Which Goldfish to Buy? – 3 tips on picking a goldfish from the fish store

Going to a local fish store to look for a new goldfish to buy is always a very exciting experience, well at least for a goldfish enthusiast. There are just so many varieties there with their different coloration, breeds, and sizes. Even within the same breed, there are of different qualities, so it’s very much about how much you are willing to pay for your hobby.

Anyway, if you are like me, these beauties are as if yelling out “Pick me, pick me” every time.

Which Goldfish to Buy
Pick me! Pick me!

So how do you pick which goldfish to buy? There are so many in each of the fish tanks, right? Do you just go for the prettiest one, the biggest one or it’s a game of “eeny, meeny, miny, moe”?

Well whatever your method is, the most important aspect of picking a goldfish is its health. I know, I know… there is really no accurate way of picking out the healthy ones and there is no guarantee that the goldfish is 100% healthy but hey… you gotta start somewhere right?

3 tips on picking a goldfish to buy

These are the tips to start with when identifying which of those goldfish in the tank that looks healthy. As I said, there is no way to guarantee this 100% and that is why we need to quarantine any new goldfish that we bring home.

These 3 tips should be at the top of your considerations before the “oh it is so pretty” or “oh it is so cute” or “it is the biggest one in the tank”.

Tip #1: Look out for abnormal behavior

Healthy goldfish are always swimming. They are either swimming to look for food, to explore their new surroundings or just to get away from you. They are also able to control their buoyancy in the water and their fins are erect.

China Oranda

So if you see any goldfish with the following abnormal behavior in the fish store’s tanks, DO NOT pick them!:

  • always hiding behind the decorations
  • seem to float at the surface of the water and have difficulty swimming down
  • seem to be stagnant at the bottom of the tank and have difficulty swimming up
  • constantly gasping for air at the surface
  • darting around in the tank and scratching itself against any surfaces
  • fins clamped up
  • inactive and appeared to move its body but not going anywhere

Goldfish Stress

Tip #2: Look out for signs of diseases

External and internal bacteria are rather difficult to spot until they manifested themselves in the physical body of the goldfish. Some early signs can come in the form of abnormal behavior as per tip #1 above.

So check out the goldfish’s physical appearance. Check the eyes, the head, the body and the fins.

  • Are there any lumps, lesions or fine white dots on them?
  • Are there any open wounds or blood-like dots on the body?
  • Is the goldfish covered with a layer of cottony stuff?
  • Does it look ballooned up with scales all sticking out like a pine cone?
  • Do the eyes look cloudy or is one eye bigger than the other?
  • How about the fins? Do they look torn or ragged?

If the answer to any of the question above is “Yes”, then DO NOT buy that goldfish. In fact, the whole tank may already be infected, so I would not buy any fish from that tank if I were you.

Tip #3: CHECK OUT the whole tank

Goldfish go through a lot of stress when they are being picked, packed and transported from the breeders to your fish stores. If your local fish stores do not take good care of them and keep their water clean, these goldfish will be prone to diseases.

Goldfish at local fish store

So firstly go for reputable fish stores that keep their tanks in good condition. If there is any dead or sick fish in the tank, it is probably a good idea not to get any goldfish from it. Well, if you decide to get a healthy looking one from there anyway, remember to quarantine it!

Some fish stores put in medication to lessen the stress of their goldfish. So you may see the water being green or blue. That is alright as long as the goldfish are not displaying any abnormal behavior or signs of diseases.

Chatuchak Fish Market - Goldfish shop

So what about buying from online stores?

Well, that’s a trickier situation as you are not able to assess the 3 tips mentioned above directly.

Yeah, they provide you with some pictures or videos but you will never know whether the actual goldfish is still in that condition. All I can say is go for reputable online sellers. Do a bit of googling or ask from your local fish forums to get reviews or customer feedbacks of these online stores. Check out on their “warranty”. Some do give you refund for sick or dead fish.


That’s it. Those are the 3 tips to consider when you pick a goldfish to buy from your local fish stores. As mentioned, the first and foremost criteria to look for is the health, so look out for abnormal behavior, signs of diseases and the condition of the fish tank it is in.

No matter what goldfish you bring home, always remember to quarantine it. Although we have done our due diligence in picking one which looks healthy, we can never be 100% sure… so quarantine, quarantine, quarantine!

So, do you have any other tips to share in picking a goldfish to buy from your fish store? Leave your suggestion in the comments section below!

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8 Replies to “Which Goldfish to Buy? – 3 tips on picking a goldfish from the fish store

  1. I enjoyed your article. It was a fun read and unusual. I never even thought about what to look for in buying a goldfish before. I have bought many goldfish but it was a quick in and out situation to replace a oh-no the goldfish died before my daughter got home from school.
    Great pictures and information.

    1. Hi Deborah,
      I think many beginners overlook this importance. Hopefully, this article will be able to inform them on what they should look out for.

  2. This article was really honest, To be honest, I’ve never really put that much thought into it when getting goldfish. Thanks for the information and I’ll definitely take it into account on my next purchase.

  3. Wow, before we just always picked out the ones that looked the “prettiest”. Maybe that is why some of them die right away. Or it could just be me not conditioning them for the tank right. But your suggestions are wonderful and useful. Now we can hopefully, pick fish a little more wisely and have them be healthy. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Can i keep 9 gold fish of smaller size in my 20 Gallon tank ? i would give them back as they grows. Please suggest.

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