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Caring for Your Goldfish in a Fish Bowl Without an Air Pump

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Camile currently lives and works in the Middle East and has experience raising goldfish as a child.

Good aquarium plants are key to creating a healthy environment for goldfish when there isn't an air pump in the bowl.

Good aquarium plants are key to creating a healthy environment for goldfish when there isn't an air pump in the bowl.

I currently live and work in the Middle East. One day, a friend gave me a goldfish in a bowl. At first, I was hesitant to accept the fish. I raised goldfish as a child, and I knew how much care they required. Not to mention, I knew that a fishbowl is considered inadequate for a goldfish, and I was worried that the fish wouldn’t survive. I didn’t want it to go without a home, so I accepted it. That was five months ago, and my goldfish is doing great.

Please seriously consider your ability to care for a goldfish prior to taking on the responsibility. I did my best to make sure my goldfish was happy despite having limited resources. This article is for anyone who cannot acquire an aquarium and/or technical equipment for keeping a goldfish.

How to Take Care of a Goldfish in a Bowl

These are the guidelines I followed to ensure the best possible environment for my companion:

  • Oxygenation: I maximized my water/air surface area and introduced beneficial aquatic plants to increase oxygenation levels.
  • Nutrition: I did not overfeed or underfeed, and I offered the vitamins and nutrients necessary in a varied diet.
  • Environmental enrichment: By adding diversity to the habitat, I encouraged explorative behaviors which come naturally to goldfish.
  • Water quality: I performed frequent water changes with properly treated tap water, maintained healthy water temperatures, and regularly cleaned habitat accessories (e.g., substrate).

[Fish bowls] are NOT easy to care for. In fact, it becomes easier to care for aquatic pets, the larger the environment you keep them in.

— Keith Seyffarth

Make sure your bowl or tank is big enough to accommodate your fish. Avoid overcrowding.

Make sure your bowl or tank is big enough to accommodate your fish. Avoid overcrowding.

Adequate Space Requirements

Goldfish require space, so buy the biggest habitat you can afford with the largest surface area. Consider upgrading affordably by shopping at garage sales for used aquariums.

Although genetics determine the size of a fish, keeping a goldfish in an inadequately sized space stunt their growth, decreases their life expectancy, and can cause physical irregularities and disease. Common goldfish can grow beyond 12 inches in length, and the oldest known living goldfish was 43 years old. It is recommended that you provide 10 gallons of water minimum per goldfish.

Goldfish are high waste producers. The smaller the habitat, the easier it is for toxic ammonia levels to build up, thus increasing the need for frequent water changes. According to PureGoldfish:

"Goldfish bowls are difficult, if not impossible, to filter in order to balance the nitrogen cycle—a critical aspect of goldfish keeping. Unless the ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH and chlorine levels are all regulated, a goldfish cannot live for very long."

Adequate Oxygenation Requirements

When the air pump blows air into the aquarium, it circulates stagnant water. Air pumps and air stones do not actually generate oxygen; instead, air bubbles break the tank water surface and encourage gas exchange. So, what should you do if you cannot afford a water circulator or pump?

Optimize Surface Area

When filling a tank or a bowl, fill your water up to the largest diameter. The larger surface area allows for more carbon dioxide and oxygen exchange, thus increasing oxygenation. A larger surface area may lower your overall habitat volume, so adjust accordingly.

How to Care for Goldfish in a Bowl Without a Filter

There are other options at your disposal to keep your fishbowl healthy and oxygenated without using a filter.

Aquatic Plants Increase Oxygenation

Plants provide oxygen to all living things. Adding an aquatic plant to your goldfish's home will provide the necessary oxygen and will decrease nitrate, a byproduct of ammonia. Freshwater aquarium plants also give the bowl a beautiful, natural look, and they absorb gases that could be harmful to your fish. Gravel, or substrate, will offer freshwater plant species the ability to root down in a tank. A substrate should meet the following criteria:

  • large enough to prevent ingestion
  • approved for use in aquariums
  • natural material—chemicals won't leach into the water
  • suitable for rooted plant growth
  • rinsed prior to use

Gravel serves the dual purpose of trapping waste particles, which can either contribute to healthy nitrogen cycling or trap food and release toxic gases when your fish forages. It is important to carefully clean gravel with each water change.

Acquire commercially available plants from fishless holding tanks to reduce the potential transmission of disease. Remove bacteria, fungus, and organisms using the following recommended methods:

  • Potassium permanganate bath for bacteria and fungus (10-minute soak).
  • Alum for snails and snail eggs at a ratio of one to two tablespoons per gallon of water (soak for two days).

Please be advised that plants with low light requirements are solid considerations for your fish's habitat. Any supplementary lighting (natural or electrical) can cause water temperatures to rise, which can be deadly.

Plants can spread fungus, bacteria, and organisms into your water if not treated properly. Some plant species are considered invasive and should be cleared by region before use.

Best Plants for Goldfish Habitats

Plants help convert carbon dioxide to oxygen.

PlantCare LevelSpecifics

Anubias Barteri

Very Easy

Hardy. Requires low light; can grow partially or fully submersed. Grows upwards and does not require substrate. Will grow at room temperature.

Brazilian Elodea

Very Easy

Check local regulations due to invasive potential. Hardy. Can grow rooted in substrate. Proliferates quickly. Requires moderate sunlight and nutrient-rich water.


Very Easy

Tolerates extreme temperatures and low lighting. Improves poor water quality and processes nitrates.

Java Moss

Very Easy

Survives in dim light. May attach to rocks. Can be used to make a moss wall using non-toxic materials.

Avoid overfeeding due to adverse health consequences.

Avoid overfeeding due to adverse health consequences.

Feeding Protocols

Always feed your fish according to their appetite and size. Only offer as much food as your fish can consume within one minute. It is better to underfeed your fish rather than overfeed; overfeeding can actually lead to numerous health issues. Any food that has not been consumed will become waste and affect water quality.

Try softening your dry food or pellets by soaking them in a cup of lukewarm water prior to feeding. Doing so will prevent gas or constipation in your fish, which is often triggered by dehydrated foods.

Dietary Options for Goldfish

It is important to offer your fish a variety of vitamins and nutrients without overfeeding.

Frozen vegetables (i.e., spinach)

Hard-boiled egg yolk

Live plants


Spirulina flakes or pellets

Brine shrimp

Environmental enrichment keeps your fish happy and stimulated.

