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sammccully 09-02-2009 04:33 AM

Any advice on goldfish?
Hi guys!

I'm 17 years old and have never really had fish (my dad and step dad both had them but I was too young to remember :s) and have recently decided I want two goldfish but to be honest, since its the first time just wanted a bit of advice (nothing for most of the pros on here!) I was thinking about putting them in a bowl. What sort of food shall I feed them? How often should the water be changed? Can I put stuff in the bowl for them eg coloured stones, ornaments? That sort of stuff. All advice will be and is appreciated.

Thank you in anticipation

Sam McCully

Lupin 09-02-2009 04:39 AM

Ooooohhhh!!! My favorite subject of today!!!:mrgreen:

Welcome to, Sam!

Please bear with me as I explain everything to you.

First of all, tank size is the most important factor to consider. With goldfish, they need plenty of space to swim around and the space is also important in greatly diluting the toxicity of the wastes being produced by the fish. Considering goldfish themselves do not stay small (which is why fishbowls are impractical nowadays) at 8-24 inches range, a general guideline for fancy types should be 15 gallons per fish whereas pond types need 20 gallons per fish. This does not mean the use of individual 15 to 20 gallon tanks is feasible. Those tanks are still very limited and you cannot keep goldfish in isolation as these are sociable by nature and unlikely to thrive for a long time if deprived of their company. With the number of goldfish suggested at two as the possible minimum, a 55g would be a best starting point for fancy goldfish whereas 75g would be the minimum for at least 2-3 pond types.

Secondly, the water parameters must be given of utmost important so pay attention to this as this may seem complicated to those unfamiliar about it. Nitrogen cycle must be considered when starting a tank setup. Why is that? To explain this, the wastes produced by the fish serve as ammonia source. Without the Nitrosomonas bacteria that converts the ammonia into nitrite, the ammonia will simply elevate dangerously thus the fish suffers ammonia intoxication as indicated by listlessness, gill burns, “peppering” or development or black spots, clamped fins, gasping for air on the surface, red streaking on the fins and extreme flashing around due to burns suffered. The next thing that will develop after Nitrosomonas bacteria, is Nitrobacter bacteria. This other strain of beneficial bacteria helps covert nitrite into nitrate, although nitrate itself is not the final byproduct of the nitrogen cycle yet. Nitrite is another dangerous substance that can also cause the fish to become intoxicated. Usually, most references will cite the use of sodium chloride to battle the nitrite intoxication as chloride ions can inhibit the toxic effects of the nitrite however dechlorinated clean water will help equally as it reduces the nitrite thus preventing possible intoxication. In the end, you want to make sure you have zero ammonia and nitrite with nitrate not exceeding 40 ppm if you are keeping fish in your tank. Ammonia and nitrite exceeding 0.25 are highly toxic especially if the pH is alkaline (more than 7) as the ammonia’s toxic effects were not deactivated by converting it into ammonium which only happens when the water becomes acidic (lower than 7). High nitrate level is a result of wastes building up and is extremely dangerous as it can push the fish’s immune system to a breaking point that they become susceptible to health issues and become easily stunted as well.

It has already been noted that nitrate is not the final byproduct yet. This is especially true as most of us tend to forget the nitrate will simply remain in the water elevating dangerously if not for the anaerobic bacteria (anaerobes) that help convert nitrate into the last byproduct, nitrogen cycle. So how do we culture the anaerobes? Simple. In freshwater setups, we do not whereas in saltwater setups, we do using deep sand beds. Why not? Anaerobes form best in dead areas of the substrate and filtration (especially during long power outage periods). Once the organic matter has accumulated and bound tightly where the anaerobes thrive, hydrogen sulfide also forms. Hydrogen sulfide is an extremely powerful acid capable of performing pH steep dives which is extremely dangerous to the fish. As it also reeks of rotten egg odor, the acid can also pose a health hazard to the owner himself and thus is best avoided. A safer way to utilize the anaerobes is by using denitrators where the anaerobes colonize. The water containing high nitrate content is passed through the system where the anaerobes then convert the nitrate into nitrogen gas. The use of denitrator however is not necessary as water changes and use of plants will help reduce the nitrate which is why the use of plants and water changes is widely encouraged.

