Owning a ... goldfish
Care and attention
Fish don't require much attention apart from the basic feeding and cleaning. They are an ideal low-maintenance pet! However, it is important not to neglect them - fish are prone to many diseases and quick detection could mean all the difference. Also, when going on holiday, don't forget to leave a gradual release food tablet in the tank and check each fish before you leave.
Regular tank maintenance is the secret to successful fishkeeping. Since the fish swim through their own waste, it is vital that you have a filter. Even then, you will need to remove and replenish some of the water each week. A 25-30% partial water change will remove a great deal of waste. You can do this using a gravel cleaning pump. This removes waste from the gravel without clouding the water. When replacing the water, the fresh water should be left standing in a bucket for 24 hours before adding it to the aquarium. This allows the chlorine to evaporate. Alternatively, use a commercial water purifying kit, available from pet shops.
When changing the water, turn off the filter and remove the filter media (usually a foam sheet) from the filter and give it a good clean. Don't rinse the filter medium in tap water as the chlorine will kill all the helpful bacteria - rinse it off in the bucket of water you have just removed from the tank.
There are magnetic tank cleaners available which should be used to remove any algae or grime from the sides of the tank.
It is vital to keep the water fresh and clean and the tank environment free from waste and grime. The cleaner the environment, the healthier the fish. Some fish will live for 20 years or more! If the water quality is changed in any way, there could be disaster. The following factors are extrememly important:-
Ammonia: Ammonia is present in the fish's waste. Ammonia can build up from overfeeding (decaying food releases ammonia), insufficient cleaning of the water, insufficient filtering and a shortage of beneficial bacteria. Ammonia testing kits are available and are very useful when monitoring a newly set up tank. New systems require about 30 days for the beneficial bacteria to reach sufficient levels to break down the ammonia. This process can't begin until there are fish in the system, so the first 30 days are critical. During this time, the fish is subject to its own waste, which is needed for the bacteria. If you detect a surge in ammonia during the 30 days, you should immediately change 1/3 of the water.
pH: pH is the measure of the acidity/alkalinity of the water, with 7 being neutral, 1 being a very strong acid and 14 a very strong alkali. pH testing kits are available and it is a good idea to find out the pH of your tapwater. Goldfish are fine in a range from 6.8 - 7.4. Extremes will kill. Common signs of a wrong pH include gasping, listlessness, drooping fins and lack of appetite.