Goldfish had thrived in Eastern Europe and the Orient for thousands of years before mankind discovered their vibrant colors and how good they look in domesticated environments. They are a temperate fish found in cold ponds, lakes, and streams all over Asia and Eastern Europe.
Goldfish are often ranked number one in various aquarium categories and it’s easy to see why. They’re easy to keep and the price of goldfish is quite affordable. They can be rewarding and low maintenance pets, hence their popularity among beginners. Goldfish are the first domesticated fish to be put in aquariums. However, like most aquarium fish, goldfish require proper care.
This also means getting them the right habitat to ensure their survival and wellbeing. A bowl will not do as it will lead to their death. If you are looking for an elaborate guide on how to take care of your goldfish and ensure their continued healthy for decades to come, you have come to the right place.
Tank requirements and care
The key to proper goldfish care starts with choosing the right tank. One of the important considerations you should make is the size, which depends on how many goldfish you intend to keep. Goldfish are classified as one of two types i.e. fancy and single-tailed. The slender, single tailed goldfish usually grow to be large, sometimes more than one foot long. As such, each goldfish of this variety needs at least 40 gallons of water, which is why they do best in ponds. There are some that have been known to outgrow tanks that are as long as six feet.
Fancy goldfish have small bodies and short tails. They grow to reach 6-8 inches and therefore, a 10-20 gallon capacity is enough for one goldfish. The size of fancy goldfish makes them better suited for aquariums and decorative use in home, office, hospital and school environments.
Whether you decide to choose a plastic, acrylic or glass tub does not matter as long as your goldfish have enough space. Once you have found the right aquarium, the next step is to set it up before you purchase your goldfish.
There are a few things that you need to take care of first to make sure that the water and overall living conditions make for an ideal goldfish habitat. It is important to keep in mind that fish are sensitive animals and as such, changing their living environments too fast can result in their death.
They cannot live in small temporary environments for long. An hour or two is fine but a few days in a small bowl or plastic container will certainly kill them.
It is not unheard of for gravel to get stuck fish’s throat. To prevent this from happening, use gravel that is too big to swallow. You can use small gravel, but larger gravel is better as it is not easy for it to get stuck in your goldfish’s throat. Ensure that you clean the gravel before placing it into the aquarium. Give it a good rinse and soak it in water for a day to draw out any impurities. This applies whether or not you just bought gravel and don’t use soap.
Scenery and light
Goldfish are diurnal creatures and as such, are active during the day. They need to have a healthy sleep and wake cycle. Light also contributes significantly to increasing or maintaining fish’s color. If your goldfish do not get enough light or sleep, their color starts to dull with time.
Your aquarium should be kept lit for at least 8-12 hours each day. Also, ensure that your fish tank is not exposed to direct sunlight as this could contribute to rampant algae growth as well as lead to significant temperature fluctuations.
A wood or rock centerpiece in the aquarium can provide nooks and crannies. Real plants can help absorb excess nitrates, nitrites, and phosphates. Don’t use hollow decorations or anything with sharp edges. The best lights for goldfish aquariums are fluorescent, but incandescent and halogen lights will also suffice.
The ideal water filtration system for a goldfish aquarium should have three stages i.e. mechanical to remove large particles of food, biological to break down ammonia and fish waste and chemical to remove discolorations and odors. The rating of the filter should also coincide with the size of your tank. Fish tank filters come in three types i.e. wet/dry filters, canister filters and hang on back filters.
Once you have taken care of all the above, the next task is to fill the tank with water. You can use distilled water and if you opt for tap water, ensure that you treat it with an appropriate water conditioning solution.
One fish-less cycle before introducing your goldfish
A fishless cycle refers to the introduction of ammonia to an aquarium as well as tracking the nitrate levels. This helps you determine if the water is safe for your goldfish. It is important to add a dechlorinator in the fish tank before introducing your goldfish as the chlorine in tap water can quickly kill them. A PH test kit will help accurately determine the nitrate, nitrite and ammonia levels in the fish tank.
The ideal environment for goldfish should have less than 20 nitrates, zero nitrites, and zero ammonia. A liquid test kit such as the API Master Test Kit will suffice for this task. Adding a few drops of ammonia into the water regularly will start the nitrite process.
With time, nitrates will be produced and consumed by the algae as well as plants in the tank. With the completion of one fish cycle, you can introduce your goldfish.
Feeding and upkeep
Some goldfish foods are simply a bad idea regardless of what you may think. For instance, commercial flakes start loosing their nutrients as soon as they come into contact with water. This not compromises the quality of the water, but it also causes the fish to ingest much air as they feed. The result is your fish floating around because they are constipating.
Other foods that can lead to a similar effect include bloodworms and freeze-dried foods. Consider purchasing pellets or gel food as they are easily digestible. Go for the sinking ones that contain little to fiber and plenty of proteins. The live plants in the tank will provide the fibrous veggies that your goldfish need.
Keeping goldfish with other types of fish
Feeding your stock will be easy if you have the same type of goldfish in your aquarium. Goldfish are known for their tendency to eat smaller fish and overeat. It is, therefore, safe to assume that if you put smaller fish in the same tank as the goldfish, they will not stand a chance.
The good news is that you can use commercial dividers to keep the weaker fish away from the bullies. If you are going to keep other types of fish with goldfish, you need to choose them carefully. You should quarantine them for at least a week just in case they are ill.
Cleaning the tank
When it comes to cleaning the tank, ensure that it is done at least once even if it does not look dirty. This is partly because goldfish produce waste, some of which the filtration system may not be able to get rid of. Whatever you do, don’t use soap as it is poisonous and will kill your pets. Regular tap water is not safe, and neither is drinkable water as it takes out some of the minerals that are good for your goldfish.
Consider using an appropriate water conditioner, which is easily available from pet stores, and use it as per the instructions on the label. A gravel vacuum can help get the debris out without necessarily extracting the fish from the tank. If, for whatever reason, you have to extract them, consider using a plastic container rather than a net.
This is because goldfish are scared of nets as they injure them quickly compared to containers. If the nitrates level reaches 20, do a 50% water change. Otherwise, a 25% water change every week is enough.
Ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels as well as PH
Remember when we discussed testing the levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates? You have to keep that practice up. You should always ensure that the ammonia and nitrite levels remain at zero while the average PH should range between 6.5 and 8.25.
You should feed goldfish at least once or twice every day. Be careful not to overfeed them as it can lead to their death. If you opt for floating food, be sure to soak it in water before putting it into the tank. This will ensure that the food sinks to the bottom of the tank, thus reducing the amount of air the fish ingests. Only feed the goldfish what they can eat in a minute and at the same time daily i.e. once at night and once in the morning.
Change water temperature with change in season
Being temperate fish, the ideal environment for goldfish should have a maximum temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit. They, however, appreciate the temperature changes that come with different seasons. During the winter, maintain the aquarium at 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dealing with potential problems
- Cloudy water: Despite your best efforts, the fish tank may discolor and appear cloudy. Cleaning your tank will help solve the issue.
- Oxygen levels: If your fish start congregating at the surface of the water, it means that there is insufficient oxygen. Reducing the temperature will help increase the oxygen levels.
- Goldfish Ich: This is a parasitic illness that results in little white spots on the bodies of the goldfish and makes it hard for them to breathe. Consider moving them to a hospital tank with commercial fungicide. High levels of aquarium salt and increasing water temperatures can also help cure the condition.