How to Setup a Goldfish Aquarium

How to Setup a Goldfish Aquarium

If you want upgrade your goldfish bowl into a suitable goldfish tank or you are buying your first tank setup, in order to provide a proper home for your fish you will need to obtain the following goldfish supplies from your local pet store.

Goldfish Aquarium

Depending on how many fish you want to buy you will need 10 to 20 gallons per fish if you want them to thrive and grow to their full potential. You can get away with buying a 10 gallon aquarium and add two or three small goldfish but realize that you will eventually need a larger goldfish tank as they will out grow their tank. If this is what you choose to do, you will also need to perform water changes more often to keep ammonia level and goldfish waste to a minimum. If you want to have more fish in your 10 gallon fish tank, you should consider buying a different breed of fish that don’t produce as much waste and don’t fully grow too large.

Read More on AquariumsGet a 20 Gallon Tank

Fish Tank with Driftwood
Goldfish Gravel Substrate


Goldfish love to dig around and scavenge for food at the bottom of their tank. having a substrate of rocks, gravel or sand is not mandatory but it will make the tank look nicer and make your goldfish happier. If you do buy a substrate buy small rounded gravel so your goldfish are able to move it around in their search for food. Sand is a bad idea because the constant digging will throw sand particles into the water and make your goldfish aquarium cloudy and appear dirty. Rounded rocks are ok but your goldfish won’t be able to help clean rotting food particles from the bottom of your fish tank. Always remember to rinse and clean any thing you place into your goldfish aquarium, including your fish tank gravel substrate; using warm water only, no soap or cleaners.

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Most people don’t have access to water other than tap water and even if you use a water filter system, chlorine can still get through. Bottled water is usually clean of chlorine but the cost and negative environmental factors don’t make it an ideal solution. To be safe you should buy a bottle of dechlorinator and add it anytime you do a water change to your tank. If you plan in advance, you can fill a bucket with tap water, let it sit a day or two and allow the chlorine to evaporate. The bucket that you use for water changes should only be used as your fish tank water change bucket.

Goldfish Cleaning Supplies

An aquarium siphon, algae scrubber and water conditioner are supplies that will make your routine goldfish aquarium maintenance much easier as well as making it easier on your goldfish. What ever you choose to use to clean your tank, make sure the supplies are clean and only used for cleaning your goldfish tank.Get a Siphon

Decorative Aquarium Ornaments

Your goldfish like places to hide and will feel more comfortable in an aquarium that has a few of these ornaments. You should choose fake or live aquatic plants, or ornaments that you can buy at your local pet store. If you choose to add other objects, make sure they are cleaned thoroughly, don’t contain any substances that will leach into the water that will kill your goldfish, or sharp edges that your goldfish can get hurt on. If there is any doubt about what your ornament is made out of, don’t put it in your goldfish aquarium.

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Aquarium Hood Cover

Goldfish have been known to jump out of their tanks and if you are not there at the time to save them, well, they die. An aquarium hood will cover will ensure that if they jump out of the water, they will stay in the tank and very much alive. I wouldn’t be too concerned about your goldfish knocking itself out on the hood cover and then falling back into the water and drowning. I’m not a scientist but I’m not sure it works like that.

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A Lower Maintenance Tank Layout

Aquarium Light

An aquarium light is something you should consider for several reasons. The fist reason is so you can see and display your goldfish. The other reason is if you have live aquatic plants that require light. Goldfish will nibble on live aquatic plants, making it important that the plants can grow faster than the goldfish can eat them. If light is required, buy a light otherwise the aquatic plants will never amount to much.

goldfish aquarium setup
goldfish tank setup with live plants

Aquarium Filter

If you own a smaller tank with several goldfish, a mechanical filter is almost a must unless you are okay with changing your aquarium water almost daily. To learn about mechanical filter options, read more of our articles on

Read More on Filtration

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Steps for a Proper Setup

  • Obtain all the aquarium supplies listed in this article before buying any goldfish.
  • Rinse the aquarium and all the supplies with warm water to remove any dirt and debris, especially the substrate and decorations.
  • Find a good location for the tank that is away from air vents and windows that get direct sunlight but near an electrical outlet.
  • Place the empty aquarium on its stand and ensure it is level so there is no potential to be knocked or tipped over.
  • Carefully add a 1/4 inch to 2 inches of rinsed gravel substrate into the bottom of the tank. If the filtration is under gravel type, add that first.
  • Prepare the aquarium hood cover and if necessary, cut or pop out any needed openings so the filters and heater can be placed where you want them.
  • Add the aquarium decorations and any plants. Live aquatics plants have specific needs so visit our section on aquatic plants before going further.
  • Slowly begin to fill the tank with room temperature water (around 68-72f*) from the kitchen or bathroom faucet. Avoid disturbing the substrate by pouring the water against the side of the tank or a sturdy decoration.
  • Once the water level is about 1-2 inches from the top of the tank, stop filling and add the appropriate amount of water conditioner/dechlorinator.
  • Attach filters and heaters. Set the heater to 70*f. Do not plug in or turn on either until they are both submerged to their proper depths.
  • Replace or adjust any decoration or plants that might have moved during the filling process.
  • Test the water parameters for water temperature and pH before adding any goldfish.
  • It is recommended to allow a tank to cycle before adding any goldfish but if you intend to introduce a new goldfish at this time, you should consider adding beneficial bacteria to help cycle the tank.
  • Once the goldfish are added, observe them to ensure they are responding well to their new home. It will likely take a day of two for them to venture out to explore and or eat.

