A question I get asked a lot is “What fish can live with goldfish?” Unfortunately, it is much more complicated to create a list of tank mates for goldfish than it is for fish like Bettas. Some fish may be suitable for life in one goldfish community but not in another. Let’s talk about how you can easily find the best companions for your goldfish tank!
CHOOSING TANK MATE FOR GOLDFISH
Goldfish (Carassius auratus) have been domesticated for over 2,000 years and are probably one of the most diverse aquatic animals in the world. There are over 200 different types of goldfish and they can have dramatically different appearances and care requirements.
This creates a challenge for goldfish keepers when they decide to add new fish to their communities. A good mate for a common goldfish may be totally inappropriate for a celestial. Before we can discuss the best options for your goldfish tank, we need to consider a few factors.
DOES YOUR GOLDFISH NEED A TANK MATE?
Goldfish are generally active and curious fish, but they don’t need mates to be happy. Adding tankmates to a goldfish habitat is really more of a personal decision than a necessary one. Your goldfish will be happy as long as they have a clean tank to explore, plenty of room to swim, and a plentiful food source.
However, if you decide you’d like to add some companions, you’ll need to consider the following factors when exploring your options:
- What kind of goldfish do you have?
- How big is your aquarium and how much room does it have for more fish?
- How is your configuration? Do you need any modification?
BASIC TYPES OF goldfish
Take a look at your goldfish and identify the type of fish you have. Do they have a single tail, or double fantails, or some other special trait? Goldfish can be divided into two main types based on their body shape and tail pattern, and this is the most important factor to consider when choosing your tank mates.
Abundant Single Tail Goldfish Compatibility
If you have a hearty goldfish with a slim, streamlined body and a single tail, then you don’t have many good choices for mates. These colorful fish can get very large and almost always outgrow their tropical tank mates. The best companions for the abundant types are other single-tailed goldfish and species suitable for life in a pond.
Deluxe Goldfish Compatibility
Fancy goldfish, on the other hand, are smaller at maturity and cannot swim or maneuver in the water as easily as single-tailed ones. Sleek features like double tails, bubble eyes, and their hunched or rounded bodies slow them down. You can often mix goldfish with tropical fish if you are careful with your selection.
AQUARIUM CAPACITY AND FILTRATION
Before you can begin reviewing my list of tank mates, you’ll need to assess your current aquarium to make sure it has room for additional fish and a filtration system that can handle the increased workload. Depending on the number and type of goldfish you have, you may already be close to full capacity!
The smallest recommended aquarium for any type of mature goldfish is a 20-gallon tank, and for each additional goldfish, you’ll generally add another 10 to 20 gallons of capacity. Some quick math can reveal how much extra space you have and can help you narrow down your list and number of potential friends.
Evaluate your setup and filtration systems
Goldfish are eating machines and spend their time exploring their tank for food. They will eat anything they can get into their mouths. This means they produce a lot of biological waste and need a high quality multi-stage filtration system to keep their tank clean and neutralize toxins. They do not like heavy currents and avoid them.
Before adding pet fish to your tank, make sure your filter and setup can handle the increased load and is suitable for that species and your goldfish. Simple tails use the entire tank, but like room to swim, and fancies are limited based on their physical traits. You may be able to pick a friend who prefers an area that your goldfish will avoid!
Also consider your decoration and arrangements. While goldfish eat and pull up live plants, using plastic plants to create hiding places for other fish, shrimp, and snails is one way to increase the chances that a particular mix will work in your tank. Rocks, logs, and other decorations can also give the critters a place to hide from your goldfish!
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE IDEAL COMPANIONS OF goldfish
Now that you know how your type of goldfish and aquarium setup influence the tank mate decision, let’s talk about what makes a particular fish or invertebrate suitable for a goldfish tank.
The best companions are those whose ideal temperature range overlaps with your goldfish aquarium.
- Many tropical fish require warm temperatures that are too high for goldfish to live comfortably, and this can lead to stress and illness.
- At the same time, keeping tropical fish in cooler-than-ideal waters can be fatal to them.
Fin size and length
I have already mentioned that goldfish are voracious eaters and will consume anything they can swallow. As omnivores, goldfish are just as happy to eat invertebrates and smaller fish as their commercial diet.
