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Is a Goldfish the Perfect First Pet?

Goldfish can be great starter pets for families that want a low-maintenance pet.

May 10, 2024 4 min read
Is a Goldfish the Perfect First Pet?

While dogs and cats remain the most popular pets in the U.S., goldfish are not far behind. Goldfish are often chosen as a first pet, especially in homes with small children not yet ready to take on the responsibility of a high-maintenance animal. If you’re considering bringing home a goldfish, here are a few things you should know about this highly social species.

The Goldfish: A Brief Background

Goldfish are the most commonly kept freshwater fish species in the world. They originate from China and were later introduced to Europe in the 1600s where they were considered a good luck charm. It wasn’t until the 1800s that goldfish arrived in North America.

Despite their name, goldfish were not always gold. In fact, they were originally silver. Over time, they underwent colorful genetic mutations which gave them the traditional orangish hue they’re known for today.

Common Types of Goldfish

There are over 200 recognized species of goldfish, although just a handful are routinely kept as pets. Some of these include:

Common Goldfish

This is the most recognizable type of goldfish, featuring a single tail. They are very affordable and have an average lifespan of 10 to 20 years. If well cared for, a common goldfish can grow up to 12 to 14 inches in length.

Oranda Goldfish

The Oranda goldfish is known for its unique red-orange bubbly structure found on the forehead, known as a wen. These fish can live between 15 and 25 years on average and can reach a length of 8 to 12 inches.

Comet Goldfish

Comet goldfish are considered a type of fancy goldfish as they have a long, forked single tail fin and bi-colored body. Their beautiful hues and flowy tails make them a great addition to any freshwater tank. Comet goldfish are known to be hearty fish and can live between 5 and 14 years. Most grow to a length of between 4 and 12 inches.

Ryukin Goldfish

The Ryukin goldfish is also unique as it features an egg-shaped body with a camel-like hump on its back. Most have a fancy double tail and can reach lengths of up to 10 inches on average. With proper care, a Ryukin goldfish can live between 10 and 15 years.

Caring for a Pet Goldfish

Goldfish are considered good pets for beginners as they are relatively easy to care for. If you’re considering a pet goldfish for your home, it’s important to understand the basic requirements for owning this type of fish.

Tank Size for Goldfish

A minimum tank size of 20 gallons is recommended for juvenile goldfish. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to have 5 gallons for every one inch of an adult goldfish’s length. For example, a six-inch goldfish should have a minimum tank size of 30 gallons.


Goldfish tend to create more waste compared to other fish of the same size, meaning good filtration is required. Introduce slow water circulation to mimic natural water currents found in the goldfish’s natural habitat and to integrate oxygen into the water.

Water Quality

Maintaining good water quality in the tank can help keep your goldfish healthy. Test the water at least once a week to ensure that it reaches an optimal pH level of between 7 and 8.4. If you’re unsure of the quality of your fish’s water, consider bringing a sample to your local pet store for testing.

Goldfish Food

Goldfish require a well-balanced diet that consists of pellets, flakes, and freeze-dried or frozen food. When feeding your new pet, remember to only feed small amounts once a day. Frozen foods should be thawed before feeding. Only give enough food that your fish can eat within one to two minutes. Avoid overfeeding your goldfish as this can be bad for their health.

Plants and Decorations

Create a rich tank environment for your goldfish with plants and decorations. Goldfish are omnivores, meaning they may uproot and eat live plants. Some plants that goldfish eat include java fern, Vallisneria spp, and anubias. On the bottom of the tank, place substrate to make the enclosure appear more realistic.

Average Lifespan of a Goldfish

How long a goldfish lives will depend on a variety of factors, such as the species of goldfish, its environment, and how well it is cared for. On average, a goldfish will live between 10 and 15 years.

What Makes Goldfish a Great First Pet

If you’re contemplating getting a goldfish, know that these adorable fish make great pets. They are quiet, affordable, and easy to maintain. They don’t bark like dogs or scratch at furniture like cats. They also don’t require exercise or baths like other pets.

Many people find that having a pet goldfish lowers their blood pressure and anxiety levels. Watching a tranquil aquarium after a stressful day at work can be calming. Maintaining an aquarium with goldfish can also provide your children with a learning experience. Having kids learn about goldfish care and the importance of feeding and cleaning the tank can teach them responsibility.

Overall, goldfish can make wonderful pets in a wide range of households. If you’re looking for a starter pet, consider adopting a goldfish.

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