Environmental enrichment keeps your fish happy and stimulated.

Environmental Enrichment

Goldfish generally do well in schools, which is characteristic of their inquisitive, social nature. If you are caring for a single fish, take care to diversify their environment. Without environmental enrichment and stimulation, goldfish will become bored.

Consider enhancing your fish's habitat by adding a dark or textured background in one section. Dark backgrounds may help your fish feel safe. Be careful not to change your fish's environment too frequently or drastically. Adding anything inside the tank, such as structures, hideouts, plants, and pebbles, will reduce your fish's habitat space, so adjust accordingly.

Water Quality and Treatment

Since fish bowls are small, toxic levels of waste and ammonia can build up if there isn't a proper filtration system in place. It is advised to change a minimum of 50% of the water daily (never remove all water from the tank), in addition to cleaning substrate to remove toxic food and fish waste.

Tap water should stay exposed to air overnight to allow for chlorine, a volatile vapor, to evaporate. Always treat water before introducing your fish into it, and carefully match water temperatures to prevent shock.

How to Clean Your Habitat

  1. Avoid touching your goldfish when you change the water or clean the bowl.
  2. Transfer your fish to a separate holding tank.
  3. Remove the waste from the substrate by slowly moving the pebbles. Drain some water and push the waste out.
  4. Give the bowl a good cleaning. Don't forget to wipe off ornaments and plants. Do NOT use soap or chemicals.
  5. Add the pretreated room temperature water (minimum of 50% exchange).

Important Upgrades to Consider

If you aren't able to keep up with the water changes and cleaning yourself, a small pump and filter will keep the bowl clean for longer. They will fit in a small bowl, and you won't need to replace the water as often. Always consider MORE space when caring for a goldfish. The bigger the habitat, the better.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Camile

Please Leave Your Comments

Simo on August 22, 2020:

I bought 2 gold fish here in Abu Dhabi since March 2020. Until now they still alive. I just put in a bowl without oxygen. Every 3-4 days I changed the water. Guys! I was worried for the pellets food. I can't estimate the amount to feed them. What's really amout food given everyday? Any suggestions please.

idkwhotolistento on July 10, 2020:

Dude, I live in Dubai and bought 2 goldfishes like an hour ago and then I go thru this article and There are ppl in this practically screaming 'DONT KEEP GOLDFISHES IN A BOWL' This is my first pet in my whole life and then aftr reading this I have a really gud hunch these things are gonna die tmrw

P.S Theyre names are goldie and nemo

Wade Nichols on November 05, 2019:

Under "Adequate Oxygenation Requirements", our host, Camile, accurately points out that air pumps and air stones do not generate oxygen. They do a good job of circulating surface oxygenated water and bringing up stagnant water to be oxygenated (which is important because water will only take on so much oxygen at the surface, but the stagnant water underneath doesn't.) That said, if you do put an air stone in your bowl, you also greatly increase the contact area between the water and air because, if you consider the surface area of each bubble passing through the water, one can often double the air to water contact surface. If you do decide to use an air pump and bubble stone, the finer the bubbles the better. A lot of fine bubbles create much more air to water contact than larger bubbles that do little but circulate the water.

Wade Nichols on November 03, 2019:

Many species of fish in nature grow in size according to the size of their environment. My family used to run a fish farm where we hatched and grew baby trout, which we then sold to the forest service so they could use them to stock lakes and reservoirs of different sizes. We also raised some trout to adulthood for family consumption. If we put them in a fairly small pond with a lot of other fish, they would stay small, but if we put them in a big pond they often got quite large. In the big reservoirs, they grew rather huge. A lot of pet fish do the same thing--growing according to the size of their enclosure.

fish queen on July 04, 2019:

I named my fish don't die because all the fish before him died within a week hope this works

L on May 27, 2019:

I just got a goldfish. from my sister, they'd been cleaning where'd it been, and I found out for two weeks they kept it in a vase with just an air pump. my point, I didn't like that, I the tank they gave us(10 gal) is too big for our room, so we did an emergency purchase of a plastic fish bowl(3 gal) I think, an put the air pump in there for it, so far it is doing okay, it's only temporary...we did get a thermometer too, along with goldfish pellets, but the thermometer was broken. still would a 5 gal tank, work. it's biger than others, they had it outdoors.

Anonymous fishkeeper on April 03, 2019:

I’ll admit it: I used to be obsessed with telling people that goldfish shouldn’t be kept in bowls. But then i realised that some people managed to keep a stunted goldfish in a bowl for over 10 years. This shocked me. So then after further research I realised that stunting isn’t bad and that the fish’s organs don’t continue to grow and the fish doesn’t experience pain when stunted. I also learnt that with a filter, pump and the right amount of water changes a goldfish can live in a bowl...for its full lifespan. Obviously they shouldn’t be kept in a plain bowl of water or a wine glass and shouldn’t be overstocked. But sometimes a bowl setup can be done in the right conditions, as long as the water is good and the filter is cycled: it can work.

Please don’t hate me, but I’m telling the truth. As long as the water stays stable and clean with 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite and under 30 nitrate, that’s all that matters.

The nameless on April 03, 2019:

How long can a goldfish live in a 3 gallon bowl with a filter, air pump and weekly 90% water changes for? Could it live it’s full life span? I’ve read that stunting in goldfish isn’t actually that bad and that their organs don’t continue to grow or anything and it doesn’t affect their lifespan.

CodieLCSW on March 27, 2019:

Hi! My son "won" two goldfish at the fair three summers ago

One died after two years. The other is kicking it it a small bowel on my counter. I scrub it monthly to keep it clean it is healthy as hell! I had a Beta in the habitat for years prior. Gold fish are champions!

Me on March 05, 2019:

Are those little UG bowl filters designed for goldfish bowls worth trying? Along with a mini air pump maybe?

Bdubb on February 26, 2019:

I have 8 goldfish in a 1 gallon bowl with no bubbler no plant and I only change the water once a month and they have survived for 12 years now. I know they are happy because I can see them smiling when they are playing. The weird thing is though they randomly change size and color and it usually happens overnight when I'm sleeping.

Stacey Jarial on November 18, 2018:

i have had my fish for about 6 years and they have barely grown. They live in my pond, the water is oxygenated but not filtered in case any animals see them and eat them. Is this normal or should I be worried? They are fantail fish, common goldfish and black telescope goldfish.

