Why do fish die so quickly?

reg_pnw7(WA 7, sunset 4)July 1, 2007

This may be a philosophical question.

My 20g tank is well established, and my water parameters are fine - nearly 0 for ammonia and nitrite, pH is 7.4 which is fine for goldfish. Plenty of filtration and I keep it pretty clean. Temperature in the upper 60s, fine for goldfish. The tank is not overpopulated - no more than 5" of goldfish. I feed them a pinch of flakes once a day, and supplement with fairy moss from my outdoor pond, and dried seaweed, for roughage. Sunday is fasting day. There's dried tubifex and frozen bloodworms for treats.

So I buy fancy goldfish from the big box stores (but not Wallyworld) as that's all there is here. I watch them carefully before choosing, then bring a healthy one home. It won't eat much once here, gets lethargic, stops eating entirely, sinks to the bottom of the tank, and dies over the course of a couple or three weeks. I'm talking 2" goldfish that have obviously been kept alive and eating for a year or so wherever they came from. Fancy ones, orandas and such. Not feeder fish.

I was told by someone who used to work these places that they refrigerate the fish to ship them, and sometimes they get a bit too cold and never really recover. But why would they go from the picture of health at the store, to dying as soon as I get them home? I float the bag in the water to acclimate the temperature and then add some tank water to the bag to acclimate the fish to the water chemistry before letting it out. Are they going into shock from the water change? Is this just how it is with buying fish, always a gamble? I'm tired of taking home a gorgeous calico fantail or whatever and feeling like I killed it.

Plus, even those that don't die right away, don't live much more than a year, and I thought goldfish are supposed to live for many many years.

What's the scoop on goldfish longevity?

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woeisme(z7b NC)

"What's the scoop on goldfish longevity?"

Up to 50+ years, not sure if that is true with fancies though.

"My 20g tank is well established, and my water parameters are fine - nearly 0 for ammonia and nitrite, pH is 7.4 which is fine for goldfish."

Nearly 0 for ammonia and nitrite, should be OK if you haven't cycled the tank and are using the fish to do it. Once those levels go over .25ppm it gets bad. You can use salt to detoxify the nitrite and "as needed" water changes and a quality water conditioner to help with the ammonia part. Use only 2 fish to cycle your 20G. If this is an established aquarium, you shouldn't have any detectable ammonia or nitrite. If this is also an established aquarium, and it has resident fish that are fine and only the new ones are dying, then test your nitrate levels. When new fish die in an established aquarium and the nitrate levels are high it is called "old tank syndrome". This is when the resident fish have got used to high nitrate levels and there is no visible symptoms of poisoning, but the new fish not used to such high levels get nitrate poisoning because they aren't as tolerant. Another possibility could be that the resident fish are chasing the newcomers and being teritiorial. If the shippers refridgerate the fish for shipment to say 50F or even slightly less, that doesn't sound like it would harm them as long as the pet stores acclimate them properly.

I know you said it is a well established tank, but I am not sure what you meant by that. Like I said a well established tank should have no detectable ammonia or nitrite, nitrates should be

    Bookmark   July 1, 2007 at 2:19PM
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james_ny(z7 NY)

Check the ph of the store's water. Fish can adjust slowly to differences in ph, but a sudden change is often fatal. Has the tank cycled?

    Bookmark   July 1, 2007 at 8:30PM
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reg_pnw7(WA 7, sunset 4)

Thanks for the replies.

The tank is cycled. Fish have been living in it for about a year now. Not the same fish though. None live more than about a year, and the current resident I've only had a few months. I will see if there's a nitrate tester at PetCo, my water testing kit only does nitrite and ammonia.

If I test the pH in the water that the fish comes in, and it's drastically different from the tank water, how long does it take (and how?) to acclimate the new fish? he can't sit in that bag for long. I was taught to add tank water to the bag for about 15 minutes before letting the fish out, to acclimate it to pH and water chemistry in the tank, but I bet 15 minutes isn't really long enough and I'd hate to leave a fish in that little bag longer than that!

