The Golden Rules - Goldfish Guide
By Guest Author Sara Ream
Though most people at one time have owned a goldfish, very few know the requirements for a serious and thriving goldfish aquarium.The beginning goldfish keeper may be overwhelmed by the potential of the 'cute little goldfish'
The most important thing to think about when keeping any fish is of course, water quality. Good water quality is only obtainable in the messy goldfish's aquarium if the tank is very large. The best tank size if one is thinking of keeping goldfish seriously, is between 50 and 60 gallons. With larger tanks there is more room for vigorous fish growth, and more room for mistakes. In a 60 gallon tank you can keep 3 fancy (egg-shaped) goldfish, or 2 common, or comet (slender-bodied) goldfish happily throughout their entire lives. Though you can keep more fish per tank, for the best end-results, its advisable to have 20-30 gallons per large fish. With smaller fish, you can get away with 10-20 gallons per fish.
With the proper tank size, there has to be proper filtration. Goldfish are VERY messy fish, so their tanks need extensive filtration.The best style of filter for a goldfish tank is a power filter, that is, the one that hangs on the back. its a good idea to have more than one filter for two reasons: most goldfish tanks CAN'T have too much filtration, and its a good idea if one filter decides to give out. Power filters usually contain some sort of 'floss' or media that is used to catch large debris, such as missed food and wastes. Most also contain carbon which absorbs some harmful gases and keeps the water clear and odor-free. All tanks have a 'biological filter' which includes live bacteria in the water. These 'good' bacteria destroy 'bad' bacteria and should always be present in your aquarium, meaning, NEVER change 100% of your water.
Aeration is a very good idea since goldfish have very high oxygen requirements. Bubble wands are good, but can clog. If you plan on using bubble wands, buy two, when one gets clogged you can dry out the one in the tank and replace it with the new one, when a wand dries, it works like new when placed back in the tank. Also frequently used are air stones. They are porous blocks that will fall apart after extended usage and have to be replaced.
Regular water changes are necessary for any healthy aquarium. Most goldfish tanks require a weekly water change of about 30 - 50% to keep the aquarium in proper working order. When changing the water in your aquarium, you should use a siphon. It's in the best interest of the fish to remove all wastes and uneaten food before they have the chance to decay and pollute the tank.
When setting up your aquarium you need to keep in mind the requirements of your fish. Large, smooth gravel is most preferred since goldfish will sift through the gravel all day long and you don't want them swallowing rocks or cutting their mouths. Live plants aren't usually kept with goldfish because they absolutely love to munch on them. Plastic plants are most easily maintained in a goldfish aquarium. Decorations aren't needed in a goldfish aquarium, goldfish decorate the aquarium with themselves! But if you feel you need an eye-catcher in your tank, keep in mind the dangers of them. Delicate goldfish such as Bubble-Eyes or Telescope-Eyes should not be kept in an aquarium with sharp rocks. There shouldn't be any decorations with holes or caves smaller than the goldfish can swim through without scraping their sides and/or stomachs.
There are many varieties of goldfish to choose from. Some goldfish are very delicate and not suited for the beginner, and there are others that seem too hardy for their own good! For the beginner interested in fancy goldfish, readily available Fantails, Black Moors, Telescope-Eyes, or Orandas may be what you're looking for. Most of these fancy goldfish can reach 12 inches in a pond, but in a home aquarium will grow to around 6-8 inches, not counting their tails. Common varieties, such as commons and comets are more easily obtained and are usually cheaper, though these fish have greater space and cleaning requirements. Common goldfish are heavier looking than comets and have blunter fins. Comets caudal (tail) fins can be as long, or longer than the fishes body. These fish can get considerable larger than the fancy, egg-shaped varieties mentioned above. Commons can reach 18 inches or more in a pond, Comets can reach 14-16. But in an aquarium Commons may only reach 12-16 inches; Comets, 10-14.
All goldfish are 'coldwater fish' and do best in temperatures of 68-75. Though they can survive in temperatures from freezing to 80-some degrees, it is not recommended to keep goldfish permanently in these temperatures. If a temperature change must be done, it is recommended it be done slowly; a change of about 2-3 degrees each day. Goldfish do well at a neutral pH but it can be a slight bit more alkaline.
Many people keep goldfish with tropical fish. This is NOT good for EITHER of the fish involved. Tropical fish require much more protein in their diet than goldfish, and require a higher temperature than a goldfish is comfortable at. A tank containing goldfish and tropical fish is hardly beautiful. Goldfish are slow movers, when watching a tank with a slow, massive goldfish and many lightning fast, slim bodied tropicals is hardly relaxing as an aquarium should be. Many people think ALL fish tanks require an algae eater or bottomfeeder, and so, add a Plecostomus. In the first place, goldfish tanks don't need a bottom feeder or algae eater. Goldfish hardly miss a bit of food, and will readily eat algae when they notice it. The greatest danger of keeping a Pleco in a fancy goldfish tank is the Pleco's love for the thick slime coating on a goldfish's body. Most often it's a vicious attack and the goldfish dies from the Pleco's assault. It's best for both types of fish if they have their own, comfortable environment to live in. The best set-up for goldfish is a single-species tank, though snails are fine, if you want a bit of diversity.
