Keeping live plants with goldfish

Live aquarium Plants: Water Sprite

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Can you keep live plants with goldfish? Will they all get eaten? What kind of live plants are suitable for a goldfish tank?

The answer to the first question is a very definite yes! You absolutely can keep live plants with goldfish, and you don’t have to be an expert to do it. As long as you choose the right kind of plant then there’s no reason to avoid live plants in favor of plastic or silk fakes.

But won’t they get eaten? Yes, they will!

It is true that goldfish will eat almost anything, and that they eat a lot. That’s why we say that you need to choose the right kind of aquarium plant. Some plants grow quite slowly and will be completely eaten away before they have chance to grow… but others grow more quickly than goldfish eat, and can therefore survive a bit of goldfish nibbling!

Even with fast-growing plants though, one potential problem with keeping live plants with goldfish is that they may get dislodged from the substrate. Goldfish like to dig around in gravel and pull on plants, which can cause your nicely arranged display to become uprooted and float around the tank. However, this problem can usually be solved by attaching a weighted base to the plant or tying it to a rock or ornament.

Finally, all aquarium plants require a reasonable amount of light in order to survive. We discuss the lighting requirements of each plant in the following articles, along with other aspects of their care.

So, what are the best live plants to keep with goldfish?
Plants with goldfish: Amazon Sword

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In the articles below, we look at some of the very best live plants for keeping with goldfish.

All of these plants are relatively low maintenance and grow quickly enough to not be eaten away!

Amazon Sword


Anubias barteri

Banana Plant


Java Fern


Vallisneria Spiralis

Water Sprite

Water Wisteria


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  • Donn

    Have you tried a Marimo moss ball?

    • disqus_ZgPTAIRZRP

      My comet goldfish made a salad out of my Marimo moss ball. I managed to salvage enough pieces of it to roll into a dime sized ball which lives in a separate container now.

  • d marino

    I am new to this site. I am considering getting a few goldfish in a great tank. Where is this species native? Are they swimming in the wild the size we see in the pet shops? I realize most are “farmed” for sale, but I wonder who scuba dives and actually sees the real species somewhere in this world? Thanks for any more info.
    I used to have freshwater fish many, many years ago (my ex-husband liked the tanks but refused to really clean them) I got sad watching them die, and scooping out babies, etc. and never owned another tank after our divorce.
    But I would like a long living pet fish or two or four now that I am older, live alone and only care for some feral cats. My two old dogs were put down and I cannot take care of dogs any longer due to a bad spinal problem.
    I just don’t want to watch something die after short care giving. I did read it is best to have more than one goldfish…they need companionship.

    • rumtopf

      The wild version of goldfish are Prussian carp, an asian species. The goldfish we keep have been domesticated for thousands of years and differ a fair bit from the wild counterparts, especially the “fancy” variations with regards to body shape and fin lengths.

      As far as goldfish go, they do need a very large tank and some hands-on upkeep. I’d be a little worried about your back problems when it comes to doing water changes on a very large tank but there are devices available to make the job easier such as Python water change systems. I have small(10-15gal) tanks with tropical fish and shrimp so I stick with the old siphon/bucket routine. I hope to own goldfish myself one day but currently don’t have the room/money for 100+gallons of tank and filtration that I would want to keep them in. I’ve got my heart set on Bristol Shubunkins(a seriously gorgeous variety!)

      There are some other species that require a lot less maintenance and space yet can still live a decent amount of time. Paradise fish are one example. They are happy kept alone and can live an average of 6 years, more with adequate care. A 24inchx12inchx12inch tank is a great size and easy to maintain with a natural well-planted look, plus they’re quite personable fish and very pretty to look at. There are a lot of options for fish out there, so I’d recommend looking around aquarium websites for ideas and researching fish care before committing to anything :) Good luck!

      • d marino

        RUMTOPF: Thank you ever so much for your reply. Indeed, that water changing very often thing is a bit too much for me.
        I will definitely look into Paradise fish. Is that the same as Japanese fighting fish that you can’t put together? I really want a few fish and not a lonesome cowboy type.
        Any suggestions for 5-10 gal fish that can be spoiled and live comfortably?
        Any and all suggestions are welcomed. I don’t have a lot of money to spend but “reasonable” amount I can devote to equipment and care.

        • Anna

          An easy to care for Fish is the “Betta Fish” aka “Siamese Fighting Fish”; they like a small square tank are pretty and colorful and do not grow really big!

