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Getting started with keeping goldfish the easy way.

Updated on September 12, 2014

Welcome to the world of Goldfish.

Goldfish keeping is a rewarding, relaxing pastime that is ideal for a wide group of people.

I first began keeping goldfish back in the 80's and have enjoyed years of watching them swimming through the underwater gardens I created for them.I have even managed to get them to breed.

This lens is an introduction to keeping goldfish - successfully.

For the person who is considering an aquarium of goldfish - this lens is for you.


PS - if you love the idea of watching goldfish but don't have the funds or you can't be there for your fishy friends consider virtual aquarium on your computer (more about that later).

Why Goldfish?

Goldfish make excellent pets. Here's why.

They are inexpensive to purchase and keep compared to other pets.

They are quiet and won't bark or howl at night.

They don't require walking, grooming or large amounts of food.

They are soothing to watch.

They can with a minimum of maintenance live for several years (up to 20yrs in the best conditions).

They can be trained to do simple tricks like eat out of your hand.

They don't bite or scratch or have fleas.

Goldfish are well behaved and as good as gold (they won't chase cars or the postman, tear your curtains or dig up your lawn.

Goldfish are ideal for anyone with a busy lifestyle or who lives in a small apartment where pets are difficult to keep.

The essentials to get started.

Here is a list of basics to get started.

First of all, a suitable container for your fish.

*I recommend an aquarium at least 30 gallons to give enough space for your pets - in fact the bigger the better since this will determine how many fish you can keep.

Allow 20 gallons for one fish and 10 gallons per each additional fish.

Avoid the goldfish bowl - it's just not a good choice for keeping any kind of fish.

If you are thinking of keeping goldfish in a pond then do visit my pond lens for more ideas.

Next to a tank you'll need the following items:

*A stand to keep your tank at eye level and away from curious pets (make sure your stand is solid since a full tank will weigh a lot).

*A cover with lighting to keep pets out and fish in (yes goldfish occasionally do jump).A cover will also reduce water loss through evaporation and the lights will make your fish and plants more attractive.

*Gravel - clean and not too fine or coarse (from your pet shop) - you'll need to wash it well before adding it to your tank.

*Filtration - this comes in 3 basic types - Under Gravel, Internal or External.

I personally prefer external since they are very effective at filtering the water and removing solid wastes and uneaten food. Filters need to also be able to break down the buildup of ammonia that develops as part of the fishes usual respiration.

*Air pump and clear tubing - to aerate the aquarium (particularly important in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide which will need to be encouraged if your tank is covered).

*Plants (either plastic or real).

I personally prefer real plants as they will help process waste from the fish and create oxygen during daylight - and the fish will enjoy a nibble occasionally.

Plastic plants have the advantage of being maintenance free since they don't require trimming and the removal of dead leaves.

Heating - Note you will only need this if you live in a place that gets ice and snow in the winter.

Basically the idea is to keep the water your fish live in at a constant cool temperature and avoid extreme fluctuations of warm and freezing which is what you will get if you were to keep your fish in a garage or outside.

Cool Goldfish Books

Get in depth advice with these helpful goldfish keeping books.

A tip when filling your tank.

Here are some quick pointers when setting up your tank.

Position your tank exactly where it is going to be (away from draughts and direct sunlight) before you fill it - moving a heavy aquarium that is even partly full of water can result in disaster.

Wash the gravel thoroughly in a bucket before adding it to the tank.

You can do this best by swirling the gravel with your hands under a running tap until the water runs clear.

Alternatively to save water you can partly fill the bucket, swirl the gravel and pour off the dirty water, doing this several times until stirring the gravel does not cloud the water.

Add a couple of centimetres of water to the bottom of the tank before adding the gravel (it will help you to smooth everything easily without the gravel sticking to your hands).

Place a bowl or container in the tank and pour your water into this when filling the tank (it will help prevent disturbing your nicely laid gravel).

Add your plants when your aquarium is about a third to half full - it will help support them and prevent live ones from breaking.

you can use a stick to hold your plant in place as you cover the roots with gravel.

