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Why Your Goldfish Can't Live In a Fish Bowl

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 1

Black Oranda Goldfish (38840)

One of the worst misconceptions about Goldfish, both inside and out of the aquarium hobby, is that they are a perfectly equipped to live their entire lives out in a fish bowl. While most advanced hobbyists could easily list all the reasons why this is a complete myth, many beginning aquarists have no other reference point than what they were told by a pet store employee.

Unfortunately, the life span of a Goldie that is forced to live in the confines of a small fish bowl is reduced to an incredibly pitiful several months. Why do I say pitiful? Well, for starters, your Goldfish has the potential to actually outlive your cat or dog if you take care of it correctly.

Here are a few of the top reasons why you will NOT be successful making your Goldfish live in a bowl:

  1. They require an aquarium filter. Goldfish are very messy fish – they excrete ammonia in very large amounts through all their bodily functions. Aside from the ammonia, they are also constantly rooting around in the gravel looking for food which will only stir up the junk that has sunken down in between the rocks.
  2. They get huge. Baby Goldfish are really cute – the fancy breeds look like little bobble heads with their small bodies and oversized noggins. However, if kept in the correct environment that little fish has the potential to become a softball-sized Goldie within their first year of life. And those little torpedo-shaped ones you win at the fair? Those little guys turn into massive pond-sized fish, topping out at over a foot.
  3. They get bored. Goldfish are very interactive fish – they love to see what you're doing at all times. When you aren't around, a thoughtfully designed fish tank set up can keep them from becoming bored within the confines of their aquarium – you simply cannot provide an interactive environment with a fish bowl. Bored Goldies will become lethargic, very dull in color, and will constantly bottom-sit.
  4. They require well oxygenated water. Goldfish are very dependent on the oxygen content in the water – if it's lacking in any way they will start gasping at the surface of the tank and may even die. A bowl does not have the proper amount of surface area to even make aerating it well a plausible idea.
  5. The bowl will not stay clean and you'll give up. There is no way to keep a bowl clean with a Goldfish in it – they simply eat and poop too much. You will find that your water is constantly cloudy, ammonia-ridden and stinky no matter how many water changes you perform – and eventually your Goldfish will just end up dying because it was forced to live in its own sewage.

While Goldfish may not be necessarily one of the most difficult fish to keep in the hobby, the fancy breeds are very dependent on a large, clean environment if you intend on avoiding a lot fish problems along the way. If you deprive them of the basic requirements that they need met, you will only run into headache after frustrating headache. Contrary to the advice you may receive from the pet store, Goldies are not a good beginning fish if you don't have the time or space they require.



Nov 13, 2012 4:52am
Thanks for this helpful article, I have been considering getting a goldfish, and this was useful.
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