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The Myth of the Goldfish Bowl

Updated on July 9, 2015
pldominice profile image

I am working on my certification in Personal Training. I also have a passion for nutrition and animals.

The myth debunked

Ahh, the myth of the goldfish bowl.

It has a long, illustrious history. You kept them as kids….but they always died….I can certainly tell you why. OR grandma kept one in the kitchen for YEARS, Maybe….mostly because grandma was diligent about cleaning the bowl. BUT in reality, this is NOT an ideal environment for the goldfish and in this article I will explain why.


If you’ve ever tried to put a goldfish in a bowl, the people at the fish store probably told you that you can’t, for many reasons. They’re too messy….they’re get too big…the list goes on and on, but I wish I could explain in more detail EXACTLY why this is a really bad idea to my own customers. If you look at the diagram, you’ll notice that something very vital is missing…the stomach. This is important because everything I explain after this is going to hinge on this piece of information.

The reason they are messy points back to the above information. If you’ve ever taken care of baby animals or have children yourself, this is an easy concept to understand. Baby animals when they are neonates need energy quickly and often, so shortly after you feed these animals, they go to the bathroom. Goldfish are built similar to this principal. The body absorbs the nutrients as it goes through the digestive tract, only what it needs of course, and rest is released as waste. This is not the problem when they are little. The problem is that they do get bigger…A LOT bigger. At the risk of getting a little gross, it’d be like having an adult size newborn, when goldfish are adult size, and therein lies the problem.

The second problem, under the mess issue, is that goldfish do not have the hormone that most of animals have, to tell them when they are full, so goldfish can literally eat until they explode. SO, because most people aren’t aware of this, they feed them….constantly, not changing their cleaning routine.

The next point, the size issue. And that is a big one. The goldfish is a very large fish, not small, not even medium, BIG. Here’s another myth that perpetuates this one, fish only grow to the size of their environment. That’s not entirely true, and definitely not with all fish. Understand, that the fish that do technically grow to the size of their environment, are probably being severely stunted by this. Which also severely shortens their lifespan. This is a fish that will get at least six inches long and typically up to a foot, though you can find reports larger than that. To sum this particular point up, the ultimate problem is that while, yes, you can start a goldfish in bowl….theoretically, you never know when to upgrade until it’s too late. Whether it’s a disease you can’t save him from, once you’ve upgraded, or you just come home one day and he’s dead.

Ultimately, fish keeping is an extremely subjective topic, I talk about this a little bit in my other hub:, so please understand that this is not finite advice. Their many, many pieces information that support that failure of this, but it’s all about balance. If you don’t mind cleaning goldfish bowl every day, every other day, then more power to you…that fish deserves to have you as a pet parent. He also deserves to have some big, open water to grow into!


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    • profile image

      That Fish Lady 

      7 years ago

      I really like how you explained this, I hope a lot of people looking for goldfish bowls stumble onto your hub.

    • SomethingFishy84 profile image


      7 years ago from Indiana

      Great info! You make an especially good point about fish keeping being a subjective topic!


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