I remember the first goldfish I ever had that lived past a month. His name was George. He was about 6-inches long, a brilliant orange, and he was a great pet.
I think I was about 12 when I had him in a tiny little bowl in my room. Someone had given him to me and I thought, “why not?” I figured he would die within a month – all the others up until then had – and prepared myself to enjoy a temporary pet.
George, sadly, remained in that little bowl and only lived six months, but it was six months longer than the others I’d ever owned!
As an adult looking back, I have wondered why the common goldfish lifespan seems to be so short for the “average Joe” when they can, in fact, actually have a long, happy life?
The average goldfish lifespan would drastically increase if there were more knowledge shared and people understood that it simply requires the proper care to get them there.
How Long Do Goldfish Live?
All right, so if you’re reading this, you’re probably a bit like me and have wondered how old do goldfish live to be when taken care of properly.
There are a variety of circumstances and living situations that effect how long goldfish live, meaning there’s no one simple, definitive answer.
That said, a very rough range for goldfish lifespan would be 5-25 years.
The type of living conditions they have greatly affects this lifespan as much as the quality of care, type of food, water quality, temperatures, and more.
Species, living situation, food, and genetics all have something to do with it.
Below we’ll break down the lifespan for each situation or breed of goldfish that you might encounter.
Here’s a quick table breaking down the rough average lifespans of different breeds and living situations:
|In a fish bowl
|1 month to 5 years (depending on size, filter, etc.)
|In a fish tank
|In a pond
|In the wild
Common, Comet, Oranda & Shubunkin Goldfish Lifespan
Common, comet, and Shubunkins are the longest-living types of goldfish.
Crazy enough, common goldfish – you know, the ones you can win at the fair – are the longest living species of goldfish. If they are really well cared for, they can live to be twenty-five years old or even older.
Shubunkin and comet goldfish have an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years.
Oranda goldfish have an average of 15 years but can live up to 20 years.
The key for these long lifespans is the housing in combination with the other elements of proper care. We’ll talk more about this below.
Fancy Goldfish Lifespan
Now, if you’re wondering how long do fancy goldfish live, sadly, that’s shorter than common goldfish, though still many years.
Fancy goldfish are beautiful, but they are more delicate that common and comet goldfish. Their average lifespan, if well cared for, is between 5 and 10 years. The reason this is the case is because of the selective breeding that’s created their specific species.
The selective breeding is all about creating round bodies, flowing fins, bulging eyes – all the elements that make them so distinct from their brethren. They’re more susceptible to health problems such as swimbladder disease, and generally are less hardy than other species.
They especially need care when it comes to water quality.
Within fancy goldfish, you’ll find some variance on average lifespan, as well.
Ranchu and Bubble Eye varieties are likely to only make it to five years.
Telescopes, however, are able to make it for as long as 14-years, assuming they’re cared for properly. They will likely have issues with vision and coordination, however, as they age.
Fringetails are able to live up to 12 years in a fish tank and 14 years in a pond.
Fantail Goldfish Lifespan
The fantail goldfish lifespan is similar to that of the hardier fancy goldfish species. They often have been known to exceed the 15-year mark in their lifetimes.
Fantails come in three scale types, which can affect their health.
Metallic, solid red-orange, and nacreous (speckled, matte, whitish color). They have egg-shaped bodies, with short stubby, wide heads. They have also been bred for specific traits, which is why they don’t live quite as long as common goldfish varieties.
Lifespan in a Fishbowl
As mentioned above, living conditions can greatly affect the lifespan of your goldfish. The first question, which is commonly necessary, due to the myth that goldfish do well in them, is how long do goldfish live in a bowl?
First off, goldfish should never be kept exclusively in a fishbowl.
They are far too small for them. The recommended size for most species of goldfish is 20 gallons. Most goldfish bowls are one to five gallons in size.
That being said, the lifespan of a goldfish in a bowl varies greatly on the size of that bowl, as well as whether or not it has a filter.
Without a filter, your goldfish is likely to only make it two to three years in a small bowl, max…much more often they die within a month, like my first few experiences.
In a large bowl with a filter, they’re closer to five years.
Goldfish really should not live in bowls, and here’s why:
- Goldfish are active – a fishbowl is too small for their high activity levels.
- Goldfish make a lot of waste and a fishbowl quickly becomes overpowered by the harmful toxins that build up from that waste, including ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite, which can kill your fish.
