BUYING AND SETTING UP A TANK OR BOWL

DO THIS BEFORE YOU BUY FISH!

This is the first post of this section as it is the most importance. Don’t race out and get fish and have nowhere to put them. It is fun to set up a tank and you will have a great home into which you can put your new fish. People soon lose interest if the fish are swimming around in an old pot or little, ugly bowl. There are a few things to think about before you get to the shop and we will consider them here.

The first consideration will be how much you want to spend. There is no limit to the amount you could spend if you became a fanatic but for beginners just decide how much you have and budget accordingly. You don’t have to begin with the largest tank or bowl in the shop, just one that suits you.; Look at the place where you are going to put the bowl or tank and think what might look the best in that spot. Fish tanks full of water weigh a lot so ensure a solid structure to sit it on. The structure should also have some protection as it will have water spilt on it at some stage. So do not sit bowls or tanks on electrical equipment.

The best place for a tank is out of direct sunlight, as sunlight will only encourage the growth of algae. Try to place it in a spot which has a steady temperature, as extremes of temperature do not help the fish. Also plan for the future. A small bowl may only hold one or two fish, later you may want more. A smaller bowl will become crowded and the fish will die as they produce a lot of ammonia. More on this later.

In general, fishbowls are smaller and do not have the same room to increase your numbers. It is usually one goldfish per bowl even with a filter. Many bowls are just too small and the fish die. This is very sad especially for the young enthusiast. Bowls can be used to isolate sick fish if you move to a tank or aquarium later on. Bowls are cheaper but we have always preferred a tank. If you really want a bowl consult your local dealer as there are always advances in technology and styles. Remember that overcrowding is the worst thing you can do to a fish.

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Two kinds of bowls available for the beginner. These are simple glass or plastic models that are suitable for the home or children’s bedroom.

The larger the tank the more fish you can have but think about looking after them. It is best to start small and build up with experience. A common question is how many fish can I have in the tank? While the experts are decided as a general rule for the beginner we recommend about 10 litres of space for each fish remembering that fish can grow, some quite quickly for fish. If in doubt the person in the shop should be able to help you. Don’t hesitate to ask for help, especially in a specialist aquarium shop.

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An Aquarium starter kit

There are many *kits* available for the beginner, which include everything you will need to establish a tank. This is a simple option until you become expert enough to develop your own ideas. If you choose to select all your own items there are a few other things you will need to go in the bowl or tank and they are:

Gravel:
Gravel is optional but most beginning goldfish owners like to have it in the tank. It gives a more earthy feel to the tank and provides something for the rooting weeds to hold onto. Gravel only has to be laid thinly at the bottom of the tank. A few inches will be more than enough. Any more would be a waste as gravel makes the tank hard to clean.

Gravel or even types of sand come in many different forms. Of course the most common is the brown tiny rock that comes in tank size bags. But gravel can also come in *multi colors*. I think this is a it bright and detracts from the fish but the choice is yours. Try to make it look a bit natural rather than dead flat. Here’s a chance to practise your landscaping.

Goldfish will also spend time searching gravel for food that has sunk to the bottom but don’t rely on this or overfeed to make it happen. This would be a mistake and the food on the bottom may be contaminated if your filter is not fully functional or you are overfeeding and there is a lot of waste. Gravel can be a real asset to the tank if chosen and managed well.

Brightly colored gravels such as these are great for children.
More experienced aquarists prefer the natural colors to show off fish to the best effect.

Plants
Plants form an important part of a water ecosystem. Goldfish will, of course, eat the plants and this isn’t a bad thing. It will add variety to their diet and keep them healthy. If you do not want fish to eat your plants you can get plastic plants that will last forever and add that dash of green to the tank no matter what. A balance is good and aesthetic, but try to have some real plants for the benefit of the fish.

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One of the artificial weed clusters available. *These* are permanent and always add color to the tank. this is one of the coral like formations.

Not all aquatic plants will live in a goldfish aquarium as many need tropical conditions. Check this with your fish expert as there are too many kinds of plants to discuss here. If you are really interested get a book on aquatic plants and research. Basically there are two kinds -rooted and floating. The choice is yours. But don’t buy a forest at first, see which ones will grow well and experiment a little.

To ensure your plants grow to their best you will need to give them some extra light. Don’t leave the light on more than 12 hours a day as this will cause an algae explosion. You can even fertilise your aquatic plants but never with a phosphate fertiliser as this can cause algae to grow quickly.

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An algae explosion

Fish can be very hard on aquatic plants and they will eat them, knock them around and uproot them. Be prepared for this. Most plants keep surviving but don’t grow all that much in a tank. Watch out for rotting leaves and plant matter like roots that can cause the tank to become polluted. Also watch out for disease on plants, try to disinfect them before placing them in the tank. Some hobbyists keep a tank just for plants to keep up a supply.

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Another variation with *artificial plants on wood*. These are effective in adding color to the tank and creating a more natural environment.

Decorations

There are too many different kinds of decorations to choose to mention them all here but the choice and range will suit the tastes of everyone. You don’t have to have any at all but it is fun to go to the shop and have a look. Many people have theme tanks such as sunken treasure, dolphins or pirates.

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Sunken ship … one of the many beautiful aquarium themes you can keep

Another way is to let each family member pick one item for the tank and arrange them to your taste.