My bettas live for years. The goldfish should live at least as long as a betta! I had one betta live for 5 years. The betta lives in a separate 2 gallon bowl, not in the tank with the goldfish. The current betta is about a year and a half old. He's seen a lot of goldfish come and go. I've never had a problem with the bettas dying off like the goldfish do, and I don't recall such a problem when I kept tetras and gouramis long ago. I got into goldfish now because I thought they'd be easier than tropicals!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 1:03AM
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james_ny(z7 NY)

Goldfish are very hardy but better for a pond enviornment than a small fishtank. Their too active and eat and poop too much for the filter in a small tank. Plus the'll outgrow the tank if they survive. There are many hardy tropicals that are much better choises for your tank. Plattys, Swords, tetras, cory cats are great. If ph shift is killing your fish they would look sick and die within a week . If the ph is more than half a point diff it would take days to adjust. If they are living for a couple of months then either something is wrong with the water [ammo spike] or the fish are sick [any signs of ick or discolored gills].

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 12:14PM
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woeisme(z7b NC)

I haven't kept goldfish for about 30 years. That was the ones you won at the county fair. I do know that changing the pH by more then 1 point in any of my tanks with freshwater had no ill affect on any of my fish. I accidentally overdosed CO2 injection with my well water that is 7.8ppm. It dropped to 6.1ppm in a matter of 45 minutes or less. The fish didn't die or even appear stressed. Before I used compressed CO2 injection, I used DIY fermentation. pH would fluctuate whith the lights on up to 7.5. In the morning before the lights came on it would be 6.8. I had this situation for years with no unusal fish deaths or sickness. I know that people with ponds can have the same fluctuations with sunlight or huge rains, and have had the same goldfish/Koi for years and years. I have personally never witnessed a death by pH before. I have never heard of anyone who isolated a death to pH changes unless it was a drastic change to an unexceptable level. If the water becomes too acidic, below 6.2 for too long, bigger fish may suffer from lack of O2 and the acidic destruction to the slime coats. Or, if the water gets buffered too high above 9.0 for too long it may also have the same affect. This is for freshwater fish only, I'm not sure about salt water. I have been warned about pH changes that are supposed to be lethal for fish by many articlkes in the past. I have also read just as many or more saying what I am in more recent years. I think it is more of an ammonia/nitrite issue with regs tank. If it is indeed established, then no detectable ammonia or nitrite should happen, with the exception of maybe a breif spike when adding some new fish. That should not last more then a day though. Possibly maintainance is not being done enough or correctly reguarding the filter media replacement. For an unplanted tank a bio-wheel type filter would be ideal. That way sponges and other media replacement wont have as much effect on bacteria removal. If it's not that then the test kit itself may be giving you false readings. I personally prefer the 2 part reagent (chemical(s) and test tube) for ammonia and reagent nitrite tests. They are a little more work then dip strips, but are more accurate and in the end cost alot less. Another possibility is heavy metals and other dissolved solids in your water supply. Some metals or other solids in too high of a dose are toxic to fish. for now I would check the easy stuff, Nitrate, Nitrites and Ammonia. pH is also important reguarding Ammonia.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 5:20PM
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Ok, just to brainstorm a bit more. (maybe start with comets, lol)

First, fancy golfish are much less hardy then regular types. (in the Dr. Innes book it mentions pretty short lives for the fancier varieties. Up to 30 for more common with 10 being the average indoors. (I am sure their is more updated information on the www)

"young fancy goldfish with a body length of not over one inch are quite unlikely to live a year. Those 2 - to 2 1/2 will average about three to four years under good conditions. Anywhere from six to twelve yearts can be considered a long life for a fancy goldfish."


Great site where people post real life experience. (eliminate xxx's)


I believe Fancy Goldfish are terrific creatures! They've been my constant pets since I was born, and they're extremely hardy and long-lived as long as you take precautions such as appropriate tank decorations and size, right food, proper water temperature and chemistry, etc. I currently have six fancies, all eye-types: Jiggy (black moor), Ziggy (red bubble eye), Draco (orange celestial) and Peppermint (white telescope) live at the home aquarium, and Orange Julius Ceasar (red telescope) and Titania (calico crown pearlscale telescope) live in the school dorm tank. They're cute, zesty and very much enjoying life as they are the joy in my life!