Goldfish love to dig so place small rocks around the base of your plants to prevent them from being uprooted.

Once your tank is partly filled connect you filtration system, continue to fill up your tank and then start up your filter and pump and turn on the light to make sure everything is working well.

It is a good idea to do all this a few days before getting fish and adding them to the aquarium because it will give you time to check the aquarium is free from leaks (yes small leaks do occur sometimes - I have had them happen).

Also it will give time for the water to "age" and for many of the chemicals usually added to tap water to be filtered out.

You can also add a "water conditioner" which you can add to the tank which will help neutralize chemicals such as chlorine and encourage the growth of friendly bacteria.

Big No No's

Don't give your goldfish more than they can eat in a few minutes - uneaten food quickly sinks to the bottom and will pollute the tank if not removed.

Don't tap on the glass.

What sounds like a tap to us can sound like a sonic boom underwater and is not good for your fish.

Don't release goldfish into natural lakes or waterways -they will either die a slow death or breed and gradually ruin the natural ecology.

Introduced fish compete with native species.

Choosing goldfish.

Firstly choose healthy fish!

You can identify a healthy fish by the following characteristics:

It will be active with an erect dorsal (top) fin.

All its fins and scales will be in good condition with no ragged edges(see the goldfish pictured),bleeding or sores, white spots or fungus (looks like cotton wool) on their bodies.

If they appear bloated, swim erratically have difficulty staying off the bottom or diving down they will most likely have a disease or internal ailment.

Don't buy fish that are in tanks with other obviously diseased, dying or dead fish (even if they look fine you will be adding contaminated water to their new home and they may succumb a couple of days later.

When adding your first group of fish to the tank float them in the plastic bag that they came in in the aquarium for a few minutes to allow them to adjust to the temperature difference and then open the bag and let them swim out to investigate their new home.

Don't feed them straight away - give them a few hours to adjust before introducing food.

Fish memory theory busted by schoolboy

Fish memory theory busted by schoolboy

A 15-year-old South Australian student has busted the myth that goldfish have a three second memory.

Rory Stokes, from the Australian Science and Mathematics School in Adelaide, conducted an experiment to test the commonly held theory that goldfish have short memory spans.


He was also keen to open people's minds to the cruelty of keeping fish in small tanks.

"We are told that a goldfish has a memory span of less than three seconds and that no matter how small its tank is, it will always discover new places and objects," Rory said.

"I wanted to challenge this theory as I believe it is a myth intended to make us feel less guilty about keeping fish in small tanks."

Rory's experiment involved teaching a small school of fish to swim to a beacon by establishing a memory connection between the beacon and food.

Over a period of three weeks, he placed a beacon in the water at feeding time each day, waited 30 seconds and then sprinkled fish food around the beacon.

The time taken for the fish to swim to the beacon reduced dramatically, from more than one minute for the first few feeds to less than five seconds by the end of the three weeks.

Following the initial three-week period, Rory removed the beacon from the feeding process.

Six days later, he once again placed the beacon in the water and despite not seeing it for almost a week, the fish swam to the beacon in 4.4 seconds, showing they had remembered the association between food and the beacon for at least six days.

"My results strongly showed that goldfish can retain knowledge for at least six days," Rory said.

"They can retain that knowledge indefinitely if they use it regularly."

Rory also conducted a number of sub-experiments which showed that goldfish were capable of negotiating a simple maze, having them move onto a second beacon if they found no food at the previous one.

"My experiments showed that goldfish have the mental capabilities to learn and remember fairly complex concepts and they can retain that knowledge for at least a number of days," he said.

Australian Science and Mathematics School principal Jim Davies said the series of experiments were an excellent example of science investigation made fun.

The secret to keeping goldfish successfully.

If there is one secret to keeping goldfish successfully it would have to be cleanliness, lots of oxygen and avoiding extremes in temperature.

Not doing this makes any fish prone to disease and an early demise. Get the conditions right though, and your fish will thrive.

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