How to Care for that Carnival Goldfish

It’s a summertime rite of passage for many families: You take your child to the local carnival, he wins a game … and you’re stuck with a sickly-looking goldfish in a plastic bag. Luckily, there are steps you can take to keep that carnival goldfish alive.

By Reader's Digest Editors
Goldfish© iStockphoto/Thinkstock

It’s a summertime rite of passage for many families: You take your child to the local carnival, he wins a game … and you’re stuck with a sickly-looking goldfish in a plastic bag. Your kid declares that little Nemo is his new best friend. Days later, he finds the fish floating on its side, leaving him devastated.

Luckily, there are steps you can take to keep that carnival goldfish alive. But before reading, consider this: Goldfish can live more than 20 years—long after your child has gone off to college!

Drive carefully
Try to avoid bumps or heavy braking on the ride home from the carnival. Bouncing around can cause stressful vibrations that could break down the goldfish’s immune system and cause disease.

Watch the water
Chlorinated tap water, bottled or distilled water, or water that is too acidic or alkaline can kill a goldfish. So buy a solution at a pet store that removes chlorine, adds nutrients or minerals, or measures acidity. Try to keep the water at about 70 degrees. You will also need a filtering system to remove waste, which contains ammonia that is toxic to the fish.

Buy the right home for the fish
If you’re a new goldfish owner, purchase a 2- to 5-gallon plastic aquarium kit with a filter, air pump, and chlorine remover.

Release the fish carefully
Place the fish in its bag in the tank before releasing it to reduce stress.

Take cover
Unless you want your pet to commit goldfish suicide, keep the tank covered at all times!

Let in the light
Goldfish need natural sunlight to keep their colors from fading.

Feed the fish daily
We know how easy it can be to forget to feed a pet that doesn’t bark or meow when it’s starving. But don’t forget to treat your goldfish to flakes or pellets every day. For a real treat, let it sometimes snack on freeze-dried worms, beef heart, brine shrimp, or algae.

Change the water weekly
Luckily, you’ll only need to change 10 percent each week—and you won’t have to move the fish.

Be a good housekeeper
Change the filter medium and clean the gravel regularly. If you have a power filter, change the filter container every few months.  You should also clean the sides of the bowl or tank with baking soda—never soap—every few weeks, placing the fish in a cup or separate bowl while you clean.

Sources: Associated Press, American Goldfish Association,

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  • Your Comments

    • Maira

      Wow that is soo not true

    • Turtle

      I had goldfish before and I can tell you they can’t live in anything less than 30 gallons. They produce tons of waste. Mine ended up going to a new home with a nice older lady with a pond because caring for them in my 55 gallon was too much for me. They need a lot of filtration to combat all of their waste, filters should be replaced at least once a month, gravel should be vacuumed at least 2 times a month, at least 30% of the water should be changed every week, and the tank should be cycled before you get the fish. It is best to have 30 gallons for one goldfish plus at least 10 more per extra goldfish you have. And, you should have 60 gallons of filtration for one goldfish plus 20 for every extra goldfish. Goldfish are very demanding and if you want yours to live for a few years, follow my advice and spend a little extra money. Or, if you want a carnival goldfish, build a large pond, buy a UV sterilizer (to keep algae from growing), a pond filter (2x the size of your pond), and an aerator. Either way you are spending about the same amount of money.

      • Elizabeth Connell

        I agree Turtle as a former goldfish owner, goldfish need oxygen and putting them in a five gallon tank or less makes it hard to clean. I gave my goldfish to my uncle who had a very large pond in his backyard

        Great points by the way!!

    • Sueyroberts

      Never put goldfish in a small tank. They produce so much waste for such a little fish. Goldfish need large tanks even if there are only a few of them.  Also, to scrub the tank while the fish are in a cup (presumably removing the water, thereby destroying the delicate bacteria balance)? Whoever wrote this article didn’t do a darn bit of research.

    • Pitluvs

      Whoah, this article is 99% wrong. I cannot believe someone didnt research or proofread this!

    • Anonymous

      2-5 gallons is NOT a proper tank size. Goldfish need 10+ gallons to be properly housed, 20+ gallons is better.  They are large-bodied, dirty fish.  Please read this article on goldfish care:
      www (dot) petfish (dot) net (slash) kb (slash) entry (slash) 775

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