Contributed by Goldfish Girl

I think Fancy Goldfish are awesome! If kept right they can live for more than fifteen years, as an Oranda of mine has. But, they are hard to keep and more often than not, 25 cent feeder fish in a poor tank live longer than a $4 fancy fish does in a quality tank.

Note the mention of frequent water changes and salt.

I have kept Gold Fish over the years and was a previous member of the Gold Fish Society of America, having some short articles and a poem published by them in '84. At the present time I have one small Black Moor and 3 Baby Orandas although one is about 8 cm and is bigger than the others. I adore fancy Gold Fish. They make Great Pets and they do know the hand that feeds them. I recently lost a beautiful Fan Tail due to a Bully that I had in the tank. He is now in his own small tank as he is only 3 cm. I worried about the Fan Tail bothering the Babies but it turned out the other way around and the Fan Tail ended up dying because of the Bully. The others are fine together in their 110 liter tank.

Keeping Fancy Gold Fish is a challenge as they require frequent water changes and salt in their tanks.

Their head growths and beautiful finnage are the rewards of keeping them. Mine also know that the minute the filters are shut off they know exactly where to come to in the tank for their feed. Sometimes I drop them a couple extra pellets into the bottom and they have never failed to find it. Also, Gold Fish like to explore and be entertained. I change decorations in the tank from time to time so they don't get bored of their surroundings. I have open tanks for easier cleaning and seldom use lights and kept as dark as possible in the daytime which is very effective in controling algae. I only use the lights and hoods when there is company to view these gorgeous creatures.


To continue:

1 - water quality, filtration and cleaning schedule


And Woeismes >

2- tank size mho too small (ie think in terms of waste) five inches not same as gold fish more rounded body and old rule one inch for one gallon obsolete... but again more of waste production and the fancies grow huge to boot. I used the one fish for 20 gallon rule myself.

3 - food? Note article below, need some protein but more carbs. Do you feed food specifically for goldfish?

4 - Note in article below rapid temp changes can kill them or stress them and they recommend a heater to prevent for example night day changes. (here it can be 90 day, 60 night)

Have you kept other types of fish with more longer lived success?


Charcoal will absorb toxins then when it reaches capacity will start to release them back into the water. I agree that this area might need to be looked into further. I use two filters so that one can be cleaned while the other is running to avoid culture crashes. (one bio wheel other not)

How often do you clean, and how? Partial, weekly, or once a month. Do you have extra thick layer of gravel where anerobic bacteria can build up which produces toxins?

I have heavy metals from the very old 1920's pipes in our building and have to remove them with a chem absorb product. And prefilter the water to boot even for my self, other wise it's brown (yuk) And sewage backs up during flooding, double yuk!

Do you add a pinch of salt to their water.

From the old Dr. Innes books, epson salt is a good purgative once a week.

"Goldfish readily eat Epsom salts. A pinch dropped in the aquarium once weekly is beneficial, and at the same time will replinish some of the mineral content of the water depleted by the plants and fishes drawing constantly upon it for the chemicals necessary to sustain life. This practice ahas a tendency to prevent constipation."

Something is stressing these fish. (that aside many fish today are just not as hardy as years and decades ago. Especially those sold in box and chain stores. Gouramis for example, ones I had as a kid lived 8-10 years, now all most all get tb or other aliments. So it might be the source of fish, and if from Asia, many are bred in not best conditions, medicated and weakened.)

Goldfish are pretty messy and need extra care with re to water quality. The following supports the need for extra water quality maintenance.


Aquarium conditions


The goldfish is quite hardy, which accounts in part for its popularity. Their supposed reputation in some areas for dying quickly is often due to poor care amongst uninformed buyers looking for a "cheap" pet. The goldfish is usually classified as a coldwater fish, as it can live in an unheated aquarium or in an outdoor water garden. In a pond, it will even survive brief periods of ice forming on the surface, so long as there is enough oxygen remaining in the water and the pond does not freeze solid.

Like most carp, goldfish produce a large amount of waste both in their feces and through their gills, releasing harmful chemicals into the water.

