At some point, nearly everyone has had the experience of bringing home a goldfish. You may have won it at a carnival or purchased it at a pet store. But without knowledge on how to take care of it, you may have had to say goodbye to it prematurely. If you’re a serial goldfish flusher, it’s time you learned how to care for goldfish. These 10 steps for success will help you keep your fish alive and thriving.
Buy Healthy Fish
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but just because a fish is swimming around, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Getting stressed from shipping, sitting in small plastic bags without sufficient clean water, or being plucked from a pet store tank can harm a goldfish. It may even become sick.
If you really want to have a fair shot at keeping goldfish healthy and alive, buy them from a reputable supplier of freshwater aquarium fish for sale and ask lots of questions. Have the fish been appropriately quarantined? What steps does the retailer take to ensure the fish arrive alive and healthy? A reliable seller of freshwater fish will gladly answer these questions and explain their process for keeping their fish in good condition, ready to go home with you.
Buy the Right Species of Fish
Those cute little fish at the carnival or in a tank at the pet store may not do well in your home tank. Some goldfish species start small but can grow to be over a foot long! That type is usually one of the single-tailed varieties, such as the comet, common, or Shubunkin goldfish. These are better off in ponds, not aquariums.
Look for double-tailed varieties of goldfish, called “fancies,” if you’re going to keep them in a tank. They prefer warmer water and won’t grow quite as large as the single-tailed species.
Quarantine New Fish
Even if you purchase your fish from a trustworthy retailer, it’s still a smart idea to quarantine new fish before introducing them to your tank. New fish will feel stressed from travel and need time to settle down. They’ll also need a change of water and time to rest. Be sure to prepare water appropriately, with a water conditioner and filter. Furthermore, you should test chemical levels of ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and pH levels. Before you decide to become a goldfish owner, read up on the appropriate water testing results you should maintain to keep your fish healthy.
Prepare the Tank in Advance
While your new fish is in quarantine, you should prepare your tank for the new arrival. Sand is a better bottom surface than gravel for goldfish, which might try to eat the gravel and choke on it.
Set up your filter and heater, measure your water conditioner, and test the water. Healthy fish tanks must “cycle,” meaning that they need time for their filters to develop a colony of beneficial bacteria that will convert the ammonia from fish waste into nitrites and from nitrites into nitrates.
There’s no instant way to cycle a new tank; the best way to do it is to keep the number of fish low compared to the volume of water for several weeks. Alternatively, you can use an initial colony of “good cycling fish” that can survive until a larger number of beneficial bacteria grow in your filtration system. It may take six weeks to reach the optimal levels of 0 ppm for ammonia and nitrite and between 20 and 40 ppm for nitrates when you test your water.
Change Water Frequently
Once your tank has cycled, you’ll have to keep it clean and balanced. As you add fish, your water tests may get out of whack, and your fish will need fresh, clean, and properly conditioned water to survive. Try a fish tank siphon to remove about 25 percent of the water and replace it with your newly prepared water.
Test Water Quality Regularly
Test water daily, as ammonia and nitrite levels can spike unexpectedly. If they’re too high, change the water and ensure your filter can repopulate helpful bacteria to keep the levels within acceptable ranges.
Use Water Conditioner
Water conditioners are necessary to neutralize chlorine and other chemicals in tap water harmful to your fish. Read instructions carefully about how much to use per gallon of water and how often to add water conditioner to your tank.
Clean or Change Filters As Directed
An established filter is necessary to maintain healthy populations of beneficial bacteria, but filters don’t last indefinitely. If your filter’s effectiveness wanes, switch it out for another established filter from a tank free of diseased fish, or start over with a new filter and a new round of cycling.
Use the Best Food
Not all goldfish food is equal. Flakes begin to impact water quality almost as soon as you introduce them. Gel and pellet foods that sink are better and are rich in nutrients. Goldfish like to forage and nose around the bottom of the tank for a nibble.
But goldfish need a more varied diet, so be sure to supply some leafy greens for them to nibble on, such as spinach, lettuce, or kale. You can even use a veggie clip in your tank that you can remove so that you won’t have unsightly, decaying green leaves at the bottom of your tank.
Decorate With Live Plants
Live plants in your freshwater aquarium can be great sources of food for the varied diets your fish need. Buy them along with your other aquarium supplies and replenish them as necessary.
Live freshwater plants help create a more natural environment for goldfish in your tank as well. While you may want to add decorative items like miniature treasure chests or little castles, be mindful that plastic decorations can put harmful substances into your tank’s water. A freshwater aquarium supply company can help you select the right kind of plants and décor to create a beautiful, natural, and healthy environment for your fish.
Knowing how to care for goldfish with these 10 easy steps for success is a solid start, but keeping a healthy aquarium is an ongoing task. Before you decide to establish a freshwater tank in your home, consider all the steps to maintain it and whether you’re up to the task. Your fish will appreciate your attention to their well-being and comfort and reward you with years of enjoyment and beauty.