Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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Lex Luthor 03-15-2010 12:35 PM

Goldfish acting strange
I have 4 goldfish in a 80litre tank for the last 8 months and everything is fine. They are a few years old, not sure exactly how old but they have been thriving since I moved them into the bigger tank 8 months ago.

However, in the last 2 weeks, one of them is acting differently. Anytime I look into the tank, its lying at the bottom and lob sided. Its lying half upright and half on its side leaning against the tank.

Then when it sees me it gets up and moves off but doesn't move in a smooth motion but in a jerky motion.

The odd time aswell it opens its mouth and a number of big air bubbles come out.

Eating is fine so I don't know what is up with it? My sis says she thinks its dying?:cry:

Nothing has changed in the tank or environment in the last few weeks. I change out 25litres of water every 6 weeks and have been doing this for as long as I've had the tank and they seem to not be bothered by it.

Any ideas?

Byron 03-15-2010 02:27 PM

There are other members with considerable experience in disease and/or goldfish that will undoubtedly be posting here to assist you with that issue. I am only going to make a couple suggestions on prevention.

Goldfish, even though they may seem "small" fish, produce a lot of waste and have a significant impact on the aquarium's biological equilibrium. Four in a 80l (=20/21 USG) tank is a lot. And a partial water change every six weeks is no where near sufficient in this situation. Every week you should do a major 50% water change at the minimum. Presumably with goldfish the tank has no live plants, so that is even more reason to be vigilant with water changes for small (relatively speaking) tanks housing "large" fish. Regular partial water changes are a major preventative measure in any aquarium.

I'm not saying this was the cause of the current disease issue, but it most likely contributed to it. And it certainly may prevent further problems. I'm sure others will be along with advice on the immediate disease issue.


kelly528 03-15-2010 02:40 PM

The jerky movement is the fish being poisoned by the byproducts of its own waste (ammonia, nitrite and nitrate). Bubbles coming out of its mouth sounds very serious as well, perhaps the swim bladder deflating?

Goldfish are (unfortunately for themselves) extremely hardy fish, but just because they 'look okay' does not mean to say that they are not suffering the effects of long-term ammonia poisoning, nitrite poisoning and nitrate poisoning.

Are the goldfish fancy goldfish (with a 'double tail') or common goldfish (with a single-tail)?

Commons will grow to a minimum of 12" or 30 cm, usually more around 40-60 cm. If you have commons I really don't know what to suggest rathe than digging a pond. They need 40g each.

If they are fancies they will only grow to 12" (30 cm) max (more around 8-10" or 20-25 cm) you will need to upgrade to a 50g (200L) tank. The stocking rule for fancies is 20g (80L) for the first fish and 10g (40L) for each additional fancy.

Also what are you feeding them. Flakes swell in the fish's gut, putting pressure on the swim bladder and causing buoyancy problems. Any food that floats on the surface will likewise encourage the fish to swallow air as they eat it. The safest food for goldies is sinking food, be it sinking pellets, boiled fruit or veggies or live/frozen food.

Lex Luthor 03-15-2010 03:36 PM

I'm feeding them pellets for the last 6 months and they have really got on well with them.

There are 3 common goldfish in the tank and 1 fancy. All about 5" long from tip to tail. I was told at the time that the 80l tank would be plenty for the 4 fish.

Now that you mention poisoning, the last time I changed the water, there were accusations that the local council poisoned the local water supply with ammonia & nitrates by using an agricultural fertiliser to grit the roads as there was a chronic shortage of rock salt to grit the roads.

kelly528 03-15-2010 04:03 PM

Ammonia and nitrates can turn up in tap water but 4 goldies in a 20g can do wayyyy worse than that.

Pet stores are absolutely terrible for advice. Don't get me wrong, there are good employees out there but with most of the employees their guess is as good as yours. They are trained to sell fish not treat animals humanely, hence fish known to grow up to 1 metre such as Bala Sharks, Iridescent Sharks, and Red-Tailed Catfish are so commonly sold in pet stores. Another example is the dollar-sized red eared sliders, who require an actual pond when mature and live for decades, yet are sold with 80L tanks and a tin of crappy turtle food. And since the SPCA doesn't have the time or finds to include cold-blooded animals in their jurisdiction there is nobody keeping fish sales in check as there would be for small and medium mammals.

The biggest kicker is that if you phone up a pet store and ask them if you can give them, say a common pleco that you can't take care of anymore to them, they will refuse it! They sell fish they know to be big as adults and then refuse to take them back.

So in short your new mantra should be never to trust a LFS (local fish store) employee. Every time I break that rule I wind up kicking myself... just let some guy sell me some equipment that wasnt the brand I was looking for... what a mistake!!!

Perhaps you could hunt down a friend with a pond who could rehome the comets for you? Then upgrade the remaining fancies to a 120L or 160L?

Oldfishlady 03-15-2010 04:08 PM

I think what Kelly meant by poisoning was from the fish themselves, when fish produce waste (ammonia) this converts to nitrite then nitrite to nitrate, both ammonia and nitrite are very harmful to the fish and nitrate in high levels are also harmful to fish.
When stocking a tank it is recommended that you stock per their adult size not current size as the plan is that the fish grow up and you keep them for their natural life span, also, stock consideration of swimming habits, territory needs, and social needs.
Goldfish can live over 20 years with proper care and housing, and the common type as stated can get really big and thrive best in ponds, they also thrive best is cold water.
IMO it sound like your fish are suffering from poor water quality, overstocking, poorly stocking issues.
I would recommend that you rehome the common or singletail goldfish and get a bigger tank for the fancys, until then.... check your nitrate level and if it is less than 30ppm start making 50% daily water changes for 7-10days then stay on a regular schedule of weekly 50% water changes and substrate vacuuming, hold food for 4-5 days, get the water temp in the 50-60F area, test your water daily until it is stable with 0ppm ammonia/nitrite and nitrate 5-10ppm

Lex Luthor 03-15-2010 05:44 PM

sounds very complicated....I remember as kids we had a goldfish for years in a bowl with just feeding them flakes, now its gone all too technical...I'll change the water and monitor the fish for a while.

kelly528 03-15-2010 06:09 PM

It was always technical. We just didn't think so. With modern science and the discovery that fish are capable of feeling pain and anxiety like all other living creatures, fishkeepers have changed a lot of their ways. Goldfish bowls are banned in Europe for this very reason... 2, 3 or 5 years in a goldfish bowl may sound like an impressive lifespan but considering these fish live 10, 15, 20 or even 40 years depending on variety that is like bragging about a chain-smoker living til 42!

Considering their intellectual capabilities and social nature, goldfish are more like 'higher' animals such as budgies and rats. In fact, Swiss law forbids people from keeping goldfish singly and the same goes for budgies, pigs, cattle and other social animals.

In some chinese monasteries there exist koi rumored to have been alive for centuries. There was a national geographic article on it. Not surprising considering the lifespans of fish like sturgeon and coleacanths.

If you are not up for providing a new enclosure for the fish I suggest rehoming them and setting up a community in the 80L... wayyy less hassle than goldfish.

Lex Luthor 03-16-2010 01:16 PM


Originally Posted by kelly528 (Post 344762)
If you are not up for providing a new enclosure for the fish I suggest rehoming them and setting up a community in the 80L... wayyy less hassle than goldfish.

what do you mean by a community?

kelly528 03-16-2010 01:28 PM

A community is a mix of tropical fish species, usually consisting of 1 or 2 larger 'centerpiece fish', a school of smaller fish like tetras, and then some bottom feeders like catfish.

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