You can overcrowd your tank or bowl if you have a small tank don’t fill it up with stuff and leave no room for the fish. Remember you need to see the fish and that’s why you go the tank in the first place. A variety of examples are shown in the pictures to give you a general idea of what is available. Keep to your budget and think from the perspective of your goldfish.

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Some examples of the wide variety of decorations include fish, tortise, skull, mermaid, castle, skeleton.

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Novelty tanks such as this one that is designed for the golfers amongst us can be used to great effect in creating a specific look. There are many such tanks that can be bought to brighten the home or office.

Rocks
Rocks are a common element in a fish tank and give it a wild, natural look. These are the most commonly purchased as they are going to be safer for your fish. Collecting a few rocks from the garden is not the best idea, especially if you have sprayed any chemicals in the form of fertiliser or pesticide. These will kill your fish. Some of my friends have used cleaned, large river rocks.

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An example of good rocks used in an aquarium

Artificial rocks are also available. These are a good option and are extremely realistic in design and function. Here you can also use things like driftwood and fake logs to establish habitat. These come in such forms as caves, tunnels, hidey-holes and windows for the fish to swim in and around.

Always place rocks in the tank before the fish are introduced. Dropping rocks in fish does not help them at all. Neither does great arms fishing around trying to arrange them. This just stirs everything up. Place in rocks before you add the water. Also remember if you have heaps of rocks and hiding places you may never see your fish. Just keep it sensible.

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Artificial rock design that allows the fish to swim through and have a hiding spot. These are very popular

Filters
If you buy a tank that has all the equipment in it then you can be sure a filter is included. A filter removes all the stuff that can kill or hurt your fish from the water such as excess food and plant matter. While some argue you don’t need a filter it is easier and safer to have one. It will save a lot of heartache and dead fish until you have the expertise to decide yourself.

There are 3 basic filtration systems:

1. Mechanical: Where the filter generates water circulation to remove all the bad stuff before i gets to the bottom. These have a filter of paper, sponge, floss etc which are easy to get and one of the most common forms. While you have to replace the filter material every so often, depending on the tank, they are the easiest system.

2. Biological: When a bio filter uses nitrifying bacteria to remove the bad stuff

3. Chemical: Where a medium such as charcoal is used to absorb the impurities or chemicals are added to remove these impurities.

Some systems have all of these integrated but the most common is the first (mechanical). When you go to a pet store or look online you will see big bags of a white looking candy floss. This is the normal stuff you stick in the common types of filter. Don’t get obsessed with the choice just get one that is big enough for your tak or the one supplied. Filters come in all shapes and sizes. For those people interested the filtration types are:

  • power filters
  • canister filters
  • sponge filters
  • internal cartridge filters
  • under gravel filters
  • reverse flow under gravel
  • bio wheels
  • fluidised filters
  • wet/dry filters
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decorations such as this pink coral can be used to hide filters. Filters can be a bit too plastic or dirty and distract from the look of the tank

To the beginner these won’t mean much but you can now use the terms to impress people. The most important thing is to keep the tank clean and this will be discussed in details in the maintenance section.

A final point, make sure the filter isn’t too big. Some can set up a bit of a strong flow pattern in the tank and the fish can find it difficult to move about.

Light

The best form of lighting is a fluorescent tube that sits on the top of the tank. These are simple, alst a long time and are cheap to run and replace. Just get one that sits neatly and doesn’t hang over too far. Do not run this light for more than half the day as it will increase the algal growth. A light is important if you have real plants in the aquarium. Also fish are sensitive to light so if you have a light it is important to give them a break. Just like us, they need it.

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Aquarium decorations don’t always have to be specially designed for the purpose. With the correct gravel, you can turn every day items such as a teapot into a great hiding spot.

Heater
You don’t need a heater for goldfish!

Setting up the tank
When you have all the elements in place put the water in and leave it for 3 or more days for the chlorine to clear. Chlorine kills goldfish. You can buy a *chemical dechlorinator* and these are very effective and quick if you’re in a hurry to get your goldfish in the tank. Pour the water gently so as not to stir all the elements you have put in place up. Use a plate or one of the large rocks to get it in gently. Do not pour it over the gravel.

There are many chemicals available these days to help you to speed things up. 8test kits* can be bought to check every aspect of the tank if you have followed the instructions things should be fine without getting too technical. The cleanliness of the water is the most critical point. See more about *test its*later in maintaning the tank.

Outdoor ponds:
The outdoor pond can be a great place for goldfish to live. If you plan to do this choose fish that are a bit sleeker as the slower, fancy types are less likely to survive.

Pond designs are numerous and you can buy *ponds* that will fit nicely into a hole in the ground or can be built up around with special landscaping.

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Ponds like this one are a bit small to keep large amounts of fish but can be used to grow and rehabilitate plants for use in the large ponds.

Outdoor ponds can be built from a variety of materials, the most common being concrete, plastic and fibreglass. Some ponds can be dug and lined with plastic, but they make me nervous! Goldfish adapt well to outdoor life and will breed quite happily if left alone. Whichever pond you choose make sure it has some deep spots around 80 centimetres (20 inches) in depth to give the fish somewhere to go. Give the pond time to settle for a week or two before adding fish and don’t forget you will need an external filter.

More on outdoor ponds in the *koi section* as the principles are geenrally the same although the scale changes.


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