You have decided to get a goldfish and need to buy your first aquarium or are planning to upgrade your current goldfish bowl to a far more adequately sized goldfish tank. On this page, I will tell you what goldfish supplies you need to buy and the exact steps you need to follow to set-up your first goldfish aquarium.

There is a lot of information online on how to set-up an aquarium in general or a freshwater tank more specifically. But this guide is specifically aimed at goldfish owners. Because when it comes to fish tanks, one size certainly doesn’t fit all.


Your first step in setting up a goldfish aquarium is to choose a tank. And I am not talking about a goldfish bowl here. Those are completely unsuitable for goldfish. Really you are going to want to choose the biggest sized tank that your money can buy. It goes without saying that you also need to consider whether the aquarium will fit into the space you have allocated to it. The size of your aquarium will determine how many fish you can keep in it. As a rule of thumb, you want at least 10 gallons if not 20 gallons per goldfish. If you aren’t entirely sure how many gallons you need, then head to my article where I discuss this in further detail.

Tanks are available in all shapes and sizes, as well as materials.  Choosing an aquarium therefore really comes down to personal taste. There are a couple of practical aspects however you might want to consider before making your purchase. Horizontal tanks, for instance, are usually more suited to goldfish than vertical ones. Whilst perplex tanks are lighter, they also quickly get marked with permanent scratches.

Below is a link to tank that I would personally recommend. But if you still feel unsure, then head to the article in which I discuss how to choose the best tank for your goldfish aquarium.


There is a lot of debate among hobbyist about whether or not goldfish aquariums need a hood cover. Some say that you should always have one because goldfish are known to jump. Other hobbyists are of the opinion that it is unlikely that your goldfish will jump out of the tank. They also point out that oxygen exchange is better without a lid.
My personal opinion, however, is that you are better off having an aquarium hood cover than not having one. Single tail goldfish certainly have the strength to escape the tank if they want to. Case in point one of mine did.  He is half-koi though, and kois particularly like to jump. We found him dried-out and lying on the floor early in the morning. Miraculously he survived this. But we might not have been so lucky if he had had a chance to escape again.  Fortunately, I covered our aquarium immediately and we have had no issues since then.
An aquarium cover will also slow-down evaporation, protect your goldfish from other household pets like cats and stop insects and dust from falling into the water.


Once you have decided what tank you want to buy, you are going to want to find a stand. Aquarium stands come in different material, shapes and sizes. Some larger tanks actually come with an inbuilt one and a lot of aquarium suppliers will have a specific stand for the tank you have chosen.  Depending on the size of the aquarium (and thus it’s weight) you might be able to place the tank on a table.

You just need to keep in mind that whatever aquarium stand you buy, it will need to be sturdy. Keep in mind that a gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. Add in the gravel, decorations, water filters, heaters and other additions and even a 10 gallon aquarium can easily exceed 100 pounds! The surface of the stand must be level and your tank should fit on top of it. It isn’t a good idea to have the aquarium overhanging the stand. 20-40 gallons of water are very heavy and you want to spread the load evenly.


So you have chosen a tank and now you need to think about filtration for your goldfish aquarium. Filtration can be a little confusing for someone who us just starting out because there are simply so many different options. So I am going to give you a really quick overview and if you still need help you can head to my article where I discuss how to choose the best filtration system for your goldfish aquarium.
Sponge filters are great for additional biological filtration but, in most cases, I would not suggest you use them as the only filtration for your fish tank. They aren’t really powerful enough since they are only driven by an airstone.
Canister filters are very powerful, generally quiet and large (so they can hold a lot of filter media). They are a good choice for goldfish aquariums but do tend to be a little pricey. I am currently using a canister filter for my aquarium. If you are going to buy a canister filter, you should aim for a flow-rate of five times the gallon content of your aquarium per hour. So that means that if you have a 40-gallon breeder tank you will need a canister filter with a flow-rate of 200 gallons/hour.
Hang on back filters can be a great option for a goldfish tank. They are easy to clean, pretty customisable and relatively inexpensive for how good they are. The better models do have a lot of space for filter media. If your choice falls upon a hang on back filter then I would suggest you aim for a flow rate of ten times the gallon content of your aquarium per hour.   So that means for your 40-gallon breeder tank you will need a HOB filter with a flow-rate of 400gallons/hour.
Internal Power Filters are usually located inside the tank and so take up a lot of valuable space. They aren’t particularly powerful either. And so I wouldn’t generally recommend using an internal power filter for a goldfish aquarium.
Undergravel filters used to featured in every aquarium back in the day. Nowadays, however, they aren’t as popular anymore. Mainly because they are very difficult to clean and maintain. Furthermore, they just aren’t powerful enough for a goldfish aquarium.
A sump or a wet dry filter goes underneath the main tank. Wet and Dry filters usually oxygenate the water really well and are large enough to take a lot of filter media. They also provide a place to hide extra aquarium accessories, such as heaters, and thus allow you to free up space inside the tank. But they are complicated to set-up and often costly. I  would only recommend getting one, if you plan to have an aquarium that is larger than 80 gallons.


