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Goldfish in Your Water Trough?

©Casie Bazay

When I was a kid, I remember winning a goldfish at a school carnival (what a thrill!).

I took it home and put it in a tank in my room, and amazingly, that thing lived for nearly a decade. I would brag that it was my great care-taking skills, but it’s more likely the fact that despite what some people think, goldfish tend to be hardy little things. Given the appropriate space and a little food, they can live for years. In fact, according to many sources, goldfish are actually some of the longest-living fish you can buy.

Aside from being fun and easy pets, did you know they’re also useful? Oh, yes. Goldfish can also help keep your horses’ water trough clean—under the right conditions, of course.

Goldfish can live off the algae growing on the trough walls and floor, and they will also eat mosquito larvae (yay!), as well as some insects that may fall into the water. This great, right?

But before you rush out and buy a dozen goldfish, there are a few things to know.

Here are eight helpful tips to heed when adding goldfish to your water trough:

1. More fish does not equal a cleaner tank

In fact, two goldfish in a 55-gallon tank is often plenty. Overstocking fish will lead to ammonia build-up, creating an unhealthy living environment for the fish and undesirable drinking water for your horses.

2. Ease your fish into their new home

Before dumping the fish into your water trough, first get them acclimated by keeping them in the bag they came in and allowing them to float in the trough overnight (or for several hours). Then you can set those suckers free!

3. Don’t feed your goldfish

While this may sound cruel, the whole point of having fish in the tank is to help keep it free from algae, larvae, and bugs, right? So let your fish do just that. If you stock your tank appropriately, there will be enough natural matter for your fish to live and even thrive off of. Overfeeding just leads to more fish poop, which will upset the natural biological balance of the tank.

4. For best chances of fish survival, water temperature should be at least 60° Fahrenheit.

That said, many people have reported success in much hotter and/or colder climates.

5. When the fish are small, take them inside before the first fall frost

Put them back out again in summer. The larger the fish get, the better they will be able to cope with living outdoors year-round.

6. Add a couple bricks or rocks in the bottom of the tank

This will give the fish a place to hide out and find shade, if needed.

7. Keep your trough filled regularly

In other words, don’t let the horses drink it down to near the bottom before refiling.

8. After a while, you may notice that your goldfish have multiplied

This just means they’re happy and thriving. But at the same time, you don’t want your tank to be overstocked, so pull out a few and give them to a friend (or keep them as “back-ups” inside).

So what are you waiting for? Give goldfish a try!

Read more on keeping fish in your water trough with aquatics specialist Amy Richardson: Goldfish versus Rosy Reds

About the Author

Casie Bazay is a freelance and young adult writer, as well as an owner/barefoot trimmer and certified equine acupressure practitioner. She hosts the blog, The Naturally Healthy Horse, where she regularly shares information on barefoot, equine nutrition, and holistic horse health. Once an avid barrel racer, Casie now enjoys just giving back to the horses who have given her so much. Follow Casie at

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