M. on November 16, 2018:

To all the people who say they kept their goldfish for a "long time", 10 years is actually a very short time. A well cared for goldfish will grow to 40-50 cm long and have an average lifespan of 50 years, which is a LIFETIME COMMITMENT. Even the severely handicapped "fancy" goldfish will grow to a size of 20-30 cm long and have an average lifespan of 25 years, which means they live much longer than your average pet dog or cat.

I have nothing against fishbowls, but goldfish are simply terrible fish for bowls. Get a feeder guppy instead!

Feeder guppies are one of the best bowl fish. They are cheap, colorful, and (most importantly) stay small (4-5 cm). They live on average 3-5 years with good care (so, no long term commitment required!), need only about 4 liters of water per fish, and prefer room temperature (18-24 °C) so heater is not needed. If you add a layer of gravel at the bottom and throw in some tpondsnails and enough live plants, then you don't even need to change your fishbowl, because the snails will break down uneaten food and fish waste and the aquatic plants will use the waste from your fish and snail as nutrients to grow. (Just make sure you don't overfeed.)

Martin Ho on June 23, 2018:

For all the haters so dead set against fish in a bowl, please read: "The Ecology of a Planted Aquarium," by Diana Walstad.

Sehajman on June 15, 2018:

I live in Delhi and I have buyed a new flood fish but mother told that I don’t want any wire around i have not attached filter in bowl and fish is always at the top of the bowl

Febin Brow on April 08, 2018:

I like

Denn on April 08, 2018:

As I live in Maui my fish stay outside all year 'round in their pond that is irrigated with fresh water twice daily. I have pond weed and other aquatic plants that thrive and I rarely have to feed as they eat mosquito larvae, pond weed, and all sorts of other little insects that land in the water. Platies and Mollys do best and breed frequently even when the frogs decide to jump in - its a perfect system, especially to control mosquito-borne disease. I use a large goldfish bowl inside with pond plants when I want to breed but I agree - bowls are like dogs that are chained up all day - a form of incarceration even if they get conditioned to it. Fish actually panic when their environment goes from a large tank/pond to a small bowl. Build a pond if you can - a fountain and a waterfall is even better and all those negative ions are good for you and your fish. Good luck!

Harpe on February 14, 2018:

My sisters fish survived 4 years in a 2 and 4 Gal fish bowl!

She had three Walmart goldfish!

When we moved the fish didn't like the new treated water and died:(

They thrived in the spring water though!

Anu on December 06, 2017:

5 flakes for each gold fish or for 2 goldfishes? I have 3 goldfishes with me so how many flakes should feed them?

John on November 23, 2017:

Very helpful. Thank you for the information!

Rohan on November 22, 2017:

it was really a good story

Rebecca on October 24, 2017:

I've kept goldfish and bettas in bowl/small tanks without filters when I was a kid. Both of the bettas lasted ~5-6 years, and one lived through 2 different diseases without dying. Some of the goldfish would die early, but that's because I was an irresponsible kid and wouldn't feed them/didn't dechlorinate the water properly.

One of my feeder fish (back in the old days you'd put tiny fish in a new aquarium to cycle it. They'd all die within a few weeks, usually) stayed alive and started growing in the big tank I had as a kid. He survived through several tank changes, a six-year-old (me) putting him in a plastic bag full of chlorinated tap water, and several otherhuge fish-killers. Turns out he was a baby Koi and we moved him out to a pond once he was the size of my hand (6 inches or so). Beautiful fish, lived a long time, but died after 8-10 years. At least half of his life was spent in non-filter tanks.

Not sure why people in the comments are screaming about how fish will die in bowls and without air filters. Just change the water regularly, for crying out loud.

Obviously, do your research on a fish before putting it in a bowl. Fish that are meant to grow to large sizes (like 6 inches or more) might want a larger tank, but a filter might not necessary.

Matt on October 23, 2017:

I have a 40gal tank and all I have in it is a betta and a gold fish with out air bubbles I want to know if they live?

dundeeeeee on October 22, 2017:

why all the haters, man. i got me a 2lb sunny livin in a fishbowl, and a baby croc too...crikey!

Dillon on October 21, 2017:

Is this article a joke? Did you also know you can keep a cat alive in a small box? All it needs is to be able to turn around. This is the same mentality as keeping a fish in a small bowl.

Peggy Cassidy on October 18, 2017:

About 13 years ago, I was visiting a friend. Her and her mother had one gold fish in a bowl. It wasn't a real big bowl. I remember her telling me that the fish was about 8 years old. I was surprised. They most likely took real good care of the fish.

Coty on October 17, 2017:

This is absolutely horrible advice. Glofish get anywhere from 8 inches to a foot long depending on breed. A bowl will stunt their growth. The myth of fish growing to the size of there tank is EXTREMELY detrimental to their health. Stunting prevent growth which is where this myth starts. But as time goes on they can suffer deformation of bones and even ruptured organs. It's a very slow very painful way to die. To the person who wrote this. You are Severely misinformed. To anybody reading. DO NOT FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS. Goldfish can live for up to a decade with proper care. Some have lives to 40 years. Being kept in a bowl is simply UNACCEPTABLE.

Di on October 10, 2017:

Hi. My family recently got a 1 gallon bowl with rocks etc for cheap so we thought we'd start a collection of a few guppies. In all fairness, I thought it was 2 gallons. And then we planned to upside to a 10gallon. We got a couple feeder goldfish to trial with since we are first timers, but... now we're attached and I'm worried about the fish being so many in one small area. I wasn't worried until today they are spending a lot of time at the surface. It's 4 goldfish and a vety small bottom feeder (he is fine). The goldfish seem to be swimming around up top but I'm not sure if they're still looking for food or need more oxygen. We switched half the water already, hoping to cycle oxygen. Anyways... I'm freaking out so were borrowimy a small air pump and buying an aquarium later today. I will eventually use this bowl again probably for very small guppies in the future, but I can't see keeping these guys in there much longer.

