Some thoughts before you start....
These colourful members of the carp family first came to Europe around 400 years ago. Kept in the right conditions they can grow up to 60 cm long (about 2 feet) and live for 20 years.
Most gold fish however are kept in bowls. Their size is stunted, and their life spans reduced to only a few years.
Keeping a gold fish, or indeed any type of pet, should be a concious decision. Before bringing any pet into your household you should consider what equipment you are going to need, and get things ready for it. It is still legal to give away goldfish as prizes at local fetes and fairs, but the fate of these poor creatures is awful to think about.
In some countries the simple 'goldfish bowl' is now banned, as it is considered too cruel.
So what equipment do goldfish need?
To keep a goldfish happy and healthy you need to have a tank that is not too small, and most importantly some kind of filtration. Gold fish are particularly messy creatures, and a filter will help keep the water clean, and the fish healthy. They do not need any form of heating.
Obviously fish need water. Water out of taps is treated with chemicals to make it safe for humans to drink - but not particularly safe for fish to swim in. Tap water contains cholorine. Cholorine is a gas which dissipates into the air over time, so water that has been left standing for a few hours is better for fish than that straight out of a tap. There are also chemicals that you can buy to neutralise the additives in the water - just add a few drops to make the water safe for your new fish.
Changing the water
One third of the water should be changed every two weeks. You can simply bail out sufficient old water, and replace it with new, or you can purchase a special syphon which you can use to 'hoover' out the dirt on the gravel. The replacement water should ideally not be straight out of the tap, or should be treated to make sure the chemicals are neutralised. It should also be close enough to the same temparature as the water in the tank as you can get it - goldfish are prone to shock if they are exposed to a sudden change in temparature.
Apart from a filter, accesories in a tank are usually there for the human's benefit, not that of the fish! Living plants are useful as they naturally oxygenate the water. Plastic plants don't provide oxygen in themselves, but do attract algae which is a plant by itself, and is also a source of food for firsh to peck at. Plastic aquarium plants can give the tank a more pleasant look, and possibly provide the fish with a more interesting environment.
The benefits of goldfish
Goldfish are cheap to buy, and easy to keep. They will tolerate beginner's fishkeeping mistakes much more than other aquarium fish. They are usually peaceful fish, and a pair will live together quite happily.
Although they will never interact in the same way as a cat or a dog, fish do learn when feed time is, and may also get excited if the person who usually feeds them goes near the tank.
Goldfish can be relaxing to look at for both young and old.
Goldfish food can be bought in any pet shop or supermarket, and is relatively cheap. It is important not to overfeed - the fish will not be able to eat all the food, and it will go off in the water, making the water cloudy. Not only does this look unattractive, it is not at all healthy for your fish. If children are to look after the fish, make sure they understand that it is cruel to put too much food in. If you suspect the fish have been overfed do not feed again for a couple of days - if a very large amount of food has been given it is best to change some of the water.
If you are going on holiday for a couple of days you can leave the fish untended - it will not hurt them to clear up the natural debris in the tank. If you are going away for more than a weekend you can buy a food block. Food blocks slowly dissolve in the tank releasing food for the fish. You can buy blocks which last for one or two weeks.
You can buy sets which contain all you need to set up a good goldfish aquarium which will keep your fish happy and healthy and which look fun for children!
Accessories come in all shapes and sizes - probably the most entertaining are those powered by air, and include opening treasure chests, or skeletons which move. These do help the fish by oxygenating the water.
Goldfish also come in a number of different varieties of colours and shapes.
Plants for an aquarium
Goldfish for sale
Keeping Goldfish outdoors
The most natural way to keep goldfish is in a pond out in the garden. Goldfish can happily survive in temperatures up to 40 degrees centigrade, and will live through winter even though ice has formed on the surface of the pond. Goldfish slow down in winter so it's essential to cut back on feeding during the colder months.
Goldfish do not need complicated equipment as koi carp do - but the pond would benefit from an air stone or small water pump to help circulate the water in hot weather.
In ponds goldfish will grow much bigger than their tank kept counterparts - the maximum length a goldfish can reach is up to 60 cms, although most only reach half of this!
The benefits of a pond in the garden mean you may attract other wild life to it - toads and frogs may be common visitors which most children will enjoy. However, if your child is very young you will always need to supervise them when need the pond as water is a very great temptation for a young child!
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