter is for, the canister filter is about 2x the size of the “orb”. I don’t know how to stop him from continuously torturing his fish.

    • Ah, yes. The ever-famous ‘seasoned’ aquarist who thinks quantity of time spent in the hobby is more important than quality of care they’ve given their fish, even if that ‘quality’ is sub-par. Mostly older, fuddy-duddy males, they think that just because something’s been done for a long-time, that it justifies the continuation of it, even in the light of over-whelming evidence to the contrary. This sociological phenomenon, known as ‘Cultural lag’, is the same human nature vice that is responsible for denying global warming or the scientific fact of evolution, but I digress. Goldfish more than any other species of pet on the face of the planet, fall prey to the second-class citizen status: while even the most inexpensive tropical fish are catered to and treated like kings, the poor goldfish is denounced as nothing but a ‘garbage fish’, something dirty, cheap, and suitable for sub-standard conditions. Treated like a commodity, they are easily killed, easily replaced. The cycle of abuse never ends.
      It amazes, yet never surprises me whenever people like this come into my store. They boast how they’ve kept the most demanding, un-yielding species of fish ‘back in the day’, and now want something more forgiving, and disposable, something that won’t break the bank or the heart if it dies. Their knee-jerk response is to turn to the goldfish, that classic fish that everyone turns a blind eye to when it comes to thinking of them as intrinsic living things deserving of proper care. Even when faced with the truth about their demanding natures, something kicks in in the mind of these individuals, and tells them to fight back and deny the truth. Their ego screams at them to bitingly lash out, as if their very honor and integrity as a hobbyist is at stake. These are not true hobbyists of course. True hobbyists consider the well-fare of their charges the most important aspect of fishkeeping, and know that thought processes and care techniques change with the advent of changing husbandry techniques. No, these are the infamous ‘Know-it-alls’ who think that their opinions are the be all, end all of tank keeping.
      Unfortunately, these individuals cannot be reasoned with, as they are set in their ways, and nothing will convince them otherwise. It pains me a great deal that a ‘hobbyist’ like your uncle, who, after decades of being in the aquarium hobby and really should know better, derides you for doing research and showing concern for an often brushed-aside species. On the contrary, as an experienced individual, he should be encouraging and praising you on your developing intellect regarding proper fishkeeping. There is no excuse for his blatant mistreatment of his aquatic charges and I truly commend you from the bottom of my heart as another fellow hobbyist and goldfish lover for your advocation of the humble goldfish.

      • Blimey that is a very long and 100 % fact reply i hope anyone who reads it takes note of the content and actually learns something about gold fish care

        • Heh, British expositional remark (it’s cute! I love that stuff 🙂 ) Yes, this is a very strong topic I feel. . . strongly about.

    • I was going to reply to this, but Psybur basically said it all. This is a very common attitude. These people do not and will not ever admit that they may be wrong. You could do a water test on the biOrb with a liquid water test kit and show him the results, as they will probably be pretty disturbing (canister filter or not). From what I’m reading, though, I don’t think that will help much.

      Sorry we can’t be of more help. I’m sure I speak for Psybur when I say we deal with this kind of “hobbyist” all the time and are just as frustrated as you.

      • A very detailed response from Psybur, very well done.

        Thankyou for replying Mari and Psybur, and I hope my uncle will finally change his ways… But he’ll probably only change after all four of his gold fish perish. 🙁 I want to make suggestions for his bio-orb, if there are any. He has a small heater, which was never used as his gouramis and cichlids passed away before Winter even started. Such beautifull fish they were, being tortured in his tiny “bio-orb”. Click the link below to visit the BioOrb website:
        I’m not sure if the round 18L/5gallon “orb” can keep healthy nano fish in it.

        • Turns out my uncle lied to me!
          His “Bio-Orb” Is probably a Bio-Orb Baby, only 15L/4gallons, even the website says that you can’t keep fancy goldfish in that!

          My uncle said his Bio-Orb is 18L/5gallons!
          and there is no Bio-Orb like that! the closest would be the Baby Bio-Orb…The website is so wrong! They say its possible to keep white clouds in that tiny little thing!

