If you’ve ever been to a carnival or fair, you’ve probably seen that prizes for games can often be a goldfish. Goldfish are everywhere! They are one of the most common aquarium fish because of their pretty color and low maintenance. But they are not only found in captivity, goldfish are also found in bodies of water all over the world. So they have to adapt from the wild to captivity.
How do goldfish adapt to their environment? Goldfish adapt to their environment with increased sensitivity in hearing and sight, by producing chemicals for temperature and water regulation, and with unique eating habits. Goldfish have to adapt to their environment for survival because of temperature changes, to avoid being prey, to eat, and for changes in a captive environment.
Adaptations are changes made to help animals survive and thrive in their environments. These adaptations can manifest themselves as structural (skeletal and physical formation), physiological (bodily functions within an organism), and behavioral. These changes are necessary for all animals, and goldfish have made specific adaptations for worldwide survival.
Goldfish Adaptations in the Wild
Goldfish originated in Eastern Asia, more specifically China, and the surrounding region.
Goldfish started being bred in captivity for food in China, and this led to their spread around the entire globe.
Goldfish can now be found in lakes and streams worldwide.
This means that they had to adapt over time to different environments and bodies of water.
So this species has made these specific adaptations to survive in all environments:
- Increased eyesight,
- Hearing sensitivity,
- Temperature regulation.
Fish, in general, have fairly expansive eyesight because their eyes are more spherical than other animals.
This allows them to see a great range of direction, which we notice as their eyes protrude further than other species.
Fish see colors just as humans do, but are also able to perceive ultraviolet and infrared light that makes their eyes sensitive to polarized lights.
Goldfish have had to make adaptations to a variety of spectrums of light for protection as well as finding food.
Goldfish have a huge appetite, and they need to be able to see all their potential food.
Brine shrimp, for example, are clear and goldfish are able to see them.
They are also able to adjust at night to avoid predators in the dark.
Goldfish are able to see clearly up to 15 feet away, making them easily startled and aware of moving objects in their periphery.
They are able to see bio-luminescent animals that may send sound waves to search for their prey.
Goldfish can see the changes in wave movement that occur when a fast-moving predator makes its way through the water.
Along with eyesight, hearing is very sensitive for similar food and prey identifying reasons.
Goldfish have inner ears with bones that are able to perceive movement and sounds through vibration.
Goldfish also have what is known as a “lateral line” running down their bodies to detect further vibrations and therefore be aware of movement.
There is a bone that connects the swim bladder, which is used for detecting sound and vibrations, to the ear in the goldfish for advanced hearing.
Tiny holes fill canals in the fish with water, and small hair is able to detect further vibrations.
There are lots of components working together to improve their hearing abilities.
All of these adaptations have occurred for increased hearing ability to find food, but more importantly, to avoid predators.
As goldfish are found in waters all around the world, they encounter much larger animals that would love to eat them for their next meal.
One of the most interesting adaptations of goldfish is related to their ability to make physiological changes related to temperature regulation.
The global spread of goldfish has made them adaptable to almost all temperatures of water, including the hot tropics and the cold winters where water freezes.
When water freezes, fish need to be able to slow their body systems down enough to survive the cold winter.
This converts their body system to anaerobic respiration in breaking down food, which occurs when oxygen is scarce in the water.
It is difficult for fish to rely on this system for long due to the lactic acid that builds up. Too much lactic acid could hurt the fish.
Goldfish and specific species of carp (their cousins) are able to turn their carbs into ethanol instead of lactic acid.
Yes, goldfish are able to turn their food into alcohol and release it through their gills.
This makes the goldfish one of the only species to survive in these harsh climates.
They are able to beat out other fish for food resources and stay away from predators.
Ethanol Production Fun Facts Of Goldfish:
- The blood alcohol concentration level of goldfish is above the legal drinking limit for humans in most countries.
- Based on DNA findings, this adaptation occurred over 8 million years ago in goldfish ancestors.
This has been the most unique adaptation for this globalized breed of fish.
It allows for their continued survival in almost all bodies of water around the world.
Interesting Further Reading:
- Can Goldfish Regrow Scales? (Here’s The Definitive Answer)
- Can Goldfish Drown? No, But They Can Suffocate – Here’s How
Adaptations in Captivity
Goldfish have been bred in captivity for over one thousand years, being used for food.
They have since become the most popular aquarium fish and a source of entertainment for households across the world.
They are kept in fishbowls (which is no longer recommended for the fish) and large aquariums alongside other fish.
They have made specific adaptations for living in captivity and surviving varying water quality environments and situations of food scarcity.
Recommended Further Reading:
- How To Take Care Of A Goldfish? (Goldfish Care In 3 Simple Steps)
- 6 Common Goldfish Tank Mates + (How And Why To Choose Them)
Water Quality Adaptation
In captivity, water should be filtered and cleaned regularly. Without cleaning, the fish will be exposed to bacteria and other harmful materials in the water.
One of the most harmful for all fish is ammonia. This is developed through their waste, food leftovers, and general bacteria.
Goldfish will release a growth suppressing hormone in environments with poor water quality.
This makes their bodily needs smaller, and therefore, they increase their chances of survival in a poorly filtered or dirty environment.
Frequent water changes and an amply sized tank are crucial to goldfish growth and development.
Fishbowls are not acceptable ways to contain fish as they are too small and do not provide for easy filtering.
Food Scarcity Adaptation
This is not only an adaptation for captivity, but it also serves goldfish well in the wild.
Goldfish are able to survive without food for between eight days to two weeks.
While you should be feeding your goldfish around two times per day, you shouldn’t have to worry if you go out of town for a few days or accidentally forget.
Goldfish have made this adaptation when food conditions were scarce, and this carried over to captivity.
Goldfish are not able to hunt for their own food in captivity, making this adaptation even more necessary when dependent on humans for their nourishment.
Related Further Reading: What Do Goldfish Eat? What To Feed (And Not Feed) Your Goldfish
The Unique Adaptations Of Goldfish
Goldfish are everywhere, proving that adaptations they have made throughout history have been key to their survival.
Their adaptations in the wild may not be as necessary in captivity without the need to hunt or avoid being prey, but having these unique adaptations allows them to live long lives in the proper conditions.
As conditions keep changing in the wild, goldfish will continue to make necessary changes for survival.
Their widespread geographical reach has allowed goldfish to survive in harsh environments and has given them incredible perceptive to their surroundings.
Goldfish may not seem impressive upon first glance, but they’ve made impressive bodily changes for survival.