Freshwater Fish

How long does a goldfish live?

Establishing a goldfish habitat can be a great investment, as these bright, active fish need plenty of room to grow to their full potential. Before spending a lot of money on gear and fish, it’s natural to research their life expectancy. How long does a goldfish live and how can you ensure your fish reach their golden years?

A Brief Guide to Goldfish Life Expectancy

I’ve noticed that many people don’t expect their pet goldfish to be around for very long. After all, feeder goldfish often sell for less than a dollar and are given away at school events and county fairs. Many children have seen their hard-earned prize fish quickly die in a fish tank. So what is the actual life expectancy of a goldfish?

Average Lifespan of a Goldfish

Actually, it is not an easy question to answer, because it depends on a series of factors. There are hundreds of varieties of goldfish in the world, and the genetics of your fish and their early development will set natural limits to their possible lifespan. In general though, goldfish are the longest living pet fish and can live up to 40 years!

popular pet fish The average life expectancy
guppies 1 to 2 years
betta 2 to 3 years
Molly / Platy / Swordtail 3 to 5 years
Clown / Time Loach 10 to 15 years
convict cichlid 15 to 20 years
goldfish 20 to 40 years

In a large pond or aquarium

Since goldfish have been domesticated for thousands of years, we can’t really examine their life expectancy under natural conditions in the wild. We know that their close cousin, common carp, can live for up to 38 years in sheltered outdoor ponds and streams, although wild fish probably don’t survive much beyond 5 to 10 years.

How long do goldfish live in a pond? Obviously, it depends on your conditions and diet. Assuming they receive high-quality care and are not eaten by a raccoon or other predator, pond goldfish can easily survive for 20 to 40 years, depending on their type.

Fish kept in aquariums rarely live as long as their pond-raised brethren, unless they are kept in very spacious tanks with excellent filtration and top-notch maintenance. My three common goldfish were 12 years old when I had to sell them when I left town to start college. However, they had already outlived my golden retriever by 2 years!

in a fish tank

I’ve never seen a bowl -raised goldfish survive more than a couple of years, and I’d guess the vast majority die within weeks. How long can goldfish live in a container? Even with diligent care, a goldfish in a container simply won’t live long. Fish tanks are too small for goldfish, even the fanciest little ones.

When goldfish are short on space, they get very stressed. This lowers their immune system and metabolism, causing them to stop growing and predisposing them to disease. Stress hormones wreak havoc on their bodies, causing illness and death. Even with the best of care, these goldfish have a limited lifespan.

The oldest goldfish in history

Quick trivia question! What is the longest time a goldfish has survived?

  • The Guinness Book of the World officially lists a 43-year-old goldfish by the name of Tish as the oldest ever recorded!
  • However, Goldie the goldfish was believed to be 45 years old when they passed away in 2005.
  • Several other goldfish recently hit their top 30 or passed the 40-year mark, so who knows how much longer Tish’s record will hold?

Lifespan of Different Types of Goldfish

There is one more distinction that we need to keep in mind when we talk about the life expectancy of a goldfish, and that is the type of goldfish that you have. The abundant single-tailed varieties like the Common (feeder) and the Comet goldfish are the ones we typically see reaching the 20 to 40 range.

fancy goldfish, on the other hand, are much more fragile. Their stocky bodies and special features like their double tails, sleek fins, head growths, bubbles, and telescopic eyes are associated with health problems that reduce their longevity and lifespan.

Hardier varieties of fancy goldfish, such as the fantail, oranda, and ryukin, often live past their 10th birthday and well into their teens, especially if raised in a pond. But you are unlikely to see this kind of longevity in fish with telescopic or bubble eyes. A delicate and elegant goldfish has a lifespan of about 5 years, on average.

crappie goldfish Average shelf life in a pond Average shelf life in a tank
Common 20 years and over 12 to 20 years
Kite 15 to 20 years 10 to 12 years
oranda 10 to 15 years 10 to 12 years
stern tail 10 to 15 years 10 to 12 years
Bubble Eye / Ranchu N/A Up to 5 years

Increasing the life expectancy of your goldfish

You may have noticed that most goldfish varieties have a pretty wide range when it comes to their lifespans. Why is there so much variation in their life expectancy? It all comes down to the conditions and care of their habitat. The better you accommodate your goldfish and maintain their lifestyle, the longer you can expect them to survive!

Move goldfish to a pond

The ideal way to keep most goldfish is in a freshwater pond. Natural sunlight and seasonal variations go a long way in keeping goldfish healthy, lean, and active. They will also naturally feed on insects, eggs, and plant material from your pond, in addition to their usual diet.

While I wouldn’t recommend trying to keep the very delicate types of goldfish in ponds, other fantasies can survive outdoors as long as they have extra protection. While Common and Comet goldfish are plentiful and don’t require warm water, you can move Fantail, Oranda, and Lionheads into a pond if you use a heater.

A goldfish kept in a pond usually lives a few years longer than one kept in an aquarium (other things being equal). The Key to Moving Goldfish from a Tank to a Pond. is to replicate the water conditions exactly before moving them:

  • Stabilize the temperature of the water with a heater.
  • Adjust the pH and hardness to match your aquarium water.
  • Make sure you have taken precautions against fish-eating predators

Keep your water clean

Clean water is the secret to healthy, large, long-lived goldfish. Goldfish tanks require frequent maintenance and should be equipped with the best 3-stage filtration systems to keep ammonia levels low. Toxic ammonia spikes can poison fish and lead to stress and poor health. Regular water changes are a must for goldfish!

Following a strict cleaning and maintenance routine helps fish live longer, healthier lives, but sometimes goldfish tanks crash without much warning. For large aquariums and pond environments, it would be wise to invest in an electronic tank or pond monitor that can alert you to sudden changes in water quality.

Eat a well-balanced diet

goldfish are omnivores and naturally eat a variety of plants and other animals. While it is tempting to feed your fish lots of extra food and treats, this usually leads to overweight fish and constipation. elegant goldfish, in particular, are already predisposed to weight and digestive problems due to the odd shape of their bodies.

Being overweight can also cause swim bladder problems. While this is not directly fatal, it does reduce their ability to swim and feed. This can lead to a cascade of health problems and often drastically shortens a goldfish’s life. You can find details on the best diets, treats and feeding regimens in our Goldfish Care Guide.

Don’t crowd your goldfish

We have already covered the reasons why you should never keep your goldfish in a small bowl or aquarium. tight goldfish are stressed goldfish. They can act aggressively towards each other, often leading to injury and infection. Medication of diseased fish is also stressful, as medications are toxic even if the fish tolerates the correct dose.

The ideal aquarium size varies depending on the number and type of goldfish, but for maximum growth and longevity, I recommend allowing each fish a minimum of 50 gallons of capacity, and more is better if you have the space. 20 to 30 gallons is an acceptable range for a single fish, but less than ideal if longevity is your goal.


Goldfish are the longest living fish in the aquarium trade! While goldfish can live without water for up to 3 hours, the typical monotail can easily survive for 10 to 15 years in a large aquarium and up to 20 years in a pond under the right conditions. Even elegant goldfish often reach their second decade of life with proper care!

Heck, a prize-winning goldfish could outperform your dog or cat in terms of its lifespan! How long has your goldfish been around, or how long have you had a goldfish that has survived? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation on our social media pages.

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