Why Your Goldfish Keeps Dying


Diya Rao, Staff Writer

Imagine this: you spend hours at a pet store, choosing the right goldfish and complementary supplies. You spend your hard-earned money and cherish the simple fact of your fish’s existence. But soon after you bring it home, your precious goldfish gets sick and dies – almost instantly. Why? Goldfish are the signature first-pet, but the standards of their care are so widely misunderstood. A little bit of research can show you how to extend your pet’s life by many months, or even years – just by giving it a larger aquarium.

The main reason your goldfish will die prematurely is due to stunted growth. A common misconception about goldfish is that they are small, and ideal when you want a pet but are tight on space. However, in reality, goldfish are much larger than most fish. In fact, a full-grown common goldfish will reach at least 30 centimeters in length, and weigh at least a kilogram. An adult fancy goldfish will have a grapefruit-sized body and measure at 30 centimeters in length and height. Because of their relatively large size, a 20 gallon tank is recommended for a single fancy goldfish, adding 10 gallons for each additional fish. For common goldfish, a 30 gallon tank is recommended for a single fish. Since most goldfish are housed in small bowls, where they can barely turn around, their growth is stunted which causes them to become ill and develop deformities, eventually killing them.

Another major reason goldfish die quickly in small environments is due to the huge biological load they put on a tank. As  large fish who eat a lot, goldfish excrete a considerable amount of waste through their gills and faeces. As this waste is broken down, ammonia is released. This chemical is very toxic to fish, and can cause health issues.  Because of this, these fish must be housed in a large body of water with a large filter to dilute waste and house beneficial filter bacteria. Ammonia, along with other toxic chemicals, is also one of the reasons why you must change your aquarium’s water at least biweekly.

Lastly, goldfish need a large tank because of their social personalities. Although they do not schoal for safety, like sardines, they feel much safer among others of their kind. If you consider this recommendation, it is easy to see how difficult daily tasks, like swimming and eating, would be difficult for a large number of fish in a small bowl. A larger aquarium allows the fish to sit and sleep together comfortably. Furthermore, many people do not consider the personalities of the animals, which causes their fish to be lacking in terms of social interaction.

To summarize, by simply investing a little extra money into a larger aquarium, you can allow your pet to live its full lifespan- usually more than twenty-five years. A larger tank provides enrichment to keep your goldfish comfortable and interested for years to come. It also keeps them healthy and allows them to grow into their full intended size, when coupled with other practices such as water changes and responsible feeding. After all, who would want to spend two decades in a small, plastic bowl?