proper Goldfish care
Ignorance of the goldfish's nature leads to more tradgedies than can be believed. Don't risk the life of your fish! The kind and successful fishkeeper is also the patient and studied fishkeeper. This is not to say that goldfish are difficult to keep - they are not. However, it is an important responsibility not to be taken lightly. Your fish had a good home in the petstore, and if you are taking this fish into your home, you should be willing to offer at least the same amount of attention and care.
What you will see on this page represents basic but crucial knowledge on keeping goldfish. There is always more to learn! If you EVER have any questions about your goldfish, you should do your best to seek an answer. You owe it to your fish! A phone call to the local petstore is often a good idea. I recommend calling a few petstores so you can compare information. There are also many good books on goldfish as well as fishkeeping in general.
The fishtank is, of course, the most important piece of equipment. Tanks are not at all expensive, and buying a nice, big tank is the best thing you can do for your fish. You should never keep your fish in a goldfish bowl or other small container.
Since goldfish get their oxygen from the surface, you want a tank with a big surface area. The number of gallons is not nearly as important as the surface area. You can get this surface area by multiplying the tank's LENGTH by its DEPTH. For every inch of fish length, you must have 30 sq inches of surface area. But remember! Your fish will also grow, and you want to take this into account when choosing your tank. (see examples).
For details on the proper set-up of your goldfish tank, see our Aquarium Setup page.
Since your fish must live in its tank all the time, it is SO important for the water to be of the right quality.
Usually, it is okay to use water right out of the tap. The first thing you need to do is check with your local petshop. They will know if the local water is suitable for fishes. Still, there are some important things you should know.
Let your faucet run for about a minute before taking any water. This lets some of the chemicals dissipate.
Before adding water to your tank, let it sit out overnight. This allows the chlorine to evaporate. It also lets the water reach room temperature. Since goldfishes live at room temperature, this ensures that the water you are adding to the tank is the same temperature as the water already in the tank.
Finally, the most important thing to know about is the water change. The water in your tank MUST be kept clean, for dirty water can make them sick or even kill them. The advanced fishkeeper knows that chemicals like ammonia can build up unnoticed. All you need to know to start, however, is that a regular water change goes a long way toward preventing these kinds of problems. (See Instructions for Partial Water Change).
The goldfish is a hardy animal, and if cared for properly, will live a long, long time (ten years is not uncommon). Goldfish are omnivorous and will eat just about anything, but it is suggested that the beginner stick to prepackaged fishfoods.
You must buy fishfood which is made specifically for goldfish, because their nutritional needs are not the same as those of other fishes. Fish need protein for muscle, vitamins to resist desease, and to strengthen their bones. Goldfish also need carbohydrates even more than other fishes. Be sure to buy something that has complete nutrition. A quality diet has the added benefit of bringing out your fish's color.
Never give your goldfish more food than they can eat in a few minutes. Leftover food decomposes and pollutes the tank. If food remains uneaten, remove it. Feeding your goldfish a small amount at several times during the day is preferable to feeding one big meal.
Goldfish live in many different temperatures. Anywhere from 50 degrees F to 68 degrees F is best, provided that any change in temperature is gradual. A rapid temperature change can make a fish more susceptible to disease, as can stress. Care on the keeper's part can reduce both. Different varieties of Goldfish may also live at different temperatures.
Be sure to watch your goldfish for a few minutes each day. Get to know your fish. This will help you spot odd behavior if the fish contracts a disease. If you even suspect that a fish is sick, call your petstore immediately. Goldfish diseases are rarely contracted by humans, or visa versa.
Making that partial water change on a weekly basis is the key to keeping your fish healthy, and the best way to do it is with an aquarium siphon hose. This hose sucks water out of your tank, and is used to vacuum your gravel, thereby removing leftover food, fish waste, and other organic material. Next to the tank and water, the siphon is the most valuable piece of equipment.
A water change helps a lot when it comes to keeping your water clean, but a filter will make your job even easier. A filter works 24 hours a day and purifies the water in your tank by removing harmful chemicals and debris. Modern advances have also made filters easier to maintain than ever before. I suggest the external box filter because it takes up no space inside your tank, is simple to maintain, and because the current it causes in the water helps to add more oxygen for the fish.
The hood of a tank serves a useful purpose. It keeps the fish from jumping out. Some kind of hood or cover should sit atop your tank for this purpose. Also, the hood keeps debris or dust from falling into the tank.
Also known as a bubbler, the airstone sends tiny bubbles into the water. These bubbles agitate the water's surface which in turn keeps the water oxygenated. Without one, your water may get stale. Also, since harmful gas passes out of the aquarium through the surface, a steady current facilitates this as well. If you have a filter like the one described above, you could get by without one, but they're not expensive, so I suggest adding one to your tank as soon as possible.
Gravel helps fish feel more at home, since this gives your tank a 'bottom.' Some fish use gravel for camoflage. It also provides a place for good bacteria to grow. A good size is 1/8 of an inch. Make sure the gravel isn't too sharp: your goldfish will spend hours searching the gravel for food, and you don't want them to hurt themselves.
Although gravel comes in many colors, I suggest buying something without any dye added. Dye can pollute the water. Whatever you buy, make sure it is thoroughly rinsed before use. You want to remove any particles, dust, or dye. When the water runs clean, it is ready for use.
I have always felt that less is better. Still, fish love places to hide, and when they feel stressed, they will need a place to retreat to. Use common sense when buying decorations, avoid anything with sharp edges, and make sure that they are especially made for fish tanks. Anything else could release harmful chemicals into the water.