- Shrimping with goldfish is usually a bad idea, unless the shrimp are very large or have a lot of hiding places in the tank that the goldfish can’t access.
- Goldfish often eat snails, so avoid zebra nerite snails and other types with pointed, cone-shaped shells that could injure or kill your goldfish if ingested.
- Small fish like minnows and goldfish can exercise until the goldfish are big enough to eat them. I usually don’t recommend having minnows in your goldfish tank, but with the slower, more graceful types, it sometimes works.
At the same time, larger fish can also cause problems in a goldfish tank. I would not keep angelfish with goldfish, because your goldfish are likely to chase and harass them.
- Goldfish, especially single-tailed ones, can’t resist nibbling on those long fins.
- It is best to choose tankmates that are the same size and have short fins.
Swimming speed and agility
The best tankmates for your goldfish community are those with similar speed and agility in the water. Slender-bodied, single-tailed goldfish are fast swimmers and will definitely join in with any fish that are slower than them. They can also compete with them for food!
Fancy goldfish can have the opposite problem if kept with fast-swimming partners. These goldfish often need special buoyant diets to accommodate their heavy swimming style, and faster fish may eat all of their food. This is why only a few types of tetras and goldfish work together in the same tank.
Aggression and territoriality
Goldfish are peaceful, non-aggressive fish and do not establish territories or defend an area from other fish. You will want to avoid choosing tank mates that are aggressive or semi-aggressive, such as African Cichlids or Tiger Barbs, and instead stick with friendly species.
You’ll also want to avoid putting territorial fish in a tank with goldfish, even bottom-dwelling fish that generally avoid open areas that goldfish prefer. Just having your goldfish constantly swimming through your space could cause these mates stress, even if they aren’t actively fighting to defend the area.
THE BEST TANK MATES FOR GOLDFISH
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s put it all into practice as we take a look at the best options for goldfish companions. There is often a trade off when choosing between goldfish compatible fish as many species are not a perfect fit but can work in the right tank setup.
IDEAL TANK MATE FOR SINGLE TAILED GOLDFISH
Single-tailed goldfish are known for their bright colors and active, curious nature. Since most individual colas can reach 10 to 12 inches in length, they are best kept in a pond rather than an aquarium. Simple tails generally do well over a wide temperature range of 60 to 80°F and will readily eat a variety of fresh and commercial diets.
The best choices for tankmates are other single-tailed goldfish, although you can also keep these goldfish with koi in a pond.Consider these ideal companions for your single-tailed goldfish aquarium:
The common or feeder goldfish is what most of us imagine when we hear the name “goldfish” and is an inexpensive addition to any large tank or pond. Common goldfish may be only a few inches long when you buy them, but they generally grow quickly and can easily exceed 12 inches if they get enough food.
While a pond is ideal, you’ll need at least a 20-gallon tank for a single Common, adding another 10-15 gallons for each additional feeder you add. Common goldfish are available in a wide range of colors and patterns, although many will change color as they mature.
>The Comet Goldfish is slightly shorter and wider than the common Goldfish and has a very extended tail with sharp tips. These fast swimmers typically end up 10 to 12 inches long at maturity and prefer soft, sandy substrates to avoid injury to their delicate tails.
Since they have a longer tail, Comet goldfish do best in tanks larger than 30 gallons and I recommend adding an additional 10-15 gallons for each fish you add to your community. You’ll want to make sure they don’t damage your fins on your tank decor as well. They are easy to feed and eat flaky, floating and sinking foods.
>The shubunkin is also known as the Calico goldfish, but don’t confuse this color with the similarly named domestic cat! Unlike calico cats, which have at least three colors of fur, these goldfish have a special type of scale that alters their appearance. So tricolor goldfish are different from calicos.
shubunkin usually looks blue with bright patches of red, orange, yellow, black, bronze, or a pearly white. Any single-tailed goldfish with this trait is a Shubunkin, even if it was bred from another line. They need a minimum of a 20 gallon tank with the usual extra capacity of 10 to 15 gallons per fish.
One of the most interesting options for a single-tailed goldfish companion, and one of my personal favorites, is the elegant Ryukin goldfish. These hunched-back fish are one of the few double-tailed fancy goldfish breeds that do well in ponds and as single-tailed companions!
