How Long Do Goldfish Live? How Can You Increase their Lifespan?

There is an unfortunate tendency to exclude goldfish from the list of great aquarium fish to own. Perhaps it’s the classic “goldfish in a bowl in a child’s bedroom” scenario that keeps some people from taking them seriously?

The truth is, goldfish are an excellent choice for fish to keep at home, with their striking color and potential for long life. Yes, you read that correctly – goldfish can live a long time.

How long do goldfish live written beside a red and orange goldfish foraging through gravel

For anyone considering adding a goldfish to his or her aquarium plans, this article is a must-read.

We’ll let you know what the average lifespan is for a goldfish, plus help you out with great tips for helping yours live a long and healthy life.

How Long do Goldfish Live on Average?

If you were to put this question to many previous goldfish owners, you’d probably hear the answer, “two or three years,” a lot. That’s a reasonably accurate assessment – IF you keep your goldfish in a bowl.

In the wild (yes, there are wild goldfish!), goldfish may live up to 25 years and grow to be fairly large. This is because they live in the proper conditions, and have room to grow.

A well cared for goldfish in captivity can readily live anywhere from 10-20 years, perhaps more. This requires care and dedication on the part of the owner.

How Old is the World’s Oldest Goldfish?

The oldest confirmed goldfish on record, and verified by Guinness, was named Tish. Tish was a carnival prize, as so many goldfish once were, but lived to the incredible age of 43.

Incidentally, goldfish are distantly related to koi, and the oldest known koi passed away in 1977 – aged 226!

Five Tips for Helping Your Goldfish Live Longer

Ready to go for gold and take your shot at the record? Or at least give your goldfish the best and longest life possible? Here are some tips and tricks to help your goldie live long and strong.

1. Provide an Interesting Environment

Try and imagine living in a confined space with no furniture, nothing to do, and nothing to look at. That accurately describes a solitary confinement cell and an empty aquarium. Sounds like a lousy place to be, doesn’t it?

In nature, goldfish live among plants, rocks, logs, tiny castles, and other fish. Ok, maybe there aren’t tiny castles. But adding decorations, both natural and artificial, as well as other aquatic creatures, makes the aquarium far more interesting for your goldfish. He or she will enjoy exploring the nooks and crannies, and having something to look at.

Change it up from time to time to keep things fresh and exciting for both the fish and yourself. Just remember to leave enough room for your goldfish to swim freely.

2. Give Your Goldfish Room to Grow

Restricting a goldfish to a tiny bowl will not allow it to reach its full potential. Goldfish need plenty of room to move around and allow them to grow. Failure to provide adequate space can stunt their growth, lead to health issues, and shorten their lives.

Because they can grow up to as much as 10 inches in length, a goldfish needs a lot of space. Plan on at least 10 gallons per goldfish for maximum benefit.

Don’t forget that not only is volume important, so are the dimensions. Your goldfish needs enough room to turn around comfortably, especially as it grows larger. A tank depth of 15 to 20 inches is a good range for a big fish.

3. Leave Goldfish in the Tank When Cleaning

When I was young, we had a pair of goldfish in a bowl in the kitchen. Every time the bowl got cleaned, we took everything out – including the fish! We scrubbed everything down and replaced 100% of the water. Meanwhile, the fish puttered about in a cereal bowl.

Anytime you handle or move your fish, it’s stressful. Stress can compromise the immune system and make your goldfish more prone to getting sick. Complete water changes are also a bad idea because you’ll interrupt the nitrogen cycle, and remove any beneficial bacteria and algae that have built up.

It’s far better to leave your goldfish in place, vacuum around them, and remove and rinse off decorations when necessary.

4. Do Not Overfeed

Feeding your fish is fun! Tossing in the flakes and watching them come charging for the surface is great entertainment, and kids especially love the show. It’s important to make sure not to overdo it, though, or else you can seriously harm your fish.

Stories are out there of people whose goldfish ate and ate until they died, perhaps from ruptured innards. While some of these stories may be true, there’s a far more likely reason overfeeding can kill your fish.

Goldfish are voracious eaters, and they will gobble up almost everything you send their way. More eating means more pooping, though. All that poop settles to the bottom, along with any uneaten food. Collectively, the accumulated waste pollutes the tank, making it an unhealthy place for a goldfish, or any fish for that matter.

Click here to learn everything on the topic of how to feed your goldfish.

5. Keep A Lid on the Tank

As if we needed another reason NOT to keep goldfish in a bowl: goldfish are good jumpers and they’ve been known to go over the wall on occasion. Obviously this is really bad for the fish!

Even if you’re lucky enough to find the fish in time, even a brief visit to dry land can stress a fish and cause irrevocable damage. If you happen to own a cat, they love to scoop those shiny morsels out of the water, too.

Once again, keep goldfish in a proper aquarium, and make sure it has a lid that fits tight and stays closed.

Final Thoughts

We hope this article has opened your eyes to the fantastic potential of goldfish. Properly cared for, they can be wonderful long-term companions. We’d be remiss if we didn’t add this small warning: owning a goldfish really is a long-term deal, not unlike owning a cat or a dog. Make sure you’re ready to be in this for the long haul before bringing home your new pal.

If you have any questions or comments on how long goldfish live, please drop them in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading, and for sharing your love of fish with us.

Happy fish keeping!

Wendy Kathryn

Hi, I'm Wendy, the owner and creator of this website, an experienced fish keeper and avid student of the art since 2010. My aim is to help beginners avoid the many possible mistakes when getting started in this wonderful hobby.

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