Ponds and Coldwater Fish

Of Goldfish And Goldfish Bowls

by Ran

Many people have started out either their fishkeeping hobby or their general petkeeping with a goldfish in a fish bowl.  It's so commonplace, you wouldn't think twice about it.  It seems meant to be; to most, the idea of a goldfish in an actual large aquarium is preposterous.

     However, they should never be kept in anything less than the largest aquarium you can manage.  If you'd rather stick with the fish bowl, then forget about keeping a goldfish.

     Goldfish are probably the most commonly kept ornamental fish.  They are also the most commonly abused.  In this article, I'm going to be taking all the common goldfish misconceptions, turning them on their heads, then flushing them down the toilet like all the goldfish who really deserved better.

     Goldfish only live for a few years.  Yeah, sure they do; when they are not kept properly!  Healthy, well kept goldfish can live on average of up to twenty years.  Even more venerable ages have been recorded and are more common than you might expect.  If you plan on keeping a goldfish properly, you must consider whether or not you'd want a pet for so long.  Many people get bored of keeping animals; goldfish are certainly no exception.

     Goldfish don't get very big.  They don't need an aquarium.  Again, that's only true if you don't keep them properly.  Single-tail goldfish (Commons, Comets, and Shubunkins) are really not fish you want to keep in a standard tank unless you have a lot of money and a lot of room.  Properly cared for, a single-tail goldfish will often reach the length of a foot or more.  The goldfish you see every time you go to the pet store are only very young, and should never, ever be put in a fish bowl.
     Fancy-tail goldfish, or double-tails (like Black Moors, Ranchu, Orandas, or general Fan/Veil-Tails), don't get quite as large.  However, they deserve no less space than single-tails.

     Goldfish are stupid; they only have a three-second memory span.  Where this misnomer came from, I have no idea.  It couldn't be further from the truth.
     Goldfish are intelligent.  They will recognize their owners very quickly if they aren't stressed, and will beg like puppies every time they see them.  Once they are used to their owners hands being in the tank during maintenance, they will sometimes show their affection by rubbing against their hands, sitting on them, even allowing themselves to be lifted out of the water momentarily!  They'll learn that your fingers aren't food, and will nibble on them every time you dip them into the tank water.  Blind goldfish have even been known to recognize separate members of their human family by their voices alone!
     Goldfish are the most friendly and peaceful fish you can keep, and simply do not deserve their reputation as being unintelligent.

     The Dreaded Three.  These misconceptions are the ones that everyone knows.  Fishkeepers around the globe hear of these and shake their heads in despair.  However, there is always light at the end of the tunnel, and with goldfish, there's no exception.

     I'm sure most of you remember getting your first goldfish with a typical 'Goldfish Kit'; that iconic fish bowl (which really isn't suitable for any fish at all), a handful of aquarium gravel (often in garish colours for the kids), the smallest bottle of water conditioner available, the smallest jar of goldfish flake available, an optional false plant or decoration and, of course....the goldfish.  Some people think they're being considerate by buying two, to keep each other company.  All they're doing is killing them faster.

     Here's what a proper Goldfish Kit should contain: a sturdy aquarium, at least 120 litres for a single fancy-tail or 200 litres for a lone single-tail (up the size by 40-50 litres for each additional goldfish, more so for single-tails), a purpose-built tank stand (a lot of aquarium companies make tank-stand sets), fine-grain (a.k.a. soft sand) aquarium sand (most pet store owners, especially those with knowledge of fishkeeping, know the ratio of sand to tank-size), a very powerful filter (although two are better.  One dedicated to mechanical filtration, and one dedicated to biological filtration), a large bottle of water conditioner (Tetra AquaSafe or API Stress Coat are popular brands), a bottle of tank-essential bacterial cultures (this is entirely optional, however, it does really speed up the time of fishless cycling.  Seachem Stability, API Stress Zyme or BioSpira are well-known brands), a good aquarium light if your tank hood doesn't have one already in place (or if your tank doesn't have a hood), a good heater in case of emergencies, a liquid master test kit, and a small jar of goldfish flake or pellets.

     What?  But what about the fish?