Shreya on October 08, 2017:

My comment is - it is nice way to keep our goldfish fit

Bri on October 01, 2017:

I had to rewrite this like 5 times so I'm just gonna sum this up as best I can. GOLDFISH CANNOT SURVIVE IN ANYTHING LESS THEN 30G, PER FISH. they cannot have gravel. They NEED a filter and or air pump. 25% water changes a week. Never use soap on anything in the tank. Don't ever do a full tank change unless fish had a disease such as velvet (looks like a coat of white slime) , dropsy (looks like belly is a pinecone, scales are facing down, etc. goldfish have lots of ammonia, whichever an burn them severely something enough to kill them, so please if you're ever getting a fish (including a betta, they aren't any different and cannot thrive in bowls without a filter or heater, and no in the wild they do not and cannot survive in a puddle) DO YOUR RESEARCH! Thanks

Virginia on September 28, 2017:

I have a home made outside pond with gold fish in it Do I need a air pump or can the fish live in the pond without a filter or air pump

Flippy on September 26, 2017:

I just got a goldfish and I have no idea what to do. I keep it in one gallon hoping it is enough. Hopefully it won't implode. I love my dear fish. It'll probably only last for a day though. Thanks for your help! I'll keep on trying to help my little flippy and be hopeful!

Fish Hemsworth on September 23, 2017:

If a fish does not have a memory longer than a few seconds, how does it suffer? By the time it knows what is going on, it forgets and starts over.

notsharingmyname on September 22, 2017:

Don't listen to this article. DON'T BUY A GOLDFISH YOU DON'T WANT ONE. Goldfish are very misunderstood fish. They are very commonly put into bowls and are thought to die in a few months. Goldfish can't live in a bowl under any circumstances, no matter the type or size of your goldfish. Goldfish don't grow to their surroundings, they stop growing as a survival mechanism, but there's a catch, their organs don't stop growing. Basically putting a goldfish in a bowl will make them implode. You might be wondering, how much space does it take to stop them from imploding? The answer you want doesn't exist, they need 30 gallons if they are the fancy variety and 45 gallons for the single tailed variety, and this is per fish. You probably want to blow this comment off, but your selfish and ignorant if you do.

P.S no fish can live in a bowl, there isn't enough surface area to get air, and an airstone can't help enough to fix it. Also if you don't use a filter they won't get beneficial bacteria, which is very important.

Goldy on September 18, 2017:

I have a goldfish in a bowl, feed it twice a day. Since I donot have a filter I change the water once a day.

Jumayin on September 08, 2017:

Thanks cause I'm getting one tommorow

Goldfish keeper on September 08, 2017:

Fish should never be kept in a bowl. If you put a goldfish in a bowl you are stunting it, meaning it's body isn't growing but it's organs continue to out grow it's body. Stunting a goldfish can lead to many health problems for your fish such as buoyancy problems. Depending on the kind of goldfish you buy you'll need 20 gallons per fish at least. You also need good filtration for your fish ammonia and nitrites sould be completely 0 while nitrates should be between 5 and 10 when you test your water to keep the fish healthy and happy, if you put a fish in a bowl ammonia will build up very quickly causing the fish to stress and eventually die slowly. This article is bragging about having a goldfish live for six months but with proper care your goldfish can live up to 25 years! Goldfish are a huge commitment if you can't care for them properly you shouldn't keep one that goes with any animal. You can find many proper care guides online please do not listen to the ones where they keep them in bowls.

fish stuff on September 06, 2017:

when you put a goldfish in a bowl your basicly watching it slowly die as its internal organs get to big for its body.

Fish on September 04, 2017:

I don't know who's side I'm on because I just won a fish from the fair and I don't know what to do.

Fish on September 04, 2017:

I like fish

Sachin munavalli on August 13, 2017:

Thanks for your suggestions it's very helpful..

Allie on August 02, 2017:

This article is incorrect! FISH SHOULD NEVER LIVE IN BOWLS PERIOD! I have worked for an aquarium for years and went to school for marine bio. I know my stuff and fish should not be kept in bowls. Just because something "survives" doesn't mean it thrives. Goldfish should be living for YEARS not months and need water changes every other week at least.

If you really cannot have a filter on your tank, a bubbler will still disturb the water enough to keep it oxygenated, but you would need to do more water changes.

P. S. please never, ever, feed your fish bread. They cannot digest it properly.

Hannah on August 01, 2017:

I'm sorry but one fish per litre is rediculous- at LEAST have 10 and even then is way too small

Hi on July 30, 2017:

Do not keep your goldfish in bowls, while they may survive they will suffer. 20 gallons per goldfish is the minimum. No exceptions.

dia15nyc on July 24, 2017:

This helped a lot! Thank you!!

no really it happened on July 23, 2017:

i had a goldfish that lived for 5 years, i found him in a mud puddle when i was a kid. r.i.p pudg

Lizzy on July 14, 2017:

I really needed to know those things because my 14 fish died now all my fish are healthy and alive "thank gosh"

goldfish on July 08, 2017:

After reading your article, I am impressed and start finding more stuff like this and reached to a result where there are lots of videos of beautiful girls swallowing goldfish. It's amazing!

Katie ...... on July 05, 2017:

I don't have a fish bowl or tank but I have a fish where should I keep it?im keeping it in a wide vase but I'm feeding it bread crumbs. Is this good for the fish?

Kei on June 26, 2017:

DONT KEEP GOLDFISH IN SMALL TANKS. Gold fish are messy fish which create a lot of ammonia ( their poop has this).

Ammonia will burn thier gills and they will die.

Goldfish need 10 gallons at least per fish NOT a liter.

GOLDFISH REQUIRE AN OXYGEN PUMP AND A FILTER. If you cannot provide this don't get a fish as it is torture for them.

Ashleigh dyer on June 17, 2017:

My grandma is getting me some goldfish for my birthday and I was wondering if five can live a long time without a air pump

Jane on June 17, 2017:

When I was a young girl I had two fish in a bowl. Every evening I got a pail of pond water from a pond on our farm and kept it in the house over night. Good old Dad would cut a hole in the ice in winter, most winter days I took 2 days of water in at a time.

In the morning before school I moved the fish from the bowl to the pail, dumped and washed the bowl. Then put the fish back in the bowl. One fish lived over two years.

If we went away on holidays my Grandmother would take care of my fish for me. Looking back I realize I was fortunate the adults in my life helped me look after the fish

Nandini on June 15, 2017:

Thanks it is too helpful for me...

Gray on May 31, 2017:

Is it okay to just have a styrofoam for a goldfish, it is huge anyway

your boi on May 17, 2017:

I have a gold fish and it is a very big thing and his name if jeffery

Verbena on May 05, 2017:

I have goldfish in a bowl without a pump and they are healthy and going on five I don't know where this info comes from.