This also happens because goldfish cannot digest an excess of proteins, unlike most tropical fish.

Build-up of this waste to toxic levels can occur in a relatively short period of time, which is often the cause of a fish's sudden death.

Although goldfish were historically displayed in small "goldfish bowls", a healthy and happy average-sized adult goldfish requires at least 10 US gallons (38 L) of water and above in order to live even a small life. In fact, for single-tailed varieties, such as commons or comets, it is really necessary to have 100 gallons (378 L) (for adult fish). Other goldfish experts say that it is the amount of water surface area, not the water volume, that decides how many goldfish may live in a container; one square foot of water surface area for every inch of goldfish length (370 cm/cm). For example, if you had three goldfish of length 4 inches (10 cm) each, you might need 12 square feet (1,080 cm²) of water surface area. Surface area is an approximate measure of how much oxygen may be absorbed into the water from the air. If the water is being further aerated by way of water pump, filter or fountain, more goldfish may be kept in the container.

A frequent misconception is that airstones do not increase the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water. Most of the transfer of oxygen occurs when the bubbles are formed at and around the airstone, and therefore airstones that create smaller bubbles in large amounts are preferred over those creating fewer larger bubbles. The ripples they create at the surface of the water also increase the surface area and therefore facilitate oxygen exchange at the surface of the tank. For the beginner acquiring a goldfish, the best advice that can be given is to get a 40 gallon long tank, these are typically inexpensive, have a huge surface area, and will be a suitable fish home for over 2 years.

Beginner filtration can simply be provided by a box filter hung over the back of the tank, though filtration should be rated for ), as the ammonia levels produced by goldfish are much higher than those produced by the tropical fish filters are typically rated for.

It is also imperative that adequate biological filtration is provided, as the breakdown of nitrates occurs much more slowly at the colder temperatures goldfish are kept at.

One useful compromise is to keep the aquarium heated to a constant 72° F (22°C), as this temperature keeps the fish active while at the same time aiding bacterial growth.


More interesting info from same site.

Despite the small size of goldfish, they are able to grow large in a short amount of time. Therefore, a goldfish pond or a massive tank is often more of an investment than typically expected. Inexpensive ways to keep goldfish in more humane conditions until such an environment can be arranged by constructing an emergency home for them out of large plastic or glass containers, which can be as simple as 20 to 40 gallon (76-151 L) plastic boxes. These containers will house a fish much better than a small bowl, though proper hygiene must still be maintained. A 20% change of the water twice a week and using an aquarium vacuum to clean any dropping off of the bottom are effective methods in preserving water clarity. Additional rocks and plants in the tank help to remove nitrates from the water and also keep the fish entertained. A more ideal eventual solution is a 100 to 200 gallon long tank, and while this may seem excessive, common goldfish can grow to a foot (30.5 cm) long and may require such a large tank to have enough room to swim. Goldfish kept in smaller tanks will have much shorter lifespans.

Starting filtration should be provided by a box filter that hangs on the back of the tank. Undergravel filters have their uses, but they are inappropriate in a goldfish tank as they will quickly clog with detritus. Another excellent argument against undergravel filters is that the beneficial bacteria can sometimes die off, yet the filter will still appear to be working. The resulting spike in ammonia is often enough to kill every fish in the tank. Canister filters are another excellent choice, but usually well outside the budget of a beginning aquaculturist. Wet-dry and protein skimmer options are usually reserved for marine aquariums, so it would be extreme overkill to use them here. Simply put, the best option is to purchase a box filter rated for twice the volume of your tank, as goldfish produce copious amounts of waste due to their large size. An external box filter is preferable.

Lighting is the one area where someone on a budget can avoid investing money initially. Goldfish need day and night cycles to be healthy, but for tanks under 30 gallons (113 L) the room lights will be sufficient, at least temporarily. Another excellent area to save money is on the full hoods often sold at a greater cost than the tanks themselves at the pet store. A much more economical cover for the tank can be constructed out of the plastic mesh backing used for making loop-and-stitch rugs. This can be easily found at any craft store, and can be cut to fit the filters for your tank. Suitable covers can also be constructed out of particle board, which can be found at any hardware store. However, if a source of natural light is available (eg. a window), the fish will be much happier than if they were under artificial lighting.