The goldfish's favorite time of day, is the time when he gets to EAT! But, you can't just throw a few flakes in when you remember. It's best for a fish's health if it is fed a varied diet; this can include flakes, pellets, live foods, freeze-dried foods, and even fresh and frozen vegetables! When you feed prepackaged foods, make sure it is made specially for goldfish. And it's a very good idea to soak the dry food before you put it in the tank. When a goldfish eats dry food, it can absorb all the moisture from his intestines and make him a 'Floater'. It's also a good idea to squeeze all the air out ofthe food so it sinks. Goldfish may ingest air from the surface when eating which can make him more buoyant than he need be. Live and Freeze-Dried foods are useful when conditioning a fish for breeding. They generally contain more protein than prepackaged foods and are good for young goldfish, or goldfish developing their headgrowth. Veggies are very good for larger, older goldfish because they help the digestive tract. Often, feeding a blanched frozen pea, popped out ofthe skin can be all that is needed to right a upside down goldfish.
Though, hopefully, very few diseases will be encountered infish keeping, every goldfish keeper must know how to treat some basic illnesses. Probably the most common fish disease is Ick, or Ich. These are small parasites that attach themselves to the fish and feed off of their bodily fluids for a few days, before hatching and creating more parasites. Ick is present in all aquariums but will only thrive when the fish are stressed. Most often, a change in temperature will bring on Ick, so make sure any water that is put into your aquarium is the same temperature as the water you took out. Ick is very common, and itis also very treatable. Some goldfish keepers can add a few teaspoons of salt and raise the temperature up over 80 and have the Ick gone within the week. It's easier for a beginner to use medication. There are plenty of medicines packaged for curing ick, but DON'T buy 'cure-alls', these generally have lower success rates.
Another disease, which is most often encountered in fancy, egg-shaped goldfish is Swim Bladder Disease, or SBD. The causes of SBD can be genetic, bacterial, or a direct affect of the environment. Feeding dry foods can cause the goldfish to float, as can feeding floating foods. Over-feeding can make the goldfish gasp at the surface, taking in air to push the food to their intestines. SBD can be easily avoided by feeding soaked, sinking foods and feeding vegetables, such as peas and Romaine lettuce regularly.
Many stand valiantly by the fact that by simply adding aquarium salt to the goldfish's tank, you can prevent many common diseases. Salt improves the fish's ability to absorb oxygen through his gills and helps the fish produce a thick slime coat. The regular dosage for a goldfish tank containing salt is 1 tablespoon for every five gallons, Remember, salt need not be replaced until a water change is done, and don't re-add salt when topping off evaporated water.
After keeping your fish for a while you may be wondering if you named your fish correctly! Is Bill really Bill-ina? (I know i have a Jason-ella!) I think the easiest way to tell your male goldfish from your females is body shape. Female goldfish will have a much rounder, broader appearance, while males will be slim and trim. Also useful, is by looking at the base of the tail. On a female goldfish the tail will look more like its set on the back of her rump, a male's tail will havea definite base and you'll be able to tell where the body ends. In goldfish that are ready for breeding, males will develop small white bumps on his gill covers and pectoral fin rays, that is, on the front of the fin that's right behind his gill. These are called tubercles and are used for stimulating the female to release her eggs duringspawning.
If you are ready to attempt to raise some goldfish 'fry' (baby goldfish), first you'll have to make sure you have a male and female! When you find the two fish you want to breed, you will have to get their bodies ready. Feed them high-quality, high-protein foods regularly, and keep them in very clean, well filtered water. In the tank where you plan on spawning them, make sure there are a few bunches of bushy plants, real or fake. When it looks as if the female is full of eggs and the male's tubercles are fairly thick, you can try raising the temperature a few degrees, that is, if they don't spawn on their own. The male will chase the female into the plants and swim along closely beside her. He will use his tubercles to stimulate her into releasing her eggs into the plant. When the female releases her eggs, they draw in water, with the water they also draw in the male's sperm. Goldfish will eat whatever they can fit in their mouths and they know that their own eggs are good eatin'! Don't leave the goldfish in long enough to devour ALL of the eggs, though they are sure to miss enough of them to hatch some offspring.
The eggs will hatch within 5-7 days, depending on the temperature. It's a very good idea to be raising some baby brine shrimp or infusoria to feed to the babies a few days after they hatch. For the first 3-4 days the fry will swim very little and feed off of the yolk-sack on their stomachs. When you see a few babies swimming freely and looking for food, add the baby brine shrimp or infusoria to the tank. Live daphnia can also be added, they will not only help keep the tank clean but will provide yet another variety of live food. It's very important for the fry to have very clean water. Water changesof 50 % every DAY are highly recommended. Fish fry are very delicate sowater changes are best done with air-line tubing as a siphon. A goldfish spawn can produce hundreds of fry. Some will be deformed and die off; some will be weak and be eaten; some, though they'll survive, will be deformed. These fish will need to be 'culled'. An easyway to remove deformed fish (i.e.-those with bent backs) is by using a turkey baster and dropping the deformed fish into a bowl or bucket filled with crushed ice and cold water. Young goldfish will not usually have their adult coloring until they are around 6 months old. Even then a goldfish may change color later on in life. Goldfish are generally done growing when they reach 3-4 years of age, and if properly taken care of, your goldfish will live into their teens, or longer!
Everything taken into account, goldfish keeping, as well as all other forms of aquaria, is a very rewarding hobby once the basics are learned and the fish are thriving.
© Sara Ream
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