The next thing you definitely need in your goldfish starter-kit is a thermometer. It will allow you to monitor the temperature of the water to ensure that it is within an acceptable range. You do not want your water to fluctuate too high or too low. Goldfish are freshwater fish and the ideal temperature to keep them in is 74℉ (23℃). Goldfish do however tolerate a wide range of temperatures, really anything from 50℉ to 90℉ (10℃ to 32℃). Do not keep your goldfish in the higher or lower spectrum of these temperatures for too long though. You will also want to stop feeding them if the water is 50℉ (10℃) and increase water movement if it is 90℉ (32℃).



Typically the filter will splash a little on the surface of the water and thus creates some surface movement. And while this does aerate the water to a certain extent, it isn’t really enough for a goldfish aquarium. So it is always a good idea to add some extra aeration by adding an air pump with an airstone.  An air pump will also insure that the water in the tank circulates and that there are no dead spots where water remains stagnant. Finally you will definitely need an air pump in the event that one of your fish gets sick.

To set-up your air pump you need to hook up some airline tubing to an air valve. Connect this to your air pump and attach an airstone to the other side. The reason you need an air valve is in case you have a power outage. The air valve will stop water from the tank from back-siphoning into the air pump and thus destroying it.


Unlike with a tropical aquarium, a heater isn’t entirely necessary in a goldfish aquarium. However if your house does get very cold in winter, you might want to consider investing in one. You can add a heater to your tank and simply set it to something relatively low like 60℉ (15.5℃). This will ensure temperatures in the tank do not drop to low, which would stress out your fish and potentially make them sick. There are also some goldfish diseases that can be cured by keeping the water at higher temperatures. It is therefore good to have an aquarium heater in your arsenal, just in case.



Lighting for your tank isn’t entirely necessary, especially if your aquarium is located in a well-lit room. But it can be a nice addition to your set-up. It also allows you to see and therefore enjoy your fish better. Goldfish also sustain the vibrancy of their colours better if they are exposed to light.
You will definitely need good lighting however if you are planning to grow aquatic plants in your goldfish aquarium. Goldfish will nibble on live aquatic plants. If your plants are exposed to abundant light, they will grow faster and thus survive the goldfish snacking on them.


If you are planning to get serious about the goldfish hobby, you might want to consider investing in a UV Steriliser. This is definitely not a must-have and also a little expensive. But there are some advantages to adding one to your tank.

Smaller UV Sterilisers help remove green water algae from the water – a suspended algae that gives the water a green tint (it is not dangerous to your fish but somewhat unsightly). The larger models hang on the outside of your tank and kill bacteria, parasites, viruses, as well as green algae. Having a UV Steriliser definitely provides added peace of mind that your water is as pathogen free as you can make it.

Some people worry that UV-sterilisers can be detrimental to the goldfish’s immune system by keeping their environment too sterile. However while UV sterilisers remove a lot of pathogens from the water, they aren’t entirely perfect.

I do want to caution you here though. If you do decide to invest in a UV-Steriliser, do not switch it on while you are in the process of cycling your tank. Doing so could be detrimental to the healthy bacteria that are trying to colonise your tank and this would slow the cycling process down.



A lot of people like to add some kind of substrate to their aquariums. And there is a large variety of options on the market. You could choose sand, gravel or river rocks. There are pros and cons to all of these options.

Sand is a good option as long as you only use it as a fine layer. It mimics a carp’s natural environment in riverbeds really well and thus encourages goldfish to perform natural behaviours. Your pet-fish will enjoy sifting through the sand to find morsels of food. Try only to add enough to cover the bottom of your aquarium though. Sand is fine grained and so compacts easily if it isn’t disturbed regularly. When sand compacts there is a risk of it forming anaerobic pockets, which are great breeding grounds for a type of bad bacteria that produces hydrogen sulphite gas. When those pockets are then disturbed by cleaning or by the goldfish sifting through the sand, the gas is released and can harm your fish.

