Some of our callers will tell us their fish has died and say, “well, he was already 3 years old; he lived a good long life.” Sorry to say, but for most common goldfish, he was barely out of their “teenage years.” Unless they were an inbred fancy goldfish, 3-year old is a very young fish to die of “old age.”
Most comet-variety goldfish can live well into their 20’s, some even into their 30’s and 40’s. The oldest living goldfish was from the UK and lived to the ripe old age of 44! It is hard to verify some of these “oldest fish” records, but many famous fish lived well into their 40’s. Most of the goldfish we see in their “geriatric” life stage are usually in their late 20’s to early 30’s.
Fancy goldfish, usually inbred, are expected to have a slightly shorter lifespan, usually living into their 20’s. This will depend significantly on their breeding. Some fish, no matter what their owners do, are not equipped to live more than a few years.
One of our most memorable elderly patients was the goldfish Mr. Fish. He and his fish friend lived unremarkably for many years, but one day, a sudden ammonia spike resulted in Mr. Fish having severe neurologic disease. Resulting in swimming and eating difficulties, Mr. Fish had one of the most dedicated owners who was determined to bring him back to health. Once the water chemistry had been addressed, our veterinary staff recommended a temporary stability float to help Mr. Fish swim and a hand-fed diet.
Within a few months, Mr. Fish was back to his old self. However, a secondary buoyancy disorder put him back in our care a few years later. After years of great care, Mr. Fish passed away just after his 20th birthday. We greatly miss our patient.
Do not dismiss a death of a young fish so quickly. With proper care, your goldfish can live a long, healthy life. Read here for our preventative health recommendations, get your fish out of their bowl and educate yourself on proper fish care.