Molly on April 27, 2017:

This article is very poorly researched and is contributing to the spread of very dangerous misinformation. Hardly anything here is correct in terms of fish care. I wont go into specifics, as they've already been listed well here in the comments, but please, if you have a goldfish do not follow this advice.

Goldfish are very BIG, high maintenance fish and they cannot live in these conditions very well or for very long. The lifespan of a properly taken care of goldfish is 20+ years. In this kind of setup, it's impressive if they live even one.

Goldfish simply cannot live in a bowl. An adult common goldfish will easily grow longer than a foot. To keep a goldfish in a bowl is to neglect and abuse a lovely, intelligent animal and give it a painful life leading up to a premature death.

Alison on April 25, 2017:

This article is absolutely sickening. The information is completely incorrect. I set up an account here JUST to leave a comment on this awful article. Goldfish should live 15+ healthy, happy years, not "a few months". Please take this horrible article off this site.

Concerned Compashionate Person on April 25, 2017:

Don't do the stuff suggest by this article, it is horrible and abusive advice.

Let's start with the just plain wrong things.

(1)Not having an air pump: Goldfish use their gills to get oxygen out of the water, they cannot breathe air. If you do not have a pump or *extremely heavily planted tank* your goldfish will be suffocating. If you see them gasping at the surface, that means you are killing them because of lack of oxygen in their water. They can feel pain, and they will be suffering.

(2) Keeping a goldfish in a bowl: goldfish cannot adjust to the size of their tank, it is just a myth. Do people who grown up in apartments stay as midgets their entire lives? No. Goldfish don't do this either. They cannot control how big they get and need an absolute minimum of 15 gallons of water per goldfish to live comfortably.

(3) Only changing the water every few weeks: this is wrong as well. If you want to keep a fish humanely, you need you learn about the Nitrogen Cycle in aquariums. The fish poop out ammonia which good bacteria will convert to nitrates and then nitrites. This cycle doesn't start automatically, you have to actually work to get this to start in your tank and check the chemical levels everyday. If you have any ammonia in the tank, it will burn the fish's gills and eventually kill them. This hurts them a lot and they will suffer. Anytime the ammonia or nitrites are above 0 parts per million (ppm) you need to change 25% of the tank water. If your cycle has not properly started, this means you have to change the water every single day or the fish will be in a lot of pain and get organ damage.

If you are thinking to yourself that this sounds like a lot of work, it is. But if you don't want to take proper care of your pet, then you should not own one. So many of these comments are terrible, people are telling you about how they abuse their pet every day. Don't listen to them, literally just go Google the Nitrogen Cycle or how goldfish get air and you will see that this article is shit and should not be trusted.

Camille, if you don't know what you're talking about, please don't write about it. You are telling people to abuse animals. I'm mechanical engineer just like you and can tell you that this kind of stuff is out of our field of training. Please talk to a marine biologist or do some research and revise this article or delete it.

Sharkb8 on April 24, 2017:

I don't even know where to start. This article is wrong on so many levels. What next, two male bettas together?

CrookedFingers on April 13, 2017:

This article is wrong on so many levels. Goldfish can live up to decades, not effin' months, and they get to about 30 cm long! And no they do not adapt to smaller living conditions, they just suffer until they die. Please look up pictures of stunted goldfish if you enjoy animal cruelty, you'll really get a kick out of them. There's nothing subjective about this, if you keep your fish in subpar conditions they will live a short, stunted life. Sure, every fish is different, I mean, some people survive small pox too! How would you like it if I gave it to you? You may very well survive. And please do not compare goldfish to betta, for frick's sake. Bettas do not get foot long! I don't understand why people insist on putting goldfish in bowls when you can get used aquariums for so cheap, or fish way better suited for small tanks. Also, waste doesn't magically disappear under pebbles, and you shouldn't completely rinse the whole tank, ever. Please look up the nitrogen cycle. I'm all for low maintenance tanks, I have three zero-tech, zero-water change aquariums, but with endlers, a betta and shrimp in them, not flippin' goldfish.

Christitian on March 24, 2017:

This article is very good! My gold fish is living well right now but i don't follow the rule "Every Three Months, Clean the Bowl" but instead i always clean my fish bowl every 2 - 4 days.

Ally on March 20, 2017:

This article says nothing wrong in it people in the comments saying that the goldfish will grow to big and break there spine this is wrong goldfish adapted to there size of bowl if this wasn't the case i am pretty sure that you would have to have a license to own one like other fish that NEED the correct size bowl. I have a betta fish and it has been living in a bowl with no filter and it is perfectly healthy when i brought it it was in a bowl at the shop and they said it was 6 months old so my betta fish is 1 year old and it is fine.Betta fish and gold fish are similar but if you are looking for a simple fish to look after choose a gold fish or betta.

Adam on March 11, 2017:

The world's oldest goldfish fish lived 43 years in a bowl so it can't be that bad

Bullfinchie on March 10, 2017:

(Molly) has the bestest ADVICE...EVERYONE ..READ her post.(8 weeks ago) Quality of life is what EVERY one NEEDS.....GOLDFISH TOO!

sourav patel on February 24, 2017:

can i keep 6 tennis gold fish in a 10 inch bowl

Divya on February 17, 2017:

Thank u for ur advice

Joey on January 29, 2017:

This article is subjective. All goldfish are different and can tolerate different conditions - much like humans. Therefore, some goldfish may be able to live in a bowl with any pump or oxygen, and others may not be able to sustain such conditions. I had a goldfish live for eight years in a regular bowl without any air pump and throughout it's life it was active and healthy. After it died, I replaced the water and bought a new goldfish. I kept the new one at the same conditions I kept the old one - it died after a week. You never can predict the lifespan of a goldfish or how to care for it; it's not one size fits all. Don't overthink things: feed it, clean the bowl every few days, keep it in water (obviously), and hope for the best.

J.E. on January 17, 2017:

Even when kept in good conditions, gold fish will only grow to a proportional size of their tank. Unlike other aquarium fish, goldfish excrete hormones such as aminobutyric acid (GABA) and somatostain, that acts as signal of how many other fish and what sized body of water they are in. They do not die from their spines bending and they do not outgrow their environment - they are not as fragile as some here believe and live quite happily in a well-kept bowl. Equating their feelings and thoughts to anything remotely human is ridiculous.