To be able to determine the exact ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels, please be sure to invest yourself in a liquid test kit (Aquarium Pharmaceuticals in particular). From this point, biased views will be displayed towards the use of particular test kits. Why? Unfortunately, most test kits manufactured by some companies are none to reliable especially test strips and we are hoping as responsible hobbyists to point everyone new or returning to the hobby in the right direction and as much as possible, minimize the probable issues that may happen. Although, in some cases, test strips have shown their reliability, in general, they tend to be rather misleading and do not give assurance to the owner that the water conditions are within expectations, therefore, these must be avoided altogether. If you can trust your stores to test the water sample for you, this is fine but be sure you understand what they are talking about. Purely comments such as “fine” are very vague. You need to make sure their test kit is a reliable brand, within expiration date and in good condition (albeit not contaminated or tampered with).

The last variables not explained well yet are the pH, KH and GH although the pH has been mentioned a couple of times in conjunction with the toxicity level of ammonia as ammonia is readily influenced by the alkaline or acidic state of the water. Although goldfish have shown to be rather adapted to various water conditions due to generations of selective breeding in the trade for decades, they still are found to do better in hard alkaline water than in a soft acidic environment.

Thirdly, as the goldfish has been bred for decades, many strains have been formed as a result of selective breeding. This in itself complicates matters further as the different body formation of the fish also requires a few perks in how you attempt to accommodate them to avoid any future issues that will prove detrimental to their health. For instance, bubble eyes are famous for their large bulbous eye sacs that dangle below their eyes. The eye sacs are quite delicate and easily punctured hence you have to avoid sharp edged decorations if you want to keep their eye sacs intact. Although the eye sacs will normally heal themselves, the injured sac will be smaller than the previous. A lot of round bodied types are prone to buoyancy problems due to the compressed organs brought by their distended abdomen. There are many causes to buoyancy disorders which we can cover later on as we go further into this.

Determining their sexes is next to impossible unless they are already in breeding conditions wherein males develop white tubercles (pimples) on their frontal pectoral fins and gill covers whereas females will become noticeably rounder and still sporting smooth gill covers without any further changes. The breeding female will eventually be chased around by several males as part of the breeding ritual. The pair then chooses a spawning site where they eventually attempt to deposit hundreds of eggs. The resulting fry are larger than most egg laying specimens and can be fed with green water, infusoria, suspended egg yolk and commercial foods designed for fry. Photos of how to determine their sexes can be found here.

Lupin 09-02-2009 04:40 AM

Since the tank size and nitrogen cycle have been covered, we will proceed to the proper setup for goldfish. The use of plants, rocks, substrate and other miscellaneous decorations will be discussed in details to make it easier for you to understand why there are some things to consider when you select your decorations.

It has been almost every goldfish enthusiast’s dream to attempt mixing plants and goldfish together in the same tank without the latter trying to turn them into a salad bowl. Though this is a little tricky to achieve, it is not impossible to mix both contrary to popular belief that goldfish will eat almost any plant that you place in their tank. Please be sure to research every plant you like before attempting them. The use of live plants has been widely encouraged in the hobby as they help improve water quality, provide food and refuge for the fish and add up to the natural beauty of the tank setup.

The first thing to consider is the temperature. Most plants that thrive in the tropics are unable to tolerate the coldwater to subtropical (range of 58-76 degrees Fahrenheit) environment required by the goldfish. They tend to turn glassy and eventually wither away if the temperature becomes unfavorable for them.

Secondly, some plants need high lighting whereas others require moderate to low light conditions. With high lighting conditions, CO2 injection may be necessary to allow the plants to compete efficiently with the algae before algal blooms are expected which are a bane in almost every planted setup as they become unsightly in vast growths. Unfortunately, as goldfish are large oxygen consumers, the CO2 injection may not be useful here especially if your filter is creating powerful turbulence that disperses the CO2 out of the water column therefore rendering the CO2 injection useless.

Thirdly, goldfish are avid grazers. They tend to graze around the bottom in search for food. While floating plants and plants that attach to any decorations will not have an issue with this, rooted plants unfortunately are met by this problem and are likely uprooted in the process as the goldfish attempts to move the substrate aside as they dig around. If you hope to successfully establish the plants, plan ahead and start laying out the plants where they should be before you get your fish. This will give the plants a head start to firmly root themselves in their place. You could also place large rocks or weights near the roots but be sure there is aeration around that area to prevent choking the plant roots which will subsequently kill the plant.

