The Student
Look after your goldfish, people
by Saskia Peach, 28/09/18

Undoubtedly, one of the coolest things about getting to university is that you truly find your independence. You can finally do all of those things you’ve dreamed of doing, and for some people, this might be owning their first pet.

But a pet can be hard work, and let’s be real, very few university students are actually here for hard work. So many people opt for what might seem like an easy option: a goldfish. All you have to do is buy a bowl, bring home your fish and feed it occasionally, right? Wrong. So very wrong.

Let’s start with a little more information about goldfish themselves before we get onto proper goldfish care. The common goldfish (or Carassius auratus) is part of the carp family and a descendent from the Prussian Carp. They have been kept in captivity since around 800AD when they were first owned in ancient China.

You might think that this long history of goldfish as pets would mean we would be pretty skilled at looking after them, but instead it seems to have promoted plenty of bad practices.

Firstly, there’s a common notion that a small glass bowl will suffice as a goldfish ‘tank’, but this simply isn’t the case. Common goldies can grow to be eight inches, or even bigger, therefore you really need a 20-litre tank (minimum!), and that’s only for one fish.

What’s more, a glass bowl provides absolutely no filtration, oxygenation or dilution of waste. It’s pretty much the goldfish equivalent of locking a human in a room with no windows and no sewage system. Disgusting. It’s hardly surprising that this kind of environment leads to goldfish only living for two or three years when their actual life expectancy can be anywhere from 10-25 years (depending on the species of goldfish).

In order to provide an adequate living situation for your goldfish you’ll first need to fit a filter on your tank to make the water clean and safe – however, even with a filter, you should still change your goldies’ water regularly. But don’t even think about filling it straight from your tap; tap water is packed full of chemicals that make it safe for humans to drink, but not for goldfish to live in. You’ll either need to let your tap water to stand for a few hours to let the chemicals dissipate, or buy a neutraliser from a shop to make it safe for immediate use. Water temperature also needs to be considered, most goldies prefer cooler water, so don’t go placing their tank near a radiator. Some fancier species do require warm water, so make sure you research your species before making the purchase.

When it comes to assembling your tank, fill the bottom with a gravel that they can dig around in (but make sure it’s not too small that it can be swallowed!). There’s another common myth that goldfish have three-second memories and need no entertainment in their tank since by the time they’ve completed one circle they’ll have forgotten where they are. This couldn’t be less true. According to research done at the University of Plymouth, goldfish can remember for up to three months. They’re fairly intelligent creatures that can even be trained to do a few tricks.

Knowing this, buy a few plants, real or artificial, to accessorize your tank, but if you opt for real, make sure they’re compatible with the temperature and Ph of your tank.

Finally, when it comes to feeding, make sure you get a high-quality fish food. If you let them, goldfish can be huge overeaters so be sure to feed them only once a day. If you notice that your goldfish isn’t eating all of its food then decrease the amount you are giving, leftover food will affect the water quality in your tank and lead to extra cleaning.

Keep all of this in mind and you are sure to make a great goldfish owner.

Image Credit: protographer23 via Flickr