Russell W. Taylor
The Plan: To get two small goldfish and see them thrive and mature, living a normal life span of 5 to 10 (or more!) years. These instructions will introduce the basics; use it as a starting point, but make sure you also read and learn about the unique goldfish.
Step 1: Buying Stuff
Goldfish need a lot of space for a few reasons. They grow quickly. They are messy. They like steady, high quality water conditions. For two fish a twenty gallon tank will be big enough for several years. You can start with a ten gallon tank, but you may need a bigger tank within a year!
Get a power filter that hangs on the outside of the tank. Ones with sponge elements that are easy to clean are good. Biowheels seem to work. Flow control is also good; goldfish don't like to swim against a big current all the time.
At most what you should need are dechlorinating products. If your water is treated by chloramination (your water authority can tell you), ask your pet shop to help you get the correct products.
Other Important Stuff
A syphoning vacuum for cleaning the tank and changing water. Two buckets that you can comfortably lift full of water; one for removing old water and one for aging fresh water. An algae scrubber for the tank glass. An in-tank thermometer.
Gravel: a tank with no gravel is easier to keep clean. If you do put in gravel, make it only a thin layer, say one quarter inch deep. Both you and the goldfish will find this easier to clean. Plants: the fish will eat live plants, but that's only bad for the plants. Light: a tank hood may be needed ... definitely if you have plants.
You don't need a heater. More likely, you'll need a fan to blow on the water surface in the summer, to keep the tank cool.
Step 2: Setup
The tank must be on a strong level surface that can support the weight (ten gallons of water alone weighs 85 pounds). Do not put the tank where it will receive direct sunlight. Try to put the tank in a spot where the temperature is fairly steady during the day. Remember that you will spill water around the tank inevitably ... never put the tank on an appliance, antique, etc.
Fill the tank with water. If the water has chlorine in it, and you have not dechlorinated it chemically, wait three days before doing anything more..
Step 3: Cycling the Tank
This is really important. Fish produce ammonia as a waste product (goldfish produce a lot of ammonia!). It's very toxic to goldfish. There are two kinds of good bacteria, one that turns ammonia into nitrite (also toxic!) and another that turns nitrite into nitrate (relatively harmless). You need to give the tank time to develop these good bacteria on the surfaces of the tank and filter.
The traditional way is to initially introduce just one fish. For the first two months change fifty percent of the water every other day. And take water samples to the pet shop every two weeks to be tested. When the water tests show zero ammonia and nitrites, you can add the second fish and cut back on the water changes.
If you want to spend money rather than time, investigate using bacterial starter products like "Fritz Zyme #7". Or even better, get an already started biofilter from someone.
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