Goldfish lifespans are some of the longest you’ll see in the freshwater fish hobby. A goldfish that is not forced to live in a bowl or unfiltered tank will live for at least 10 years. Sometimes even longer. So what can you do to maximize goldfish life expectancy?
Goldfish Lifespan: How Long Do Goldfish Live?
Most species of goldfish live an average of 10 – 15 years, with some species average upwards of 20 – 30 years.
There are many factors that influence how long your goldfish will live. Genes do affect goldfish lifespan. But diet, water conditions, temperatures, and living space play an even greater role.
Common vs Fancy Goldfish Life Span
The most obvious distinction is between common and fancy goldfish. There are many different varieties of goldfish. But you can group all of them into one of these two categories.
When we refer to “common” goldfish, we’re not only talking about the plain orange (or brown) variety but comets and shubunkins as well. Other than longer fins and different colors these are common goldfish with a new title.
Fancy goldfish, on the other hand, includes ranchus, orandas, black moors, pearlscales, and just about every other goldfish breed out there. These goldfish have altered body shapes from the traditional wild type fish thanks to selective breeding.
And just like purebred dogs of many varieties, fancy goldfish can have major health issues. Like inbred dog breeds, these traits may look cute or attractive. But they also tend to shorten the lifespan of a goldfish. They become more prone to diseases and disorders.
That said, even fancy goldfish are much longer lived than other aquarium fish. You can expect a well cared for oranda or black moor to live anywhere from 10 to 15 years – sometimes up to 20 years!
Common goldfish have a richer genetic heritage that makes them more resistant to all of the little stresses that pile up. As surprising as this may sound, common life expectancy for goldfish will top 20 years of age. Or even longer.
According to Guinness World Records, the oldest known goldfish was Tish, who was owned by Hilda and Gordon Hand. This North Yorkshire couple’s son, Peter, won Tish at a fairground in 1956. Making it likely Tish was a comet or other standard goldfish.
How Long Do Feeder Fish Live?
Feeder goldfish are also common/standard goldfish. And while the vast majority end up as a meal for other animals they have just as much potential to live for decades as well.
The life span of a goldfish raised as a feeder is shorter, though. The high levels of ammonia, crowding stress, parasites, poor aeration, and other factors mean that even when rescued, they still die younger.
Lifespan Of Koi Fish
Wild carp come in several varieties, some of which are closely related to goldfish. And like goldfish they are also long lived.
Koi live longer than a goldfish average lifespan. The oldest are 35-40 years in age, closely matching the age range of the oldest common goldfish.
So how can they tell the age of a wild caught fish anyway? Scientists can analyze both the scales and the otoliths (inner ear bones) of fish. These structures have fine rings that form over the years exactly like those of a tree.
Pond raised Koi will reach 50 to 60 years of age when well cared for in a temperate climate. Fish 100 years and older are not unheard of, but rare. There are several species of pet fish that live long. But koi are the record-holders for longevity.
The longest lived, scientifically verified koi was Hanako, a scarlet red koi that reached 226 years of age. After her death, scientists counted the rings in her scales and otoliths to confirm it.
If you’re a koi pond keeper, be prepared for your fish to outlive you. The life expectancy for goldfish raised in ponds is also higher.
Are Goldfish and Koi the Longest Lived Fish?
By any measure, goldfish are impressively long lived, especially compared to bettas and other small tropical fish, where 3 to 5 years is more normal. But some fish longevity goes beyond what goldfish will achieve.
For instance, the Bigmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus) is a North American native that’s related to carp (goldfish and koi). These specialized bottom feeders reach 80 years of age. And the oldest was over 110 years old.
As impressive as this is, saltwater fish are often older. The Rougheye Rockfish is a medium sized, slow growing sportsfish that have been recorded at 205 years of age.
But the oldest of them all is most likely the Greenland Shark. The oldest of them was an astounding 392 years in age, +/- 120 years.
In the same study, scientists also concluded that these fish take 150 years just to reach sexual maturity. They theorize that the freezing temperatures of their polar habitat slows their metabolic rate to a crawl.
How Can I Extend the Life Expectancy of Goldfish?
Genetics play a role in helping your goldfish live for a long time. But there’s still a lot you could do to enhance goldfish lifespan.
How Long Do Goldfish Live in a Bowl?