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Photos: chefranden, igboo, yuko_okuy, cliche

Reviewed By: Tim Winter

Tim Winter has a strong affection for pets and wildlife. His years of experience caring for various types of pets has led him to share his knowledge with others on the best practices in pet care. Tim holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications.

20 thoughts on “How to Setup a Goldfish Aquarium”

  1. Hello! I hope you still reply to these messages as I have some questions I would like advice about 🙂 Can I use filtered tap water set aside for many hours as the water for my goldfish? I do plan to use de-chlorinator solution but until I get it, is it safe for me to use this water set aside for them? Also how long does the water and de-chlorinator need to be in the tank before I can introduce my fish into it? I feel under prepared for this sudden gift of goldfish but they’re such lovely fish I want to make sure they are looked after properly! Many thanks for your help, I enjoyed reading this setup greatly in comparison to others available online!

    • Tap water is often okay if it sits over night to remove the chlorine but chloramine can take days. But, it’s hard to know if your tap water even has chloramine. When you use the dechlorinator, it often makes the water safe to use right away…but read the instructions to be certain. Goldfish are pretty hardy and can survive in all sorts of water conditions but they don’t like drastic changes. In addition to dechlorinator, make sure to get a water test kit and specifically test for ammonia. Water changes and some filtration can help keep those levels in line.

    • the females get fatter and the males will chase the females around the tank until the female releases her eggs if the sex of your goldfish is unknown then you can identify their sex during breeding season, there is also a change in the males they develop white ”pimples” and this is often mistaken for sickness

  2. I have two healthy goldfish.tank set up over last 4months I wonder if they would like a light as the days are getting shorter and can be very dark in scotland

  3. My son won 3 goldfish (2 gold, 1 silver) at the fair. Knowing we had to get them out of their bags asap, we bought a 5gal tank with power filter and light kit, rocks, a small plant (fake) and some chemicals to get it started. I know we shouldn’t put the fish in the tank for 24 hours, but my question is how long will I be able to use the 5gal before upgrading and when I do is a 20 gal going to be big enough for awhile?

    • Yeah 5 gallons for those little guys should be fine for awhile. I would suggest upgrading the tank when the goldfish grow to about 2 inches or so. In the mean time, purchase an inexpensive ammonia test kit to see how often you should perform a partial water change. 20 gallons will be good until they get to four or five inches. If they do end up growing larger than that, I would suggest giving them 10-15 gallons per fish. The smaller tanks are suitable as long as you change the water when needed. Bigger tanks are recommended because they end up requiring less water changes (less maintenance).

    • Did you remember to rinse the gravel first. Sometimes there is fine dust in the gravel which needs to be rinsed out. You might need to do a water change too.

  4. I recently brought 4 Oranda’s goldfish, they are about 1″ right now, and I have them on 4G tank, with filter and heater, and airpump. When should I start thinking about “Tank Upgrade” ?

    • First, you might not need the heater. The water should be in the low 70s. Those 4 Oranda will eventually grow large, eat a lot and produce a lot of waste, so, you are right about needing to upgrade. Right now, you should buy an ammonia test kit and test the water several times a week. if the levels are high, change the water. When you find yourself changing the water a couple times a week or always see high ammonia levels, you should get a larger tank. Another tip, don’t over feed them since that will add more waste into the water. Limit them to three or four flakes a piece a few times a day.

  5. I’m very excited i just got 4 baby goldfish and i would like to know what size tank i should get them.. well i want a small one at least for this month untill i can get a bigger one. What size tank should i be able to get by with? Someone please help me 🙂

    • When you say baby goldfish, i assume you mean they are less than an inch long. While you should have 10 gallons for each full grown goldfish, these little guys don’t need that much space yet. It’s good that you plan to upgrade when they start to grow larger. For four goldfish, I recommend not getting a bowl but at least a three gallon tank but if you can, get a 10 gallon starter tank. Essentially you want something with a filter. If you get a smaller tank, just know you need to change the water often. get an ammonia test kit to help you know when you need to change some of the water. You should be fine with a small tank as long as you change the water when it needs to be. best of luck. 🙂

  6. I have an aquarium light, but everytime I turn it on my goldfish starts to dart around the tank and hit the walls so I turn it off because I am afraid he’ll hurt himself. Should I leave it on so he’ll get used to it or abandon it altogether?

    • If your light is so strong it stresses the goldfish, try getting a lower wattage bulb from the pet store or a cheaper solution is to provide some hiding places for your goldfish so it can hang out in until it can adjust to the light changes. Depending on how warm your light gets, you could try to diffuse the light with a light blue/green/purple transparent film paper. Only do this if it won’t start a fire.


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