People who own goldfish and desire some expansion and variety in their aquarium often ask: "What tank-mates can I pair with my goldfish?" Then add, "Without my goldfish being eaten by them?" This is definitely a legitimate question we need to address because the wrong tank-mates will immediately decrease your goldfish population and transform your once, serene tank, into a sushi bar!
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Not all fish are suitable tank mates for your school of goldfish, so let us educate ourselves as to which fish are compatible and will add to our peaceful aquatic populace.
Requirements to Consider
Some specific requirements must be met in order to even consider tank-mates for your goldfish. Goldfish are freshwater fish which entirely eliminate all types of saltwater tank-mates! Even though goldfish are tropical, warm water is something they cannot thrive in (water in the goldfish tank should be in the range of 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit or 18 and 24 degrees Celsius). So warmer temperature fish would not be a good option for your goldies! Also consider the pH balance of the water in your goldfish tank. The pH (the balance of acidity and alkalinity) should be in the 7.0 to 8.0 range. The tank-mates you choose should be able to do well in these tank conditions!
What About Other Goldfish
Considering other goldfish as tank-mates may be another option if you're a goldfish lover. Goldfish get along with other fish of their kind that are similar in variety and size.
Be careful putting larger goldfish like the fantail, the lionhead and the telescope eye (which are slow swimmers and slow eaters) in with the fast moving common varieties such as the shubunkin and comet. They may not be able to compete with the faster eating fish. And speaking of eating, goldfish are predators and will eat smaller fish. If you put smaller tank mates in with larger fish, the smaller fish may become dinner mates instead of tank-mates!
If you would rather have a variety of community fish in your tank you should choose those fish with similar temperaments and tank requirements. White cloud minnows are a good choice and often do well with goldfish because they like cool water (45 – 75 degrees Fahrenheit). They do not grow large however and shouldn't be placed in the tank with fancy or larger goldfish. They do better when purchased in groups of five.
Goldfish also get along well with Rosy barbs which are similar in appearance and temperaments. They grow to about 4-6 inches, so they're likely to be not eaten, and they prefer water temps of about 65-72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Weather Loaches do well in larger tanks, they thrive in cool water and grow too large for goldfish to prey on them. They aren't swimmers but they live to burrow in the fine gravel or sand substrate. Weather Loaches do best in groups of three.
Zebra danios, a smaller fish, will live harmoniously with the common goldfish but are too small to live with larger or fancy goldfish. They do best in groups of six or more.
If you're considering a non-finned tank-mate, look to the freshwater snail. They make great tank-mates for all goldfish varieties and they aid in keeping the tank clean of algae and debris and are not goldfish prey.
The apple snail is another good choice because of its hard shell. You don't have to worry about fights with this snail but you should know that these snails can grow to about the size of a softball!
You can also add Ghost Shrimp to your tank. They're small (usually sold as food) but they won't in any way harm your.
Red Cherry Shrimp are another good tank-mate for two reasons: they serve as algae eaters and when your goldfish are hungry, the shrimp can be served for dinner, as food. Take heed how many you buy however, for they breed rather quickly and they could overcrowd your tank!
Also, if you're going to keep shrimp in the tank, make certain that you have places for them to hide (like in caves and ornaments) because your fish will eat them... And the percentage that the shrimp will be eaten is quite high!
Nix The Aggressive Fish
Goldfish are predators but they aren't an aggressive fish and would be easy prey for fish as aggressive as cichlids and small freshwater sharks. It would be wise to leave aggressive fish off your tank-mate list.
Beware of Algae Eaters
Plecos are also kept with goldfish because they are very calm. Some caution should be used when choosing plecos because goldfish develop a layer of algae or slime on their bodies which makes them a target for algae eating fish like the plecos. Plecos will not devour goldfish, but they may try sucking the algae off their bodies which could cause sores on your goldfish that can lead to infections. The reports I've read mainly concern the common plecos. Choosing the Rubbernose or Bristlenose Plecos may alleviate this problem.
Other good fish are the neons which are passive and get along with other community fish. However, their small stature places them at risk for becoming prey to all goldfish varieties.
Always use great caution when mixing fish. Make sure you have adequate tank space and choose other fish that require the same conditions and diets as your goldfish. Never buy nibblers or mix them with fancy (fantail) goldfish which are very delicate fish. If you notice aggression between two fish, it is best to separate them immediately. Use these precautions and your tank will remain beautiful, serene and fish safe!
By Tom Matteo
About the Author
Tom Matteo has been a freelance writer since 1992. He specializes in hardware and software reviews for computers and gaming systems, and occasionally writes about such topics as animal behavior and care. Tom resides in Bethlehem, PA with his wife Tina and his beloved cockapoo, Angel.