The goldfish in a bowl is such an iconic image; it's almost as American as Mickey Mouse or baseball. But if you talk to most people who kept goldfish in bowls as children, they'll remember that their little pets didn't last all that long. It doesn't have to be that way with you. You can find keeping goldfish a relaxing and rewarding hobby. In this article you will learn the basics about keeping goldfish as pets – you will also learn the things you need to know to prepare for bringing your fish home. By the time you finish this article you will be ready to become a goldfish owner.
Basics about Goldfish
It's important from the onset that you understand that goldfish are cool water fish -- they are not tropical water fish. This may not seem like a big deal, but you wouldn't wear a coat suitable for Wisconsin down in Florida, right? Think about it. Likewise, not all advice for fish keeping is suitable for all kinds of goldfish. Here's one example for you: tropical fish need to have their tank water toasty warm at 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Your goldfish, on the other hand, like their water cooler at 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. But be careful because the differences don't stop with the water temperature.
You should also realize that goldfish tend to be very messy fish – they will eat anything they can find and they produce a large amount of waste in comparison to other fish. Goldfish tend to graze constantly throughout the day, but don’t let them fool you into thinking they are hungry. Overfeeding can result in accumulated waste in the tank and may decrease the water quality. These fish also have very high needs for oxygen in the water, so it is imperative that the water quality in your tank remains high and that you perform frequent water changes. If you do not provide for these basic needs, your goldfish will not thrive.
For every decision you make for your goldfish, ask yourself, "Is this right for the goldfish?" Don't depend on pet store salespeople to all be as knowledgeable as they should be. Here are some guidelines to help you make your first trip back from your local pet store a successful one in the long run. At the end of the article there is a help section and a FAQs section for some specific questions you might have about goldfish keeping. Let's begin!
Before You Bring Your Goldfish Home
1) Are you ready for goldfish in your home?
Goldfish, if properly taken care of, can live a long time. The average lifespan of pet goldfish is 15 years. They'll live 25 years on their own in the wild. There's even a record for a pet goldfish that lived for 43 years!
Goldfish require a lot of upkeep. You'll need to feed them a couple of times a week and change their water frequently to keep it clean.
Goldfish can be expensive to keep. Cheap feeder goldfish don't cost much, but any other kind of goldfish can set you back anywhere from $5 to $50 a fish. Besides that, you'll need to consider your one time start-up costs of getting a good sized tank and tank supplies. Count on reoccurring expenses for food and replacing equipment.
2) Buying a tank
Consider how much living space you have as this will correlate to your tank size. Goldfish, a cool water fish, grow much larger than many tropical fish you'd see in tanks. Make sure you buy a tank that is big enough for how many goldfish you're going to get. Look at the guidelines in the section, “Getting Your Goldfish” below.
All things being equal, getting a larger tank will make it easier for you to keep your goldfish healthy. Why? Because larger tanks have larger volumes of water than small tanks. Having more water allows things to take longer before affecting your goldfish. What this means is it gives you "training wheels" so to speak. If you kept your goldfish in a smaller tank, they'll react sooner to any imbalances in the water. Because goldfish are cool water fish, they need more oxygen in the water than other kinds of fish. A larger tank will have more room for you to put in apparatus to bubble the surface. Also, you'll need room for enough filtering since goldfish are such messy eaters.
Get a tank that is longer over one that is taller. The longer tank will give your tank a higher oxygen to water ratio which is good for goldfish. The larger surface area of the water will allow for better gas exchange between the air and the water. This will help remove more toxic elements from the water.
3) Tank Accessories You Might Need
Besides the tank, you’ll need some accessories – light, hood, net, test kits, filtrations, and cleaning equipment (both covered later in the Keeping Your Tank Clean section).
Getting the tank's bottom ready. Most hobbyists recommend larger sized gravel or river rocks for the bottom or none at all. This is because your goldfish like to forage for food on the bottom and they can choke on smaller sized gravel. Make sure the gravel is smooth because goldfish will suck the gravel into their mouths and then spit them out. They could injure themselves if the gravel has any sharp edges.
You do not need a heater for your goldfish tank as long as you can keep it at above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. That might seem cold to you but remember, goldfish are not tropical fish. The best temperature range for your goldfish is between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. You probably don't need to worry about them being too cold unless you're keeping them separate from your living areas (like in a garage or basement).
A light for the tank makes it easier to see your fish. You can also see the tank's condition better as well. You can get either incandescent or florescent lighting. Incandescent lighting is cheaper, but it burns hotter, won't last as long, and uses more electricity. Florescent lighting is probably better for your goldfish tank as it won't warm the water as much.
Use your aquarium size to figure out how much wattage you need to light the tank. The general rule of thumb is you should have 2 to 2.5 watts per gallon of water for your goldfish tank. As long as you don’t see an increase in algae bloom or the tank temperature, you can go up to 10 watts per gallon of water.
Think about buying an automatic timer for your lighting because goldfish need their light to be regulated. Unless you are very consistent about turning their light on and off so that they'll get about 10 hours of bright light during the day, go ahead and get a timer for the lights. This will also help for when you go out of town.
A hood for your tank is a good idea because it will prevent your goldfish from jumping out and it will also shade their eyes from any sudden light switching on them (they don't have any eyelids so this can be stressful on them).
Make sure you have a strong, stable base for your aquarium. Water weighs roughly 8.4 pounds a gallon. If you buy a 20 gallon tank, that would be 168 pounds. If you can't imagine yourself standing on that shelf for very long, you probably need something stronger.
Other Things to Consider
After reading this article, you may very well realize that you are not as prepared as you initially thought to start keeping goldfish. Don’t worry! The best thing you can do is to learn as much about these fish as possible before you buy them and bring them home. Keeping an aquarium is a wonderful experience, but it is also a challenge and a responsibility so you want to make sure you can handle it fully before you begin. Below you will find a list of other things to look into while you continue your research:
- Where are you going to put the tank? Your tank should be visible and accessible, but not in the way – you should also keep it out of direct sunlight.
- Do you want to buy everything individually or purchase a starter kit that includes the basic equipment you need?
- Do you want to keep any other fish or invertebrates with your goldfish? If so, you will need to do some research to make sure they are compatible.
- Will you have enough time to dedicate to the care of your goldfish? It doesn’t take much time to perform a water change or to replace your filter media, but you also need to be available to test your tank water and to keep an eye on your fish in case they become sick.
- Would your goldfish be better off in a pond? Starting a pond is not for everyone, but it is a very common way to keep goldfish, particularly because they require so much space.
Now that you know the basics about keeping goldfish as pets, you should be ready to decide whether or not they are the right pet for you. If you haven’t quite made up your mind yet, keep researching! You can never be too prepared. Given the information in this article, you should understand that keeping a goldfish (or more than one) is a responsibility and it is one that you need to think about carefully before accepting. Once you buy your goldfish and bring them home, it is up to you to provide the best care you possibly can. That starts with being properly prepared!