Ryukin prefers hotter water than the others in this part of the list (65 to 78°F) and they are generally smaller as well. They rarely reach 10 inches in length and some never grow beyond 6 inches. If your other fish are much larger, you might have trouble getting them to mess with your little Ryukin, but organizing your tank differently can help.
THE BEST ALGAE-EATING COMPANIONS FOR COLORFISH
Functional tankmates, such as those that eat the algae that grows on your plastic plants, decor, and substrate, are often a good addition to goldfish tanks. But what are the best goldfish algae eaters? While the smaller algae eaters may be too small, some of the larger catfish are good choices for single and double tail tanks.
>I definitely recommend Bristlenose pleco as an option for cleaning a tank full of goldfish! I have successfully managed tanks with abundant and elegant goldfish and have never had a problem with a Bristlenose in any of the configurations. These comical plecos are up to 5 inches long and, as adults, sprout long tentacles around their snouts.
The Bristlenose is a peaceful and gentle fish, and its armored body and spiny dorsal fins protect it from bites by your goldfish. They can swim quickly, but mostly prefer to hang out on logs and the sides of the tank eating algae and food scraps. They can withstand temperatures from 60 to 80°F and need about 10 gallons of extra capacity.
Plecostomus with rubber lips
The slightly larger rubber-lipped pleco is another good choice for goldfish tanks, although they prefer warmer water between 72 and 80°F. These guys look like a typical pleco and are often mistaken for juveniles of other species. Reaching a maximum of 7 inches in length at maturity, they are large enough to be safe from goldfish.
The biggest challenge in keeping plecos in a goldfish tank is making sure they have enough access to food. Goldfish are likely to go after sinking algae wafers or vegetables you offer your pleco, so you may need to distract the goldfish with floating food to give the pleco time to enjoy its meal special.
Snails and goldfish rarely work as tank mates because the goldfish enjoy eating them. While the smaller Nerite and Malaysian Trumpet snails have cone-shaped shells that can injure or even kill a goldfish if swallowed, the apple snail has a round shell and is usually between 1 and 2 inches in diameter. They are good algae eaters, but prefer live vegetables and plants.
Goldfish will not be able to easily eat adults, but they will definitely eat eggs and babies. This can actually be a good thing in a goldfish tank, as apple snails breed easily and can quickly fill a tank with their offspring. As long as you don’t have live plants in your tank, your apples will focus on eating algae and your fish will probably leave the larger snails alone.
FISH COMPANIONS FOR LUXURY GOLDFISH
There are hundreds of types of fancy goldfish and your specific requirements will vary depending on which type you have. In general, though, fancy goldfish prefer warmer water stabilized with a water heater and open, low-flow areas of their tank, making them ideal for many other tropical fish.
Plati are a diverse group of goldfish in the genus Xiphophorus that typically grow to between 1.5 and 3 inches in length. They usually have a short fan-shaped tail, although the rarer male Swordtail Platy has a tail that sticks out like a spike. They come in gold, red, orange, green, black, and white and have a variety of patterns.
Saucers can withstand temperatures from 70 to 78°F and prefer to live in a group of at least 5. You can put 5 saucers in your goldfish tank for every 10 gallons of capacity you have for free! Platys are laid back and will hang out in a group near the plastic plants in your tank, and your goldfish will probably leave them alone.
Tetras Black Skirt
>Black Skirt Tetras have a classic diamond-shaped body and are almost as wide as they are tall. Their dorsal fin is erect and they have a slender tail with a noticeable fork and a feathery anal fin. You won’t have to worry about your goldfish taking a bite though, because these fish are bold and will bite back!
Blackskirt tetras reach 2 to 3.5 inches at maturity and prefer to live in large schools of 10 or more. It is recommended that you allow an additional 15 gallon capacity for every 10 tetras you add to your tank. They generally ignore other fish when in large groups. Having tall plastic plants against the back of your tank will help as they like to swim in the center and may dodge around if they feel unsafe.
Another tetra and goldfish combo that could work is the Bloodfin Tetra. These streamlined silver fish have hints of red on the underside of their tail and anal fin and some have a red dorsal fin too! It is a peaceful and shy fish that prefers to live in schools of 5 to 7, so allow an extra 20 gallons of capacity for a small group.
