Spotlight Goldfish: Proper Aquarium Environment

March 1, 2013

Spotlight Goldfish: The Proper Aquarium Environment

client and fishby Angela Tomarchio, Kennel Technician at Saint Francis Veterinary Center

Goldfish are beautiful fish of many colors and varieties, but all require the same amount of care and commitment. Goldfish, despite popular belief, are not the easy to care for bowl-dwelling fish most people know them as. Goldfish require a minimum of 20 gallons, and an aquarium of that size is suitable for only two fish.  The reason for a goldfish’s need for a large set up is because goldfish grow to be anywhere between 6 inches and 2 feet long depending on the type of fish you own. Also, goldfish create a lot of bio-waste quickly, and the larger tanks help keep the water healthier by giving the fish adequate space to swim.

How do I know what is a proper environment for my goldfish?

  • Knowing how your goldfish like to live is key in successful goldfish ownership. Goldfish are cold water fish, meaning that they do not require a heater.  Goldfish prefer their water between 62 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.  Also, goldfish do well in soft water, meaning its alkalinity is higher than its acidity. A goldfish thrives when their water’s pH is between 7.0 and 7.4.
  • Goldfish do well in planted tanks. The plants can be live or fake. But if you choose live plants for your goldfish tank, be sure to choose plants that are compatible with the goldfish, the temperature of the water and the pH.
  • Goldfish are also very active fish, so tank decorations are a must to keep the goldfish entertained in a sense. Also tank decorations make the tank look more put together.
  • An air stone. An air stone is an item that is attached to plastic tubing which is attached to an air pump. The air pump then pushes air through the tube and out of the air stone through very small holes. Bubble streams then emit from the air stone adding a vital source of oxygen. High oxygen levels are great because it helps aid the fish in breathing properly. Water with low oxygen levels can cause fish to have labored breathing and eventually pass away from lack of oxygen.

How do I keep my goldfish tank clean?

  • Keeping your goldfish tank clean is relatively simple. The first step is filtration. Biological filtration is a very popular and effective way to keep the water cycling and free of debris. All you need for biological filtration is a biological filter. Some companies that make them are Whisper and Top Fin. Each filter is specific for tank size, so make sure you buy the proper sized filter. Filters also require a filter cartridge that has carbon in it. These cartridges are also size specific and need to be replaced once a month.
  • A siphon. A siphon is basically a vacuum for gravel. Getting excess debris out of the tank will help keep the water clear.
  • Other fish. Goldfish are docile and can be kept with certain types of fish that don’t mind the cold temperatures. Fish such a plecos and cory cats are also docile and can be kept in colder water. Plecos are algae eaters and cory cats are bottom feeders and do an incredible job at keeping gravel clean.
  • Tank cleaning products. Pet stores carry a vast variety of tank cleaning products. Sometimes they are not necessary because most of the time, issues within the aquarium environment will solve themselves over time.
  • Doing weekly 10% water changes for new tanks and monthly 25% water changes for established tanks. Goldfish, like other fish, excrete ammonia when they go to the bathroom and high ammonia levels in the water are very toxic for fish. Water changes will help keep these harmful ammonia levels down.
  • Having a properly cycled tank. Cycling just means setting your aquarium up with the filter running before adding any fish and letting good bacteria grow in the tank so it can handle the bio-waste. For freshwater fish, a tank should be cycled for a month before adding fish. Adding fish too quickly to a tank that is not properly cycled can result in death of the fish.

How many goldfish am I supposed to put in my tank?

  • It depends on the size of your tank. The rule for goldfish is 2 inches of fish per gallon of water. Considering goldfish can grow to be quite large, the less goldfish you have in a big tank is better. One goldfish for every ten gallons of water is also another good rule to follow. Although a 20 gallon tank with 2 small goldfish in it may look empty, it’s extremely beneficial to the goldfish since they grow quickly and are messy. Within 2 years a goldfish is fully grown so that is another thing to think about.

What types of goldfish can go in my aquarium?

  • Goldfish with the same types of fins should be kept together. Goldfish with fantails are bulkier and slower moving than comets and shubunkin goldfish which only have single tails. These bulkier goldfish are moore, oranda, ranchu, ryukin, bubble eyes, lionhead, and pearl scale goldfish. Single tail goldfish swim faster and can get to food more quickly than fan tails. Other than that, all types of goldfish can be kept together.

Why can’t goldfish go in a bowl or a starter goldfish kit?

  • Keeping goldfish in a bowl is denying the goldfish its proper environment, filtered and clean water, and they are deprived of proper oxygen levels. It also significantly shortens their life span to around 2 weeks.
  • Keeping a goldfish in a starter kit isn’t any better. Those starter kits are around 2-2.5 gallons of water and that’s not even enough space just for one goldfish to live happily.
  • Keeping goldfish in an improper home will be apparent by the way the goldfish behaves. If the goldfish has pale color, barely moves around, and breathes heavily than you know it is in distress and needs to be moved to a suitable home immediately.

How long do goldfish live?

  • Kept in the correct aquarium setting, goldfish can live up to ten years. Koi, a very large pond fish that is similar to a goldfish can live 20 plus years.

How much food should I feed my goldfish?

  • Goldfish can be fed two times a day. If you see the food is gone within a few seconds, it’s ok to give them just a pinch more.
  • Do not over feed your fish! Their stomachs are smaller than their eyes, so they don’t need all that much. Also, all that excess food that sinks to the bottom will make the water cloudy.
  • Another requirement for goldfish is to pre-soak their food. Get a plastic cup full of aquarium water and swirl the food around in it. Pour it into the tank. This pre-soaked food will not dry up their swim bladder. A dried up swim bladder will result in death.

Goldfish are hardy and make gorgeous pets that can also double as works of art when kept in beautifully set up tanks. Although goldfish are relatively easy to care for, their requirements are not for the novice fish owner. The amount of time and cleaning necessary to provide them with a healthy life takes a lot of patience and commitment on the owner’s part. Remember to do as much research as possible on goldfish and their care before setting up a tank. If you are willing to take the time to complete all the steps to having a healthy tank before you buy your fish and to keep up with the goldfish’s needs throughout their long lives, than a goldfish tank will make the perfect new addition to your home!