Fishy on January 14, 2017:

I had a common gold fish as a kid and it lived for 13 years in a regular fish bowl. No filter. We cleaned the bowl once a week and fed it once a day. Super easy!

Molly on January 10, 2017:

This article is full of dangerous misinformation about goldfish. A goldfish can never live in a bowl under any circumstances.

First off, goldfish get big. Common goldfish grow to over a foot long as adults. They need a HUGE tank or preferably a pond.

Second, fish waste going under the pebbles is not a good thing. It doesn't disappear, it stays there and ruins the water quality over time. Also, goldfish are prone to swallowing and choking of gravel. Goldfish are best kept in an aquarium with sand.

Third, fish flakes are not a quality food for goldfish. The gulping at the surface has been linked to causing swim bladder disorder which is often fatal.

Fourth, you can't just let the water sit for 4 hours. For the chloramines in tap water to leave, the water needs to sit for closer to 24-48 hours before it's safe.

Fifth, keeping a goldfish alive for a couple months is not something worth bragging about. Goldfish live a very long time if actually given semi-decent care. The lifespan of a goldfish averages at around 20 years. The oldest recorded goldfish was 43 at the time of death. A couple months is like bragging that your kitten lived a year or two.

Overall, please do not take anything in this article as good advice in terms of goldfish keeping. A goldfish in a bowl will never live anywhere close to it's full lifespan, and much of that life will be spent suffering. If you can't handle getting a very tank tank or a pond, then you can't handle getting a goldfish. Please settle for a different pet and spare the fish.

Nishita Biswas on December 26, 2016:

Thanks for the information. It will help me to take proper care of my goldfish.

Taylor on November 30, 2016:

helpful for going to get goldfish to sale!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Eddie on November 28, 2016:

I have a goldfish that has lived for seven years only on oxygen weed ,fed every two days and whole tank is fully washed every two weeks .. The tank is 15litres with pebbles and oxygen plants are replaced every 1.5 months..he seems happy looks heathy and swims around like the flash...for that kat that is such an expert maybe he was a goldfish in a previous life..get off the grass mate..

Bigfigelow on November 19, 2016:

Well, after browsing around here I feel like I must add my story... Adopted my Mom's Comet fish Nana, when Nana was 3ish. She lived happily in a small 2ish gallon, decorative bowl with silk plant and 1/2 - 3/4" round stones... No filter, no air pump, just water changes. She continued to live happily 5 more years with us on our kitchen island, with one upsize to a bigger 3ish+ gallon bowl, silk plant and more 1/2-3/4" stones. Her demise happened 4 days after my girlfriend (who rarely preps any food), hammered 4lbs. of chicken (on a Monday night) with a heavy saucepan on the island Nana lived on, (I was so mad at her for stressing Nana out like that, "Are you trying to kill Nana fish?!...WTH!? Lisa!!" Sure enough Nana went downhill pretty fast after the hammering incident. The night she was obviously dying and did die, I noticed about 3-4 days worth of fish food on the bottom (never, ever, have seen uneaten flakes like that before). I'm no expert or fish whisperer, but Nana was her active, happy self on Sunday and dead on Friday... After what I believe we're 8 active, happy years... She maybe grew an inch in the 5 years we had her (to about 3ish inches - tip of nose to tip of tail)... I never did any research on goldfish (until now, cause she is gone). I just did what I thought was right to keep her alive, well and what I believe as happy... Coincident with hammering incident, maybe... I do believe that played a part in her passing... I am sad :( RIP Nana Fish...

sunneej on November 17, 2016:

Goldfishes don't belong in bowl? Please, if you cared so much about the fishes, you'd just leave them alone in natural habitats rather than keeping them in a fake tank where they are kept solely for your poor sense of entertainment. The mindset just astonishes me; 'what I do is okay (i.e. keeping the fishes in the tank out of the natural habitat), but when others do something different (keeping the fishes in a bowl), it is wrong'.

Raven on October 17, 2016:

Horrible advice. Goldfish don't belong in bowls. PERIOD. If you can't afford or have the space for the large tank they require, DONT GET THEM!

Rebecca h on October 10, 2016:

Just wanted to throw Something in here.I won 3 gold fish at the fair for my granddaughter who is 2.the first 6 months I didn't have a pump or filter bit I kept the water clean and fed then regularly and even though some thought I wad weird I would always talk to them.well it's been almost a year and happy to say they are still swimming..I did get then a pump and filter and it had improved the quality of the tank..and in response to fish remember I honestly believe that because when they see met it's like when my dog sees me after working all day..they get really excited..If I could post a video I would...thanks for reading....Rebecca h

j on October 07, 2016:

It makes me incredibly sad that you're encouraging this and spreading further misconceptions about goldfish. Under the proper conditions, a common goldfish's average life span is 30 years.

Emma on October 02, 2016:

Thanks for the advice I just won 2 fishes at a carnival and I'm going to be sure to follow these steps!!!!Thanks!!!!!

Anonymous on September 27, 2016:

Each goldfish only needs 1 litre?!

Shall we shut you in a cupboard for your whole life and see how happy you are??

You've also mentioned nothing about tap safe to get the chlorine out of the water and the fact that goldfish can live for over 20 years if looked after properly although they never live this long because they grow too big for their UNFILTERED BOWL, bend their spine and die.

Cruel idiots.

Oops on September 11, 2016:

I'm very sad to see this type of information being encouraged. I hope any readers can give what I have to say a chance - I've had great luck with my fish and have helped many others succeed similarly.

First and foremost, I feel it should be established that fish are not disposable. They are not decoration, they are not senseless little toys. Though I understand there is a stigma around them, I hope I can encourage fish/animal keepers to give these little guys a chance. Fish of all kinds feel pain. Goldfish have been used in studies to show that no, they don't have a 3-second memory span, and have been shown to successfully navigate mazes for a bloodworm reward. They also remember this maze when introduced to it a week+ later. I can additionally personally attest to the fact that they recognize distinctions among people who they see frequently(I believe there's some recent research done there as well); they are simply more than what most people know to give them credit for, and I'm not quick to blame them. There is mostly ignorance on the subject, not ill will, so I hope to disperse that. Are they as smart as your cat or dog? Objectively, no. Regardless of this, they are wonderful little creatures who feel, and fear, and want to thrive instead of simply survive. I personally feel that we should want to provide the best environment for them, not the one best for us. We force them into our lives, after all.

