How to Take Care of New Goldfish Properly

Updated April 20, 2020
Goldfish Swimming In Aquarium

If you learn how to care for goldfish, your pets will have a better chance of living a long and happy life. Get goldfish care tips on choosing healthy goldfish, what to feed them, and how to maintain their environment.

Choose Healthy Goldfish

The first step in becoming a successful goldfish owner is choosing healthy fish from the pet shop. When you inspect the fish tanks at the pet shop, try to take in the entire picture.

Signs of Healthy Goldfish

What you want to see are clean tanks with active goldfish and not too many of them in a single tank.

  • As you zero in on particular individuals, look for smooth scales without blemishes, bright healthy coloring, and make sure the fish have undamaged fins.
  • Healthy goldfish have clear eyes, and their fins shouldn't appear clamped.
  • Healthy goldfish should be able to move about the tank with ease and do not appear to be struggling to swim or maintain balance in the water.

Negative Signs

If the tanks are full of sick or dead fish, the environment is overcrowded, or the water is cloudy, you may not want to buy your fish from this establishment. It's never a good idea to choose a healthy-looking fish from a tank that contains sick fish because that fish will most likely come down with whichever illness the tank mates have, including ich which is very contagious.

Create the Ideal Environment for Your Goldfish

Understanding how to take care of goldfish includes understanding what goldfish need and setting your fish up in the right environment. They will not only live longer. the tank will be easier to keep clean. The type and size of enclosure is important.

Tank vs. Bowl

Many new goldfish owners unwittingly choose a bowl for their first goldfish's home, but this turns out to be a mistake more often than not. A bowl doesn't provide enough room for one goldfish, and there's not enough space for a filter and aeration system to keep the water from turning toxic. While it is possible to keep a goldfish in a bowl with proper filtration and plants, it requires constant care and water changes to keep the bowl water suitable. Dirty water can quickly lead to common diseases like ich, fin rot, and fungal infections. Goldfish will also not grow to their full size in a bowl because there's not enough room for them to thrive.

The Effect of Space on Goldfish Lifespan

Another result of living in a bowl is a shortened lifespan. Goldfish in bowls often die within a short time of coming home from the pet store and a well-cared for goldfish should live up to 10 to 20 years or even longer. If you're looking to keep a goldfish to live out its normal lifespan, providing it with an adequate sized tank or even a pond environment is crucial.

Fish Swimming In Water

Adequate Tank Size for Goldfish

Goldfish produce a lot of waste, so it's better to purchase the largest tank you have room for. The general rule of thumb is one goldfish for every six gallons of water, but this is an absolute minimum. A 20-gallon tank is a good option for one or two goldfish and figure in an additional 10 gallons for each additional fancy goldfish. For goldfish types that have a slimmer body such as the common, comet and shubunkin goldfish, 30 gallons per extra fish is a good guideline to follow. While this may seem excessive, there are several reasons that a larger tank is better for your goldfish:

  • It is much easier to keep your water quality up with a larger tank than a smaller one. Goldfish are messy fish and it's easy to feel overwhelmed with constantly cleaning and doing water changes on a small tank.
  • A larger tank also allows your goldfish to grow to their full potential and have ample room to live in.
  • Goldfish are very sociable, so it's usually less stressful for them if they have a tank mate or two, but keeping them in quarters that are too close for comfort can lead to illness and death for your fish.

Goldfish Tank Water Care

Goldfish as mentioned previously can be quite messy fish, so keeping their water at optimal conditions can be a bit of work. There are a few criteria you must observe to keep them healthy:

  • Goldfish are not tropical fish so they do not require a heater, although you can add one as long as the temperature is kept within acceptable parameters.
  • Slim-bodied goldfish need a temperature of about 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, while fancy goldfish need the water to be 68 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The pH for both types should be around 7.0 to 8.4.
  • You must have a good filter to keep the water clean and be sure to clean the filter and replace any filter media weekly.
  • Water changes should be done at about 10% every week along with a gravel cleaning.
  • Goldfish water needs to be treated with a water conditioner such as API Tap Water Conditioner.

Pebbles and Gravel

Adding pebbles or aquarium gravel on the bottom of the tank makes the environment look more attractive, and it's essential if your tank has an underground filter. Gravel can also serve as a home for beneficial bacteria that can help break down waste material, so it's a good idea to include a thin layer even if your tank is equipped with a bio wheel filter.

Golden Fish

Goldfish Accessories

In addition to a tank equipped with proper filtration and air flow, the following accessories can also help create a more hospitable environment for a goldfish.

  • Thermometer - This will help you keep track of your tank's temperature.
  • Tank lid with light - This keeps fish from jumping out, and the light makes it easier for you to view them. Fish also require lighting to be healthy and a day/night cycle.
  • Water test kit - This will help you keep your tank water at the proper pH and alert you to spikes in toxins.
  • Tank cleaning equipment - This includes a scrubber and a siphon tube to remove waste from the tank bottom. An excellent option for "dirtier" fish like goldfish is a gravel vacuum like the NICREW Automatic Gravel Cleaner which allows you to clean the gravel without water changes.
  • Water conditioner - This removes chlorine and chloramines from the water when you perform routine water changes.
  • Rocks and plants - These provide your fish with resting places. Live plants will help absorb nitrogen in the water, but you'll need UV lighting to keep them healthy.

Goldfish Tank Maintenance

Goldfish tanks need a partial water change of at least 10% about once a week, depending on how many fish live in the tank. Once you begin to neglect cleaning your water, your fish will begin to die.

  • Start by scrubbing the walls of the tank or bowl with the scrub brush to remove any algae. A cleaning magnet is a great option for scrubbing tank walls.
  • Remove 10 to 20 percent of the water with a siphon and replace it with fresh water that has been treated with a water conditioner.
  • If you need to do a deep cleaning, use the siphoning tube to vacuum out the gravel/rocks or use a gravel vacuum.
  • Depending on the type of filter media you use, you should rinse it out once a week or replace it with a fresh one.

Feeding Your Goldfish

Feed your goldfish twice a day with high quality flakes or pellets formulated specifically for goldfish. Goldfish are notorious for overeating, and they will literally eat themselves to death if you overfeed them. A good rule of thumb to follow is to only put in enough food for the fish to consume in five minutes. Remove any leftover food in that tank after that time. Goldfish are omnivores so in addition to flake or pellets, you can supplement their diet with frozen, freeze-dried or live brine shrimp, tubifex worms, bloodworms, and daphnia. They also can eat frozen, canned, or fresh peas with the shells removed and chopped up.

Learning How to Take Care of Goldfish Takes Time

Few new goldfish owners are completely successful at caring for their pets in the beginning, and a few casualties usually go along with the learning curve. If you follow the tips offered here, you'll be well on your way to providing a good home for your fish. Continue learning about these beautiful fish, especially the particulars of any type of goldfish that interests you, and put the knowledge and experience you gain to good use.

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How to Take Care of New Goldfish Properly