can goldfish live alone

Can Goldfish Live Alone? Is a solitary life cruel?

The Goldfish is one of the most common pet fish known to mankind. Even if you’re not well-versed in fish breeds, there’s a huge chance that you’ll recognize a goldfish if you see one since they’re often featured in books, movies and cartoons, swimming happily in their little bowls.

Can goldfish live alone?- Goldfish can and indeed do, live happy lives alone but the conditions you provide for them play a big part in their happiness. As responsible pet owners, we have a duty of care to provide the best possible home for our pet fish. Providing your goldfish with a tank mate is not essential but definitely has health benefits.

In fact, goldfish are the most popular fish breed to be kept as a pet in the United States, thanks to three main reasons: they’re fairly inexpensive compared to other pets, they’re easy to take care of, and they’re great beginner pets for children or for those who are just interested in one.

Tank size matters!

In terms of habitat, goldfish are often thought to ‘not need much’. They’re usually kept in small glass bowls with just a cupful of pebbles or sand and some minor decorations for aesthetic purposes. Maybe a small coral or a couple of tiny plastic plants here and there, if they’re lucky. Some pet owners go ‘the extra mile’ by putting in a small home for the goldfish, like a cool sunken ship or a mysterious castle.

Most people think that these efforts are enough to keep the little guy or gal happy. After all, it couldn’t possibly have a problem when it’s just swimming happily on its own and enjoying its relaxed aquatic life, right?

But the question is, should we really be letting goldfish live alone in a bowl? Or should we add it to a bigger tank where it can play with other creatures of the deep?

In order to provide a proper answer, we first have to pick the questions apart and discuss them from two different perspectives.

Fishbowl V Aquarium?

Goldfish bowls or Aquarium?

First of all, contrary to popular belief, it’s actually not healthy for the goldfish to live in an unfiltered glass bowl. Why? To say it simply, it’s not good for the little one’s health. Read our complete review of Goldfish Bowl v Aquarium and read the benefits of both.

One thing is for sure, the lifespan of a goldfish in a fishbowl is considerably shorter than one kept in a larger aquarium with better water qualities. If you’d like to know the lifespan of a common goldfish read our article.

Goldfish cannot live without oxygen

Goldfish cannot live without a filter, the process of extracting oxygen on its own can take a lot of toll on its tiny body. Goldfish take in air via two main methods: they can get it straight from the water by processing the oxygen through their gills, or they can go up to the surface of the bowl and take in the oxygen in the air through their mouth.

Goldfish need oxygen to thrive and live a happy life!

The first method is quite hard for fish without the help of a filter or air pump, so they tend to rely on the second method more, which is equally as stressful.

Having too little oxygen in a fish tank or bowl is simply not good for your fish and could be considered as cruel. There are tell-tale giveaway signs that you can look out for that your aquarium or fishbowl is lacking in oxygen.

There can also be issues with too much oxygen believe it or not. Read what can happen if there’s too much oxygen.

Tank mate or no tank mate, that’s the question!

Now, whether or not they can live alone or need to have ‘playmates’ to be happy – the answer to that is a bit less straightforward.

In general, many species of animals, including hundreds of fish species, don’t have the same social needs as we humans do. As humans, we tend to crave for other people’s company. We thrive better when we’re in a community, which is why throughout the centuries, we’ve created tribes, villages, towns, cities, anything to make us feel like we belong in a group.

But many species of fish don’t feel the same primitive urge to stick together. While some species of fish, such as danios, tetras, or barbs, prefer to be kept in schools of at least 5 members, others, like the betta fish, prefer to live in solitude. See which fish love to school in large numbers and look amazing in aquascaped aquariums in our complete guide to aquascaping fish.

So, Do goldfish enjoy company?

Goldfish, on the other hand, are predatory fish that enjoy the company of other fish, as well as the occasional prey. They are omnivores that have no problem with eating other fish, as long as those other fish are smaller than themselves. So if you’re thinking of putting your goldfish along with other fish, try to aim for others of its kind. That includes other goldfish, regardless of the variety.

If you really want to put your goldfish with other fish species though, take note that you have to pick its tankmates carefully.

Many fancy varieties of goldfish are slow swimmers, so fish breeds that can zip through the water like lightning (we’re looking at you, zebra danios) probably aren’t the best tankmates for them.

For one, those breeds can gobble up all the food quicker than a goldfish can even swim towards the food. Two, some goldfish can get stressed by these lightning-quick swimmers who do nothing but dart around the tank all day. Lastly, remember to never put larger goldfish along with much smaller fish like guppies or mollies, or you’ll have a lot of missing tank residents come morning.

Provide your goldfish with a variety of fish foods to help them thrive within your home aquarium. Flake are good for smaller goldfish and pellets make great food for larger fish. We use TetraFin Goldfish flakes for our smaller goldfish and Omega One Pellets for our larger fish.

Conclusion: Can goldfish live alone?

Many people have asked the question: Is keeping pet fish cruel and we go into this topic in more detail in another post. Simply keeping a pet fish in an aquarium isn’t cruel but not providing them with the best possible water conditions, appropriately sized aquarium and correct food is cruel.

So, with all that said, can goldfish live alone? They can – as long as they are kept in a filtered tank that is cycled regularly. Still, that doesn’t mean that they should be kept that way forever. Goldfish are perfectly fine with other fish, especially those that are most similar to them in size and breed.

If you’re interested in giving your pet a happier, healthier life, it would be best if you start researching about potential tankmates now. Regardless of your decision to add some companions though, your goldfish would certainly appreciate a bigger filtered tank more than a tiny glass bowl, that’s for sure!

About the Author

Carl Broadbent

Hi, I'm Carl the owner and editor of Fishkeeping forever. With over 30 years of experience within the industry, I have covered just about every aquarium topic there is and thought it was time to share my knowledge to help grow this wonderful hobby that I love so much. Hope you enjoy my work!