     This is where tank cycling comes in.  Any new tank must be cycled!  If you want to keep your fish (any fish!) happy, healthy and as stress-free as possible, then do not bypass this critical setup step.  However, this is an article on goldfish; I'll write another article on cycling and add a link to it in the artist's comments.  If you wish to know more about tank cycling right away, please don't hesitate to ask me.

     Once your tank is cycled and ready for fish, it's time to head down to the local fish shop!  Choosing a good, healthy fish is your top priority.  It really doesn't take a rocket scientist (or an expert fishkeeper!) to tell apart a sick fish from a healthy one:
     Unhealthy fish will appear listless.  They'll often hold their fins close to their bodies, and may twitch them.  They often look thin and almost unnatural.  They might have tattered fins, and their gills might look very red.  Watch out for any fish that gasps at the surface for air.
     Healthy fish are energetic, always rooting around for food or watching the outside world with obvious interest.  They'll be full-bodied, with extended fins and full tails.  They shouldn't be gasping for air at the surface at all.  Gills should not appear red.
     Usually there are plenty of varieties to choose from.  I don't recommend buying single-tails unless you have a huge tank.  Fancy-tail goldfish are beautiful and lively when healthy, and make a great addition to any room.  Divide the fancies into three groups: Standard/Wen, Telescope-Eye and Bubble-Eye.  All three have the same basic requirements, but they also have unique ones that you must take into accout.
     Standard/Wen goldfish are generally one of the more common fancy-tail goldfish you'll find in the local fish store.  Standard fancies are basically Fan-Tails and Veil-Tails, both of which are available in a wide variety of colours and patterns.  These fish look similar to single-tails (not counting colour), except by the obvious double-tail, a shorter and fatter appearance, and sometimes long and flowing finnage.  These are a good choice for a first-time goldie.
     'Wen' goldies are slightly different.  These include Ranchu, Lionchu, and Orandas (among many others, of course)  As they age, if water conditions are good, they will develop a hood-like growth over their heads.  Some might just look like they've got a sixties-style afro, others will have their entire heads grown over.  This is normal for them.  Wen-growing goldfish in particular need very clean water to ensure good wen growth.  If a goldfish grows a 'full-facial' wen, make sure they get enough to eat, as their eyesight can become obscured.
     Telescope-Eye goldfish look quite like standard fancy-tail goldfish, except for the fact that they're really quite pop-eyed.  Literally.  Black Moors are one of the most common Telescope-eye goldies on the market.  Care needs to be taken that their eyes are prevented from getting damaged; to do this, simply don't put any sharp or jagged objects into the tank.  They also have slightly worse eyesight than other goldfish, so if you keep multiple varieties, make sure your Telescope-eyes are getting enough to eat.
     Bubble-Eyes are different than both.  They appear to have large, almost blister-like bubbles under each eye.  They're filled with liquid, not air, so you'd need to be very careful about any object going into the tank.  They generally have bad eyesight.  So, like with the Telescope-eyes and wen-growers, be sure that they get enough to eat.

     Fancy-tails are also relatively slow, so it isn't recommended to keep them with single-tails.  The single-tail will usually always be able to beat the double-tail to food.

     Now we move onto tank maintenance, which many people find the most annoying part of fish-keeping, and the most boring part of reading about fishkeeping.  Therefore, I'll keep it as short and simple as possible.

     Tank maintenance is a must-do with goldfish.  They are messy!  Your goldfish tank maintenance kit should include a gravel vacuum (used to siphon mulm -- sunken detritus, uneaten food and fish poo -- from the bottom of the tank), a large bucket used ONLY for tank cleaning, and an algae-scraping pad (although I use J-Cloths; you need a little more elbow grease, but they do the job nicely....and they're cheap!  Just do NOT use them for any other purpose)  The least you need to do is a weekly water change of around 30%, or a bi-weekly change of around 25% (I usually do a weekly of 50%, though.  I like my fish swimming in squeaky-clean water)  Gravel-vacuuming weekly is highly recommended, because of how messy goldfish are.  Cleaning the glass of algae is easy; just scrape it off with either a purpose-made pad, or a tank-only cloth.
     Generally, all you need to do with a water change is remove the desired amount of water from the tank (dump it onto your lawn or water the house plants with it, tank water is excellent for plants!), and add conditioned tap water of approximately the same temperature back to the tank.  Please, if you aren't more than willing to carry heavy buckets of water back and forth, don't consider getting a large goldfish tank....even though it's great for adding a bit of muscle to your arms!

