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How Long Do Goldfish Live For?

Renee Whitmore
Last Updated on
by Renee Whitmore

When people think of animals with long lifespans, a goldfish is usually the last thing to come to mind. People view these fish as fragile, short-term pets that you can purchase on a whim and dump into a little glass bowl.

So, how long do goldfish live for? The average lifespan of a goldfish is between ten and fifteen years — but only when they receive the right care.

If you want your goldfish to live a long and healthy life, you will have to resist those small and aesthetically pleasing glass bowls. A properly-sized tank, a high-quality filter, nutritious food, and a little bit of cleaning are all you’ll need to extend your goldfish’s lifespan.

How Long Do Goldfish Live For?


On average, a goldfish can live up to fifteen years! That’s around the same lifespan as a cat or dog and longer than most other species of fish. So when you’re bringing a goldfish into your home, you are making a pretty big commitment.

Unfortunately, most pet goldfish do not reach this age. The average life of goldfish in captivity is usually only three years.

The oldest goldfish that ever lived was named Tish. He died in 1999 at the age of forty-three! While this was a unique circumstance, it just goes to show how long a goldfish can live given the proper circumstances.

The average lifespan of goldfish can also vary depending on the species you have.

Some breeds, such as common goldfish, comets, and shubunkins, are most likely to reach the ten to fifteen year range.

More “fancy” breeds tend to have shorter lifespans though, usually between five and ten years.

Related: How Long Can Goldfish Go Without Food?

Why Don’t My Goldfish Live As Long?

If goldfish can live for decades, why do so many people end up flushing them after a few months?

In general, pet goldfish tend not to live as long as their wild counterparts because they don’t receive adequate care.

Because they are cheap and easy to replace, many people see goldfish as disposable. As a result, many owners aren’t ready to put in the effort necessary to give their goldfish a fulfilling life.

Most people keep their goldfish in glass bowls. These are far too small for even the smallest goldfish to thrive, and as a result, they shorten their lifespans significantly.

Many fish owners don’t monitor the tank’s water quality, either. If you don’t have a water filter, your goldfish will be prone to ammonia poisoning. In addition, if you don’t wash the tank regularly, they can get sick from the bacteria in their waste.

It’s also not uncommon to purchase goldfish on a whim. After all, when you see them in those plastic bags at the county fair, they can be pretty tempting. But when you take in a pet without any preparation, you might be setting yourself up for failure.

Overall, while goldfish are relatively low-maintenance pets, many owners simply don’t realize how much care they truly need.

How to Help Your Goldfish Live Longer

The primary mistake pet owners make when getting a goldfish is the tank size. While they seem pretty and convenient, a goldfish simply cannot thrive in a glass bowl.

If you want your fish to have a long and healthy life, you should give them a tank that holds at least twenty gallons of water. A tank of this size can hold up to two goldfish, so if you want more, you will have to find one even bigger than that.

Many people would be surprised at how big a goldfish can get. Given the right circumstances, some goldfish can grow up to twelve inches long. This is why it’s imperative to get a big enough tank; otherwise, you can end up stunting your goldfish’s growth and lifespan.

For the sake of your goldfish’s health, make sure that you clean out their tank fairly often. It’s best to find a tank that has an automatic filter. You should also give the whole tank a good wash at least once every two weeks.

If you can’t fit a twenty-gallon tank in your house, you could consider installing an outdoor pond instead. This may not be an option for everyone, but if you have enough space in your yard, it’s something to consider. Keep in mind that an outdoor pond will still need a filter and frequent maintenance.

In outdoor environments, goldfish will tend to live even longer than they would in a properly sized and filtered tank. Many of them will live to be twenty years old.

When you keep your goldfish in a pond, they are sure to have plenty of space and sunlight. However, if you do this, make sure it’s in a secure area where no predators could get to them.

Taking care of your goldfish’s diet is another great way to extend their lifespan. Look for foods that are high-quality, not overly-processed, and not bulked up with fillers.

You should also make sure your goldfish’s tank has plenty of enrichment. Providing some fake plants and caves to hide in will help improve your goldfish’s overall wellbeing, and by extension, extend their lifespan.

About Renee Whitmore
Renee Whitmore
Renee Whitmore is an American college professor and freelance writer from North Carolina. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master’s Degree in English Education. When she is not driving her teenage son to wrestling practice or learning the ins and outs of Fortnite from her younger son, she is working on her first book to be published soon.
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