I want to touch on a fact that the writer made sure to mention, their goldfish living for 5 months. That is impressive in regard to how quickly these abused animals normally pass, but considering that properly maintained fish may live for 30+ years (the oldest is 43, I want to say), this is not something I find worth being praised for. I've heard at my workplace of goldfish that live for a year, and the folks are always impressed with themselves. I am always displeased to say that their fish is simply surviving - it is likely suffering stunting, swimming in stressful levels of ammonia, malnourished, and its clock ticking down. Just because it lives, doesn't mean it's living well. We as people can survive just as well in a closet. Give us food and water and we will live, but we don't prefer that, do we? Is it okay that we allow this suffering on a little life that had no say in the matter?

Let's have a little aquarium lingo lesson, here. There is something highly important in fish keeping called the 'nitrogen cycle'. I'll go ahead and explain it in the most simple of ways, and then turn to how it is important. Fish food, poo, and their act of breathing produces what's called ammonia. Ammonia is highly toxic, and is the #1 fish killer. Bacteria in the water naturally establish, and turn this ammonia into nitrite (with an 'i'. I remember it like the roman numeral for one ('I'). ). Nitrite is also deadly to fish. Finally, different good bacteria convert this Nitrite into NitrAte, with an A. This last stage is nowhere near as toxic as the previous two.

Basically, your deadly stuff in the water gets turned into less harmful stuff as good bacteria set up in your tank. This means less cleaning, less fish stress, and happier environment. If you have live plants, they eat the stuff up. The overall process from ammonia to nitriate to nitrate is also much more swift, as the good bacteria are ready for action in the tank.

Why does this matter? In a bowl, or in too small of a tank that you are too frequently cleaning too much of, there is no room for this cycle to establish. Anything that needs too frequent or too deep of a clean kills your good bacteria and restarts your natural cycle. Not only inconvenient for you, but stressful on your fish, as they once again have to endure an excess of ammonia and nitrites before getting to the safer nitrates. The whole process of unsafe to safe can take weeks, or many months. If you're cleaning your whole tank, or taking more water out of the tank than not, or removing filter media before its time is up, you're likely killing your cycle. Stress, dirty water, sadness. So while you could theoretically do your best to keep up with the fish waste by doing very frequent, very large water changes, you would just be siding with a lesser evil.

It is true though that goldfish don't need an air pump. Oxygen entering the water is done by any disturbance at the surface, so a filter will do just fine. And yes, your fish need a filter. And yes, you have to do tank maintenance on top of the filter running. The filter can get out the big chunks of stuff that you can see, but it can't change the makeup of the water (it doesn't take out ammonia or nitrites, the deadly ones).

As a side note, goldfish who survive for some time in stressful waters are likely only acclimated to the ammonia, which is not necessarily a good thing. It is still wearing down on their health, and too high of a level of ammonia will absolutely still kill them.

Admittedly, I'm not sure what the point of the pebbles hiding the fish waste is. It's not like that would stop the waste from dissolving into ammonia - if anything, I suppose it would just hide it so it 'looked better'. I don't find that to be an extremely necessary or valid point.

While plants do help by taking out some of the bad and replacing with oxygen, they are no substitute for proper filtration and water changes.

I'd also like to mention a few things about the variety of goldfish. In the images shown, there are a few types of goldfish that I can spy - there's orandas, a ryukin, and a fantail. Those are all 'fancy' goldfish, aka, the silly shaped ones. These guys can get 8 - 10 inches in size - that's almost a footlong of fish, if you can believe it. They're enormous, they're bulky, and they're beautiful. It sounds a little ridiculous to put store bought little fish in a 29 gallon tank, but they will fill it before you know it; in the right conditions, some of them can reach their full length within a year. What we see in fish in inadequate space is known as 'stunting', and as it sounds, it is a painful and deadly issue that stunts their growth. They are restricted in space and do not follow natural growth patterns, and that means they may suffer spinal deformities, organ issues or failure, etc. There is really no need to not allow them the room they need, and more on top of that preferably.

Comets and other sleek bodied goldfish (koi, shebunkin) grow even larger and are even needier. They are really meant to be pond fish. They enjoy cooler temperatures than fancies, will readily eat algae and plant life, are swift and need lots of room to swim and maneuver, and are just as messy (if not moreso) than fancies. They're often bought as beginner fish because they're cheap and small (due to being sold as feeder fish), but they will quickly grow to be extremely expensive and needy if a pet owner tries to keep them indoors and alive, simultaneously.

All in all, I hope this has not come across as offensive or hurtful toward any goldfish keepers or the author. My goal is only to inform and have pet owners and their critters enjoy a wonderful, healthy life together. These are not easy fish, they are not beginner fish. There are more humane ways to teach your children about responsibility without causing something to suffer.

Wildlife defenders on September 01, 2016:

No sorry your feeding wrong information just like them on thecwin a prize store.u neef to givevfish room to swim.goldfish are messy and obe litter of wsrter do u want me to make u live down the toilet 24/7

Austin on July 30, 2016:

This is ridiculous. Go to a local fish store and ask about what the nitrogen cycle is. Would you keep your puppy in a shoebox? Its pure cruelty. Would you keep your child in the corner of a closet and clean his poo once every 3 months? Imagine how that feels. Now thats your goldfish.

Mertin on July 23, 2016:

1. They r fish.

2. Everyone complaining about article can write their own, this is Murica!

3. Goldfish being put in an outdoor pond or lake is a bad practice, don't spread invasive species, also annoying when u catch one, lol.

4. I'm just going to assume that gold fish don't naturally live 20 years since they r very low on the food chain.

5. I hate it when any type of carp, even the smaller goldfish end up in places they do not belong because a few times I have caught almost foot long ones in different lakes.

6. Because of this I would guess other fish don't eat em in lakes. Carp can ruin ecosystems btw.

7. Goldfish mainly should be for kids to teach them responsibility, so what the author says is fine, don't criticize him.

Laila on July 23, 2016:

Is it true that we should not put aquatic plants on shubunkins fish cause they will destroy it?

FluffyFox on July 09, 2016:

Had someone just leave a goldfish on my car in a wal-mart bag...out of nowhere...kind of sad and mean if you ask me...