Water quality is one of the most important things to monitor when caring for fish. Goldfish are hardy and will live and even breed in environments with high levels of ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and other pollutants.
But keeping them exposed to these agents is a drain on their vitality and immune system health. Goldfish kept in bowls are short lived for this reason; waste products build up too fast. A single overfeeding or missed water change can lead to death for goldfish in a bowl.
That’s why filtration is mandatory when keeping goldfish. Even a sponge filter provides some mechanical and biological action for a smaller tank. But power filters are better for most aquariums. And a canister filter is perfect for adult goldfish or larger goldfish tanks (55+ gallons).
Goldfish are very unselective when it comes to pH, however. They prefer neutral to alkaline conditions (pH 7.0-8.0+). But they will thrive and even breed in slight acidity (pH 6.0-6.9).
Other parameters are unimportant for them. But an occasional dose of aquarium salt stimulates the slime coat and improves ion exchange in their gills.
Goldfish Age and Adult Size
A common myth is that goldfish only grow to the size of their environment. It’s untrue and a leading cause of premature death for goldfish.
You might see some stunting if you keep a goldfish in a bowl forever. But it’s more like keeping a kitten in a box and expecting it to remain a kitten forever.
We want our animals to thrive in our care, not just survive. A goldfish should be given a spacious, enriching environment to explore during its life. For a single fancy goldfish (5-8 inches at adulthood) this means a 20 gallon high or long sized aquarium. For each additional adult goldfish, you should add 10 gallons of space.
Common goldfish tend to grow quite a bit larger (8 to 12 inches). In fact, there’s even a Japanese Giant Goldfish variety that has koi genetics, allowing it to reach up to 20 inches in length! So for an adult common goldfish a 40 breeder to 55 gallon tank is a minimum. That said, if your goldfish are still babies, 10 to 15 gallon tanks are just fine! Years later you will need to provide them with an upgrade.
How Long Do Goldfish Live in a Pond?
Pond raised goldfish and koi will live anywhere from two to five decades. With koi often reaching 100 to 200 years of age.
Keeping them in a pond will extend goldfish lifespans. Ponds are good at growing algae, aquatic plants, mosquito larvae, and other tasty treats. A diverse diet improves health and fish lifespan. Ponds also provide sunlight and seasonal variations for better metabolic regulation.
Goldfish are from temperature regions in East Asia. They will hibernate if the water grows cold enough to freeze over. Common goldfish are the most reliable in hibernating and coming out of the process with no issues.
Fancy goldfish should not be overwintered because they have been bred indoors for decades. They prefer moderate, even tropical temperatures. Fancy goldfish could die if kept outdoors where the water freezes over.
Koi also hibernate with no issues. As long as your pond is 3-4 feet deep and an air hole is kept open, your fish will go into a sleep-like state. And when spring approaches they will wake up, ready to eat.
Goldfish Dietary Needs
Another way to help your goldfish live as long as possible is by providing a nutrient-rich diet. Goldfish are omnivores, just like us humans. That means they eat a little bit of everything in the wild, both plant and animal based.
We get annoyed when they start rooting along the bottom and disturbing all of our precious water plants. But they are looking for worms, snails, small crustaceans, patches of algae, and other snacks.
Goldfish also enjoy soft leaved plants like cabomba and anacharis. Blanched vegetables like spinach, zucchini, and squash further boost the vitamins your fish receive. You can still use a high quality pellet as the base of their diet. But don’t rely solely on prepared food, regardless of how convenient it is.
Goldfish can be an impulse buy due to their beauty and low price. But goldfish life expectancy is longer than most pets. You should be prepared for a long-term commitment as your goldfish will live for decades. It might even outlive you.
Do Goldfish Get Lonely?
Goldfish aren’t as social as tetras, cichlids, or other fish. But they do interact with one another and appreciate each other’s company. If you have space for more than one goldfish they will enjoy each other’s company. But a single goldfish is also a good pet.
Can Goldfish Live For 20 Years?
20 to 30 years is an average lifespan for a healthy goldfish. The oldest known goldfish was 43 years old when it died.
How Long Do Goldfish Live in a Fishbowl?
Goldfish lifespan in bowls is not good. You will be lucky to get a few years out of one. Bowls offer poor filtration, bad oxygenation, and stagnant water. They are also too small as your goldfish will grow to be 8 to 14 inches long.