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My Goldfish Keep Dying | A Guide To Keeping Goldfish Without Killing Them

Updated on October 14, 2009

Once upon a time, fish keeping went something like this: buy a bowl, buy a fish, put fish in bowl, feed occasionally. The fish would generally die after a few weeks to a few months of this tortured existence and everyone would comment what great pets they were for teaching kids about life and death.

Then a newfangled breed of fish keepers came into existence, those who thought that fish should be able to live out their natural lifespans in a fish tank. Now goldfish have always been a popular fish to keep, but as it turns out, you actually need a fair bit of equipment to keep one happy and healthy.

Things you will need.

A Fish Tank

This should be a minimum 30* gallon for the first fish and 20 gallon for every goldfish thereafter. That's right, a 50 gallon tank (180 liters) is only enough for two goldfish. At this point you might decide to keep a different sort of fish, and I would say that this is quite a good idea. Goldfish, in spite of their popularity, are one of the more demanding types of fish to keep. They can grow up to 18 inches, (almost 50cm), so stuffing one into a tiny bowl and thinking things will be okay is not an option. 

(Some say that 20 gallons is okay for the first fish and 20 thereafter, but either way, if you want to keep two goldfish, that's a 40 gallon tank right there, and it is still possible that your goldfish will out grow their tank.)

Myth 1

Goldfish only grow to the size of the tank.

This is a common myth, but it is also entirely wrong. Saying a gold fish will only grow to the size of a tank is like stuffing a kitten into a jam jar and saying that it will only grow to the size of the jar, or binding a young girl's feet and saying they will only grow to the size of the binding. It may be true in one respect, but in reality, what you're doing is unnaturally stunting the fish's growth and killing it early.

Goldfish are better pond fish than tank fish, and it is not a bad idea to raise young goldfish in a tank and later transfer them to a pond as they start to grow larger.


Once you have a big enough tank, you will also need a decent filtration system. Because goldfish are one of the messier types of fish, you will need either an external filter or an internal filter. The filter cleans the water, and converts the waste chemicals from the fish (ammonia) into less toxic chemicals. Whether you want to go external or internal depends on you. Internal filters have a reputation of being quieter, and are certainly cheaper, but external filters have a larger capacity and are better suited to more serious fish keepers.

Testing Kit

A testing kit will test for the following things, pH, ammonia, nitrates and nitrites. Using a testing kit is essential to ensuring that your fish is not swimming in toxic waters.

When you first get your tank, you'll need to start your filter up and get it cycling. This helps to grow the bacteria which will clean your goldfish's waste, and it means that when you do put a goldfish in there (it can take anywhere up to a month to properly cycle a tank), it won't end up dying in a few weeks.

Now, some people use actual fish to cycle the tank, in other words, they put fish in to foul the water and start the bacterial cycle, however I believe this is fairly cruel because you're exposing those fish to the sort of conditions which can kill them.

I will be adding a cycling guide here later, in the mean time I suggest you refer to this guide on how to cycle a tank.

Plants / Hidey Holes

It has been shown that fish in bare tanks tend to get stressed and bored, so it is essential that your fish have a place to go and hide when they are feeling shy or scared, and something to actually look at in the tank. If you want to give your fish a real treat, you can try making a planted tank, in which plants grow at the bottom. These can look beautiful and they provide very nice homes for your fish.


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    • finatics profile image

      finatics 7 years ago

      Thanks for the great article. This gives good information on goldfish, especially when it comes to tank size.