Articles Goldfish

Why goldfish bowls should be banned

Last Updated July 16, 2020
goldfish bowl bad

The ever-popular goldfish in a bowl has been part of children’s ‘first pet-experience’ for years. I had one. You probably had one. Your friends had one. My friends had one. Until it died of course, which usually happened within a month or two. Sad, but not unexpected – after all, goldfish have a life expectancy of about a year, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Goldfish can live for up to 20 years, but often die prematurely because their owners keep them in bowls or very small fish tanks.

Keep reading for more information about what a proper goldfish aquarium looks like and why bowls are bad.

General guidelines

Due to their active swimming behaviour, two common (single tailed) goldfish need a tank that’s at least about 6.5 feet! Commons are actually best kept in ponds because of this. Fancy (double tailed) goldfish are more suitable for life in aquariums, but at least 20 gallons per fish is still recommended.

But why do they need that much space? Are they secretly throwing huge parties at night, while you’re asleep?


What a lot of people don’t realize when they win one of those tiny little common goldfish at the fair, is that even though it’s barely 3 inch now it actually has the potential to grow to up to 15 inch (40cm) or more!

That’s the size of my underarm, and even though I haven’t checked, I’m pretty sure my underarm doesn’t fit in a goldfish bowl. But a goldfish can adapt its growth to the size of the bowl or tank it’s kept in, right? Well… kind of. But not really.

What actually happens in a bowl or small tank is that the exterior of the fish stops growing, causing it to remain the same size. However, the organs continue expanding in size, and so do the spine, eyes and fins. Eventually, after the organs have been squished together and the spine is bent into an S-shape, the fish will die.

Waste production

Another good reason to avoid keeping your goldfish in an unfiltered bowl or vase is the amount of waste they produce because of their mostly vegetarian diet, and the problems this can cause. A lot of “bowl-goldfish” die because of ammonia poisoning – their gills, fins and skin get burned by the ammonia they excrete, resulting in black burned areas and eventually death.

This is why goldfish should always be introduced into a fully cycled tank, and why double filtration is always a good idea – for a 50 gallon aquarium, that means either two filters meant for a 50 gallon, or one meant for a 100 gallon. External canister filters are best, as they have room for biological filter material. Insufficient filtration can cause ammonia and nitrite spikes.

#Goldfish should never be kept in a bowl - but why? #aquariums #fish
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Goldfish need a lot of oxygen. Because of the lack of surface area the water in a bowl or vase can easily become de-oxygenated, causing the fish in it to slowly drown and gasp for air at the surface. This is often mistaken for begging for food or giving kisses by inexperienced owners. An air stone is not always the solution – it just doesn’t create enough surface movement for new oxygen to dissolve into the water.

To provide your goldies with enough oxygen, get a tank that’s large enough – preferably one that’s rectangular, so there’s a lot of surface area. If they still gulp air, getting a pump, large air stone or a filter that creates a lot of surface movement might be helpful.

If the problem still isn’t fixed, there might be a problem with the food. For example, fish flakes are not proper goldfish food because they’re not nutritious and can cause swim bladder problems. A good quality pellet food like Hikari Staple may help.

This picture is not edited! This is Bobina, who was saved by Dutch Aquaforum member Mirasja after being kept in a <2 gallon tank all her life. The result: a permanently bent spine and other growth deformities. Bobina has survived and now lives in a big aquarium with other goldfish.
The curved spine is not edited! This fish was saved by forum member Mirasja after being kept in a vase all of her life. The fish has survived and now lives in a big aquarium with other goldfish.

Water values and temperature

The smaller the aquarium, the bigger the effects of small changes in water quality and temperature are, which is why large tanks are much easier to keep stable. A very small amount of nitrite may not be fatal in a 40 gallon aquarium, but the same amount of nitrite can easily kill a fish in a bowl or 5 gallon tank because there is less water to dilute it. Getting a filter for the bowl won’t be a solution either, as filters just can’t cycle in tanks this small and won’t be able to handle the amount of waste a goldfish produces.

Temperature fluctuations are also much more extreme in small amounts of water, because there is no buffer that slows the changes down. This can be very bad for your goldfish – the stress affects its immune system, making it more susceptible to diseases and parasites.


Keeping goldfish in bowls, vases or small tanks drastically reduces their life expectancy and quality. It causes them to get deformities, burns, stress-related diseases and in some cases they even choke to death. In some countries, goldfish bowls are actually banned – for good reason.

