How Long Do Goldfish Live?

Our family is growing. It’s been just enough time since the last baby for me to think about taking care of something else.

A fish.

Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated

And of course, it’s not my fish or the family fish, it will be my 8-year-old daughter’s fish.  A big birthday present.  But let’s be honest.  I’ll end up taking care of it.  I’ve dragged my feet on getting a family pet for precisely that point.  I didn’t want to clean up any more poop than I already had to.  But since the little one is pretty much potty trained, and the children are begging for a pet (or just something else to bug, because they’re bored with annoying each other), we’re going to give it a try.

It’s not that I didn’t have pets growing up.  Our family had a cat that climbed the screen doors in the summer, and dropped dead birds on the step.  We had dogs, one that walked the kitchen counters and ate entire loves of bread and one that curled up on laps and lived a long life.  My sisters had rabbits that lived outside in a cage and liked to take walks on cat leashes.  One sister had three mice.  Not at the same time, mind you, because they kept escaping from their cage and got lost in the basement.  (we did see one lurking about in its newly created life as a free mouse)  I even had a parakeet.  And when that one died, my parents let me get another one.  That second bird, HATED me, would never let me hold it without pecking my hand to pieces.

In between all of those pets, we had fish.  Fish we won at the fair, fish we bought on a whim from the pet section at Meijer.  I look at my mother now and say “What were you thinking?”  She sighs and says, “I don’t know.  I was crazy.”

Oh I’m crazy.  But not that crazy.  Yet.

So fish, it is.

My husband and I took a trip to the local pet store to pick out everything that the fish will need.  We thought it would be fun to let the birthday girl actually pick out the fish herself.  Apparently, things have changed since the last time I got a fish.  I’m thinking, bowl, food and we’re good to go.  Oh no.  The fish lady told us that goldfish need like a gallon of water for each inch of fish.  So my little bowl could only fit one fish and not any more because goldfish grow like 3 feet.  And I had to treat the water (aka buy more stuff) to make it safe.  Oh, and make sure I cleaned out the gravel a lot because goldfish are the dirtiest fish.  And I should probably get an aquarium.

Suckers that we are, we walked out of the pet store with a small aquarium, blue rocks, a fake plant, a tiny fish net and water treatment stuff.  A far cry from the simple round bowl and tap water that I used when I was a kid.  But, I guess we’re giving our new family member the best start we can.

Because really, my biggest fear?  The fish is going to die.  And I’m dreading the “your fish is dead” conversation.  Yes, I know, glass half full.  I’m already planning the funeral of a pet I haven’t even purchased yet (let’s all agree that the life of a goldfish is, well, short).  Some friends recently told me they secretly replace dead fish so the kids don’t realize how quickly they “turn over”, so to speak.  But these same friends have also had front yard fish memorial services to respectfully honor their finned friends who went to great aquarium in the sky.

I know I can’t shield the kids from everything (over protective mother alert).  Perhaps I’m over thinking just a little bit.

One thing I do know.  No one is getting a parakeet.

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27 thoughts on “How Long Do Goldfish Live?

  1. I hate to admit it, but our fish died two days after we got it. I explained it to our youngest that the fish went back to the pet store to be with its family and we could go back to the store to visit it.

  2. Christy,
    While a goldfish can certainly grow as large as 3 feet (after all, Carp are actually goldfish) generally they grow only as large as their environment allows. Bet they didn’t tell you that at Meijer! So you could have gotten away with just a bowl, but a small aquarium with pump, filters, etc, are so much easier to keep clean. Don’t worry about a 3 foot goldfish. Never happen. Unless, of course, you release it into a nearby lake or stream.

  3. I have had pretty good luck or bad, however you look at it with fish. The first one I saved, literally with cpr because it was floating in black water. I brought it back to life and it lived almost 10 years. It was huge and was a carnival fish.

    A couple of years ago, we had to play for a fish or 3 at the Birmingham fair. I knew what this was going to involve. We won 3 fish and thank God for a sad little girl who didn’t win because we gave one away. I knew now that these “free”, in a kid’s world, fish were going to cost me more. I already told them that the carnivals don’t take care of the fish very well and they may die. Along with the jostling of the bag back to the house. After I got them into a temporary bowl, I turned my back for a few minutes, maybe more, only to find one of them jumped to its death. Funny, WE jump into water and they jump out. That one was dead by morning. I already forwarned them that could happen.

    Well, i went through the same discussion at the store about how enormous these fish get. Seriously! What do you do with a 2 to 3 foot fish? Dinner anyone? Tastes like chicken (of the sea). So I did the same and bought a giant tank and the fixins. It has been 2 years and my 2 inch fish is now nearing a foot long. Can you believe it? I find it hard to believe it will get bigger.
    My advice is not to overthink the care. I literally pick the fish up with my hands when I have to clean the tank (though now that its bigger, its ickier). I don’t let the water sit out, though I use the chlorene remover. I have always been kind of nonchalant and they live forever. Makes them more durable I guess. The fish whisperer. They do get dirtier. Don’t consider a second. The lady told me you tank will get filthy. Lonely fish it will be.

