Taking Care of Goldfish for Beginners – 3 basic considerations to start off

Common breeds of goldfish are so easy to find nowadays. Some of them cost really low and are even given out as prizes at carnivals or fairs. Perhaps because of this, you tend to get the impression that they are very easy to keep, and that taking care of goldfish for beginners is really a simple straightforward task.

Well, it is not.

Taking Care of Goldfish for Beginners

What is goldfish keeping all about?

The whole idea about goldfish keeping is to be able to admire the beauty and serenity that the goldfish bring as they swim around in the water. For that to happen, you will need them to be healthy and alive, right?… well unless you are into keeping those plastic or mechanical ones, of which I will rest my case.

So goldfish keeping, or fishkeeping in general, is really about giving the fish a conducive and healthy environment for them to dwell in… and that my dear reader, is certainly not as easy as one might think.

It is not as simple as 1, 2, 3…

As a beginner, you must first know that goldfish keeping is not just about:

1. getting a tank & filling it up with water
2. putting the goldfish in
3. feeding the goldfish

There are other things that you need to know and consider when taking care of goldfish for beginners. To be frank, even seasoned goldfish keepers stumble at times, so this hobby is really a never-ending learning experience.

These are 3 basic things that every beginner should consider besides the simple 1, 2, 3. Let’s start with the first and most important consideration which is water condition.

Goldfish Tank

1) Water condition

Goldfish keeping is basically putting your goldfish into a confined volume of water where they will live, eat, pee and poo in.  Over time, the wastes will accumulate and toxic chemicals will build up… and these are detrimental to the well-being of your precious little goldies.

Do note that goldfish are very messy. They eat a lot and produce a lot of wastes, which means that their tank water tends to get dirty much faster than those with smaller fishes.

So keeping your fish tank water in tip-top condition all the time is essential.

Nitrogen Cycle – the cycle of life or death, literally

Before even starting the hobby, you must know what Nitrogen Cycle is.

In a nutshell, it is a chemical and biological cycle that happens in your fish tank, establishing colonies of beneficial bacteria that break down toxic Ammonia and Nitrite, into a less harmful compound called Nitrate.

This process takes time but is absolutely necessary to maintain a good water condition for your goldfish. This is why you need to cycle your fish tank even before putting your goldfish in.

See… not as simple as just getting a tank, filling it up with water and placing your fish in, right?

Filter – that one equipment that you must have

A filter is one of the compulsory basic equipment that you need for your goldfish tank. It provides long-term filtration in one or more of the following areas to maintain good water condition:

  • Mechanical filtration – to remove solid wastes and debris
  • Biological filtration – to cultivate colonies of beneficial bacteria
  • Chemical filtration – to remove impurities and toxins from the water

You need this, Seriously!

Water change – it ain’t gonna change itself you know..

When you tank is already cycled, Nitrate which is the result from the Nitrogen Cycle will accumulate in the fish tank over time. Although this compound is less harmful than Ammonia and Nitrite, but come on… it will get to the harmful stage eventually. The best way to remove them is through water change.

Besides that, water change and tank maintenance will keep your goldfish tank clean and clear, which in turn gives you better enjoyment in viewing your goldfish. So this needs to be a routine. How frequent will depend on how big your fish tank is, and how good is the filtration. For my 50 gallon fish tank, I do it on a weekly basis.

Here is a video of my weekly routine:


2) Environment Size

You can provide your goldfish a home in a fish tank, a plastic container, a pond… well, actually anywhere that can hold water and does not leak toxic materials. HOWEVER, it has to be of a suitable environment size.

So what is a suitable environment size for goldfish?

The goldfish that you see may be small now, but they can grow more than 12″ in body length alone when taken care of properly. Remember I have also mentioned earlier about how goldfish eat, pee and poo a lot? These 2 factors are already enough to demand a bigger living space.

The common guideline is to provide at least 20 gallons for the first goldfish, and 10 gallons each for subsequent goldfish. So you know the goldfish bowl you have there will not work, right?

So it is best to go for the biggest one that you can.  Get at least a 20 gallons to start with.

3) Birth Defects

All the different goldfish breeds that you have seen do not exist naturally. Yeap… they are all man-made. They were all created via selective breeding that started more than a thousand years ago from the Prussian carps.

Due to this, they come with birth defects. Yeah, yeah… I know they do look cute and everything, but they do require extra care especially for the ones with an egg-shaped body.  The rounded body made them susceptible to swim bladder disease.

Of course, there are also breeds with certain “extensions” to certain features of theirs which require attention as well. An example is a bubble-eye goldfish with very fragile eye-sacs. You will need to make sure that there aren’t any sharp objects in the tank that could potentially puncture that.

BubbleEye Goldfish
Photo by Jonathan Leung, CC BY

Aside from these special care, feeding them good quality food is really important too! Check out this post of mine on feeding goldfish.


See, taking care of goldfish for beginners is not so easy after all, right? This is why goldfish are not considered to be a good starter fish to the hobby. They require very good water conditions to thrive,  a big enough space for them to call home, and some extra attention to what made them so cute and beautiful, but at the same time susceptible to complications.

However, as I mentioned earlier in this post, taking care of goldfish for beginners or even experienced fishkeepers is very much one long journey of continuous learning, and trials & errors.

Every one of us needs to start somewhere, and I think understanding these 3 considerations is a good start.

If you are a beginner in goldfish keeping, do share on how it is going so far. You can drop me some questions in the comment section below too, and I will try my best to answer you.

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8 Replies to “Taking Care of Goldfish for Beginners – 3 basic considerations to start off

  1. Hi…. that’s a lot of information on goldfish care…I know its lot of work to maintain a aquarium….Learn some more from this post….Thanks….

  2. Brilliant article, I’ve never had goldfish but I honestly thought it was as easy as put the fish in water, feed once a day and change the water when it got dirty. Thank you for the insight.

  3. I really enjoyed your article. I have had fish aquariums in the past and I really could have used your information when I first started. Great article

    1. Hi Michael,
      Thanks for your comment. Well I do hope you can refer back to the article if you ever restart your fish keeping hobby.

  4. Keeping Goldfish is not a simple 3-step process and like you’ve mentioned you can’t just “set it and forget it” .

    I have noticed that Goldfish are rather messy creatures. It’s a shame they can’t clean up after themselves haha. That’s the next trick I’m working on 😉

    I do believe for anyone looking to start Goldfish keeping this article is a must read before hand so that you have time to practice the procedures mentioned above. No one enjoys burying a fish.

    I remember reading a previous article of yours where you mentioned something that I was unaware of. It’s our job to make sure that they have a truly healthy environment to live.

    If you’re unprepared to do so please do not tend to creatures.

    I do believe that even though its not as simple as most people think to keep Goldfish you can get into a routine in which things will become easier.

    1. Hi Justin,
      Thanks for the comment. It is very true that when we decide to keep any pets, we have to do our best to take care of them.

      It’s a never ending learning process and we learn from our mistakes. So yes, if we are sincere in keeping them, we will get better in providing them with proper care.

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