Show some respect, even if the animal is not cute and cuddly. Goldfish are not throwaway pets. They do not have 3 second memories. They are not decorations. They are not toys. Just like any other pet, they need space, a clean environment and company. If you do not have the money to provide them with this, do not buy them.

For more information about keeping fancy (double tailed) goldfish, have a look at the fancy goldfish caresheet.

For more information about keeping common (single tailed) goldfish, have a look at the common goldfish caresheet.

In case you needed any more visual confirmation… this is a 23″/60 cm aquarium!

If you have questions about your own goldfish, want to share your experiences or have something to add to this article, leave a comment below. Happy fishkeeping!

Cover photo: Us by motorboat4107

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  • ReplyRomanDecember 23, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    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?

    • ReplyMariDecember 24, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      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!

    • ReplyJohn BuckJanuary 16, 2018 at 12:07 am

      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!

  • ReplyJacobDecember 1, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    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!

    • ReplyMariDecember 3, 2017 at 2:14 pm


      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.

    • ReplyJohn BuckJanuary 16, 2018 at 12:37 am

      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 22Β°C. Two or three male guppies will work even in normal room temperature (minimum 18Β°C), as will a trio of red rosy minnows (minimum 10Β°C) or a trio of white cloud mountain minnows (minimum 5Β°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.

      • ReplyJ.R.M.February 26, 2018 at 12:21 pm

        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.

        • ReplyMariFebruary 26, 2018 at 12:58 pm

          Agreed on all that, although my personal minimum for a Betta is 5 gal πŸ™‚ 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).

  • ReplyHanOctober 9, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    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 there anything I could possibly use (like a big vase) or do to make him live longer?

    • ReplyMariOctober 10, 2016 at 12:36 pm

      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!

    • ReplyJacob WylesDecember 3, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      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.

      • ReplyMariDecember 5, 2017 at 3:48 pm

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

  • ReplyMegAugust 8, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    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?

    • ReplyMariAugust 9, 2016 at 9:50 am

      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.

      • Replyjohn buckOctober 18, 2017 at 9:46 am

        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.

        • ReplyMariOctober 22, 2017 at 12:33 pm

          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.

          • John BuckJanuary 16, 2018 at 1:14 am

            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.

  • ReplywensJuly 21, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    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

    • ReplyMariJuly 27, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      That’s great to hear πŸ™‚

  • ReplyLexiJuly 9, 2016 at 4:56 am

    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?

    • ReplyMariJuly 10, 2016 at 10:18 pm

      They won’t survive long at all, sorry πŸ™ 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.

  • ReplySteve FrankDecember 5, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    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.

    • ReplyMariDecember 6, 2015 at 2:46 pm

      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 πŸ™‚

  • ReplyFishkeeping folksNovember 28, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    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?

    • ReplyMariNovember 28, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      Glad my articles help inspire you! Linking is definitely okay, whatever it takes to spread some knowledge πŸ™‚

  • ReplyPhilOctober 28, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Shouldn’t fish live in rivers, lakes, seas and oceans? What is the natural habitat for wild goldfish?

    • ReplyMariOctober 30, 2015 at 12:42 pm

      Wild goldfish don’t exist! Their closest ancestor is the Prussian carp, but they have been selectively bred for hundreds of years. Goldfish should NEVER (ever!) be released into nature. Common goldfish can absolutely destroy local ecosystems and fancy goldfish likely won’t survive. So in this case, no, they shouldn’t live in rivers and lakes πŸ™‚

      • ReplyPhilOctober 30, 2015 at 12:53 pm

        You live and learn πŸ™‚

        • ReplyMariOctober 30, 2015 at 2:04 pm

          That’s what this site is for!

  • ReplyJasper WolfeAugust 20, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    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.

    • ReplyMariAugust 20, 2015 at 3:26 pm

      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 πŸ™‚
      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.

  • ReplyBrianAugust 12, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    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.

    • ReplyMariAugust 13, 2015 at 1:12 pm

      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!

  • ReplySaraJune 25, 2015 at 11:30 pm

    Last comment I swear lol.
    This picture looked like a really good one to show what the “s” shaped goldfish looked like and may be a nice addition to your article.

    • ReplyMariJune 26, 2015 at 10:13 am

      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!

