You see them at almost any carnival, barkers calling “Win a Goldfish!” “20 balls for $2!” You or your child gives in to the nearly irresistible call and shovels out the cash for the precious pile of ping pong balls that bounce back and forth between glass bowls, hoping that one will land in a bowl with a little golden fish. Then the unbelievable happens: you actually WIN! Filled with excitement, the small fish is carried to the car and taken home. But now the real struggle starts. You’ve won a goldfish… How can you keep it alive?

Preparation for your pet begins long before you head to the carnival. Remember that owning any pet requires a commitment to keeping it happy and healthy, and goldfish can live for more than 20 years if well cared for. If you’re determined to win one, take steps to have a tank ready for it at home. Make sure that you purchase a tank of at least 20 gallons and be prepared to purchase one as large as 55 gallons at a later date as goldfish can grow to be over a foot in length. Spend some time researching goldfish and their needs. They are a cold water fish that does best with a companion… Do you want to catch two? Or would you rather go out and buy one beforehand for your prize to be friends with? Make sure that you purchase a good filter, an air stone, and a tank lid. Goldfish are notorious jumpers and will leap right out of the water if there isn’t a lid to keep them safe in the water. Remember too that goldfish require sunlight in order to keep their colors, so make sure your tank is near a window!

Winning the fish is certainly the easy part and good care begins as early as the drive home! Make sure you drive as carefully as possible. Try to stabilize that little plastic pet bag so that it doesn’t bounce or roll. Bouncing and rolling can kill your fish or make it very sick or susceptible to disease! Once home, you want to acclimate your fish to its new tank. Chances are that little goldfish has been living in a tank with other fish or alone in a small bowl for days. It will need to adjust to its new home’s temperature before being released.

Once your fish has adapted, it’s time to feed it. Goldfish will happily accept flake food, but that should be supplemented with boiled spinach or lettuce and occasional live food such as brine shrimp or tube worms. It is important that only a small amount of food be given at a time. Goldfish produce huge amounts of waste and are notorious overeaters. A goldfish stomach is only as big as their eye, so don’t feed them more than that.

The final component to keeping your carnival goldfish healthy and happy is keeping your tank clean. Change 10-20% of the water every week. Make sure that the new water is treated with a conditioner that removes any chlorine or chemicals that can kill or harm your fish. You will also want to carefully scrub down the sides of your tank and any decorations with a special aquarium scrubber. Avoid household and kitchen scrubbers as these often contain chemicals that can kill your fish.

Keep in mind that the ASPCA and Humane Society do not support the winning of animals as prizes. Many of these goldfish are kept in what are considered to be inhumane conditions and go home with owners that are not prepared to give the fish a quality home. Always research before purchasing, or winning, any animal and be sure that you are able to provide them with the care and consideration necessary to be a good pet owner.