Goldfish are beautiful, much-beloved creatures in the fish keeping hobby, but sometimes it can be nice to add a little variety to their aquariums. After many years of owning goldfish, we’ve compiled a list of our top tips and recommendations for keeping goldfish tank mates (including a few that you may have never considered before).
If you’ve ever seen a cool fish and wondered if it would go well with your goldfish, here are some general guidelines to follow:
With these ground rules in mind, here are our top 10 tank mates that we have personally tested and found to be compatible with goldfish:
This amazing oddball fish looks like a miniature stingray and acts like a plecostomus (or pleco). It eats algae, scavenges for food scraps, and grips onto glass so tightly that goldfish can’t pluck them off. Best of all, they enjoy cooler temperatures just like goldfish do. This category of fish includes the reticulated hillstream loach, Borneo sucker loach, Chinese butterfly loach, and many other flat-bodied loaches.
Reticulated hillstream loach
Cory catfish generally aren’t a good idea for goldfish tanks because they’re small enough to fit into a goldfish’s mouth and often have spines in their fins. But what if you could get a giant corydoras? Enter the Brochis multiradiatus, also known as the hog-nosed catfish or Corydoras multiradiatus. This docile bottom dweller looks like an overgrown cory catfish that reaches up to 4 inches in size. They serve as great clean-up crew members since they enjoy digging through the substrate and vacuuming up any leftovers. Yes, they also have spines on their pectoral and dorsal fins, but we haven’t found them to be an issue since they’re too big to be seen as food by goldfish.
Dojo loaches (or weather loaches) are like foot-long hot dogs with fins that love to swim around, burrow in the gravel, and eat anything you throw at them. These friendly creatures thrive in cold water and are a popular addition to many goldfish tanks. Despite their larger size, you can usually find them for the low price of $5 for the normal version and $10 or more for specialty gold or albino versions. If you’re looking for a tried-and-true tank mate for goldfish, you can’t go wrong with the dojo loach.
This choice might be considered a little controversial, since some people online say that they can suck on a goldfish’s slime coat. In practice, we find that this occurs more with larger plecos that aren’t getting enough food (because the goldfish are gobbling up everything). If you keep a smaller species like the bristlenose pleco, it’s much easier to keep them well-fed and away from slime coats. You’ll often find them munching on algae, driftwood, and morsels hidden in the substrate. However, our pro tip is wait until the lights are out and the goldfish have calmed down, and then target feed the pleco a nice meal of sinking wafers, bloodworms, brine shrimp, and Repashy gel food.
Also known as the rubber lip or bulldog pleco, these plecostomus are very similar to bristlenose plecos, except they don’t have any bristles on their snouts. They have the same traits and care requirements, and they grow to about the same size of 5 to 6 inches long. Most of them have spots either on their face or covering their whole body and are commonly sold in pet store chains. If you’re looking for a pleco that doesn’t have “facial hair,” try this peaceful algae-eater.
If you only own fancy goldfish, cold water minnows may be a good option. They’re very inexpensive, tend to school together, and only grow to 1.5 to 2 inches long. When you first buy them, they’ll be much smaller, so consider growing them out (and even breeding them) before adding them to the goldfish tank. Yes, these fish can fit in goldfish mouths, but they’re very fast and nimble compared to the slower fancy goldfish and are difficult to catch. (In the event that one does accidentally get eaten, it’s not harmful to the goldfish.)
There are several varieties of white cloud minnows (such as normal or gold types), but don’t get the longfin types because their extended fins will slow them down and increase their chances of getting caught. Give them a try because they add interesting activity to the aquarium and provide great enrichment for the goldfish to watch and chase.
White Cloud Mountain Minnow
Along the same vein as the white cloud minnows are the amazing ricefish. This cold water family consists of many species and color variants, such as platinum white, orange, and blue. At $5 to $10 each, they’re not as cheap as white clouds, but they breed easily and are a beautiful compliment to many of the other fish on this list. Just remember that they will add to the overall bioload (or waste load) produced in the aquarium, so make sure you have enough tank space for both the goldfish and any tank mates you choose to add.
This spiny but docile catfish looks like a supersized otocinclus that grows to 5 or 6 inches long. Different species include the flag tail hoplo (Dianema urostriatum), spotted hoplo (Megalechis thoracata), and tail bar hoplo (Megalechis picta). Hoplo catfish have long whiskers that help them constantly scavenge for food. Unlike the nocturnal bristlenose and rubbernose plecos, hoplos eat during the daytime, so there’s no need to target feed them to make sure they get enough nutrition.
A livebearer (or fish that gives birth to live young) might seem like an odd choice as a goldfish tank mate, but we’ve enjoyed this match-up many times in the past. Out of the two species of platy fish, the variatus platy (Xiphophorus variatus) can live in cooler waters. Some people don’t like livebearers because they can give birth to so many babies, but in this case, your goldfish will happily eat most of the fry and keep the population under control.
Platies come in many different colors and patterns, so if you’re looking for something to contrast your red, white, and orange goldfish, a school of blue or yellow platies might do the trick. Finally, they serve as fantastic clean-up crew members, constantly picking at algae or excess food hidden in the tank.
Metallic Blue Platy
At the beginning of the article, we recommended staying away from semi-aggressive and aggressive barbs, which is a shame because many barbs can survive in cooler waters. Thankfully, there are some relatively peaceful barbs like rosy barbs that can coexist with your goldfish, as long as you follow a few simple rules.
Tip #1 is to get a larger school of rosy barbs to minimize any bullying. If you have a group of 10 or more (with more females than males since males are more aggressive), they tend to keep themselves entertained and leave your other fish alone. Tip #2 is to find the long-finned variety of rosy barbs. The flowy finnage will slow down this speedy swimmer so that the goldfish get a fair share of food during mealtimes. Tip #3 is to keep rosy barbs with single-tailed, common goldfish, since the barbs may still be too fast for your fancy goldfish’s liking.
Longfin Rosy Barb
By following the guidelines and examples we’ve laid out, you can discover many other tank mates to keep with goldfish. Consider the temperature, diet, pH, aggression, and size of the tank mate. If you find a species that fits all the right criteria, it may be the next perfect roommate for your goldfish aquarium!
For more information on fancy goldfish, make sure to check out our full care guide that covers their desired living conditions and favorite foods to eat.