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Monday, August 12, 2013

Goldfish can be ensured a long, healthy life with the right care and consideration

Flickr photo by genista

When I'm on a meet and greet with a new family, there are always a lot of specifics when it comes to taking care of dogs, cats, exotic birds — and even some amphibians.

Along the way, it's not been uncommon at the end of the visit for client to say "Oh, I forgot about the goldfish. Could you give them a little food each day? They're my son's — he won them at the carnival last year and they're still plugging along, believe it it not."

I usually make good notes on a clients file if this is the case, and ask more questions. I usually hear a quick chuckle at that notion, but I know all too well feeding fish a specific amount of food is crucial.

Overfeeding is never a good idea; too much food can contaminate the water, as well as create a higher output of waste. And being flippant as to whether they have enough food, well to me, that's just cruel.

It's my philosophy that caring for a goldfish is as important as properly caring for any other pet — they're not a novelty.

With that in mind, ensuring the optimal health and well-being of a goldfish is simple really, but it does require a little work and forethought, and doing so can be a great opportunity to interject more dialogue with children, with whom goldfish are so popular.

Goldfish can live a long time with the right care — as old as 13-14 years old — so thinking about their environment as a whole is a good start. And as I wrote in 2012, being mindful of a pet's overall well-being is key to a lot of things, though not every species gets the same consideration.

Size matters

Dr. Greg Lewbart, MS, VMD, Dipl. ACZM, and professor of Aquatic Animal Medicine at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine has a few tips to offer, and says that starting with the right sized tank is key.

“A 29-gallon tank is best, and no smaller than 20 gallons,” he says.

And yes, that's for one fish. These creatures need space. And the tank should have a hood. Goldfish are feisty and can accidentally jump out.

The higher the volume of water in a tank, the more time it takes for the water to become compromised by fish waste, excess food, algae growth, even bacteria.

Introducing no more than four to five average sized goldfish to a tank that size is ideal.

“Goldfish are very sociable, but don’t require or need companionship,” notes Lewbart.

“They’re not aggressive fish and typically leave each other alone."

More tank basics

As for the actual water, it's the core of a fish environment, so the quality needs to be optimized. That means when setting up a tank for the first time, adding a dechlorinating agent to the water, and each time that water is added. Lewbart suggests siphoning out 1/3 of the tank water once a month and replacing it with dechlorinated water.

Aquarium salt is of benefit — fish actually prefer a little salt in their water, according to Lewbart. It can make for a smoother transition and help with stress.

Adding substrate, like a colored gravel, to the bottom of the tank is a good start. A power filter will help keep the tank clean, and a thermometer can help gauge the temperature of the water so that if adjustments are necessary (especially as the climate changes here in Michigan), you can do so. A back up heater might be a consideration, especially during a power loss in the cold months.

A fine mesh net meant for fish is the best option to gently scoop your fish or nudge them out of the way if necessary during maintenance.

Lewbart expands on additional suggestions to cultivate an optimal environment for goldfish, like why quarantining fish before introducing them to a healthy, established tank of fish and why it's important that your pet sitter follows your established rules for feeding.

Click here to read more on Vetstreet.

Lorrie Shaw is a blogger and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

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