I’ve been asked a lot recently how to care for goldfish that were won at the fair. It happens every year, and each time it does I want to go down to the fair and ask them to stop using live animals as a prize. It’s sad, and I hear the same thing every year, “My child won a goldfish at the fair and it died overnight. I need a replacement before they notice.”
I propose a simple solution to this problem, do not take a goldfish home. The myth of a “goldfish bowl” is not true, goldfish are simply too dirty to live in a small tank with no filtration. Unless you are anticipating buying an entire 10 gallon aquarium I highly suggest you either turn down the fish your child won or give them more money to win a different prize (a stuffed animal being the most ideal). You’ll save a lot of time and frustration if you choose the stuffed animal over the goldfish.
Let us assume here you decided to stick with the goldfish your child won. If you don’t want to lose this goldfish and endure the sadness that comes with a lost fish let me make a few suggestions. First, purchase an aquarium that can properly house this goldfish. If we assume the goldfish you won is a comet goldfish and at full size these fish grow to 12 inches. If you know basic aquarium keeping mentality you should know that for every inch of fish a full gallon of water is recommended. This means that for this little fish you won at the fair you will need an aquarium that is approximately 12 gallons in size as a minimum. On top of this you will need a substrate (so the bottom of the tank doesn’t show built up debris) and a filter which can handle the full amount of water in the tank. It is also recommended that you purchase decorations not only to make the tank look nice, but also so that the fish has some place to hide and feel safe.
What we now have is a fish we won for several dollars, a 10-20 gallon aquarium kit worth $59.99 to $79.99 at the time of this writing, $10-20 worth of substrate and 1-3 pieces of decoration priced between $5.99 and $12.99. This means you have now spent a total of $80+ in order to house a fish that frankly wholesales at pennies on the dollar. I know as well that most people aren’t willing to pay the $80+ minimum on a fish worth only several dollars to them, but without it you will have a fish that lives for but a moment as well as a sad, crying child.
Obviously I don’t have much say in situations like this. I personally would turn down the fair fish every single time, maybe one day if we all turn them down they will stop being an option and there will be many less dead goldfish! But if you can’t resist and your child really wants them all I ask is you go to your local fish store and get a full understanding of the fish you are taking home because it is an intelligent creature and if cared for properly you will have a very positive experience. Fish keeping is a truly remarkable hobby where you get to observe a creature in a habitat that is exposed to our eyes in a way we would never normally be able to see and I hope you fall in love with it like so many others have. I just wish more people would get into the hobby out of curiosity than an obligation to not let their children down.