  • ReplySaraJune 25, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    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.

    • ReplyMariJune 26, 2015 at 10:21 am

      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. πŸ™‚

      • ReplySaraJune 29, 2015 at 6:55 pm

        I may end up doing that (unless I get a tank) so thank you for everything. ^_^

  • ReplyGemJune 2, 2015 at 1:13 am

    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.

    • ReplyMariJune 2, 2015 at 5:54 pm

      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.

      • ReplyGemJuly 7, 2015 at 2:03 am

        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 πŸ™‚ I really appreciate it.

        • ReplyMariJuly 7, 2015 at 4:46 pm

          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. πŸ™‚
          Good luck!

  • ReplyLindsayMay 3, 2015 at 12:20 am

    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!

    • ReplyMariMay 3, 2015 at 5:33 pm

      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 πŸ™‚ 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!

  • ReplymcpackerFebruary 21, 2015 at 9:20 am

    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.

    • ReplyMariFebruary 21, 2015 at 11:00 am

      I love getting comments like this! So great to hear you changed your attitude. Good luck stocking your future aquarium! πŸ˜€

      • ReplymcpackerFebruary 22, 2015 at 1:44 am

        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.

        • ReplyPsyburFebruary 22, 2015 at 2:23 am

          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.

          • mcpackerFebruary 22, 2015 at 5:10 am

            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.

          • PsyburFebruary 22, 2015 at 7:24 am

            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!

          • MariFebruary 22, 2015 at 12:29 pm

            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! πŸ™‚

  • ReplydylanJanuary 20, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    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.

    • ReplyMariJanuary 20, 2015 at 11:43 pm

      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. πŸ™ I hope you’ll be able to find a solution!

  • ReplyAlvin YaoOctober 2, 2014 at 5:05 am

    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.

    • ReplyPsyburOctober 2, 2014 at 7:10 am

      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.

      • ReplydaveDecember 14, 2014 at 1:44 am

        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

        • ReplyPsyburDecember 16, 2014 at 2:21 am

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

    • ReplyMariOctober 2, 2014 at 10:17 am

      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.

      • ReplyAlvin YaoOctober 3, 2014 at 4:47 am

        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. πŸ™ 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.

        • ReplyAlvin YaoOctober 3, 2014 at 5:02 am

          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!

          • Alvin YaoOctober 3, 2014 at 5:11 am

            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”

        • ReplyPsyburOctober 4, 2014 at 6:51 am

          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.

          • Alvin YaoOctober 4, 2014 at 9:55 am

            Sounds like a great book! I might go and check it out!

  • ReplyPsyburSeptember 4, 2014 at 8:37 am

    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

    • ReplyMariSeptember 6, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      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.

      • ReplyPsyburSeptember 8, 2014 at 11:50 pm

        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.

    • ReplyamanSeptember 29, 2014 at 5:47 pm

      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?

      • ReplyMariSeptember 29, 2014 at 9:32 pm

        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 πŸ™‚

      • ReplyPsyburSeptember 30, 2014 at 5:02 am

        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.

  • ReplyBradley PearlAugust 14, 2014 at 2:22 am

    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.

    • ReplyMariAugust 14, 2014 at 11:55 am

      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!

      • ReplyabbyJune 30, 2015 at 2:51 am

        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.

        • ReplyMariJune 30, 2015 at 9:51 am

          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 πŸ™‚
          Good luck!

          • abbyJune 30, 2015 at 8:01 pm

            Yeah I defiantly know that now πŸ™‚ , 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! πŸ™‚

  • ReplyLeahJuly 25, 2014 at 12:06 am

    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?

    • ReplyMariJuly 26, 2014 at 5:20 pm

      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. πŸ™‚

      • ReplyNatashaAugust 12, 2014 at 3:44 am

        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???

        • ReplyMariAugust 12, 2014 at 5:21 pm

          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!

  • ReplyMoJuly 23, 2014 at 7:15 am

    Thanks ! Glad someone else think the same.

  • ReplyTessJune 14, 2014 at 2:10 am

    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

    • ReplyMariJune 14, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      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.

  • ReplyBillNovember 4, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    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.

    • ReplyMariNovember 5, 2013 at 6:57 am

      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! πŸ˜€

  • ReplyBlaxToneSeptember 24, 2013 at 6:58 am

    This is so true. Goldfish bowls should be banned everywhere.

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