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How Long Do Goldfish Live? Vet-Approved Lifespan Data

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By Lindsey Stanton

Goldfish in aquarium

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Dr. Luqman Javed

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When it comes to goldfish, a common misconception is that they don’t live that long. Many individuals claim their goldfish lasted a few weeks. Others seem proud that their goldfish lasted several months before passing away. Stories such as these may leave people wondering how long goldfish can live.

Goldfish can live for decades in the correct setup. In this article, we’ll explore the lifespan of goldfish and tips to ensure that your goldfish enjoy a long life as well.

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How Long Does a Goldfish Live?

Goldfish are among the longest-lived of all aquarium fish.

The following chart summarizes the estimated lifespan of some popular pet fish:


They are also one of the longest living of all popular domesticated pets! Goldfish can easily outlive a cat, or dog.

But there’s a catch: This is really only true of slim-bodied goldfish, like Common and Comets

Fancy goldfish, on the other hand, have a much shorter lifespan—with good care, 10-15 years is the average. This is because selective breeding has drastically changed them from their original form and caused them to be much more fragile genetically.

Some of the hardy (and less extreme) fancies, like Fantails, have been known to exceed the 15-year mark. Of course, such long goldfish lifespans aren’t the norm for fancies.

Quick Answer: Goldfish Lifespan

Life Span
  • Common lifespan = 10+ years
  • Uncommon life span = 25+ years
  • Current world record = 43 years (pet), 41 years (wild)

Typically, a goldfish will live over 10 years but sometimes goldfish live from 20 – 25 plus years.

Image Credit: antoni halim, Shutterstock

Why Do Many Goldfish Die Quickly?

While there are no studies done on the lifespan of pet fish, anecdotal evidence suggests they don’t live as long and have a reputation for dying shortly after purchase. There are several reasons why this may be the case:

Improper Housing

By far, the biggest reason why goldfish die quickly is because of improper housing. They are not meant to be housed in bowls or small tanks. They are large fish with a very high bioload and they require company. Consider the following aquarium size guidelines for goldfish:

For fancy goldfish:
  • A single goldfish: 25 gallons (it is not advised to house them alone)
  • Two goldfish: 40 gallons
  • Three goldfish: 55 gallons
  • Four and beyond: an additional 10 or 15 gallons per additional goldfish
For common goldfish or other long bodied goldfish:
  • A single goldfish: 55 gallons (it is not advised to house them alone)
  • Two goldfish: 75 gallons
  • Three goldfish: 90 gallons
  • Four and beyond: an additional 30-40 gallons per fish (a small pond setup is best for a large group of common variants of Goldfish)
planted goldfish tank
Image Credit: S-F, Shutterstock

Though housing goldfish alone isn’t advised, we’ve provided recommendations in the unfortunate event that you need to isolate an individual for a closer inspection, medication, or treatment for an ailment or disease.

Poor Water Quality

A rather odd concept of fish care is that most people don’t realize that they aren’t necessarily caring for their fish, but rather caring for the water their fish is placed in. In turn, the water cares for the fish. Water parameters that are inappropriate for a goldfish will result in disease, poor growth, a compromised immune system, stress, and likely a premature death.

The ideal parameters for a goldfish are:
  • Ammonia: 0 parts per million (ppm)
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrates: under 15 ppm is best
  • pH: around 7.0 is best
  • Temperature: Common goldfish prefer temperatures around 16–22°C (60.8 – 71.6°F). Fancy Goldfish have lower tolerances to changes in temperature and should be kept at 20–23°C (68–74°F). Their optimal temperature for growth, immunity, and reproduction is between 20 °C (68 °F) and 22 °C (72 °F).
a couple of Black moor goldfish in a tank
Image Credit: Vlad Siaber, Shutterstock

Most aquariums are closed environments. They need filtration, and that filtration has to have a colony of beneficial bacteria built up over time to work. That’s why we need the cycling process—to give us that good bacteria. Not cycling the tank can be a huge mistake that causes goldies to die from the totally imbalanced water parameters that result from a lack of “good bugs.”

Contrary to popular belief: You can’t just walk home from the pet store with a NEW fish and put it in a NEW tank that doesn’t have a good bacteria colony or any live plants and sit back, thinking everything will be fine.


Generations of uncontrolled breeding and inbreeding, especially to produce the fancy variants, has led to fish that are genetically not as robust as their predecessors. Unfortunately, this means that they are usually short-lived. However, this should be taken in context. A short lifespan doesn’t mean they perish within a few months, and most goldfish can still comfortably live for up to 10 years with good care.

Giant oranda goldfish swim in glass tank
Image Credit: Keung, Shutterstock


Goldfish (especially the fancy ones) have very specific needs when it comes to what to eat and how often to eat it. Sadly, goldfish flakes are the go-to staple that often causes constipation, excess protein and overfeeding (it’s about impossible to tell how much you have actually fed!).

A slow sinking pellet is recommended for goldfish. As omnivores, they should also have their diet supplemented with treats such as tubifex worms, brine shrimp, or bloodworms.

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In Conclusion

The average lifespan of most goldfish is between 10-20 years, with some individuals having confirmed lifespans of over 40 years. With the correct setup and the understanding of the basics, you can set your goldfish up for success to ensure they live a long and healthy life.

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Featured Image Credit: dien, Shutterstock

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