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alice 04-15-2007 12:43 PM

Fish idiot needs major help
I have a 3-year-old son who is autistic, and our occupational therapist recommended I get a small aquarium because the water and fish help my son calm and focus when he's overstimulated.

I seriously thought it was going to be as easy as putting some water in the aquarium, throwing in some fish, and cleaning the tank every once in a while. I'm seeing now that it's a bit more complicated. I don't mind doing the work to keep our fish alive, but I do want to make sure I'm doing everything right.

When I got the aquarium home, I rinsed all the gravel and plants really well. Then, I put them in the aquarium and filled it with water. I added a treatment to dechlorinate, etc., and I let the tank stand w/o fish for several days with the pump running.

Yesterday, I bought two small fancy goldfish. The guy at the fish store told me to cycle out one gallon of water every other day to help get the biology going in the tank.

This morning, I treated and set out one gallon of water, and I'm planning to change it out later this afternoon.

Will doing this every other day keep my fish alive and healthy? When will I know when to slow down on changing out the water? Should I be testing the water at all?

My son and I are both enjoying the fish, so we definitely want to keep them hearty!

Thanks for your help.

jones57742 04-15-2007 01:38 PM

How big is the tank and do you have a heater?

An ongoing thread my be a bunch of help also:


alice 04-15-2007 02:54 PM

It's just a 5-gallon aquarium, and there is no heater.

jones57742 04-15-2007 03:11 PM

This sounds severe but IMHO I would
take the goldfish back
buy 3 female guppies and one male guppy,
buy a small heater, air pump and air stone*
as well as a small quantity of gravel to cover the bottom to a depth of approximately 1".
(total cost should be less than $15)

The goldfish may not survive and if it does he will not be a happy camper in a couple of months due to it's size (ever seen an outdoor pond with goldfish in it: how large were they?)

The once a day water change is sufficient.


*When you said pump i did not know if you were referring to a pump for a filter or an air pump.

Trishfish 04-15-2007 03:39 PM

You don't need a heater if you're keeping only goldfish.

The reason for recommending a change in fish is that goldfish are major poopers and can quickly foul the water. Two of them in five gallons is really pushing it unless you have a filter rated for a larger tank and you're willing to lots of water changes. Guppies are beautiful and have a much lower bioload. I'm sure your son will like them just as much if you make the switch.

Mr.Todd 04-16-2007 02:05 AM

Yea, those gold fish are going to get BIG. But that's not a problem if you want to get a larger aquarium down the road... After the aquarium finishes cycling then you will be abel to cut down your water changes to once or twice a week...

Good Luck!

Rue 04-16-2007 05:11 PM

Recommendations vary...

...but the first goldfish requires 10-30 gallons...and then add another 10 gallons for every fish after that...

There's no way you can host 2 in a 5 gallon.

What you can do, is set it up for a betta...and some plants...but you'll need a small heater.

Andyandsue 04-16-2007 06:35 PM

Hi Alice!

My 8 year old son has Aspergers, so I know what you mean by how much they love their fish. Mine has 2 tanks in his room! How old is your son?

I had goldfish a long time ago, and thought the same thing that you did about just getting bowl and putting them in there. Now 3 aquariums later I have much more experience and I love my fish, but none are goldfish!

If I can make a suggestion, I would also return the goldfish. They are really big poopers and can mess up a tank quick. BUT- Knowing how much Autistic children are routine-driven, that may be easier said than done. If you can't return the goldfish, make sure you test the water daily with an AP brand liquid test kit. It's not expensive and it's so easy. Just test every day, and if you see ammonia or a little later on, nitrites, rising, do a quick 20% water change. Eventually the water will be 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and low nitrates. Then your tank is cycled, and you'll only need to do a gravel vac and water change once a week or so. It takes me about 30 minutes to do 2 tanks.

I used these 2 links as a reference when I was new a cycling. They proved invaluable and helped me to learn about a nitrogen cycle with minimal effort.

Make sure you are using a water dechlorinator when you add your tap water. You can also check out BioSpira, which worked on all of my tanks. No ammonia overnight, cycled in 2 weeks. But only buy from a reputable fish store that keeps it refrigerated.

If you can return the goldfish, you may want to consider zebra danios and/or golden white clouds (which sort of look like mini goldfish). They are hearty little fish, don't need a heater, and can withstand the stress of cycling. The danios like to chase each other around the tank playfully, and it's really fun to watch them interacting, which is really good for our kids. The white clouds swim around also, but don't engage in as much play-chasing. The danios are also striped like a zebra so that is sort of neat too. In a 5 gallon, once the tank is cycled, you could easily have 6 in there and watch them school!

I also know how draining an Autistic child can be and I'm sure you are thinking the last thing you need is deal with testing water, and changing it out, etc. But it's not hard once you have it all figured out and start the routine. It's kind of like our kids! LOL

Feel free to send me a private message.

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