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How To Set Up A Goldfish Tank

Updated on November 11, 2007
To be safe, your goldfish need to live in a tank.
To be safe, your goldfish need to live in a tank.

Although bowls have come a long way with the introduction of Biorb type bowls with filtration, tanks are still the best homes for your goldfish. They provide your wet pets with a maximum of space and surface area for oxygen with a minimum of maintenance time for you. You don't have to get really fancy with goldfish tanks unless you want to. Goldfish also will not sue you for bad interior decoration.

Ideally, you should have the tank set up and bubbling away for a month before you introduce any fish. In helping you select the right tank for them, ask yourself the following questions before that month begins.

What Kind Of Goldfish Will You Keep?

Yes, this makes a difference. If you have common goldfish or Black Moors, they can live well in tanks with decorations and heaters. But if you want to keep really fancy, delicate strains of goldfish like Celestial or Bubble Eye, then you need to have a bare tank. They will easily injure themselves on plastic plants or other decorations. They also need to be kept by themselves to prevent injury.

If you are new to fish keeping, stick with "easy" goldfish to keep like Comets, Commons and Shubunkins. They are colorful, active, hardy and won't mind changes in interior decoration.

Where Are You Going To Place The Tank?

Answering this question is so detailed, that it deserves it's own article. And here it is. You need acess to water and electrical outlets, a strong enough floor, a level enough floor, and a place quiet enough for the fish not to get easily stressed.

Now that these questions are answered, you can set about gathering the materials you need to set up your goldfish tank. Part of the fun of keeping fish is using all of the gizmos!

The Basics

You need:

  • a tank (duh!) The more surface area the better, so the goldfish can get the oxygen they need.
  • a tank stand or something strong enough to support the hundreds of pounds this thing will weigh.
  • a lid (IMPORTANT! Goldfish like to jump) Preferably, with a light.
  • an air pump
  • an air stone (that goes on the other end of the air pump's tubes)
  • a heater
  • a thermometer (either floating or stick on)
  • a filteration system of some sort
  • any extra tubing to connect everything
  • some sort of substratae, such as 1/8 inch (3 mm) gravel made for aquariums. Don't just shovel sand from the local beach or usegravel from a local creek -- you don't know what pollutants are in it


  • real freshwater plants (NOT just any old plant stuck under water to drown and decay).
  • plastic plants
  • aquarium background
  • rocks (not limestone) or decorations specifiaclly made for aquarium use. Avoid seashells or any ceramic items, as these can leech chemicals into the water that will kill the goldfish and any live plants
  • chemicals for your water to help make it healthy. You should test your water to see if it needs any specific conditioners. This writer used Cycle.

Setting Up

Here we go. Take your time with this. I took a whole weekend with mine, as this stuff gets heavy. Clean the tank with cold water only (hot can crack it!)and a clean cloth to dry it . Do NOT use any cleaners or chemical detergents.

Attach the aquarium background at this time (it's a lot easier to do it now!)

Set the tank on the stand and just put a little bit of water in it to see if the tank is level. Adjust accordingly so that the tank is perfectly level -- even use a spirit level from the toolkit if necessary.

Rinse off the gravel with cold water in a bucket or sieve used for no other purpose than for fish care. Stick your hand in there and give a good stir. Much gravel sold is colorfast, but if yours is giving off clouds, rinse until the water is clear.

Place in aquarium gently, transporting only as much as you can comfortably carry. Pile the gravel higher in the back. In making a gente slope forward, you will make cleaning easier.

Place any plastic plants, rocks or decorations in the now empty bucket and fill with water and any commercially available plastic plant cleaner or a few tablespoons of table salt. Let soak overnight.

Next day, place the plants, rocks and decorations in the tank, puching it in the gravel. Have bigger pieces in the back of the tank. Be sure the fish won't knock a rock over. Make a couple of places for the fish to hide, as well as using big, biushy plastic plants to cover up the airstone and heater.

DO NOT PLUG IN but attach the heater, airstone, filter and thermometer. Since there isn't any water in, you are free to move everything about unitl you like it. Shove them at least a half inch into the gravel so they will stay put. The plastic plants and rocks will always look like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree until the tank is filled with water.

Getting an electrical outlet strip just for aquarium equipment is great for saftey and convinience. You will need plugs for the filter, the heater, the air pump and the light. So, you need a strip with four outlets at least,

NOw add water to about so you fill about a quarter of the tank. In order to avoid the force of the pouring water dislodging everything, pour the water onto the top of a flat rock or place a saucer into the tank to pour water onto. Remember to take the saucer out.

Check out the set up so far. Is the tank still level? Are there two hiding places for the fish? Do you need to move that rock over to the left? Usually, things looks better in a tank when they are grouped in small clusters rather than set up in even rows. But let your instinct be your guide and have fun.