          • Larix Lyallii

            Actually, bettas will only show their nicest colors and will only be happy in a heavily planted tank 5-20 gallons with a heater and a filter. If you put them in a super small tank with little to no water changes, they will not thrive.

            d marino your 5-10 gallon tank would be perfect for a betta – be sure to get a filter with a low current (I love sponge filters connected to air pumps; filter + air pump + tubing is right around $20 if you order everything from amazon) so you don’t damage the betta’s delicate fins. Live plants are best, but they can get a little pricey, so I’d recommend getting a shorter finned betta and silk plants – PetCo has the best-priced silk plants, from what I’ve seen.

            I’ve got a betta and some ghost shrimp in the same tank and they get along just fine; shrimp are fun to watch, they like water in the same temperature range as bettas, and most of the time they’re quick enough that the bettas can’t kill them super quickly. They also thrive in aquariums with sponge filtration.

            Normally, you’ll want to try to “cycle” your tank before you put fish in – the process usually takes 4-6 weeks, depending on what method you use; a quick google search of “fishless aquarium cycle” is pretty informative on that – getting some starter bacteria helps loads with the process, from what I hear. Basically, it starts the nitrogen cycle in your filter, where the end result should be ammonia being neutralized by nitrifying bacteria. Ammonia is super toxic to fish, as are nitrites and nitrates, which feed on ammonia and will overpopulate the tank if there’s an ammonia spike. In a fully-cycled tank, ammonia should constantly be at 0ppm. I rushed into things with my first tank…while I’m not necessarily regretting it, I should have cycled the tank first. If you take the time to cycle your fish tank, you won’t have to do water changes as often – usually a 50% water change once a week will do the trick. So while it’s a long arduous process in the beginning, it pays off with less work in the end.

            OTHERWISE, here’s what I can think of for a basic “kit” for starting to care for fish:

            -Appropriately-sized tank. (starter kits at PetSmart are like, $25 for a 5 gallon with LED hood, and $39.99 for a 10 gallon with an incandescent hood; looks like the new 5 gallon comes with a corner filter as opposed to the SUPER powerful hang-on-back filter. The more expensive $50 10 gallon comes with a thermometer, heater, hang-on-back filter, net, and other accouterments)
            -Water conditioner (SeaChem Prime is amazing – it de-chlorinates and binds ammonia. Smells like sulphur, but it does its job really well. A small bottle goes a long way with a 5-10 gallon tank.)
            -Substrate: you’ll want about 2 pounds per gallon.
            -Decorations/hides – make the tank look purdy.
            -a “hospital” or “isolation” tank – seriously, this is important – get a 1-2 gallon “critter keeper” for $5-$10. You’ll be thankful.

            That’s…all I can think of for now; it’ll allow your fish to get acclimated easier – remember to isolate new fish for 2 weeks before introducing them to an established tank. I didn’t do this and lost all of my zebra danios to velvet.

        • Anna

          Tetra has a “Betta Tank for about $10″

  • rhonda epis

    We had tropical fish in a large aquarium, over the years they have all died except 1gold fish, which is struggling at the moment and mainly stays on the bottom of the tank and battles to find the energy to swim for more than a few seconds. I showed the pet shop a photo of him and they said it is a common gold fish. Yesterday I put 2 baby gold fish in the aquarium which we bred in a outside pond. He livened up a bit but today is sitting on the bottom again. We feed it original gold fish food, could this be the cause as he has had tropical food for years when the other tropical fish were in there. We have turned the heater off as the temp was about 32, it now sits on 26. Can you help save buddy’s life

    • Aimee

      Turn the heat back on its too cold for him I keep my goldfish tank at 72 feriheit and drop to about 67 for their winter. I hope this helps

    • Anna

      “If the fish was fine on the tropical flakes and is not doing as well on the Goldfish flakes; then stop the goldfish flakes and get back to the tropical flakes today and please follow up in a few days if the fish is better!

  • owd dave

    We have two goldies about two years old in great condition,To our total surprise they had babies about a month ago.They were born black and as they grew they are changing to gold.One is now 3/4 a second is1/2 and a third 1/3.Smaller are five all black! They are very active and eat the flakes we feed daily.They are in an a black plastic container which houses a fountain. Despite a filter the water get’s fairly muddy.We are amazed at our good fortune and have began to believe a Stork brought Them. Comment please! P.S.I have read your piece on “black patches”wth concern!