You’re Killing Your Goldfish

Goldfish need 20 to 1,000 gallons of water to live in,  depending on the breed.  Photo Credit: watts_photos

Goldfish need 20 to 1,000 gallons of water to live in,

depending on the breed. Photo Credit: watts_photos


Goldfish. You have most likely had one. One of your relatives probably had one. I even had one. Whether you won it at a carnival or got one as a present for your birthday, goldfish are one of the most popular aquatic pets in the trade.

 Unfortunately, an overload of misinformation has led to the unethical husbandry of goldfish in chain pet stores and misleading information being given out by workers.

One common misconception held by the general public regarding fish, and not just goldfish, is that they only live for a couple of months or, if you’re lucky, a year. They are just simple creatures that don’t need too much to survive, right? Wrong! In the right environment, goldfish can live 20 plus years. The longest living goldfish (allegedly) died at the ripe old age of 237 and was passed down through generations.

 Putting these majestic creatures into bowls not only stunts their growth (i.e. their body stops growing but their internal organs don’t, essentially leading them to implode), it also dims their adorable personality. Not to mention, it can lead to a horrific illnesses such ammonia burns and fin/body rot.

Ammonia burns are black splotches on the body and fins caused by high amounts of ammonia in the water. It’s the equivalent of burning your hand and having it under scorching hot water for all hours of the day. Ammonia is a natural compound released by goldfish through their waste. Fortunately, there is a way of combating high ammonia levels in the water: cycling the tank, which allows the growth of beneficial bacteria on the filter and other surfaces of the tank that turns ammonia into less harmful compounds which, in low doses, doesn’t hurt the goldfish. A cycle is very difficult to achieve in a bowl but crucial to the health of the fish.

Fin/body rot is a common illness caused by naturally occurring bacteria in all aquariums. However, stress lowers the fish’s ability to fight off this bacteria, which inevitably leads to the fin and body of the fish rotting off,  just as the name entails. It’s the fish equivalent of gangrene.

Walking into a chain pet store, you’ll see 30 goldfish stuffed into a small tank. Most of them are dying. Some already dead. Nine times out of ten, all the facts listed above are not mentioned to a customer trying to buy a fish. They may tell you to run a filter for 24 hours and your tank will be ready for fish. While a tank is better than a bowl, it still isn’t enough. Goldfish need 20 to 1,000 gallons of water to swim around in, depending on the breed. A bowl isn’t going to cut it. They are definitely not a “beginner” fish, just based on the amount of sheer space they need, and they can also become relatively expensive in the long run.

Putting all of that aside, if you genuinely decide to invest in a goldfish, it is a very rewarding process. Having owned goldfish myself, at some point my fish even let me occasionally give them little pets. 

Many European countries have already banned fish bowls. Switzerland even banned keeping goldfish alone, as they are social creatures. So why can’t we follow in the footsteps of Europe? A goldfish is still a life, no matter how insignificant they may seem. So, please do your research before investing in another life.