When everything is where you want it to be, fill the rest of the tank with water. It looks a lot better now, doesn't it? Plug in the filter, heater, light, and air pump. This is good way to see if your equipment works BEFORE you bring the fish home.

Add Cycle or any biological water conditioner that adds good bacteria to a new tank. Let it bubble way for at least a month before adding any fish. In this way, you not only see whether your gadets work, but this gives the tank a chance to grow healthy bacteria.

Your fish will thank you for your hard creative work...if they knew how to speak, that is.

A goldfish mansion! Film by Magscat 3161


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  • profile image

    ashley 9 years ago

    thank you for the great advice

  • RenaSherwood profile image

    RenaSherwood 9 years ago

    You're quite welcome. Good luck with your tank, if you should get one or already have one.

  • profile image

    Magscat3161 9 years ago

    Great site! You've got some wonderful and accurate info here. These are good guidelines to adhere to for those who are just strating out.

  • Whitney05 profile image

    Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

    Goldfish are tricky. Because they emit tons of waste, they can't be put with other fish, and their tanks have to be cleaned more often. It really bugs me when people try to put a ton of them in small tanks. Because they produce so much waste, it's just not smart...

  • wychic profile image

    Rebecca Mikulin 9 years ago from Sheridan, Wyoming

    Great article...maybe I missed it, but did you put anywhere what the space requirements for each individual are? A lot of people don't realize they need 10-50 gallons per fish. Also, are you the one that made the video? I saw that one through a link on another site and it'd be great to know there's another Koko's member here :D

  • profile image

    lol wtf i got told 1-2 litres of water per fish 9 years ago

    lol wtf i got told 1-2 litres of water per fish. and this was at a proper fish place. but yer awesome earticle thing

  • profile image

    Jessica Johnson 8 years ago

    I see your tank and it looks great, i need some help myself! i just bought a 20 gal. tank and i have 5 goldfish and 1 algea eater that im wanting to put into the tank. i see that you posted that it should take a full weekend to set up yoru tank and i was actually not aware of that so that could be my problem but let me tell you my situation and maybe you could be of some service to me. we set up the tank with gravel in the bottom and we put all the needed starter chemicals into the water with a filtration system on it and we actually have 2 filters running on it at the moment b/c the next day after setting the whole tank up we came down stairs and the water was already starting to turn cloudy so we added another filter to the tank to see if that would help and yet the water isn't getting any clearer and we have tried every chemical and new filter that the pet store has told us about and we just can not keep the water from turning you have any advice for me to help me keep my tank as crystal clear as yours. if you can help please e-mail me back at thankyou so much!

  • profile image

    Gill Armstrong 8 years ago

    Please help I've bought a 20 litre tank that comes with a filter the instructions are useless fro someone who's not familiar wth anything aquatic. 'Decide on which outlet option to use' How??? 'If no attachment is required simply (!) push the direct outlet or reducer (?) into the pump outlet.' 'If the venturi is required ( It doesn't say what IT DOES!!!!)

    'If the duckbill is to be used ... How do I know ? What is it? what does it do?!!!!!! It would be like me saying to someone who doesn't know horses 'choose to use a hackamore, a snaffle or a pelham!!'Do you put the air pipe outside the tank to draw in air or does it all stay in the water? I've tried e-mailing the supplier but they haven't replied. I can't find anything on any web-site. It just says set up water filter!!! I'm really fustrated and would really appreciate your help, many thanks!

  • profile image

    meg 8 years ago

    thanks for the great advice! im saving up for 2 fish but im wondering if i should put a calico goldfish with a fantail

  • profile image

    mike 8 years ago

    good info

  • profile image

    meg 8 years ago

    i,ve just been looking around at dads house and i hav found $3

  • profile image

    meggles:) 8 years ago

    fung chow

  • profile image

    chris 8 years ago

    Ive just set up my goldfish tank! :) Ive been keeping fish for 2 years now and this website has really helped my a lot. Beautiful goldfish you have there!

  • profile image

    Nick 7 years ago

    Ive just set up my goldfish tank! :) Ive been keeping fish for 2 years now and this website has really helped my a lot. Beautiful goldfish you have there!

  • profile image

    mike 7 years ago

    :( i don't have the money for i goldy i guess...

  • profile image

    Pete Smith 7 years ago

    Excellent.. Too much, my wife has gone out and paid $800 for a bloody tank that I've got to stain, to match the bloody furniture, muggins here , has got to take of THIS... Thanks a lot Darl.