It is wisely recommended for beginners to start with plants that are relatively easy to keep and are undemanding without the use of high lights and CO2 injection. Remember to take it slow and easy as it is important that a good and slow start will make your experience a fruitful one. For a good start, try to get floating plants such as Pistia stratiotes, hornworts, water hyacinths and duckweeds. Keep your tank open-topped as most of the plants mentioned do not like condensation droplets forming on their leaves particularly the Pistia stratiotes and will eventually rot quickly. Although the duckweeds are firm favorite salads by all goldfish, by the time they have reproduce enough to sustain their number, they will work excellently in consuming nitrate level thus improving the water quality like other species of floating plants suggested although nothing will still replace the water changes as the top method for reducing nitrate and other nutrients. The hornworts are unlikely to be consumed as they prickle the mouths of the fish as it does with other fish that are urged by the temptation to eat it. Duckweeds, water hyacinths and P. stratiotes reproduce rather quickly through runners and can quickly carpet the whole surface area so be sure to trim them out when necessary. Hornworts reproduce by cutting and with their brittle leaves and stems, they can be messy and can clog some filtration systems.

Java ferns, Java moss and anubias are also tough choices and with their rather unpleasant taste, they make wise choices for a planted goldfish setup. Although Java ferns and anubias are low light plants thus making them easier to keep than most species, they are extremely slow growers. They need to be tied with nylon thread, string or fishing line into place on a decoration but not too tightly that the rhizomes become severed. Java moss, on the other hand, do not need too much attention as it will readily attach on anything and carpet it completely so be sure to trim them down if you do not like a rather bushy plant area.

For rooted plants, a good suggestion would be an array of Cryptocoryne sp., Echinodorus sp., Vallisneria sp., Sagittaria sp., Egeria densa, Egeria canadiensis, Hygrophila sp., Nymphaea sp. And Aponogeton sp. As all are rooted plants, be sure that these are planted firmly to the substrate and the white crown is not covered entirely or the plants will suffer Cryptocoryne rot which involves the plant melting although it will eventually recover but this may take some time and is best avoided. Cryptocoryne species are far more prone to Cryptocoryne rot than anything else so avoid transplanting them around too much. Finalize the layout before you try to stick them where they should be. The first four plants mentioned reproduce by runners and can quickly carpet the setup in time depending on the conditions provided. Hygrophila sp. and Egeria sp. can be reproduced by cuttings similarly with hornworts although the latter is not purely a rooted plant and is best kept afloat. A lot of goldfish favor the Egeria densa so do not be surprised if you find this plant left with a stalk instead. The leaves are too much for the goldfish to resist. The last two plants suggested Nymphaea and Aponogeton reproduce by bulbs. The Nymphaea sp. especially is an extremely beautiful plant with lushy leaf growths and even sprout flowers on the surface if allowed so be sure not to enclose your tank with a lid if you want to see the flowers sprouting and adding up to the beauty of the goldfish setup. The bulb can be left on its own although burying it halfway down will help it establish firmly its ground. To allow the young leaves to grow well, the leafy stalks that reach the surface may need to be trimmed down and this also helps prevent clogging of the surface with too many floating plants.

If you do not opt to try live plants, you could use silk plants. Make sure your choices of fake plants do not have sharp pokes, corrosive metal strips and anything else that may potentially injure or kill your fish. Some fake plants have been known to be responsible for the tattered fins. This must be avoided if you want your fish’s fins intact.

Last but not the least before we close the plant topic, it must be noted that each person has a different experience in regards to a particular plant compared to another so what may work for one may not work for the other. This must be kept in mind at all times and consider this, goldfish are extremely personable and they tend to choose their food at their own will so it is not surprising a lone comet would chomp down water lettuce and hornworts while another avoids both plants entirely. As much as possible, be sure to test each plant and plan backups in case your attempt does not work. Some plants are quite rare and expensive so it may be advisable these ones are best avoided unless you have an unlimited source and do not mind losing a single plant or two with high market value.

Next, we turn our attention towards the use of rocks and other decorations. Considering a lot of goldfish are rather prone to injuries especially sight-challenged variants such as celestials, bubble eyes and most strains with wen growths covering their eyes completely such as ranchus and lionheads, sharp-edged decorations are best avoided to avoid injuries that may become detrimental to the health of the fish. Limestones, lava rocks and polyurethane decorations with sharp edges do not work quite well in goldfish setups at all as they tend to scrape the skin of the fish badly especially when the goldfish are in chasing rituals as they attempt to mate or play around. Small round rocks and small slates (with no sharp edges) will readily work. Some goldfish enthusiasts tend to stick to marbles, golfballs and round porcelain figurines as their fancy decorations for their setup. Whether you like it or not, it does work even though it clashes with the natural outlook that you may be looking for.