Sam on July 03, 2016:

Wow. Promoting abuse because a bigger tank is inconvenient to you. Thank PetHelpful. Now I know where I stand with you.

Me on June 24, 2016:

Goldfish are one of those animals that are constantly growing when they are healthy and fed enough.

Constantly growing.


What about bowls?

Well, fish grow to the size of their bowl!!!

Wait, that doesn't add up...

If a goldfish is always growing then why would it stop in a bowl?

When goldfish feel that their habitat is not suitable they make a chemical that stops their growth. In the wild this is done in the dry season to make sure the fish won't run out of food before the rains come back.

But it's also a double-edged sword: It's not good for them. It'll cause other health issues and kill the fish if the fish is exposed long term.

Sure, goldfish can live in a bowl.

But should they?

These are fish that live in huge lakes and ponds (at least their ancestors do).

These are fish that have the abliltiy to live for 20 years or more.

These are fish who's genetic make up make it possible for them to be abused.

And, being humans, what do we do? We abuse them.

Ammonia exposure is abuse.

Keeping a fish in conditions where it can't grow is abuse.

Fish should THRIVE not just SURVIVE.

Take a look at all of the people who have the most colorful and the healthiest goldfish. Those that have their fish live for 20 years. Do they have a filter? I'd hope so!

Yes, goldfish can live without a filter.

Yes, ammonia is NOT going to be taken out of the tank without a filter.

Yes, ammonia is highly toxic.

Just get a filter. Seriously. It's not hard.

And get a real tank.

If you want a small fish tank (2.5 gallons or more!) get a betta.

RevaJade on June 15, 2016:

This is really good information! Thank you! I used to have lots of goldfish, they all died unfortunately. But I am getting back into having fish. I have a betta and a plecostomus fish right now. I am going to get some guppies and goldfish, not putting them in the sam etnak of course. Thank you so much for this wonderful information!

renraw on May 01, 2016:

their carp.. that means they can" air breath" they don't need a pump.

Sriket on April 26, 2016:

I have a fishbowl with a goldfish and a pair of Angelfish. The problem is that whenever I feed them, the goldfish ends up eating all the food leaving behind nothing for the angels. Moving the goldfish into another container for feeding poses a risk of frequent water change and might have adverse impact.

Please let me know as to how should I deal with this?

medusachic on April 21, 2016:

The author should be ashamed for adovocating such poor and abusive fish keeping practices. If you managed to keep your fish alive for 20-30 YEARS in those conditions and it got to it's full size - which is 10-12"+ THEN you would be entitled to write and article about it.

Goldfish can live for years in poor conditions, just the same way that you could keep a kid alive in a closet for years and the kid wouldn't die, but the kid sure wouldn't thrive, and his growth would probably be abnormal and stunted and the kid would probably die at a young age if he was never allowed out of the closet - just like a goldfish kept in a bowl.

Goldfish are incredibly hardy, which is why they can withstand such poor conditions, but you should be ashamed for advocating them. If you had taken any time to research your pet when you first got it, you would have given it a proper set up or tried to find a new home for it that could accommodate it's adult size.

Shame on you.

anonomus on April 03, 2016:

i just need to know from an expert!!

Miss Cellany on December 27, 2015:

Goldfish can live for many years if properly cared for, a bowl is not large enough. My goldfish lived 10 years in a 27 gallon tank but may have lived longer in a pond. 1 liter won't be enough - goldfish can grow to 10 inches long or even larger than that.

Mariah on October 25, 2015:

Thanks guys I was so worried but not anymore

Faisal on August 25, 2015:

Thanks a lot bud.. i'm going to buy a pair of goldfish now..

Kathryn on May 30, 2015:

Fish should not be kept in bowls.

However, if you must put your fish in a bowl, and it's a tropical fish, there are small circular heaters that you place underneath the gravel to keep the bowl warm. You need to change the water EVERY DAY or at least every 2 days. You CAN actually use tap water, just condition it with tap water conditioner.

Even if the water looks clean, ammonia builds up that is in invisible and toxic to the fish. Even if they do not die instantly, it will poison them over time. Ammonia is invisible waste from the fish itself and the fish's food. You also need to fish out water food the fish does not eat within a few minutes to help prevent this ammonia build up.

Comets (the smaller goldfish) SHOULD NOT be kept in bowls. They need a minimum of 20ish cycled gallons (you can get away with ten if it's well filtered and has a lot of surface area and you do water changes often and on schedule). They need lots of room to swim and zip around. If you do not know what cycling a tank is, you need to do this in order to take easier and better care of your fish.

You may wonder about bettas (another common bowl fish). Bettas will have a much better, happier, easier life in a tank. You can keep your betta in a tiny tank if you like (2.5 is the lowest recommended but you can do 1.5 if you change the water often and have some plants for them to hide in and a heater). Bettas can get stressed and unhappy in open spaces. So they need to have plants (silk plants, plastic are too harsh for their thin little fins) and maybe some décor/hides that they can hide and play in!

If you must keep a betta in a bowl: change the water every day, have some silk plants/décor to help them hide and play. Feed them two or three pellets twice a day and fish out any pellets that they do no eat. These fish do need a heater.

An easy way to tell if plants/décor are too sharp for bettas is to feel them. Are they rough enough that they would cause a run in pantyhose? If so, they are too rough!

Both of these fish that are commonly put in bowls need conditioned water, an appropriate filter (overhang filters are too strong for bettas and they need a sponge filter, goldfish need a strong filter and you need to use a filter strong enough for the number of gallons your tank has). Both of these fish also need tank tops, to prevent them from hopping out and landing on your counter or floor!

Always condition the tap water you use! Conditioning tap water is much cheaper in the long run. Just get a concentrated bottle of tap water conditioner, measure out how much you should use for the number of gallons you have, and mix it into the water. Let it filter/settle and float your fish in your tank to allow it to adjust to the water temperature. DO NOT USE FISH NETS FOR BETTAS! Their fins are too delicate. Release your fish into the changed water after you float it.

I suggest learning about fish husbandry before taking on any fish, and looking into the specifics

Brian on April 07, 2015:

To all the people bragging that their fish lived for 3 years, goldfish kept in a properly sized and filtered aquarium can live for an average of 20 years.

To put that in human terms, it's like considering yourself a good parent because your kids lived to be 10 years old.

raven on January 10, 2015:

Goldfish don't belong in bowls lol. Ever.