I would not recommend gravel in a goldfish aquarium. But if you are planning to use it (because you like the way it look), only add a fine layer to your aquarium and clean it every week. The grain size is pretty large so food and poop can get stuck in between the spaces of the gravel really easily. Pea-sized gravel can also be somewhat dangerous to your goldfish, who naturally sift through substrate. Sometimes a gravel stone will get stuck in a goldfish’s mouth and this can kill the fish if you do not remove it in time.

River Rocks are really pretty but not a good choice for an all-over substrate. They are very large in format, don’t fit together perfectly and debris will definitely get stuck under them. A few river rocks however scattered here and there on a sand-bottom or bare-bottom tank can look great and very natural.

Finally you could choose to keep your goldfish aquarium as a bare-bottom. In fact a lot of hobbyist declare that this is the best option for goldfish keepers. As the name suggests, bare-bottom means that there is no substrate on the bottom of the aquarium (other than a couple of river rocks perhaps). Some people paint the bottom of the glass black though to remove some of the glare and reflection of the glass. This creates a really modern, minimalist look and makes maintenance of the tank a lot easier. You will not have to siphon the sand or gravel every week and all waste will generally get sucked up by the filter immediately. Some people argue this is a far healthier environment for goldfish, while others point out it could become a little boring for your goldfish.


Decorations for goldfish aquariums should always be kept to a minimum. Bare in mind that goldfish are really clumsy. Goldfish are curious in nature and do tend to get stuck in places. They are very delicate and have long flowy fins that can easily get ripped. Finally goldfish get big and need a lot of swimming space, so do not overcrowd your aquarium. You should always keep the safety of your fish in mind first.

That being said you can add decorations to your goldfish tank. Try to avoid any decorations that are hollow, as this creates stagnant water. Also avoid ones that are sharp or abrasive. Finally avoid decorations that aren’t meant for aquarium use, as these can end up being toxic to your fish.


Live aquatic plants are a great option for goldfish aquarium because the leaves tend to me soft and not dangerous to your fish. You do need to be aware though that any live plant that you put into the tank, might get eaten by your goldfish. Live plants that most goldfish find distasteful include java fern, anubias, swords and cryptocorynes.



In terms of water additives, the one thing you do need for a goldfish aquarium, is some kind of water conditioner. All tap water has chlorine in it and some has chloramine. I like to recommend seachem prime because it also detoxifies Ammonia, Nitrate and Nitrite for up to 24 hours. This is really good if you have low background levels of ammonia in your tap water (this is the case in most larger cities). You can simply add Seachem Prime to the new water during a water change and this will detoxify the ammonia until the bacteria in your filtration system can take care of it.


You might need some type of buffer if your local water is really acidic or if the KH is really low. Good ones that I would recommend is Buff It Up from Goldfish Connection and Seachem’s Goldbuffer.


Perhaps the most important consideration when setting up a goldfish aquarium is the Nitrogen Cycle in your tank. You can get all the right equipment but if you do not cycle your tank, your fish will probably have a really hard time when you add them to the aquarium and could even die. This is called New Tank Syndrome.

You need to ensure that your tank is ready for your goldfish and that there is a strong colony of beneficial bacteria built up in your filtration system. These beneficial bacteria will turn the toxic waste product (ammonia) excreted by your fish in to a somewhat less toxic substance (nitrate). You can read all about the nitrogen cycle and how to cycle your tank in my article dedicated to this topic.

In order to cycle your tank you will need a Freshwater Testing Kit, that tests for Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate and PH. You can also purchase some pure ammonia (without any surfactants) to start the cycle if you are doing a fishless cycle.


Once you have cycled your aquarium and introduced the goldfish, you are going to want to regularly change the water in order to maintain it’s quality. Regular water changes keep the nitrate levels low and the water safe for your fish. In order to do this you will need a siphon or a gravel cleaner. This will allow you to siphon off dirty water and remove debris within the gravel. If you invest in a python, you can hook up the syphon directly to your kitchen tap. This makes water changes so much easier. You can read more about changing the water in your goldfish aquarium in my dedicated post on the matter.

Have I missed anything? Add a comment below to let me know what your favourite goldfish-keeping products are. I’ll make sure that the best suggestions are added to this list!

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