They can reach 2-3 inches in length as adults and enjoy swimming in open water in the center of their tank. Like the Black Skirt, Bloodfins like to have tall plants around so they can dash to safety if they get spooked. Your goldfish may chase them at first, but these fish are fast and the school will blend into the decor, so it often works!
>Another longtime favorite of mine, the Checkered Barb is an exceptional community fish and a good choice for a fancy goldfish tank. Barbs are often known for being aggressive, but checkered ones are peaceful and lively! They can reach 2 inches when fully grown, and a group of 10 needs about 20 gallons of capacity in 68 to 79°F water.
Their black and silver checkered bodies and red fins look amazing when they go to school, and they enjoy a strong current to play with. They will spend most of their time swimming in the filter outlet if you set things upright, and your goldfish will. probably leave the checkered quills to themselves. However, these fish can be pungent in smaller groups.
An excellent choice for fancy goldfish aquariums is the Rosy Barb, a larger blush-colored cousin of the Checkered Barb. These red to pink fish can reach up to 6 inches in length and prefer to be in large schools of 10 or more. They prefer to swim in strong currents in the center of their aquarium.
Rosies prefer cooler water from 64 to 72°F and need a spacious tank of at least 30 gallons. You would allow an additional 5 gallons for each tab added to your school. While Rosies can be agile like the other barbs, they are less likely to bother your goldfish if they are in a large school, and your goldfish will avoid areas that they enjoy.
>I have long been a fan of the smooth Gold Barb, and these peaceful gold and black fish add so much color to your tank! They are slimmer and more streamlined than the other barbs on the list and can reach 3 inches at maturity. They prefer water temperatures between 74 and 82°F and spend their time swimming in the bottoms of their tank.
These social fish do best in small groups of 6 or 7, and would allow an additional 20 gallons of capacity for a group this size. While any barb can be agile, these are some of the least aggressive and rarely cause any trouble in a community. They don’t like to be alone, so be sure to add them as a group.
>If you are looking for a minnow that you can have with goldfish, the giant danio is one of the best options! Giants can reach up to 4 inches as adults, so your goldfish won’t be able to eat them, and these schools are fast swimmers too. Giant Danios are blue-green with gold markings and shine as a group in your tank!
Their ideal temperature range is really narrow and can be a challenge in some tanks as they prefer 72-75°F water. They also do best in groups of 5 or more and need about 5 gallons of capacity per fish. Like barbs, giants enjoy swimming in a current and will flock to those areas of your tank, leaving the regions still for the goldfish.
>The silver and black striped zebra danio is a common community fish and is easy to find at most aquatic stores or online. These small schools of fish thrive in a wide range of conditions and do well in temperatures from 65 to 77°F. They can reach up to 3 inches in length and prefer to live in groups of 6 or more in a 10-gallon tank.
Zebra danio generally stick together, and their fast swimming style makes it difficult for fancy goldfish to catch them. They also prefer a gentle current and will gravitate towards bubble walls and filter outlets, both areas your goldfish won’t mind. They add a nice touch of color and movement to goldfish tanks, and their budget cost makes the risk minimal.
White Cloud Minnows
The tiny 1.5-inch-long White Cloud Minnow is not an obvious choice for a goldfish tank, as their small size puts them at risk of being eaten. However, a large group of 10 to 20 in a spacious goldfish tank often works well because slower goldfish cannot keep up with the school. You will need at least a group of 10 for this to work.
White Clouds are a very pretty and colorful fish with silver-green scales and a pink to red tint to their fins. They do well in 64-72°F tanks and prefer a heavily planted tank with a rocky substrate. If you offer them some floating plants and decorations to hide in, they will probably be happy. Allow at least 10 gallons for every group of 10 you add to your goldfish community.
japanese rice fish
>The Japanese Ricefish, also known as the Medaka, is an interesting species that can survive in fresh, brackish, and marine tanks. These 1.6-inch long white fish with yellow highlights prefer densely planted tanks and enjoy schooling in the middle and top. They do well in temperatures from 64 to 72°F and are an ideal community fish.
The Medaka is not a common fish and you may need to look it up online. I have never seen them at any of my local aquarium stores. It is best to keep them in large groups of 10 or more to deter goldfish from biting them. I would allow an additional 15 gallons of capacity per group of 10 and offer them some tall plants against the back of the tank to hide.