     All in all, goldfish are just wonderful pets.  I know I made it sound like they're really rather difficult to care for, but in all honesty, they aren't.  All you need is a little bit of research under your belt, and everything should go brilliantly....so long as you follow through with their care, that is.

     I wrote this article for the same reason I wrote my Improper Betta Care article.  Both bettas and goldfish are very often cruelly treated; the amount of abuse among these amazing fish is just mind-boggling.  I firmly believe that it needs to stop.  Hopefully those who read this will think twice the next time they see a goldfish bowl in a pet shop, or a tank full of young goldfish in a fish store; many of those fish will never live to adulthood.

     If you've managed to read the entire article....thank you.

© www.irishfishkeepers.com - October 2008

At Sixty It's hard to go to War   
by Boroughmal

At sixty years old it’s not often that I get annoyed. But sometimes like my father told me you have to get angry and go to war. After all that’s what his generation & generations before done so why should I be the odd generation out.


Well this year was the fifth year of the  pet company & although I retired four years ago with permanent illness.  I have spent my time running the company when I am able.

To this avail I have wanted to share my lifetime’s hobby with everyone so I started keeping and selling fish this year back in march.


Lots of problems to start with the import of fish and the amount that arrive DOA, but it got better as time went on & I re-learned all the pitfalls that I fell into many years ago.

So with 120 aquariums installed on independent filters I eliminated the disease problem in the tanks & kind of   got the ammonia problem over & done with by r/o water changes.

So I now supply over 40 shops with tropicals.

So To my mind I was successful in my endeavours.


So having a large building plot on the garden & having a son & a daughter that both flew the coup long ago decided to put it to good use. Twelve ponds & a feature pond for my koi carp.

Digging them was easy, my friend bud charged me a grand & lo & behold 15 large holes appeared via a huge earthmover.


A quick visit to the wholesalers & a dozen cheap Blagdon filters turned up on the sides with lifetime liners in the ground insulated with polystyrene to keep up the temperature in the winter.

I stood back to admire my work at 5.30 am one morning & suddenly the enemy appeared.

Taking the form of a large shadow soaring overhead, the word had got out about my fish and the foe had arrived.


Things suddenly got drastic, on top of my dead on arrivals I had to start the war against it.

Ahaa I thought!  If he could not see the fish he could not steal them, so I disconnected all the U.V's, from the filters. When the ponds went green I thought First battle to me and sat to relax a bit.


A couple of weeks later I noticed the pond levels dropping & I thought that the liners had been so cheap and they were leaking, I had kicked myself in the foot by being a skinflint, twenty five years guarantee wasn’t a lot of good, but then it was too late to change them, so I dropped in other liners on top of them. But then it became a war again. It seems that the liners were going into holes & the polystyrene insulating the liners, was rising on the water leaking through underneath and the ponds were rising above the water. I blamed the lads that were catching the fish for the shops, I had taken on a load of idiots, and they didn’t seem to care about the liners & the brick lines holding them down, just about getting the fish to market.


After a lot of sleepless night I was sitting in the patio doors that overlook the garden when the sun came up over the house next door & lo & behold the enemy had turned up again. So I armed myself with a David style slinger and threw a couple of stones before I finally hit him & he scarpered into the woods.


Out came the binoculars and the seat beside the window. Out came the alarm clock set for daybreak & out came the flask & spare cup as I did not want to miss my chance to pounce. Regularly at sunrise the shadow of him preceded the man.


Well after three weeks of this palaver I was well & truly worn out, muck & bullets had nothing on this lark.  Every time he came I just couldn’t get anywhere near him as he had become so wiley. I got near him he scarpered, I threw a stone he disappeared only to re-appear a little later. His cover was brilliant & he could climb up trees & everything

Back to the thinking block. Study your enemy & find his weak points, seek them out & then pounce & eliminate him.