Lupin 09-02-2009 04:40 AM

Substrate is another thing that needs to be looked into. This has always been an ongoing debate regarding their potential to choke the fish especially as the fish shifts the pebbles around as they forage the bottom for food. Although fine sand is often recommended as it does not pose risk of choking as the goldfish forages the bottom, it can still be swallowed and may damage the internal organs if swallowed in large amount by accident by the fish. Fine gravel works equally well despite the risk of choking which fortunately is rare but that does not mean this probability can be overlooked due to the small statistics of such incidence. As far as thickness is concerned, unless you plan to make your tank planted, it is advisable to stick to an inch thick of substrate only or better yet, do not bother with substrate at all wherein barebottom setups are much easier to clean as the wastes can be siphoned without getting trapped between the pebbles. In the end, this is your personal choice. See which type of substrate fits best in your typical setup and schedule proper way of vacuuming the wastes without too much trouble.

Pet stores sell a wide range of polyurethane decorations however bear in mind, while they are totally safe for aquarium use, some are still dangerous to particular fish that do not resist the temptation to get into trouble. For instance, most decorations have small nooks and crannies. While this does provide refuge for the smaller fish, some goldfish tend to slip into them and end up injuring or killing themselves as a result of their struggle in their attempt to get out of the decorations. Orandas, ranchus and lionheads in particular are prone to wen injuries especially when their heads are caught into the holes of the decorations causing their wens to become inflamed. Severe wen damage will probably require wen surgery depending on the severity of the injury and this should be avoided by removing suspected decorations. Some polyurethane decorations also have sharp edges which again, make them unsuitable for goldfish setups due to their potential of injuring the fish. Most decorations are notorious for building up dead pockets underneath them (especially when the tank has substrate in it). It is recommended that circulation of the air must be prioritized here to ensure the health and safety of your fish. Some decorations need to be drilled with small holes to allow the air to enter inside thus preventing dead pockets from forming. As much as possible, try to vacuum the areas where the decorations are located, every time, you perform a water change on your tank so the risk of danger is minimized.

Lastly (we hope you are not bored yet as you continue reading this topic), we would like to remind everyone that despite our efforts to maintain the tank clean and healthy for the fish, health issues are inevitable and will certainly happen from time to time and even without warning. In this case, we hope to be able to help by posting your problems in this forum. For further inquiries regarding your problems, we suggest that you read this diagnostics thread which will help you track down possible issues and freshwater disease guide where more than 40 health problems have been identified.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. This is why we are here for.;-)

P.S. I had to cut this into three parts due to character limit.

sammccully 09-02-2009 04:49 AM

Thank you for that very long, and helpful post(s) It is much appreciated! Thank You!

Lupin 09-02-2009 04:51 AM

No problemo, Sam. I hope it will help immensely. I am sorry a fishbowl would not be an option.:sad: I am just glad you asked the forums first before proceeding. Countless times, goldfish have been placed in fishbowls and days later, they either become severely ill or drop dead as a result of improper housing conditions.

Rohland 09-02-2009 01:11 PM

Wow Lupin your wrote a book.
It had loads of good information in it.
Sam as for other fish that could be kept in a bowl.
Bettas really but it depends on the size, most Betta enthusiasts recommend 2 gals minimum for one fish.
Maybe you could get an aquarium off craigslist for cheap. Even a 10 gal will open your doors to a little bit wider selection of fish. However bigger is better.

sumsum 09-20-2009 05:12 PM

If goldfish need that much room then...poor Lary!!=......(((((((((

abunari 09-30-2009 07:48 PM

So small gravel is ok for goldfish. I have the ugly large gravel that you find at the average lfs and i am wanting to switch it out for something i can use for a few choice goldfish safe plants.

If anyone could shoot me some links i would love to get some suggestions on small gravel and where to find some. local store here only have the standard size color stuff.

stephanieleah 12-13-2009 10:04 PM

Lupin after all that work maybe that should be it's own topic on the forum or something. Like a sticky in the goldfish section. Or something.

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