          • My Uncle’s Bio-orb is can be found on the website by clicking:
            biOrb Classic Aquariums↓
            Baby biOrb↓
            And that is where to find his “biOrb”

        • There is an excellent book by my favorite aquarium expert of all time, David E. Boruchowitz, entitled, ‘Mini-aquariums’ and their maintainance or something to that extent. It’s super-good and detailed. I specialize in nanos, and highly recommend it.

  19. I’ve worked at PetSmart for 13 years now, and CONSTANTLY experience resistance from customers who refuse to acknowledge goldfish as an animal that actually deserves proper care, and not as a cheap, mass-produced, disposable commodity that can be subjected to the capricious whims of their human charges. This was my most epic battle yet: A mother came in with her young daughter. The mother told me that her daughter wanted a goldfish, just like Elmo on ‘Sesame Street’ had. I started to show them all the supplies they would need and recommended they wait a couple of days after the tank was set-up to get the goldfish, and the mother flipped the freak out! She started screaming at me, accusing me of trying to scam her by selling her useless stuff. I tried to explain the common misconceptions surrounding goldfish care and even showed her the exact information from an Animal Planet book by my favorite fish expert to prove that I was being honest. She got even more angry and demanded to talk to the manager. When he showed up, she went off on him, claiming I refused to sell her a goldfish. The manager didn’t believe her (he didn’t say that, but, you could tell by his expression) and just got her the fish that she wanted, just to get her out of the store. Then, her daughter started crying because she was afraid her fish was going to die because the mother was going to put it in a bowl and not a tank. The lady paid for the fish and dragged her sobbing daughter out of the store. A week later, we got a call from corporate with a long list of complaints from the lady and we had to explain for an hour over the phone what really happened. Luckily, a customer who saw the whole debacle, contacted corporate that day to let them know how ‘stoic’ (I think was the word they used) and professional we were about the situation and that we were exemplary employees. This ended up debunking the soulless, jaded mother’s blind story and we were commended.

    The end

    • Wow, thanks for sharing! This sounds super familiar, although luckily I’ve never had to experience in real life. I comment on people’s awful (gold)fish setups on sites like Tumblr all the time and I get this sort of reaction a LOT. For some reason people just don’t want to admit they’re wrong even if it means they have to make a scene and kill an innocent animal to make their point. I keep giving advice for the rare occasions someone does listen to me, but I think 3/4 of the time I’m either ignored or yelled at.

      Anyway, it’s great to hear you try to get customers to set up proper aquariums! A lot of pet store employees just tell you everything is fine, which just makes the problem even worse.

      • Thank you for agreeing with me. It’s reassuring to hear that there are other people fighting the good fight. I think the goldfish is the most neglected/blatantly abused pet in the world. Another old chestnut I get from customers is “well, nobody told me.” And while I agree most employees are not as committed to the goldfish dilemma as I am, I often answer with ‘well, we assume people do their research before hand and we can’t cover EVERY facet of pet care.’ I think in reality that pet store employees get so tired of fighting about it, they just give up and don’t care. It’s up to us to never stop fighting for the proper care of goldfish.

    • i have a common goldfish(probably comet ! )…i wanted to ask, can i keep a golfish alone in a tank? Or its a rule to keep atleat 2 goldfishes together? Is that they need to be kept with few other goldfishes?

      • Goldfish are group fish that need at least one companion. They instinctively go by the “safety in numbers” principle and will feel vulnerable when kept alone, which causes unnecessary stress. That being said, you can keep your goldfish alone for a while if you have to, like when you’re in the middle of upgrading or when a tankmate is in quarantine.
        If you have a comet or common you can’t keep him in a tank at all, though, they are unfortunately pond fish that require around 100 gallons each because of their activity level, waste output and the crazy size they reach. If your goldfish is in a regular aquarium I’d recommend you rehome it to a pond, even if it seems to be doing fine now!

        Hope that answers your question. Good luck 🙂

      • They are a ‘follow-the-leader’ species of fish that feels most comfortable in with a buddy. However, an annoyingly common scenario that I often face is people with ridiculously small set-ups wanting to cram another goldfish in with their existing one so that it doesn’t feel ‘lonely.’ It’s irritating because after I explain why this is a bad idea, people still go ahead with it instead of using that concern and investment on a bigger tank that actually COULD fit 2 goldfish in it and vastly improve life for the existing one ten-fold. It’s clear that from scenarios like this that the customer cares only about having more fish, since it’s at the expense of their goldfish’s health.

