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How to make goldfish live longer

Goldfish swimming in tank
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Are you wondering how to make goldfish live longer? While they might not be considered in the same league as cats, dogs or even rodents, a pet goldfish requires some serious thought just the same. They can live a very long time, especially when kept in an appropriate fish tank, and you should be prepared to put in the work to keep them happy and healthy. 

How long do goldfish live, we hear you ask? Well, if you do all that you can to provide a good environment for your goldfish, then you’ll generally find that they live to be a good age. The average lifespan of a goldfish is 10-15 years, according to the RSPCA, so it’s important to be mindful of the commitment you’re making if you decide to buy one. 

That said, it’s also true that if kept in less-than-perfect conditions, a goldfish’s lifespan can be seriously reduced. By following some of the advice in this piece, you’ll find out how to make the most of your pet goldfish and keep them happy for as long as possible.

How long does a goldfish live in a bowl?

Although once a common place to keep a goldfish, these days, most people are pretty clued up that a bowl is not an ideal place for a goldfish to live. 

Just like it’s true that human beings can live in very cramped conditions, goldfish can tolerate it but they’ll be generally unhappy and usually not live as long as they could in a much better environment. 

A small goldfish bowl doesn’t give the animal any space to swim and explore, plus with very little water available, there’s not much in the way of surface area to create a good gas exchange for optimum health. There’s also unlikely to be room for a water filter or other accessories, plus the water will get dirty from waste and food very quickly.

As such, it’s estimated that a goldfish will only live for around 2-3 years if you place them in a bowl - a fraction of how long they might live in a much better environment. 

How long does a goldfish live in a tank?

In a fish tank, you’ll usually find that a goldfish lives much longer than in a bowl. It’s here where the 10-15 year average comes from, with some variation depending on a number of factors including the quality of care and the variety of goldfish. 

Goldfish will usually live longest in an outdoor pond, where the conditions of their natural habitat are best replicated. Here, the average lifespan rises to around 20 years. Of course, these are not particularly practical for the vast majority of fish owners, so a good tank is a fantastic alternative.

You should always go for the biggest fish tank you have space for, but there are some good options if you are looking for the best small fish tank, which you could consider if your space - or budget - is somewhat limited.

How do you make fish last longer?

School of goldfish swimming

(Image credit: Getty Image)

There are a number of things you can do to give your goldfish the best chances of living as long as possible.

Making sure you have an appropriately large fish tank is the first and one of the best steps you can take. The minimum recommended size for a goldfish is 20 gallons, making sure you go bigger if you intend to house more than one goldfish (10 extra gallons per additional fish is a good rule of thumb). 

You should also invest in some of the best fish tank accessories for your goldfish. This is about far more than making your fish tank look pretty, it’s about giving your fish places to explore and hide, giving them the right kind of lighting conditions and keeping the tank clean and healthy. 

It’s very important to keep on top of a good cleaning schedule for your fish’s tank. A clean once every couple of weeks will ensure that waste and debris is removed. Investing in some types of real (rather than plastic or artificial) plants can also help with keeping the tank clean, so it’s worth doing some research into those. Read our advice on how to clean a fish tank to make sure you’re doing it in the best way.

Making sure that water quality is optimum is also a good way to extend a goldfish’s lifespan. Invest in a good quality water filter, and you can also buy testing kits to measure the composition of the tank’s water to make sure it’s the best quality. 

How do you know if a goldfish is happy?

Of course it’s a little bit harder to tell if a goldfish is happy compared to other pets such as dogs, cats and rodents. 

However there are still some signs that you can look out for which give you a good idea as to the wellbeing of your fish. Them swimming constantly is a good sign that they are doing well - any floating, sinking or bobbing around can be problematic. 

Eating their food in a timely fashion, and producing waste regularly is also a good sign. Reacting with some enthusiasm to special goldfish treats is also an indicator of happiness. 

The appearance of your goldfish is also a good clue as to their happiness and general health. If their scales and eyes are shiny, without any dull patches, this usually means the fish is healthy. 

If you are in any doubt about the health of your fish, be sure to speak to a qualified aquatic expert or vet.

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.