Goldfish Lab (SOL 4.5, 5.1, 6.1, 6.2)

Teacher Name: Gemma Griffin
Grade Level: 4-6
Subject: Science
Time: 45 minutes
Concept: Aquatic Life
Topic: Variables; Animal Behavior


The ability to co-exist with other life forms is very important to the preservation of earth and all its inhabitants. In order for students to know which actions are beneficial in maintaining the safety of our ecosystem, students need experiences interacting with various types of life form and experimenting with variables that effect them. At the elementary age, students are being faced with more and more responsibility, both at home and at school. Goldfish are an excellent learning tool. They grab student interest, promote responsible pet care, and provide students with the opportunity to learn about aquatic animals and their characteristics.


  • To promote an awareness about other life forms.
  • To develop an understanding of the needs of aquatic animals.
  • To foster a desire to act in the best interest of other living things.
  • To promote responsibility.
  • To demonstrate appropriate ways to care for pets.
  • To promote inquiry science investigations.

NSES Standards:

Science as Inquiry, Life Science, Science in Personal and Social Perspectives


4.5 The student will investigate and understand how plants and animals in an ecosystem interact with one another and the nonliving environment. Key concepts include:

  • behavioral and structural adaptations;
  • organization of communities;
  • flow of energy through food webs;
  • habitats and niches; life cycles;
  • influence of human activity on ecosystems.

5.1 The student will plan and conduct investigations in which:

  • appropriate instruments are selected and used for making quantitative observations of length, mass, volume, and elapsed time;
  • rocks, minerals, and organisms are identified using a classification key;
  • data are collected, recorded, and reported using the appropriate graphical representation (graphs, charts, diagrams);
  • accurate measurements are made using basic tools (thermometer, meter stick, balance, graduated cylinder);
  • predictions are made using patterns, and simple graphical data are extrapolated;
  • estimations of length, mass, and volume are made.

6.1 The student will plan and conduct investigations in which

  • observations are made involving fine discrimination between similar objects and organisms;
  • a classification system is developed based on multiple attributes;
  • differences in descriptions and working definitions are made;
  • precise and approximate measures are recorded
  • hypotheses are stated in ways that identify the independent (manipulated) and dependent (responding) variables;
  • a method is devised to test the validity of predictions and inferences;
  • one variable is manipulated over time with many repeated trials;

6.2 The student will demonstrate scientific reasoning and logic. Key concepts include

  • ideas are investigated by asking for and actively seeking information;
  • multiple tests of ideas are performed before accepting or rejecting them;
  • alternative scientific explanations are analyzed; and
  • conclusions are based on scientific evidence obtained from a variety of sources.



The student will be able to identify, through variable manipulation and experimentation, the ideal conditions under which a goldfish prefers to live, evidenced by their ability to identify at least three conditions which are suitable for goldfish to live in.


The student will be able to demonstrate an attitude which reflects responsibility and respect for living creatures, evidenced by their investigation to find conditions suitable for the happy life of a goldfish.


The student will be able to manipulate variables, using a goldfish and various other resources; evidenced by their ability to identify at least three humane conditions suitable for a goldfish to thrive in.


  • Lab sheet
  • One gold fish per student
  • Plastic containers for goldfish
  • Plastic baggies
  • Fish net (one per group)
  • Fish food/Romaine lettuce
  • Different temperature waters, ice
  • Food coloring
  • Thermometers
  • Timers

*Various other supplies available to help students find answers to their own inquiry investigations.

Advanced Organizer:

Ask students who would be willing to accept the responsibility of owning a goldfish as a pet. Supply each student with their own goldfish in it’s own “aquarium” (plastic cup). Let students become familiar with their new pet, and give it a name.

Procedure: Tell students that since these are their pets now, they want to make them as happy as possible. In order to do that, we need to find out what living conditions your pet goldfish likes best.

Have students brainstorm as a group some different things they’d like to find out about their goldfish, and what makes their goldfish “happy”. Examples they might give are does the goldfish prefer warm or cold water, noise or quiet, colored water or plain water, dried food or fresh food, do they like rocks or no rocks, light or dark, etc. All ideas should be recorded and given equal value. There is no wrong or right answer to what students want to inquire about.

Have students record on their lab sheet at least 3 tests they’d like to perform to see under what circumstances their goldfish are most happy.

After all students have done so, discuss as a group what characteristics would indicate that the goldfish was happy/unhappy. One way might be to time how fast their fins are flipping. A sure way to tell if your goldfish is happy is that it’s not floating upside down at the top of the tank!

Allow students to engage in the inquiry investigations to test the variables they wanted to find out about.

Have students record the results of each test on their lab sheet.

Questions for discussion:

Under what circumstances did your goldfish seem happiest? Least happy? No change?


Have students discuss their findings.

After discussion, have students go to the computer lab to read up more about goldfishes and their nature, as well as how best to care for them so their goldfish may live long and happy lives. Assessment:

Was the student able to identify variables and then carry out investigations to test them?

Was the student interested in finding out ways to benefit his or her fish?


This lesson was differentiated through the use of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic activities, through open-ended inquiry investigation so that all students can be successful.

My Goldfish’s name is: ______________________ Directions: Your goldfish needs a happy home. List three things you’d like to find out about your goldfish and what type of conditions he likes to live under. Then perform investigations to find out which make your goldfish happy!





Example: Does my goldfish prefer to eat fish food flakes or lettuce? Give Mr. Goldfish both to eat, and see which he chooses to eat first, or more of. My goldfish preferred lettuce.

Use this internet site,, to find more information about goldfish and how to care for them and keep your pet healthy.  Use the back of this sheet to record any important information that will be helpful to you and your fish.