Goldfish Lifespan How Long Do They Live in a Fish Tank (Bowl)

Goldfish Lifespan How Long Do They Live in a Fish Tank (Bowl)

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Goldfish are famous for a couple of reasons, which include their extensive lifespan hence the common question.

How long do goldfish live?

Well, the average lifespan of a pet goldfish kept in a basic fish tank is between 4 and 10 years. However, in the wild, the fish can live for as long as 25 years, with the oldest ever recorded goldfish living for slightly over 4 decades.

That said, goldfish kept in appropriate aquariums, with the owner paying close attention to the health and care of the pet, can live for 10 to 15 years.

There is also a slight chance for a goldfish lifespan to vary depending on the breed, but overall, most aquarium types have a fairly equal average lifespan.


  • Oranda goldfish, which are some of the most colorful fancy breeds, live for an average of 10 to 15 years, though their lifespan is dependent on the conditions they are kept in. Mostly because they are generally more delicate than narrow-body breeds and the wen on their heads is notoriously infamous for harboring infections.
  • Fantail goldfish kept in a basic aquarium typically live for about 10 years with proper care and maintenance.
  • Black moor goldfish (black telescope) typically live for between 10 and 15 years, though it is not uncommon for hobbyists to report their black moors living for 20 years or more in well-maintained fish tanks.
  • Lastly, common goldfish average a lifespan of between 10 to 15 years, which is quite normal for most goldfish breeds.

Just in case you were wondering, the oldest goldfish on record was Tish who lived to age 43. He died peacefully in his bowl after achieving fame late in life and recognized by the Guinness book of records.

Tish was owned by Hilda Hand who buried him in a yogurt cartoon at the bottom on her yard.

How Long Will Your Goldfish Live in a Bowl?

Where as it’s quite obvious raising goldfish in a bowl is a bad idea, there is no exact number of years that a goldfish raised in a bowl live for. Usually, they will just live for the normal average which is 5 to 10 years, sometimes more or maybe less.

Besides, Tish (the oldest fish on record mentioned above) was raised in a bowl somewhere in the UK and still lived for a whopping 43 years.

Even so, bowls allow toxins to build up quickly and most have insufficient oxygen dissolved in the water. So, it’s very likely your fish will be more unhealthy and stressed.

Ideally, an appropriate goldfish tank should have at least 20-gallons of water for an average sized fish.

Another important thing that is frequently absent in most goldfish bowls is a filter!

A good filter is recommended because goldfish can get larger than 12 inches which means they produce a bigger bioload, over and above the more than average goldfish waste production.

So, by and large, it is possible that a properly maintained goldfish will have a long, healthy while living in a fishbowl; if Tish is anything to go by. However, such a setup will be quite difficult to maintain, especially when the fish grows older.

Also, you will need to invest a lot of time and effort on water changes and cleaning your tank.

How Long Do Goldfish Live Without Food?

This may come as a surprise to new fish keepers, but not so much for experienced hobbyists.

Well, goldfish, like most aquarium fish can go for 8 days to 2 weeks without food (depending on the health of the fish) and still be fine.

Therefore, it only crucial to leave someone in charge of feeding your fish if you will be away for a period more than 8 days or a week and a half at most.

Even so, it is common to hear some aquarist argue you can leave goldfish unfed for 2 weeks without an issue, which is only partially true because, although the fish will survive, it will start using its reserve from day 4. Hence, by the end of the second week, your fish will be famished and virtually lifeless.

That said, the longest period you should intentionally leave your goldfish without food (when you are not away) is 3 to 4 days, unless you are completely unavailable. In which case you can extend that period to between 7 and 9 days at most.

3 Main Reasons Why Your Goldfish Don’t Live Very Long!

There are a couple of reasons why your goldfish may fail to live a long time like they generally can.

This includes:

#1— Keeping Goldfish in The Wrong Tank

Improper maintenance of goldfish especially in a bowl greatly reduces the typical lifespan of the fish, sometimes by more than half the average.

This is so because fish bowls and nano tanks get dirty quickly and the small space causes toxins like ammonia from fish and plant waste to spike.

These toxins, in turn, burn the fish and promote infections through open wounds on the fish skin. Ammonia also affects the fish eyes and some internal organs.

Moreover, ammonia burns the fish gills first before getting to other tissues and makes it harder for the fish to respire and expel any chemicals that get into the body.

Also, small tanks limit your fish swimming area which causes them to get agitated and stressed.

Therefore, to keep your goldfish comfortable and extend their lifespan, maintain them in an appropriate size tank. At least 20-gallons of water per fish.

#2 — Tank Environment and Water Chemisty

Where as a bowl or a nano tank is a dangerous place to keep goldfish, it still doesn’t mean your fish will automatically live longer in a big aquarium.

There is the general tank setting and water chemistry to worry about.

Ideally, you should maintain in a freshwater tank with cool water where they thrive better and live longer. They prefer when the temperature is anywhere from 64°F to 75°F.

Depending on the breed, you may need to raise the temperature range to between 70°F and 80°F particularly when keeping fancies that are prone to swim bladder issues.

However, the fish are tolerant to a range of water ph and will survive as long as there are no major spikes which may cause ph shock.

To keep your fish tank environment stable, do regular water changes and clean the tank (including vacuuming the substrate).

A good water change schedule involves changing 10 percent the water volume once a week, maybe more if you have a small filterless tank.

For big, fully established aquariums, 25 percent water changes every 2 weeks to a month should be fine.

You’ll also need a powerful filter for a goldfish tank because the fish are wasteful eaters and also put out quite an amount of waste. If looking to buy one, consider canister filters which are considered best for fish that require massive filtrations like goldies.

Stay clear of ordinary sponge filters because they simply won’t move enough water that can clean a dirty goldfish tank.

One other thing you’ll need to do is cycle your fish tank before adding your goldfish since the fish health is quite dependent on useful bacteria breaking down the extra waste they put out.

Moreover, ammonia poisoning is one of the biggest killers of aquarium fish and occurs most often during the setup of a new tank.

Sings of Life-Threatening Water Chemistry in Goldfish Tank

If your goldfish is exposed to too much ammonia in water, it will display one or all of this signs:

  1. The fish will tend to swim in jerky, darting movements.
  2. Your fish might become lethargic and hang out near the bottom of the fish tank.
  3. Visible signs of gill damage may appear, and you may notice your fish gasping at the surface of the water while rapidly flapping its gills.
  4. You may notice a change in color especially since goldfish breeds have brilliant hues and the slightest change is quite conspicuous.

#3 — A Poor Diet and Overfeeding

Goldfish are generally omnivorous hence will eat almost all kinds of fish food. However, fancy breeds have more specific needs regarding what and how much they eat.

Regardless, a balanced diet from high-quality food is paramount if you are going to be successful at extending your goldfish life. Mostly, feed them flake food with occasional servings of brine shrimp, daphnia, tubifex worms or bloodworms.

That said, you have to be aware of the cons of each type of food you feed your fish because it could be the difference between your fish living for 4 years instead of 10.

For instance, flake foods often cause constipation, excess proteins, and overfeeding in goldfish. Whereas live foods, like worm diets, carry parasites and bacterial infections that are at times life-threatening.

Also, attention is key when keeping fancy goldfish with round bodies because they are susceptible to swim bladder disorder which escalates when fish overfeeds on floating flake foods.

Have fun keeping Goldfish

Eddie Waithaka

Resident Content Creator and Marketer at AquariaWise who talks about aquariums and fish and aquascapes a lot.

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