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From the prized pet of emperors to a goldfish bowl
Member Name: broxi3781
Date: 12/09/11, updated on 12/09/11 (114 review reads)
Advantages: Long lived, intelligent, beautiful pets
Disadvantages: Expensive set ups, large space requirement, high maintenance.
By the Tang dynasty goldfish were regularly raised in ponds, and the goldfish as we know it was most likely developed by Buddhist monks. The fish would be raised in ponds but brought indoors into special containers to display when guests arrived. These fish became so prized that the emperor is meant to have issued a degree banning the yellow variant for any fish keeper not of royal blood. By this time however orange, red and white varieties had appeared and these were still allowed for the rest of the population.
Goldfish were introduced to Europe early in the 17th century, and at one time a goldfish was considered an extravagant and lucky gift for a wealthy husband to give his wife for their first anniversary, but as the years passed and the use of electricity to create heated tanks for the colourful tropical fish, goldfish became a common, cheap, and even disposable pet. Many more people love these colourful little fish, but the information proved by pet shops does not reflect the true requirements of keeping these animals. I think very few people would buy goldfish if they realised what was really required to keep this fish happy and healthy. I have bought this up with pet shops more than once. I ask why a tank is called a goldfish tank when obviously it is too small for even one. I have been told that of course this is correct, but a goldfish can live for a short time in these tanks, while a tropical fish would die right away without a heater. If they were to make this clear to the customer though, I doubt they would have many sales.
Most pet owners expect a goldfish to last a year or two, few know that this species is meant to live up to 40 years. I had a few from a carnival many years ago that I re homed to a pond after 8 years. I was unaware at the time that they were probably near to record length. I am not sure how much of the tail is excluded from measurement but counting teh entire tail, they were certainly 16" or more. Average size is 12". In this time I moved them from a 2' aquarium to a 4' and finally an 8'. I believe these were comets, but they may have been common goldfish, the two are quite similar. These are the most common types of goldfish. If your fish has short fins and an elongated shape, it will be one of these or a similar subspecies. The minimum tank size for this type of fish is 76 litres per fish. This converts roughly to a 36" x 12"x 12" tank for a single fish, and a 48" x 12" x 18" for two fish, although the 36" size, while providing an adequate water level for the fish to breathe properly does not allow it adequate space for swimming as it grows. I did find the 48" tank completely inadequate for my fish as they grew as well, although I did have 3.
The fancy varieties of goldfish are not as large, nor are they nearly as active. They require only 50% of the water volume and tank dimensions of the common varieties, which means a 24" tank should suit up to two fish. For this reason, unless you intend to move your fish to a pond at some point, I would very strongly recommend choosing these varieties over the common or comet. Unfortunately, I have never found the fancies to be quite as intelligent as the common goldfish. But quite simply, the fancy varieties are bred for life in a tank, while the common varieties are bred for life in a pond. I have to admit, I loved my goldfish, and I hope someday to be able to acquire a few more, but only if I can ever build a small pond. My fish would come when I called them and take food from my hands. I was often asked if I could pet them. The answer of course is no. Handling fish removes their protective slime and can result in illness or death.
Of course many people already have the common variety of goldfish, and it isn't all doom and gloom. Although my fish did keep growing and growing. I have heard of people keeping goldfish in 2' tanks for some time, and 4' tanks indefinitely. Of course very high filtration and constant maintenance are required. I have found switching to a diet high in frozen foods, like blood worms does help with water quality. If you already have this type of fish, I'm afraid I have to recommend a very minimum tank size of 2' and preferably at least 3'. I would then recommend the highest level of filtration you can afford, but a Fluval 2 being the very minimum with weekly cleaning. The filter should be rinsed in tank water. Partial water changes will help remove additional waste, but try to remove only 25% of tank water with each change. A good gravel cleaner will be helpful, but taking the gravel all out for a wash will also remove all the helpful bacteria that break down waste into less toxic substances. Should you decide at some point to move your fish to a pond this can only be done in late spring to midsummer. If you move the fish directly from a heated house to a freezing pond it will most likely be fatal. If you find yourself with a large fish and are unable to care for it, I would suggest talking to pet stores that stock pond supplies. They may take your fish or at least allow you to place a card advertising for a good home among customers. You might also find a new home on Gumtree.
Goldfish are referred to as opportunistic eaters - but basically they are pigs. They eat anything and everything. Unfortunately, dry foods can expand in teh belly causing bloat (Something like if you eat 3 bags of dried fruit and then a couple of glasses of water) , so it is recommended that you pre soak them. A varied diet will help prevent constipation. The addition of a few green foods, some brine shrimp and bloodworms to a good commercial flake is ideal. Over feeding of course can kill so it is important that children be supervised in feeding. If any food remains after 3- 5 minutes - cut back a bit next time. If lots of food remians several minutes later - scoop it out doing a partial water change if you have to.
If you are setting up a new tank, ideally it should set for at least 24 hours. If this is not possible, spray the water as you fill the container and use a product to remove chlorine. In the case of a first fish and a new tank, you can dump the bag it comes in directly into the tank. This will supply a very tiny amount of beneficial bacteria. Only one fish should be kept in the tank for the first 6 -8 weeks, or until ph levels have stabilised. You can buy a cheap test strip for this, or ask your local shop to test the water. Basically you are waiting for enough good bacteria to build up to break down the harmful chemicals in feces and urine. Several products are sold that are meant to jump start this process, but not having used them myself, I can not say how effective they are. There is another way to quick cycle - but it requires a friend with another tank. You simply fill a couple of women's stockings with gravel and sink them in an established tank for a week, then add them to your tank. Or you can ask your friend to run your new filter along side their own for a week. Either method will colonise the filter medium or gravel with good bacteria. Gravel is more important than people think, 80% the good bacteria will live in your gravel bed, so starting off with a good sized layer, and giving this some attention in cleaning is well worthwhile.
When buying any fish look carefully for damaged fins, white fuzz etc.. A fish with white mold is likely to die soon, but more importantly an ill fish can infect any other fish in your tank. Fancy varieties are especially prone to eye and fin injuries. I did take one home from the pet shop I worked in because he had lost both eyes. I named him Kenny Clark after a Scottish Football referee at the time. Unfortunately, after spending a fortune on a nice home, medications etc... he died anyway.
For a basic set up you will need:
Minimum 2' tank
Gravel - expect at least 3 bags.
Filter preferably one size up from recommended for tank size as goldfish produce more waste.
Lighting unit and bulb.
You will likely want ornaments as well. Most people buy an algae cleaner. If you do not like getting your hands wet, I recommend an algae magnet. If you don't mind though, an old credit card is much quicker and more effective. Never use razor blades - yes they do work, but one slip and you gouge tiny lines in your tank. These fill with algae and you can never get them clean.
By the time you are finished, you will find goldfish are anything but a cheap pet. But with proper care, they can become very friendly, entertaining and very long lived pets. If you buy your toddler a goldfish, with proper care you can expect it to be there to greet him when he returns from university.
Summary: A great pet - but far more difficult to care for than tropicals.
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