One last point that should be made for beginning goldfish owners is on the use of a heater. Goldfish may be coldwater fish, but this does not mean they can tolerate rapid changes in temperature. The sudden shift in temperature the comes at night, for example in an office building where a goldfish might be kept in a small office tank, could do them in, especially in winter.

Therefore, even for cold water fish under certain circumstances, it is recommended that a tank heater be set to 68-72º F (20-22° C) and left in the tank year round. This is especially important for fancy varieties of goldfish, as they are less hardy than their brethren.

Bear in mind, however, that temperatures over 25 degrees C can be extremely damaging for goldfish (this is the main reason why they shouldn't be kept in tropical tanks). As long as the room temperature does not fluctuate massively or drop extremely low, a heater can be left out of the aquarium



There exists a great deal of conflicting information on the best way to care for a goldfish, or rather, on the best feasible ways to care for one. The best solution is to build an indoor pond, as this would provide the benefits of an outdoor pond without the risk presented by raccoons, kingfishers, children, and weather. As for indoor care, there are a few general tips that should be noted.

A quality mechanical filtration system rated for at least twice the volume of your tank is optimal for most tanks. Goldfish produce copious amounts of waste, and this factor must be constantly dealt with to prevent ammonia spikes.
Undergravel filtration is usually not recommended for most goldfish tanks. These systems require up to six months to establish, and goldfish produce far too much waste. The filter plate will clog with detrious and become useless within a matter of weeks. Not only that, but these systems are only effective in tanks under 40 gallons, while most goldfish pairs or trios require 55 gallon tanks by the time they are fully grown.

Floating pellets (particularly floating pond pellets) are one of the best staple foods for fish. Uneaten food can be removed easily, and the fish have no trouble finding the food before it dissolves.
A twenty gallon long tank is usually a good choice for starting fishkeepers. While most will eventually have to upgrade to fifty gallon tanks, it is best for a beginner to have a tank that doesn't create additional problems. Larger tanks require more planning, more initial investment, and more mechanical inclination in setting it against the right walls and floor joists of the home. It is also nice in the long run to have the twenty gallon tank to use in case of emergency (such as a bigger tank breaking) or as a hospital/quarantine tank.
An excellent idea when moving from a smaller (10-20 gallon) to a medium (37-55 gallon) tank is to use your old filter, and add an additional identical unit on the opposite end of the tank. It is nice to plan your filter so that when you move to a larger tank the filter can handle it as well.

Two medium size mechanical filters working in conjunction will do wonders for your water quality, as well as ensure that if a filter were to break, there is at least some filtration until a replacement can be obtained.

Air pumps are becoming outdated for most standard filtration setups.

Air-driven mechanical filters are simply not powerful enough to deal with larger tanks, and should be reserved for fry tanks. The noise of most air pumps is also annoying. Most decorations driven by these air pumps do little to improve the oxygenation of the water. Another simple argument against the air pump is that it does not deal with the problem of tank overcrowding - if fish are gasping for air (lack of dissolved oxygen) it is almost always better to remove fish from the tank rather than resort to gimmicks to try and increase the air.

You never want your fishes lives to depend on an electrical device being able to run constantly, as in the event of a failure their lives would be endangered.
Lastly, keep the tank cold.

Goldfish cannot be mixed with tropical fish, and indeed it is not even a good idea to mix them with other fish. Most catfish (ie plecos) that can be kept in coldwater get too big to keep in the tank, and they are a danger to the goldfish. Numerous accounts can be found of cases where a goldfish was injured, and a catfish will take a liking to sucking on the wounds.

There are also a few stories of celestial goldfishes eyeballs being sucked out by a wandering algae eater. The bottom line, don't mix.


Do they get enough food? A pinch a day may be too little? Just a thought.

I noted on another site but looke this up for goldfish re soaking dried food? I feed my fish twice daily (small amounts) protein in am (mixed but more protein) and vegetable pm for a purging effect. Fast swimmers with faster metabolisms get a mid afternoon snack.


