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How long do goldfish live?

Goldfish in tank
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re thinking of getting a new pet and you’re wondering how long do goldfish live, you may be surprised to learn that these fishy creatures have a surprisingly long lifespan - especially when kept in the best fish tanks.

Ensuring that your goldfish is kept in the best possible condition can mean that your fishy friend lives a very long time indeed - with some even reported to have lived several decades (though that’s a rarity). 

The lifespan of a goldfish will depend on numerous factors. These include the variety of goldfish, the size of the bowl, tank or pond they are kept in and the quality of the conditions (such as water quality). 

Let’s find out more about these plucky little creatures. 

Average lifespan of a goldfish 

According to the RSPCA (opens in new tab), the average lifespan of a goldfish is 10-15 years, so you should be prepared to look after one for a long time when you buy them. Some varieties living in the best conditions have even been known to live for as long as 30 years - and there’s even some outliers who have gone on for longer than that.

The purchase of a goldfish should be as careful and considered as you would with any other pet. Though it was once common for them to be given away as prizes at funfairs and the like, today that practice is generally frowned upon for the welfare of the animals and the potential responsibility owners must take on. To that end, take care to research the variety you intend to buy, asking for help from where you buy them for the best conditions to keep your goldfish in. 

It’s also very wise to make sure you purchase a healthy goldfish in the first place. Make sure that the tank that the goldfish is living in isn’t overcrowded with too many fish, make sure the fish is swimming around with ease and that they are nice and bright in color.

You should also ask how big the goldfish is likely to grow before making your purchase, to ensure that you have the correct amount of space for them. Goldfish are happy to live alone, but they’re also very happy to be in groups. If you intend to buy more than one goldfish, either straightaway or further down the line, be sure to buy a big enough tank to accommodate how many fish you eventually intend to have. 

How long do goldfish live in bowls?

The answer to this very much depends on the size of the bowl - or indeed, what you consider a bowl in the first place. In theory, it’s perfectly possible for a goldfish to live in a bowl for as long as they might live in a tank, or even the wild or in a pond, but, as a general rule, fish kept in bowls will not live as long. 

Certain goldfish species will grow to very large sizes, and a small bowl simply won’t give them the space they need to swim around. It’s also true that goldfish like to be kept in groups, so keeping one on its own in a bowl can also be detrimental to their lifespan. 

A small bowl also can’t offer the best type of water quality, so that can also have an impact on the lifespan of a goldfish. It’s a good idea instead to invest in the best small fish tank to keep your goldfish in the best and happiest condition.Make sure to also stock up on the best fish tank accessories to make it the best possible environment. 

Although it’s possible to mix goldfish with tropical fish, it’s not generally advised for the benefit of either the goldfish or the tropical fish. If you’re wanting to have both, we recommend you invest in one of the best tropical fish tanks and keep your two fish families separate. 

Goldfish swimming in tank

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How long do goldfish live in ponds?

As a general rule, goldfish will live longer when they have the benefit and freedom of more space and natural daylight such as that found in a pond - especially as it more closely replicates how a goldfish would live in the wild.

In these conditions, it’s reported that goldfish can live around 20 years on average. Though again, some will live longer, while certain varieties of goldfish might not live as long. It’s important to consider this length of time when buying fish for a pond - especially since it’s obviously much harder to take a pond with you than a fish tank if you were to move home.

Remember also that certain goldfish can grow to very large sizes, so it’s important to make sure that the pond isn’t too small, or too crowded with too many fish. If you’re not sure, you should always ask for help from the supplier of the goldfish who should be able to provide you with the relevant information.

What was the oldest goldfish?

Although the typical lifespan of a goldfish is 5-10 years, especially those kept in bowls or tanks, for those kept in the best conditions, there’s every possibility of living several decades. 

According to Guinness World Records (opens in new tab), the oldest known goldfish was 43 years old when they died. The fish was called Tish and owned by Hilda and Gordon Hand from North Yorkshire - Hilda’s son won the goldfish at a fairground stall in 1956.

Another goldfish, Goldie, apparently lived to be 45 years old (according to oldest.org (opens in new tab)) - but since there was no proof, this fish is not included in the official records book.  

Amy Davies is a freelance writer and photographer with over 15 years experience. She has a degree in journalism from Cardiff University and has written about a huge variety of topics over the years. These days she mostly specialises in technology and pets, writing across a number of different titles including TechRadar, Stuff, Expert Reviews, T3, Digital Camera World, and of course PetsRadar. She lives in Cardiff with her dog, Lola, a rescue miniature dachshund.