- Goldfish don’t do well in bowls because they’re limited in space for maturing properly. Goldfish aren’t supposed to be tiny little things that only ever get to a couple of inches in length. Some species actually grow up to a foot in length, while many others grow to half that size. A bowl simply cannot provide enough room for healthy growth.
Lifespan in a Fish Tank
So that leads to the next question: how long do goldfish live in a tank? As mentioned previously, there are many factors that determine this.
If the goldfish is well cared for, has a fish tank large enough to support him, and doesn’t suffer from various diseases that goldfish can be prone to, they can live up to 25-years on average. There are many goldfish who have lived longer, as well (we’ll talk about some specifics later on).
- Slim-bodied goldfish, like common and comet goldfish, will easily live up to 20-years in a large enough fish tank.
- Fantail goldies will make it to about 15-years in a large enough fish tank.
- Round-bodied fancy goldfish will be more likely to make it to 12-years.
Lifespan in a Pond
So, that leads to the next question, “how long do goldfish live in a pond?”
Our final man-made option is the pond. Ponds are the ideal location for pet goldfish. It is the closest thing to a natural habitat that a human can provide for goldfish.
They offer larger amounts of water – read: plenty of swimming and growing room! – naturally occurring aeration and water movement, wildly growing plants, and natural food (insects, smaller fish, et cetera). All of this means more oxygen in the water and more natural environment overall, making your goldfish much happier, less stressed, and generally healthier.
In a pond, goldfish are more likely to cross that 15-year mark and make it into their 20s or even 30s.
Lifespan in the Wild
The natural, wild life expectancy of a goldfish is about the same as a goldfish in a pond, except one thing: they’re more likely to make it to 25-years in the wild than in a small, manmade water hole.
This is simply because the wild is where they occur. And like other animals, they do better in native environments, untouched by humanity.
How Long Can Goldfish Live Without Food?
Goldfish can survive without food for 8 days to 2 weeks. That means if you’re going on a short vacation, you really don’t need to worry about their food. If you’re gone longer than the average vacation, though, you should invest in an automatic fish feeder or a pet sitter who can care for them by feeding them and doing appropriate cleanings, et cetera.
And a strong note here: it’s better to underfeed a goldfish than overfeed it. They are prone to getting swimbladder disease, which is often caused by overfeeding.
How Long Can Goldfish Live Out of Water?
Obviously, no fish can live outside of water for long. They will not die within seconds, possibly even minutes, however.
They can actually live for up to one hour out of water. If your goldfish jumps out of the aquarium and lands in a small puddle, it could actually live up to three hours.
Of course, you never want this to happen, so be sure to keep a lid on your aquarium to keep them safely at home.
What is the Oldest Recorded Goldfish Lifespan?
The official title of oldest goldfish goes to Tish, who lived to be 43-years-old.
He was won at a prize at a fair in 1956 and lived until 1999, when he died peacefully after a short illness. His owners say he was just a really hardy fish – they didn’t do anything special to keep him alive that long. They kept his bowl clean, let him enjoy the sunshine occasionally, and avoided overfeeding him. That’s it.
Another goldfish, Goldie, is said to have lived to age 45, but no official record of birth was available, so he didn’t make it into the Guinness record book. He did, however, use his fame to raise some money for charities later in life. He passed away in 2005.
Two goldfish, Fred and George, are recorded as passing the 40-year mark in Britain, as well.
How to Increase the Life Expectancy for Your Goldfish
So, if you want to keep your goldfish alive much, much longer than the average bowl-dwelling goldie, keep these things in mind.
- Keep them in a pond. They will have a much longer, healthier life. If you don’t have a pond, give them a larger fish tank of at least 20-gallons.
- Feed them the correct diet. Gel food, vegetables, insects (never just catch these yourself, though!), and plants are the way to go. Read up on their healthiest diet.
- As they grow, increase the fish tank size. The larger the size they have, the longer their lifespan could be.
- Keep their habitat clean. Unclean tanks are one of the main reasons goldfish die young.
- Don’t overfeed them. Read up on how much or how little you should be giving them. This is critical for their health.
- Avoid overcrowding the tank. Too many goldfish can cause problems in the long run.
- House them with suitable tank mates. The wrong ones can cause stress or harm to your goldfish.