Feeding Your Goldfish

Feeding your goldfish a proper diet is critical to the long term health of your goldfish. Many mass produced goldfish foods go on the assumption that goldfish are vegetarians. This is not true. Although goldfish love plant material and algae they do require the mix of animal protein and plant protein to really thrive.

For a staple diet most goldfish keepers go with a pelleted or flake food. If you are feeding a floating pellet food then the pellets must be presoaked and the air squeezed out of them. Sinking pellets can be fed without presoaking. If feeding flake food hold the flakes under the surface of the water for a few seconds then release them. Presoaking any dry food will help with the fishes digestion.

While on the subject of pelleted fish food I may as well mention the brand I use which is Sho-Gold manufactured by Total Koi. Sho-Gold contains an impressive list of ingredients as well as the supplement Aquagen. Aquagen enhances the fish's immune system as well as increases the fish's ability to absorb nutrients. Sho-Gold is available from the Goldfish Connection.

Note: I do not receive any financial incentives for endorsing Sho-Gold. The food is simply that good. I have met one of the owners of Total Koi and was very impressed with his knowledge of fish nutrition and dedication to the quality of his products.

Other goldfish treats:

Peas - Peas are a great supplement to your goldfish's diet. They help keep their digestion moving along. I like to treat my goldfish to peas once or twice a week. Frozen peas are the best. Nuke them in the microwave for a few seconds to defrost them and squeeze the shell off the pea before feeding them to your fish. For smaller goldfish you may want to remove the shell and chop the pea into smaller pieces.

Cooked Shrimp - These are the peel and eat kind of shrimp you can buy at your local grocery store. Remove the tail then finely chopped the shrimp to feed to your fish.

Rice - Cooked rice is a good occasional treat for your goldfish.

Freeze Dried Plankton and Krill. This is another readily accepted treat for goldfish. The high animal protein is a definite plus.

Frozen Bloodworms - Frozen Bloodworms are an excellent addition to a goldfish's diet. They are very good for keeping their digestion in good shape. There are a couple cautions with frozen bloodworms. One - be sure and trust your supplier in that the worms have not defrosted and refrozen. Two - look out for frozen bloodworms with Beta Carotene added as a color enhancer. Beta Carotene does enhance the red color in goldfish but it also turns the white areas in red and white goldfish orange. No health danger; just looks weird.

Earth Worms - Earth worms are an excellent source of animal protein for goldfish. There is a caution with earthworms depending on the source. Earthworms fed to goldfish need to be raised in an organic fashion with no chemical toxins that may harm your goldfish. Also, earth worms need to be chopped up before feeding them to your goldfish. Not a task for the squeamish. Freezing the earth worms prior to chopping helps cut down on the "eeeyyyeeww" factor of the task.

Broccoli - Broccoli is a good source of vitamin A and calcium. Broccoli is best for goldfish after nuking it a few seconds in the microwave then cutting up the blooms on the florettes.

Recipes - If your more into the do it yourself mode of feeding your goldfish check out the recipes on Russell Taylor's website.


Like most fish, goldfish are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will eat whenever food is available, whether they are hungry or not. This habit can be fatal. Their digestive tract often become so jammed with food that the intestines tear open, killing the fish. Also, an excess of food means more waste and feces, which will pollute the tank. Goldfish need to only be fed as much food as they can consume in three to four minutes, and no more than twice a day.

An effective method to determine if your goldfish is being properly fed is to look at their feces. They should be short and chunky, the same color as the food the fish is eating. Long strings of waste that trail behind the fish as they swim could be a sign of over-feeding.

Care has to be taken when choosing the right food for them, because goldfish need less protein (which they cannot digest in excess) and more carbohydrates. However, specialized food for them can be found on the market. Most come in the form of flakes, which float at the top of the aquarium or pellets, which sink slowly to the bottom.

Proper goldfish diet usually consists of a good quality floating pellet type food, along with occasional feedings of peas (removed from their outer skins), blanched green leafy vegetables, and bloodworms. Young goldfish benefit from the addition of brine shrimp to their diet. It is a good idea to set up a feeding ring in their tank where food is always introduced - not only does this prevent food from getting sucked into the filter, but it also ensures the fish know where to go for food. Within a week of its introduction the goldfish should be spending a lot of time at the feeding ring looking for food. Blanched greens should be clipped inside the tank where the goldfish can easily nibble at them.

