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If most people were to play a word association game, the word “goldfish” would usually be followed by the word “bowl.”
And let’s face it, we all knew someone whose dad won them a goldfish at the fair by throwing a dart at a playing card, carried it home in a carrier bag and plonked it in a small round bowl on top of the telly.
But in this more enlightened age, it’s accepted that goldfish bowls are a no-no.
“But my auntie Flo had one,” I hear you say, “and she kept it in a bowl,” I hear you say, “and it lived til it was 10.”
“And besides,” I hear you say, “they only grow to the size of the bowl.”
Ok, stop right there.
Although a goldfish’s growth will be stunted by a small bowl, this isn’t very fair and isn’t very nice.
Even if you buy a tiny goldfish, they can still gfrow to around 15cm (6″) and some grow to double that size.
At Swell we’d recommend an aquarium at least 60cm but for large goldfish you may need to go even bigger – or perhaps consider a pond.
Another misconception in keeping goldfish is that they don’t require a filter. Waste caused by goldfish give off toxins that are poisonous, just like with any fish. For more information see our FAQs on nitrate and nitrite.
While lighting and decoration may be desirable, a filter is pretty much essential.
At a push you may be able to get by with an air pump, which is indeed “better than nothing” but you must be aware you’d have to have it running 24 hours a day which may get a bit noisy.
In the past people have favoured under gravel filters which meant nurturing the bacteria in the gravel, but modern filters mean you can clean your gravel with a syphon.
The main types of goldfish are the common goldfish, the comet (which has a forked tail) and the shubunkin (known for their transparents and metalic scales).
For food you should opt for good quality fish flakes or pellets and occasionally add treats – some even go for frozen peas as an extra.
The important thing is never to overfeed. Only give them enough food that they can eat in a few minutes.
There are various fish that can live happily with goldfish, we recommend weather loaches (Misgurnus) and rosy red minnows (Pimephales promelas).
If you look after your goldfish they can live to 10 years, and some have been known to reach 40 but they are not as hardy as they used to be and are by no means the only “beginner’s fish” – in fact many newcomers to the hobby bypass cold water fish all together and go straight on to keeping tropical fish, which are just as easy to look after if not more so.