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Salmon vs. Goldfish: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 6, 2023
Salmon are migratory, edible fish known for their pink flesh, while goldfish are small, ornamental aquarium fish, often orange-colored.

Key Differences

Salmon are large fish from the family Salmonidae, known for their life cycle which includes returning to their birthplace to spawn. Goldfish, in contrast, belong to the family Cyprinidae and are typically kept as pets; they do not share the salmon's migratory behavior.
Salmon is often a term associated with a certain color, inspired by their distinctive flesh color, and a common food choice. Goldfish, however, are more commonly referenced in the context of pets and are known for their bright colors, which can vary widely but are typically orange or gold.
The habitats of salmon are vastly different from those of goldfish; salmon are found in the cold waters of the North Atlantic and Pacific oceans and in rivers during spawning. Goldfish are freshwater fish and thrive in still waters such as ponds and aquariums and are not found in the wild to the extent salmon are.
In terms of commercial value, salmon are fished extensively for their meat and are considered a delicacy, contributing significantly to the food industry. Goldfish do not hold any commercial value in terms of food but are popular in the aquarium trade.
The symbolism and cultural significance of each fish are also distinct; salmon are often symbols of determination due to their upstream migration, while goldfish are associated with good luck and fortune, especially in Asian cultures.

Comparison Chart




Cold ocean waters and rivers for spawning.
Freshwater ponds and aquariums.


Pinkish flesh, silver-blue scales.
Bright colors, commonly orange or gold.


Generally large, some species up to 58 inches.
Small, typically 6–8 inches.


Commercial food source, sport fishing.
Ornamental pets, hobbyists.

Salmon and Goldfish Definitions


A pinkish-orange color typical of salmon flesh.
She chose a salmon-colored dress for the evening.


An ornamental fish known for its bright orange color.
She added a goldfish to the pond, and it quickly became the centerpiece.


A symbol of determination and perseverance in many cultures.
His journey was as challenging as a salmon's swim upstream.


A member of the carp family, often associated with good luck.
For Lunar New Year, they bought a goldfish to bring fortune to their home.


An anadromous fish of the Salmonidae family.
The salmon leaped up the river, returning to its spawning ground.


A fish that can grow larger and live longer in proper conditions.
Their goldfish grew to a surprising size after they moved it to a bigger tank.


A widely-consumed seafood known for its health benefits.
Grilled salmon is a staple in my diet for omega-3 fatty acids.


A popular choice for first-time pet owners due to its low maintenance.
They decided on a goldfish as their apartment's first pet.


Fish that are born in fresh water, migrate to the ocean, then return to fresh water to reproduce.
Biologists tracked the salmon as it migrated thousands of miles back to its birth river.


A small freshwater fish commonly kept in aquariums.
The child was delighted by the goldfish swimming in the tank.


Any of various large salmonid food and game fishes of the genera Oncorhynchus and Salmo of northern waters, having pink or red flesh and characteristically swimming from salt to fresh water to spawn.


A freshwater cyprinid fish (Carassius auratus) native to eastern Asia, usually having brassy or reddish coloring and bred in many ornamental forms as an aquarium fish.


The flesh of a salmon, used as food.


A type of small fish, Carassius auratus, typically orange-colored.
For the children's fair we'll have a few games they can play, so that each child "wins" a goldfish as a prize.


How long do goldfish live?

With proper care, goldfish can live for 10 years or more.

Can salmon live in an aquarium?

No, salmon cannot thrive in a home aquarium due to their size and migratory nature.

Do all salmon species migrate?

Most, but not all, salmon species have migratory life cycles.

Are goldfish related to koi?

Yes, goldfish and koi are distant relatives within the carp family.

Is salmon safe to eat raw?

Yes, if it's fresh and properly handled, salmon is often eaten raw in sushi.

What do salmon eat?

Salmon are typically carnivorous, feeding on smaller fish, insects, and plankton.

Do goldfish have good memories?

Contrary to popular belief, goldfish can have memories that last several months.

Can salmon be farmed?

Yes, salmon is widely farmed, particularly in aquaculture operations.

Can goldfish survive in the wild?

While not native to many environments, goldfish can survive and even become invasive.

Are there freshwater salmon species?

Yes, some salmon species can live entirely in freshwater, such as certain landlocked populations.

Are goldfish easy to care for?

Yes, they are considered easy to care for, but they do require proper tank maintenance.

Why do salmon swim upstream?

They swim upstream to return to their birthplace to spawn.

How often should goldfish be fed?

Goldfish should be fed once or twice a day, with only as much food as they can consume in a few minutes.

What is the ideal tank size for a goldfish?

A single goldfish requires at least a 20-gallon tank for adequate space.

How can you tell if a goldfish is healthy?

A healthy goldfish will have clear eyes, vibrant color, and an active swimming behavior.

Can goldfish live with other fish?

Goldfish can live with some other fish species but require careful selection to ensure compatibility.

Do salmon have predators?

Yes, bears, eagles, and humans are among the common predators of salmon.

Do goldfish grow to the size of their environment?

Goldfish growth can be influenced by their environment, but they have genetic size limits.

Are salmon endangered?

Some salmon populations are endangered due to overfishing and habitat loss.

What is the largest type of salmon?

The Chinook salmon is the largest, which can weigh over 100 pounds.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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