Fancy goldfish such as Fantails and Black Moors benefit from having their food soaked first as feeding at the surface can increase their risk of getting swim bladder problems (where the fish is unable to control buoyancy).

It is a better idea to introduce blanched greens to the tank than it is to use live plants as a food source. Any plant that can grow fast enough to survive a tank full of voracious goldfish is likely to overrun the tank, creating a maintenance nightmare. On the other hand, tamer plants are likely to be uprooted, or simply torn to shreds, by the efforts of the goldfish.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2007 at 4:09AM
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reg_pnw7(WA 7, sunset 4)

Lots of good info here, thank you.

I do feed special goldfish flakes, possibly not enough, but since too often the new fish won't eat at all I don't think it's the menu that's doing them in.

I got a nitrate tester, and it's in the ok range although at the high end. I do use a chemistry kit type tester for ammonia and nitrite, with the two reagent nitrite test. A fairly new one too so the reagents are fresh.

The filter is a box filter rated for 30-40g tank, in a 20g tank so ought to be big enough. I wash the filter media rather than change it with every water change to conserve the beneficial bacteria. It gets a lot of algae growing on the mesh bag of the filter media. The gravel is only an inch or so thick, I wouldn't think it's anaerobic at the bottom, and it gets all churned up when I do a gravel cleaning.

They do get salt in the tank, 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons of aquarium salt.

I'm thinking it's the pH. I need to test the pH of the water the new fish comes in, and acclimate new fish more slowly and monitor the water parameters more closely after adding a new fish. Right now the dip strip nitrate test kit says the pH is 7.8 and that's pretty darn high and I can't get it to go down. What effect does driftwood have on pH, could that be what's making it so high, or the chunks of polished glass in the gravel? I think glass is inert but maybe not. The gravel is more glass chunks than actual aquarium gravel.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 2:07AM
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For ongoing help with goldfish, Koi, aquariums and ponds, with our very own disease diagnosing & 911 treatment expert, visit our informative website for goldfish owners.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 7:20PM
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The next time you buy any new fish, do not float them in the bag.

Instead, slip them from the bag into a plastic container that will float in the tank, then slowly- add some tank water to the container. Over the course of about a half hour, add 2 parts tank water to every 1 part of bag water you remove and discard.

Then, net the new fish out of the container and into the tank.

But still, even with slow acclimation, adding new fish to an established tank is always risky and why every advanced aquarist I know maintains a Q tank. When you plan to buy new fish, just fill the Q tank with water from the established tank, then hold the the new fish in it for at least 2 weeks, to be sure they are healthy.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2008 at 9:03AM
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Having worked at a wholesaler, we receive hundreds of bags of fish every week. Our routine was to float the bags and medicate. Then we netted the fish with the water going into buckets. Then they wer ingloriously tossed in the tank. That was the freshwater.

For saltwater we treated them more like was suggested above. We poured the fish and water into a container and at 15 minute intervals we added water from the tank to container, 3X. Then we put the fish in the tanks.

But this is a wholesaler with fish transshipped from overseas, as opposed to a pair of fancy guppies, long past the wholesaler process.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2008 at 10:28AM
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petrolaris: I can imagine how fish are handled by a large wholesaler buying in huge quantities from overseas, but they write off losses. People who buy them a few at a time are far less sanguine when they buy 2 and lose 1, especially Goldies.

Of all the fish kept in home tanks, few become as tame and as close to being considered "pets" as do Goldies. I have 16 Wakin and all will come to eat from my hand.

With the exception of the Wakin, all of my fish are tropicals, but none are salt or brackish water species and as much as has been learned about keeping fish in the past number of years, I am continually amazed at the number of people who seem to believe that salt is even necessary, let alone beneficial to FW fish, particularly carp.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2008 at 6:54PM
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paparoseman(z8 WA. PO.)