The trap was set, the tea was getting cold & I saw the enemy, over the perimeter wall not a bother to him, craftily walked over to the nearest pond where the fish were up for the dawn & within two minutes he stole 5 fish.

B---d I thought, that 3 quids worth of fish in such a short space of time he could nick all my stock in a week or two. It’s so far away down to the garden he always had time to escape before I could get to him, so out came the sling again & it worked this time & away he went.


Electric wires I thought. A visit  down to the wire rope company in the next town. 300 metres of flexible braided cable twenty hooks for the walls & a good power supply.

Strung up all the wires connected them up & placed a high ampere shock onto the line. I had set the trap now I had to wait for the snare.


5am the next morning I took up position at the door, As before, over the wall he came Ouch he went back up onto the wall, Ouch he went down again & ouch, back up he went.  The third time he looked & looked & eventually gave up & went up to the trees, still gazing at the fish.

I won the war lol I thought, I could now rest. But three days later the fish were getting raggedy where they were being chased so much, and customers were complaining about the quality. I had to re-think again. Out came the seat & the flask, from the crack of dawn to dusk

Lo & behold, yer man was jumping down off the wall & walking under the wires & picking off the fish one by one. Time to get the gun !


Forty mile to the nearest gun dealer and I asked what would solve the problem. Hugh! 12 bore very little sighting, but would hurt too much. It was only me fighting this war and I didn’t want to kill him just hurt him a little until  he gave up. Air rifle, that was the answer, soft bullets for a 2.2 I asked? None available, designed to go straight through the recipitant.

BB gun, a high powered one YES ! That would give him the wake up call required. I reluctantly handed my 250 euro over & was the proud new owner of a Gun.


The scene was set; down he jumped off the wall. Bang got him. Right up the proverbial.  -----      All he did was jump a bit, so I reloaded & let him have it again, by then he was walking funny & decided it wasn’t for him so he left in a hurry, hitting the wires as he panicked to get away, lightning was leaking from the wires and almost stinging his rear.


My revelation was short lived as I dragged myself from the bed at 4.30 the next morning to sit & wait, The eyes were like sandpaper as I rubbed one eye at a time to get into focus, Low & behold he appeared on top of the shed trying to sneak down again.


The war had to be escalated I was Loo-osing!


Frantic phone calls to the appropriate authority revealed if I applied to the government & got a  license I could shoot him.  I applied to do so,  met the rangers & they said that I had to do the dastardly deed by myself as they only issued the licence.

So I got in touch with the local gun club & lots of them offered to do the deed for me "No problem" So I arranged the ambush for the next morning


So I sat at the window & pondered. I had progressed from being a quiet man to be an "about to be murderer" & that was not the object of the war. The object was to Win!

I was tired I was miserable; I was distraught that it had come to this. It was nearly three weeks of getting up at the crack of dawn & then doing a days work. I sat Dejected. So I pondered my options, this war had to end, I was just too old to fight.


I didn’t want this war & I thought that I had won, but I had failed miserably.

Now it was him or I & I really didn’t want to die, so it had to be him.  I was just the one who had to do the deed.


Suddenly a bright idea came on top of me.

A drastic phone call to a scrap yard had given me the information I needed. Twelve large containers made of metal arrived at the door later that day & the machine were engaged again. A couple of days later the latest weapon was installed and ready to go. I swooped on the fish & placed them in the metal & it worked. Containers with lids that folded down when the enemy came close balanced to fall if touched & quash the foe out.


He became a regular visitor and learned to sit on the edge of the tanks, but my secret weapon worked every time. The sound of the lid clattering and I knew he was about. No fish meals here I thought.


The biggest problem with the man, he is so persistent and now can negotiate the overhead wires on my front pond, but my other secret weapon is the dogs. Line them up at the door & let them out with a whisper of “pussycats pussycats” and they leap into action at him


It’s now a couple of months since I saw the heron. He is still majestic & comes to watch the ponds from above. But even he is not Wiley enough to beat the hoods on the tanks.


I like the day that I suddenly decided to change tactics, I never killed the foe, but justice prevailed & he just can’t get in now. His beak was piercing the liners so letting the water through and suddenly the knowledge of the liner holes fell into place LOL


© www.irishfishkeepers.com - October 2008