How does one care for fancy goldfish?
April 18, 2008 10:02 AM   Subscribe

I just rescued a couple of fancy goldfish, and I could use some advice on how to properly care for them. Is it normal for them to rest on the bottom of the tank? How much should I feed them?

The marketing department at my girlfriend's office decided it would be a good idea to purchase 40 live goldfish to use as party decorations, with no plan for what to do with the fish once the party was over. I took two of them, and want to give them the best home I can.

They are apparently calico telescope goldfish, about an inch and a half long. A lot of sites I've found say that you need 5-10 gallons of water per fish, but I can't do that. I'm not even supposed to have fish in my office, and having a full size aquarium would definitely get noticed. I've got a 2.5 gallon tank, but I've got a filter and a bubbler, and my plan is to exchange 25% of the water once a month. Is that sufficient to keep the water clean?

I've gotten a lot of varying advice on how often to feed them, from 3 times a day to once every other day. I've had them for a week, and I've been feeding them a small pinch of food once a day, and they seem to be doing pretty well.

The thing that concerns me is that one of the fish spends a lot of time laying practically motionless on the bottom of the tank. Is that normal? One of her gills is also very red, but I don't know if that's just her coloring.

I've never had fish before, so this is all new to me. Any advice you guys can give would be much appreciated. By me and by Grimy and Blush.
posted by team lowkey to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Here's a great comment from a previous thread about not killing goldfish.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:08 AM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oo. That comment's good. Here were the two things I thought of, off the top of my head, about goldfish:

1. Don't overfeed them—absolutely do not. Because they will eat and eat as much as you give them, until they get sick. I've killed similar fish before by overfeeding.

2. With goldfish, the big concern is ammonia levels, because goldfish produce a lot of that when they eat/pee. I'm not sure if it'll work out well with such a small tank, but others may be able to provide more insight into that.

Good on you for rescuing them, though! I rescued some goldfish my college roommate was just going to let die when she sent her fish tank home at the end of our senior year before moving out—but unfortunately, I never found a home for them before they got really weak and sick from living in a bowl for the better part of a week, so we had to flush them to put them out of their misery.

This Google search offers up more helpful hints.
posted by limeonaire at 11:30 AM on April 18, 2008

Best answer: My goldfish hangs out motionless on the bottom of his tank all the time. If I turn on his light to feed him, or bump the tank, he suddenly will start swimming again. Fish don't have eyelids to close when they're sleeping, but I assume that's what he's doing down there. I've had him for 3 1/2 years now, so I don't think it's a sign of anything wrong.

You're going to have to change the water in their tank more often with a smaller tank than you would with a larger one. When I had my one fish in a 2.5 gallon tank, I was changing out about 1/3 of the water every 10-14 days. It would start to get visibly less clean, and that's when I would change it.

The container of the goldfish flakes I use says to feed enough that it takes the fish about 5 minutes to eat, and to do that twice a day. It'll take you a couple days to figure out how big a pinch will last 5 minutes, but you don't have to be too exact. Maybe give them a little extra before you go home for the weekend, since they won't be getting any food again until Monday morning - that's what I do with my fish if I'm out of town for the weekend.
posted by vytae at 12:30 PM on April 18, 2008

Oh, and in case you weren't aware (some people don't know) - you should be treating the new water before you add it to their tank, to get the chlorine out. I've been using this Aqua Safe stuff and it seems to work fine. The fish guy at my local store also recommended Mardel's Brite N' Clear treatment, which I put into the fresh water a couple minutes after the dechlorinating treatment. I've never gone without it, so I can't say whether it's really keeping the tank cleaner or my fish healthier, but everyone I know is amazed that I've had the same goldfish for so many years. I figure I must be doing something right.
posted by vytae at 12:37 PM on April 18, 2008

Generally the rule of thumb I've read and go by is 1 gallon of water per 1 inch of fish, except for goldfish, in which case it's 2 gallons of water per inch of fish...thus, a 2.5 gallon tank is pretty small for 2 goldfish.
I've got a 2.5 gallon tank on my desk, which I keep one 2-inch molly in, and she gets by alright, but I do end up doing a 10-15% water change once a week, to keep the tank topped up. I seem to lose water to evaporation pretty quickly, and it's important to remove the waste that didn't go with that water that evaporated. (I actually use the cover to 100-disc CD spindle for my water changes, as it's just about the right size - I pull about 2/3s of a container's worth of water out, then put a full container's worth of fresh, treated water back in.)
You'll need to be careful for the first 3-4 weeks to do 25-50% water changes fairly frequently, until you get the ammonia cycle in check - it helps to pick up some bacteria supplement to kind of kick-start the process. Pick up an in-tank ammonia meter to help you gauge when you need to do a water change. Fortunately for you, goldfish tend to be more hardy than some other sorts of fish, so if you can get the ammonia cycle going and keep that in check, you may be OK.
posted by jferg at 12:52 PM on April 18, 2008

Oh, one other note - in a small tank like that, feed no more than a small pinch once a day - otherwise you'll end up with a lot of buildup of decaying food, and fat fish - neither of which are conducive to a small tank.
posted by jferg at 12:53 PM on April 18, 2008

Response by poster: How does this sound for a plan? Switch to food pellets rather than flakes to reduce uneaten sediment, feed a very small amount once or twice a day, and change 30% of the water once a week. Should that keep things fairly clean? Also, when I bought the aquarium, the salesperson told me that if I used bottled water, I wouldn't need to dechlorinate it. Is that accurate? It's what they're soaking in now. We've got those big water cooler jugs in the office, so it's certainly less of an expense/hassle.
posted by team lowkey at 3:37 PM on April 18, 2008

Your tank size is woefully inadequate, but might work for a while. Goldfish are heavy poopers and foul their water quality easily. They grow to large proportions quickly (they will not "grow only to the size of the tank" like some people think) and will need plans for their future. For those two I wouldn't consider less than a 10 gallon tank.
posted by agregoli at 8:56 PM on April 20, 2008

Response by poster: Sigh. I didn't ask for aquariumship, but aquariumship has been thrust upon me. I broke down and bought a larger tank. 6.6 gallons is the absolute largest I could manage. I'm still worried that building management is going to be less than pleased, but hopefully the fish will be happier (unless they get kicked out, of course).

I plan on changing out 25% of the tank with bottled water once a week. I bought some food pellets, but even the small size was too big for them. I'll have to go get some mini-sized. Thanks for the help everyone.
posted by team lowkey at 3:54 PM on April 21, 2008

I'm a little confused as to why building management is an issue? You don't want to take your pets home?
posted by agregoli at 5:47 PM on April 21, 2008

Response by poster: We have cats and a dog at home (and one of the cats loves to knock things over), so I'd be a little concerned about leaving them home all day. Also, I spend a lot more time in the office than I do at home, when you discount sleeping, so I'd hardly see them otherwise.

But, honestly, I didn't plan on having fish for pets and am just trying to make the best of it. I rescued them thinking whatever minimal care I could provide would be better than them getting flushed. Then I started reading about them and found that they needed a lot more than I thought. I'm not really interested in maintaining a big aquarium, and if they weren't in front of me all day, I think it's less likely that I would remember to care for them. They are growing on me, and it might end up that I want to keep a big aquarium at home, but for now this is the best I can do.
posted by team lowkey at 9:20 PM on April 21, 2008

« Older Cobra termination   |   I've just seen a face Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.