Salt is not necessary for freshwater fish. The salt is added to the tank to irritate the fish thereby causing the slime coat to be thicker than it would otherwise be. If you do not add fish to the tank after it is set up there is no need to add salt as an everyday preventative.

I also used to work in wholesale and some of the male betta's shipped from Thailand used to come in with no water in the bag. Betta's can breath air other than from the water and because the bag is sealed their body did not dry out.

And yes the wholesaler can write off fish deaths but with the price of importing fish plus airfreight they cannot just throw fish in a tank and hope they fend for themselves. We used to float the bags until the shipment was placed in the correct tanks. Then the bags would be cut open and the fish would get a drip system tied to their bag so that they would get used to the new water.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 8:35PM
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Did you get your fish from Dolphin?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 12:46PM
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"My bettas live for years."

Thats fantastic I had bettas also when I lived in NY live in South Florida now.
Could be the place your buying goldfish isnt a good place. I have 2 chain type pet stores within 30 minutes from here and its ich sickly fish .
I go to a nice place an hour away with healthy fish that isnt a chain pet store . That might be your problem as you know what your doing.
I plan to set up several Betta 2 gallon tanks in my patio ofcourse bring them in Jan and Feb

    Bookmark   July 3, 2008 at 2:56PM
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reg_pnw7(WA 7, sunset 4)

Well I'm having a little bit better success now, but I'm afraid to say anything lest I curse myself ...

I've lowered the pH to neutral. I asked at the store I buy from , and that's what they keep the goldfish at. So, this way there's less shock on new fish when they go in my tank.

I also switched to feeding twice a day. Sinking pellets in the morning, and something different at night - goldfish flakes, or dried worms, or some duckweed or water starwort. More variety, and a little bit more quantity. They seem to be doing well. They don't like peas, or brine shrimp. Everyone's entitled to have their likes and dislikes. They get bloodworms and tubifex worms and they like those well enough, but they prefer the pellets over everything else.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2008 at 10:52PM
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I never had any luck with goldfish either. All the tetras I had live for 3-4 years, but the goldfish were dead within a month. I do have a goldfish bowl on the patio with 3 feeders I bought in May. They have to be the hardiest suckers going. I change the water every other day, just water from the faucet, no letting it sit overnight or anything. I'm worried about the cold weather coming, and how I might keep them alive in the house.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 11:44PM
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I used to raise fancy, large goldfish ages and ages ago. One of the things I remember is that goldfish have a larger oxygen requirement than other fish - colder water contains more oxygen, so keep the water cool. You can make ice cubes from your tank water - but make sure you don't accidentally switch ice cube trays!!! :) Best of luck to you!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2008 at 10:06AM
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mingtea(z9 Tucson)

if your tank is heavily planted, i wouldn't recommend you use too much salt--your plants won't like it.

when you bring in your fish, how do you acclimate them? as birdwidow suggests, you should float them in a container or open the bag while gradually replacing the water. when you buy your fish, bring the home as quickly as possible. CO2 and and fish waste build up inside the bag and drop the pH. when you open the bag, the rapid influx of oxygen will precipitate the pH and convert NH4 to NH3, resulting in gill burn (gill burn can take a few weeks to kill a fish, and you'll see sluggish behavior, lack of feeding etc.).

on the subject of water quality...since your tank is cycled, you may want to do a large water change, including extensive gravel-vac'ing before you introduce your next fish--especially if you have a pad of waste and debris at the bottom of your tank harboring anaerobic bacteria. lastly, the water where i live is terribly shoddy so i added "chemi-pure elite" to my overflow filter and noticed a decrease in mysterious fish deaths. it takes care of some of the heavy metals you can't normally remove. it's not cheap ($25-ish), but neither is buying new fish!
oh, and as to your driftwood question, the tannins in it tend to lower the pH. indian almond leaf has the same effect, and you may have come across it in relation to your bettas.
good luck!


p.s. have you considered just keeping them outdoors in a pond or large trough? when i lived in oregon, i kept my fancies outside all year long and they loved it.

p.s.s. sometimes certain fish aren't meant for us. since i moved to AZ, i can't keep a cory cat alive for more than a couple months to save my life!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2008 at 12:06AM
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