Murray River Rainbowfish
>These colorful silver, blue, and green fish are native to the Murray River in Australia and can reach up to 4 inches in length. They tolerate a wide range of temperatures in the wild and seem to display the best colors when kept in water cooler than 70 to 78°F. They are a newer aquarium species and we are still learning about their ideal care.
They seem to do best in groups of at least 4 and can be agile with slow swimming fish like Bettas. Probably best would be to allow 20 gallons of free capacity for a group of 4 to 6. Interestingly they have also been kept in large 75 gallon tanks with single tailed goldfish and often do well in fish tanks. of smaller tropical colors.
rasbora scissor tail
>The peaceful and shy Scissortail rasbora is another schooling fish that is often well suited to the graceful goldfish. These long, slender silverfish have black markings on their tails and bodies and can reach 6 inches in length. They prefer open areas for swimming and studying, but will often hang out near plants and decorations when they feel unsafe.
If you opt for Scissortails, make sure you get a group of at least 6, and 10 is even better! I recommend allowing 15-20 gallons of free capacity for a group of 10, and more is usually better. They prefer their temperatures in the 72 to 77°F range and eat commercial flake foods and fresh, frozen or dried tubifex and bloodworms.
LUXURY GOLDFISH BOTTOM HOUSING TANK MATES
Bottom dwellers such as catfish and loaches are often added to community aquariums to search for food scraps and decaying vegetation. Most of these fish are very peaceful, but some species can be territorial and sensitive to having their space invaded.Some options that often work well with fancy goldfish include:
>Corydoras Catfish, or Cory Cats as they are commonly called, are a group of over 100 species of small scavenging bottom dwellers commonly found in planted aquarium communities. These peaceful fish come in a variety of sizes and, depending on the species, range from 1 to 3 inches in length.
Cory cats are generally not recommended for goldfish tanks because the simple tails often grow long enough to eat them, especially Dwarf Corys. But you could probably keep a small school of 6 in a fancy 30 gallon goldfish setup. If you offer them lots of places to hide, their fantasies will probably learn to ignore them. Their ideal temperatures will vary depending on the species you choose.
The Hillstream Loach is a shy scavenger that is suitable for ponds and aquariums and might work with single-tailed or fancy goldfish. While they only reach about 3 inches as adults, they prefer to hide under rocks, logs, and plants while foraging for food. They also enjoy cooler temperatures of 68 to 75°F.
Your goldfish will not see them very often and will swim away if the goldfish gets nimble. They prefer to live in large aquariums so they can establish territories, so I wouldn’t try to keep these guys in a tank smaller than 55 gallons. If you provide them with plenty of places to hide and offer them food that sinks, they will probably do just fine with your goldfish!
Time Loach aka Dojo Loach
>The Weather or Dojo loach is another interesting bottom feeder to consider for your large goldfish tank. These fish are sensitive to changes in barometric pressure and become agitated when a storm approaches. You will need at least 55 gallons to keep a group of 3 and they will often be found in a stack watching the other fish.
One thing that makes these fish especially challenging is their ability to climb. Your tank will need to have a secure lid with vented covers over each opening, or they can do a disappearing act on you. I once found my Loach Weather hiding in my filtration system after he climbed up the entrance and went through a gap.
GOLDFISH TANK MATES FOR ADVANCED FISH KEEPERS
I honestly can’t recommend the following animals as ideal or even good choices for housing goldfish, but I’ve seen situations where these matches have worked. If your tank is large enough and you have the experience to handle the high level care that some require, these could make for unique and exotic goldfish companions!
>If you’re up for a real challenge and have a tank of at least 75 to 100 gallons, then you can try keeping an exotic and delicate bamboo shrimp with your fancy goldfish. These filter feeders hang from decorations in the center of your tank and wave their wide, fan-shaped antenna to capture microscopic food particles!
It is difficult to keep bamboo shrimp from starving in a typical aquarium, so you should only try to keep one per tank. You will probably need to supplement your diet with spirulina powder. These are rare and expensive shrimp and I would probably only risk them in a tank with very delicate and still goldfish like Celestial or Bubble Eyes over the faster Fantails and Orandas.