  20. I won a goldfish at a carnival last summer, and they gave him to us in a tiny little box that must have been a quarter gallon. I had a feeling that this wasn’t right, so I went to petco and bought a 10 gallon tank. After I put the fish in the tank, I did research, and found out that my tank was far too small. Sadly, he passed within a few weeks. RIP Skippy. I now have 4 betta fish, each in 10 gallon tanks.

    • This sounds very very familiar, unfortunately. I am very glad to hear you did your research, even if it couldn’t save Skippy. Carnival fish are often already very weak and infested with disease/parasites, so along with the tank not being cycled I think it was just too much for him.
      Very glad to hear you now keep bettas in suitable setups. They are much easier to house than goldfish and a much better choice if you can’t get a big tank/pond!

      • I got my goldfish at a carnival and put him in a twenty five gallon. Right now he is 10 inches and I am getting ready to do a big time tank up grade! I agree with every thing you say. Goldfish are more than just fish; they are smart, intelligent fish that deserve big aquariums or ponds to live in.

        • Glad to hear you’re thinking about upgrading your goldfish. Carnival fish are usually commons that need a pond to live in, though, so you may want to think about that! And be sure not to get fish at carnivals again, although I’m sure you realised that by now as well 🙂
          Good luck!

          • Yeah I defiantly know that now 🙂 , and I feel so sad when I go to carnivals and see those poor fish in those tiny bowls, or in coolers with barely enough water for the tons of fish that they have in there! But I feel luck that I got such a beautiful and talented goldfish that will have a much bigger tank and have a wonderful life ahead of him! 🙂

  21. I feel really awful after reading/listening to this!! I have a pair of “state fair” goldfish my daughter and her boyfriend brought home 10/13. They are living in the largest bowl I could purchase, and they are a”centerpiece/conversation” piece on my kitchen bar. I have cleaned their bowl weekly, thinking I was doing all their was to do for them… I am headed to the pet store first thing tomorrow to purchase them a new home!! They seem quite content, but maybe they don’t know they’re not?

    • Hi! Sorry to hear you had to find out your goldfish are housed incorrectly, but it’s great that you did some research. State fair goldfish are usually commons, which means they grow even larger than fancies and are not suitable for life in any aquarium except 100+ gallon ones. If the goldfish are single-tailed, you’re better off finding someone with a pond to adopt them!

      And yes, goldfish don’t really have a way of showing pain unless they’re actually dying. They’ll look like they’re doing just fine, and the only signs of suffering like gasping for air and black burn spots are often confused with begging for food and normal color changes.

      I hope you’ll be able to get your goldies out of that bowl as soon as possible! Good luck, and if you have any more questions about goldfish care feel free to ask. 🙂

      • Hi I recently brought a bowl that i planned on making into a gold fish bowl, but first thought I should do some research. It is very large if you held your arms out in a circle this is about the size. I planned on filling it with plenty of plant life and not filling it to the very top in order for there to be more surface area. I would clean it every week or at the latest every second week. However, I fear that this is still not right. Is it???

        • Unfortunately it’s not! Goldfish, both fancy and common, need heavy filtration, plant life is just not enough to keep the bowl clean. I think you’d be better off using the bowl as a plant bowl. Even if it looks big right now, it won’t when you see your goldfish in there. They grow very large!

  22. Sad about the environment the average American goldfish has to live in? Why single out Americans? I have lived in Asia for 10 years and I have seen fish packed together in small aquariums and goldfish and other fish sold in cups and jars as a common occurrence. You find in in Canada and many other countries around the world.. But yes, fish sold in jars is a sad th

    • You’re completely correct, it happens here in the Netherlands as well. However, 70% of the visitors of Aquariadise are from the US, which is why I used this wording. I’ll change it, though! Thanks for your input.

  23. Thank you so much for sharing this information! I was considering getting goldfish (got a bowl @ a rummage sale) but thought it wise to look up care and handling tips. Thanks to your efforts, as well as several other sites who are in agreement, I will not be engaging in the torture of innocent creatures. If I want fish, I’ll just have to get a proper tank with a filtration system.

    • That’s fantastic to hear! Goldfish are great fish to keep, but not in a bowl. There are plenty of fish/invert options for filtered aquariums of 5 gallons and up, though, so if you’re still interested in fishkeeping you could look into that! 😀


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