How to Take Care of a Goldfish: Keeping Goldfish Alive and Happy

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Goldfish are often a go-to first pet for kids because they're inexpensive and easy to care for. However, the traditional method of buying a small bowl, filling it with water, and adding some food now and then is not only unhealthy for the fish but it can also be cruel. Taking the time to learn the best way to keep goldfish alive and happy will help you bring these cute companions into your home in the best way possible.

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Goldfish are inexpensive and easy to care for.
Image Credit: Yury Karamanenko/iStock/GettyImages

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What goldfish types?

Goldfish come in hundreds of varieties. Some goldfish types can live 25 years or more. Some are larger, and some are smaller. Some are hardier, while others are more delicate. To choose the right type for your home, talk to qualified fish specialist, such as one at a full-service pet store or fish store.

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She will discuss what you're planning on doing in terms of using an aquarium or bowl, using a water filter or not, and other aspects of keeping the fish. Using this information, you'll not only get information on the best fish for your situation but you'll also get tips on the best equipment, food, and care for the fish. If you're going to be mixing different types of fish in your tank, make sure your goldfish tank mates are compatible and not competitive.

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What size bowl or tank?

Although you've probably seen many goldfish kept in small bowls, goldfish need room to grow and swim. A small bowl can stunt a fish's growth. Plan on starting with at least a 10-gallon tank for one fish, moving to a larger tank as he grows.

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While you can start two to four baby goldfish in a 10-gallon tank, you'll soon want to move them to a bigger tank where they can swim and grow. Once they hit about 2.5 inches in length, plan on moving them to a larger tank. Plan on having about 20 gallons of water per adult fish.

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Don't forget that the more items you add to a tank, such as a filter, rocks, and scenery, the more the items and the fish will displace water. So, putting two fish and one or more items in a 10-gallon tank means the tank won't have 10 gallons of water in it.

What about the water?

Healthy fish need "healthy water." When bowl or tank water isn't maintained, the fish can develop illnesses due to bacterial problems. Because goldfish secrete certain hormones that stunt their growth, a small tank can lead to stunted growth. With larger tanks, these hormones can dissipate and won't harm the fish. That's why 20 gallons of water per fish is a good guideline.

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You should also change water often because fish relieve themselves in it. Make sure to change the water as soon as it starts to become cloudy. The larger the tank and the more fish you have in it, the more the need for a filter to aerate and oxygenate the water. Keep the water temperature between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit based on different water temperature recommendations for different varieties of goldfish. Talk to an expert or do some online research to find a credible source to guide you in choosing the right water temperature for the variety of fish you purchase.

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In addition to the tank in which your fish will live, think about the holding container you'll use for the fish each time you clean the aquarium. Putting your fish into new water and then placing them back into their original tank with new water can shock the fish, especially if there's a big temperature change. Buy a holding tank that allows for a seamless transition from tank to bowl to tank.

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Choosing the right food

Look for fish food specially formulated for goldfish. Talk to a fish expert if you aren't sure. Give your fish a varied diet of fish flakes, granulated fish food, and live or frozen brine shrimp. Even if you plan on ordering your fish food online, you can still call a fish specialty store to ask for advice.

A specialist can not only recommend the right food for your goldfish but can also give you advice on how much to feed the fish each feeding time and how often to feed them. Ask if the store delivers pet food and supplies or if you can order from the website. If you become a regular customer, you can call in the future and identify yourself by name. This will make the personnel more interested in helping you.

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