  • profile image

    helen 7 years ago

    hi just won goldfish at a fair well my children did which i thought was now against the law but i bought the bowl to go with them as i have had no time to set up a fish tank as you have said i am now looking at buying two new fish tanks to go in there bedrooms my fish tank is cloudy and it has only been 1 day i think this may be due to a lack of setting it up with chemicals and filters what i want to now is how long will they live or have there live span now been shortened

  • profile image

    will86 7 years ago

    nice goldfish. are they fantails or ryukins? how were they injured

  • profile image

    sonia 7 years ago

    wat plant is that

  • profile image

    7 years ago

    thnx 4 da tips

  • profile image

    who needs to know 7 years ago

    i was told one goldfish per 10 gallons but i have two comet goldfish in a 10 gallon tank and they are doing fine

  • profile image

    Sofi 7 years ago

    Wow,your site is great! I have a question though, I'm planning to set up a goldfish tank and I ned to know if orandas can live with single -tailed goldfish, like comets

  • Chapter profile image

    Chapter 7 years ago from Indonesia

    goldfish is the best aquarium pets. As I know, the goldfish often eat water plant so we do not need to put it.

  • profile image

    nikki 7 years ago

    my friend just gave me a ten gal. tank(dirty & cloudy) w/ the goldies in it. It is a glass tank with about 2 inchs of pebbles and plastic decorations. I added some more water to match their temp. I have a pumb and accessories which I need to clean. They are in about in six to eight inches of water now. What should I do to clean and make sure they are going to be o.k. till I can get to the store? Please Help!!

  • profile image

    p bannon 7 years ago

    i have just brought two goldfish and put them in a 30L tank which i have had set up for 4 weeks with waer filter, but they don't seem to be swimming much and staying at bottom of tank. Had water tested when brought fish and was told all ok and temp in tank is 71

    any advice

  • profile image

    Javanthi 7 years ago

    Good information

  • profile image

    Tamarind 7 years ago

    Thanks for the information about goldfish. I like how you added that some fancy goldfish get hurt on ornaments. This happened to one of mine, poor thing. I was wondering though, I would like to use some sand from out doors. Do you know of any way to get the pollutants out other than boiling the sand in water. I know our water ways and ground are so polluted its terrible.

  • profile image

    am nobody 7 years ago

    great info am getting a gold fish my tank is already set up just need the filter i have a 10 gallon tank .any tips?

  • profile image

    fisheater 7 years ago

    hi, sounds like fun watching my dinner growing. being so small, I am growing 55 of these little bastards. before i decide to cook them i am going to rub each and every one of them along my juicy pussy. i will try to fit as many as i can inside my hole for added flavor. i will dip them in garlic sauce and satay them on my hot pan.

  • profile image

    Olivia 6 years ago

    I am going to buy a fancy goldfish, and my dad bought a 29 gallon tank for it, and I brought it to my mom's house, and she said it was way to big. So I was wondering, can I have a 10-20 gallon tank for a fancy goldfish, while cleaning it every week?

  • profile image

    STAC 6 years ago


    I just bought one of those Bio Orb aquariums (bowl round shaped) online. The stores in my area did not have a big enough size. The biggest they had was a 14 gal bio (c)Ube. I got the 16 gallon sized bio orb, because the one I presently have is too small. I have 1 fantail a Ryukin right now & do not have the space for a 30 gallon thing. Would a 16 gallon be alright? Has anyone had success with raising gold fish in one of these? I have a bit of a space issue and in a small place.

    I have a sturdy table to put it on. The table is well out of any direct sunlight and right by an electrical source, but would eventually like to get a good sized fish stand or something more appropriate for a 16-25 gallon aquarium.

    I am only planning to have 2 fish at the most --yes they put out a lot of poo!---and most likely would only introduce them a month apart (I want to see how well the first does.

    Yes I a relative novice and have not had gold fish since childhood (think the old fashioned fishbowl).

    Thanking in advance.

  • profile image

    Andrew 6 years ago

    For those who were asking... minimum 10 gallons for one fancy goldfish. you need bigger tanks for the more energetic fish such as comets or commons.

    i would recommend one oranda goldfish in a ten gallon with a couple of live plants (these help absorb the fishes waste), some small, soft decorations and an efficient filter (something like 450lph). do not put any goldfish in anything under that size of tank. goldfish bowls are torture chambers!

  • profile image

    Gingangeru 6 years ago

    Very helpful, one question, my mother started cycling her tank same time as me, we have idebtical equipment (except I don't have plants, hers is lways crystal clear, mine like pea soup, I want to remove my 8 fish and start from scratch but only have the one tank, where would you suggest I either house the fish until the cycling is complete, or shoud I send them on holiday if possible???

  • profile image

    fishnet 6 years ago

    This is killing me. You are all saying what a great atricle and information he has.

    Goldfish are COLD water fish, do not use a heater.

    A month set up (geez) it's not a salt water tank.

    And check your fish/tank size ratio (and other fish info.)with a good fish shop because some of you have way too big tank for one/two fish.

