How to Keep Goldfish Alive

Goldfish are starter pets for many families because they supposedly require little care. But any parent who's had to flush a beloved pet after a month or two knows that keeping goldfish alive can be tougher than it looks. Many premature goldfish deaths can be attributed to a few common mistakes that beginning aquarists can easily avoid. Follow these tips and your goldfish should thrive. The average goldfish lives for 5 to 15 years if taken care of properly.


Step 1

Buy the right tank. Those small round bowls most commonly associated with goldfish may be cute, but they do not give the fish enough space to swim, and they typically do not have filtration devices, which means poorer water quality. You don't need to buy a gigantic tank — one that is at least 2 feet long or holds at least 20 gallons is recommended. If you insist on getting a bowl, buy the largest bowl — with the largest opening — that you can find. Greater surface area allows more oxygen to penetrate the water.

Step 2

Don't overfeed your goldfish. Excess fish food will rot in the tank and cause the water to become cloudy and contaminated. Just a small pinch of food is all your fish will need for the whole day. Inspect the tank a few minutes after you've fed your fish. If the feeding frenzy is over and there's still a lot of uneaten food floating in the water, scoop out some of the excess.

Step 3

Change the water regularly. Replace at least 15 to 25 percent of the water, depending on the size of the tank, once weekly; if the water looks very cloudy or you have any concerns, replace a larger portion. Small tanks or bowls in particular tend to get dirty quickly. Poor water quality can kill a goldfish fast.

Step 4

Use non-chlorinated water whenever you add water to you bowl. The chlorine from your tap water can kill your goldfish in a day. An easy way to dechlorinate water is to let it sit out for a couple of days. The chlorine will evaporate and then you can pour the water into your goldfish tank. You can also buy drops at your local pet store that will dechlorinate water.

Step 5

Buy an air pump or aerator for your goldfish bowl. This will help oxygenate the water and keep your fish healthy. Goldfish suck oxygen from the water through their gills. A small bowl with little oxygen in the water will make your goldfish sick. To maintain water purity in standard tanks, invest in both a regular filter and an undergravel filter.

Step 6

Know the signs of stress. A healthy goldfish will look lively and alert and swim around a lot with its fins extended. If your fish is swimming with drooping fins or with its fins tucked close to its body, it make be stressed out or ill. In addition, white spots on the scales or an overall dull appearance could signal illness. Goldfish occasionally like to hide in caves or other decorations, but if they are spending too much time hiding, something may be wrong. If you cannot determine what is bothering your goldfish, contact a local aquarium-supply store for advice.