Goldfish are often thought of as simple, short-lived creatures. That’s definitely not the case, the truth is that the majority never live to fill their potential. A responsible keeper does their homework, but even if you’ve made a couple of missteps, it’s not too late!
The following essential tips will help you and your new fishy friend enjoy a long time together.
1. No Bowls
No bowls. It really is that simple, and the majority of unfortunate goldfish end up in bowls.
More accurately: goldfish are usually kept in tight quarters with no filtration equipment. It’s a recipe for disaster.
People used to be taught that goldfish grew to the size of their bowl. It’s a myth, but there’s some kernel of truth there. Namely, if you keep a tougher specimen in conditions that permanently stunt its growth your goldfish won’t outgrow the bowl before they pass away.
You’ll need a proper aquarium to keep a goldfish. And not a small one, the smallest subspecies of goldfish reach 6” in length. At least a 20-gallon tank is recommended for a single goldfish. A 10 gallon may be suitable for a short period while they’re growing, but you’ll have to be on top of things.
The important thing here is simple: don’t stick your goldfish in a bowl. You still need a proper aquarium despite their reputation.
2. Know Your Equipment and Setup
When you’re setting up your goldfish’s new home, you’ll need to be prepared.
A goldfish needs a filter, and in some cases, a heater may be called for. They don’t need things as warm as tropical fish, but it depends on your local climate.
Don’t cheap out on the filter. A good rule of thumb is to run a filter rated for 150%-200% of your tank’s capacity. Goldfish are big polluters, and it will help keep water quality up.
Make sure to maintain all of your equipment. Filters clog over time, heaters can cut out if the water level dips too low, and lights may need replacing. All of them are essential for your fish.
3. Make a Feeding Schedule
Most fish, including goldfish, won’t actually eat until they burst. It’s a comical myth, consider how that would work in a food-abundant pond. What does happen with too much feeding is the fish producing more waste than your tank can handle.
For a beginner, it’s best to come up with a stricter schedule for feeding. For smaller goldfish, feeding 2-3x per day is a good idea but as the fish ages you can switch to just one meal a day.
Set an alarm or two on your phone to remind you. You’ll be more likely to stick to it if you have something to remind you.
4. Learn About the Nitrogen Cycle
If you’ve been looking into fish care, you’ve probably heard about “cycling” a tank. It’s a bit complicated, so bear with us for a moment. Unfortunately, in the confines of an aquarium, even good food becomes bad waste.
The nitrogen cycle is the waste cycle contained in your tank. Fish poop and rotted food make ammonia, which breaks down to nitrites, and finally nitrates before being eliminated by plants and filters.
Ammonia is hazardous to your fish, and nitrite is just as bad. Detectable quantities of either signal a bad turn of events, so the tank needs to be balanced.
All of this breaking down of waste matter is done by bacteria, which will naturally be present but require time to grow. A cycled tank is a safe tank for your fish.
You can purchase test kits, which should be a newbie’s main guide. Even experienced keepers use them to cycle a tank initially. You just have to test daily until there is no ammonia or nitrate, just adding a bit of food each day.
It’s safe to do a fishless cycle. All you need to do is set the tank up with no goldfish in it, run the filter, and add just a pinch of food each day. Test the water daily for ammonia and nitrites until neither is present in the water column nor add your fish.
You should only add one or two fish at a time if you have a larger tank. Then begin testing and wait for things to be fully cycled again. It’s the safest route for your fish, although it does require a good bit of patience.
5. Regular Water Changes
One of the ways we can reduce waste in the water column is by changing out a portion of the water. 50% twice per week is normal until a tank is cycled if you have fish in there. It dilutes the toxins and removes some of them.
For an established tank or one in a fishless cycle, 25% weekly is a good amount. It’s not a lot of water, if you have a 20-gallon tank then you’ll find it’s just a single 5-gallon bucket.
You can purchase purposely made siphons for this purpose, and they make things a lot easier for most people.
Remember to use a water conditioner. A conditioner removes the chlorine from your water and makes it fish safe. It’s best to add it to the water outside of the tank. Large tanks are sometimes filled with a water hose, in that case, you may want to add the softener as the water goes into the tank.
Regular water changes are one of the keys to a long life for a goldfish. Make sure you handle them!
Most of the difficulty for new keepers is in a lack of knowledge. Goldfish have a lot of antiquated care tips floating around, but the information is out there! If you have any questions, look them up as soon as possible but if you stick to the above tips, you’re on the right path.
So, good luck on your goldfish-keeping journey!