  • profile image

    Melissa  6 years ago

    I just got a tank for my fish I have never had fish before and wondered if it's working propabley coz there is lots of condensation on the top help me!!

  • profile image

    Ashley m 6 years ago

    I am confused!! Why do you need so much space for just one fish?I bought a 2.65 U.S. Gallon gold fish tank that came with a filter. Then bought 4 common goldfish and 1 fan tail and they seem to be doing fine!!! Do I really need to buy a bigger tank and a bigger filter? And I thought goldfish liked cold water so I don't have a heater or anything else besides a filter!! If I really do need all these things can you tell me a place where I can get them for cheap?

  • profile image

    FISHENTHUSIAST 5 years ago

    I'm sorry, but much of the info on here is wrong...

    first off, goldfish do NOT need heaters, they are coldwater fish. Also, comets need much space, about seventy gallons per fish, and fancy varieties need about thirty gallons per fish. Also, you can have décor in fancy goldfish tanks, all you need to do is purchase real or silk plants, just not plastic... when I cycle tanks, I however don't use the bacteria in a bottle, they really usually don't work... additionally, filters for goldfish need to be twice the size of the tank, since goldfish are high ammonia producers...

    Just pointing out a few things, otherwise, it's a nice article.

  • profile image

    goldy 5 years ago

    nice article... I like it .. thnks ...

  • profile image

    Jul 5 years ago

    I recently got a calico fantail goldfish. I currently have him in a one gallon tank with a plastic plant and some gravel. Is he ok with a one gallon tank? He's only 3 inches long.

  • profile image

    sanjai 5 years ago

    @fishnet the long setup is required for the nitrite level to go down, it i not a saltwater tank, we all know that, you should do this with any kind of aquarium, not only saltwater.

    indeed you should not use a heater unless your room temperature drops beneath 15 degrees celsius, which is unlikely.

    but i would say a goldfish would need 50 litres as they produce a lot of


  • profile image

    iceysting 5 years ago

    hi! i recently rescued a goldfish from a betta fight because my friends think it was fun to watch and now i'm taking care of the goldfish. unfortunately i'm in college and don't have enough room to place a ten gallon tank. i have a 3.5 gallon tank with my betta and i don't intend to put toe goldfish in there (Ninja is going to assasinate that goldfish). i'm in a bind right now, but i did not want to watch a fish fish like that.

  • profile image

    Lisa 5 years ago

    I'am getting a 3 goldfish so excited!!! And I have 2horses,1 great Dane dog and 2cats believe it or not but I am living in stables

  • profile image

    Lisa 5 years ago

    Hi I am Lisa again I am begging for another horse!!! And I am going to name my horse cookie!!!!

  • profile image

    jackie 5 years ago

    Try not to mix your gld fishes,fancy with fancy,others are too fast for the fancy and gets pushed around and litterally crushed by the fast ones,size also matters,they like to play with gravel so only get sand or pebbles so they dont accidently lodge it in their fhroat,water will clear after the cycls builds the bacteria.don't stress just gotta takes awhile for the tank to cycle and when it does,ur wTer will clear up,twenty percent water change every week no longer than two weeks and invest in three chamber filfer from the filter for water changes,its the best investment everrr,no need for chemicals just plain filtered water.good luck.

  • santos88 profile image

    santos88 5 years ago from Austin, Texas

    You didn't mention take size, which is one of the most important factors in keeping goldfish. Fancies like black moors, telescopes, and orandas need a minimum of 15-20 gallons each. Hardier goldfish like comets should be kept in a minimum of 20-25 gallons each since they get to be about a foot long, although ideally they should live in a pond. The filter also needs to filter at least 10x the water every hour. For example, if you have a 55 gallon tank you need a filter that filters at least 550 gallons of water per hour.

    Remember to always use a de-chlorinator!

  • profile image

    5 years ago

    Gfish are cold water,, but i must say to the fish, whom live in the ponds or the wild the water does get warm durning the summer months, they don't have fluvial or air stones to keep the water clean and fresh, thats down to mother nature, + i've had a friend give me their 3 gold fish and they have been very happy eating like horses and pooing for England for the last 4 weeks in my Tropical aquarium,, My Discus still look at them an just swim away as if it was an other tropical fish!!!! All happy in my aquarium :0)

  • debbie roberts profile image

    Debbie Roberts 5 years ago from Greece

    I was looking for some advice on the type of fish to start off with in a cold water tank. Thank you for the recommendations.

    Voted up.

  • profile image

    brian m 5 years ago

    hi i love your fish they are some beautys. i have a ryukin my self a pearl,along with a comet and moore. they have a dwarf frog a corydora cat and an albino pleco as tank mates. i had a big flower shrimp but he just passed of old age.

  • profile image

    mr 5 years ago

    very nice,but goldfish do not need a heater or filter or top.

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