    Another good story Christy.

  4. Another Christy McDonald classic. I wonder when Spielberg is going to start casting the movie about Christy’s home life?

    • That Spielberg is too busy with some movie about a horse and that broadway show Smash. (I looove it, btw). Casting for “Babies, blogs and the TV Lady: The Christy McDonald Story” will be held this summer.

  5. We got Noah a Beta fish. It only needed a small bowl, rocks, and water purifying drops. No need for an aquarium or filter system. It was easy to clean the small bowl and rocks. Better yet it took such a small amount of water that it was easy to pour new water into any bowl to get it to room temperature. He lived three years. He was also funny because if you put a mirror in front of his tank he would go nuts. Their fighting fish so ONLY one in a tank. Easy Peasy!! Good luck!!

  6. My son got the gold fish experience from my sister for his 6th birthday, he was soo happy! Unfortunately, the next morning when we woke up they were dead. He asked why Aunt Polly bought him dead fish for his birthday. We explained that gold fish didn’t last a long time, but we would take better care of new ones that we bought to replace the dead ones. He (I) took very good care of the new ones, and would just replace without him knowing when they died. After about a couple months he lost interest and when the bowl was without fish for a month without anyone noticing I removed the bowl and no one was wiser!

  7. Yep, had a beta. Had a goldfish. Had a hamster, a guinea pig and of course the elusive crayfish that one day found itself released at Hines Park.
    Luckily none of them needed college tuition. One of the hamsters is buried at the state park in Harrisville during one of our many summer camping excursions. For the most part, our son took care of them and learned the life lessons of caring for a critter and the sad reality that life ends, also- at some of the most inappropriate times.

    We also have Schnauzers, too- but that truly requires mom and dad.

    Our son is now teaching 3rd grade in Detroit and shares his memories with them.

    Hang in there, Christy.

    • Jim- I can confirm that crayfish are crafty. We caught them growing up in the brook behind our house. They move fast and pinch hard! I think the best part about your animal collection is the lessons of responsibility and the fragility of life. But please, let this fish last a few weeks!! Thanks for reading….

  8. Cute story-Our son started years ago with goldfish, but after a while it got boring, he wanted something bigger & more colorful-Time had passed and he got a part time job(co-op thru school)he was saving his money feverishly so he could get a salt/water tank with all these fancy fish-We told him he had to pay for everything himself if this is what he wanted. Well, when he had enough he bought the tank etc., then 1 fish, 2, 3, etc.–Keep in mind saltwater fish were very expensive. It was beautiful. Long story short, when he came home from work one evening one of the $40.00 fish ate a $80.00 fish. He then learned a lot about fish and gave away the few fish that were left & drained the tank. He decided to just continue working & saving because his next project was to save for a car. My reason for writing is it’s only a little goldfish now but, look out for what it could lead to in the near future-P.S.-Keep up the good work-Have always enjoyed you on TV & articles.

  9. We still have 2 goldfish from a carnival when the girls were 6. We now have a 30 gallon tank and they are both about 10 inches long. .Of course I am the one who takes care of them and have to clean the tank at least once a week. They are very dirty fish!!!!! Good Luck!!!!!!

  10. The size will depend on what KIND of goldfish. Goldfish are like dogs, they can all interbreed, but there ARE different kinds. Orandas, shubunkins, comets, ryunkins… I know, right?! If taken care of properly, you may have your goldfish for 20 years or more. 🙂

    • One thing I have learned through this blog, Tina, is that I knew nothing about goldfish. It’s more complicated than getting a dog! Ok, maybe not. But we’re going to pick out the new fish today! Cross your fingers that it lives… at least for a few weeks… Thanks for reading!

      • I’m definitely not an expert, but have discovered that I’m some sort of Goldfish Whisperer or have just reeeeeeally lucky. (Probably the latter.) I’m only a few clicks away should questions arise. 🙂

        How’s the new fish?

  11. Tina, you’re not going to believe this… but let’s just say it’s been a bad week for goldfish at my house and I’m in need of your fish whispering services. My blog about it comes out tomorrow…. stay tuned!

  12. Pingback: 3 Days + 3 Fish = 0 Pets « christymcdonald

  13. We went through our share of gold fish an betas..just as the last one died,guess what? yes a carnival is in the area.my daughter now at 11,knows thet dont last long,but brings home a gold fish..again..i figured 3 days tops…i actually feed it the beta food,i had left from the last beta..its three weeks now,alive an kicking,and needless to say i am amazed its growing..lol..will this be a 5 yearer.an its living in the old beta tank,all alone with nothing else? do i gor for it an purchase a little aquarium?will keep you posted..

  14. My mum has a 70 litre tank she (and I think 50 litre is too small reason one: cruel on the fish if it’s too small reason 2: bigger tank = more fish capacity).

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