Why a gravel vacuum?
Goldfish spend most every waking moment in search of food. There's nothing they love better than pecking through gravel, and shoving stones around in hopes of finding an uneaten morsel. It's sad to see a goldfish in an aquarium without gravel; there's nothing quite as unnatural for a goldfish.
Because of this instinct; pecking through the gravel, a stone may become
lodged in the fish's throat. Most fish are able to expel the object on their
own; this may happen within a few minutes or a few hours. If not, action may
have to be taken to remove the stone.
Using gravel as a substrate makes for clear water by keeping waste and uneaten food from floating freely in the tank; giving it a place to settle. Use a gravel vacuum to remove the debris from the bottom of your goldfish tank. Since we know that friendly bacteria prefer building their colonies in filters and pumps; we can assume that unfriendly bacteria build their colonies in stagnate locations. We also have learned that performing a 100% water change will destroy good and bad colonies alike, but this makes removing debris and waste that has settled in the gravel difficult, unless we use a gravel vacuum.
Using a gravel vacuum also helps to reduce carbon dioxide that forms, and hangs heavily in the depths of our tanks and ponds. Pond pumps also work in eliminating these harmful gases that take up space pushing oxygen out.
Python or siphon
vacuum is actually a short hose or tubing that comes in a few various sizes with a wide mouth on the end of it.
Smaller tanks require smaller hose widths to reduce the flow rate.
Place the mouth of the vacuum at the bottom of your tank; using a suction device attached to the center portion of the hose, squeeze repetitively. A motorized pump (python) may also be obtained for simplifying the procedure or you may choose to siphon with your mouth to get the action going.
How to use a gravel vacuum
Have a bucket handy for the old tank water to spill into, and be careful not
to suck small fish into the mouth of the vacuum. Very gently, so as not to
pollute the water, rake the mouth through the gravel pulling it backwards; not
by pushing it forwards; this will clog the mouth of the vacuum and stop the flow
of water. When you have completed the task, gently lift the mouth up as you remove it from tank, allowing the dirty water to drain out into the bucket instead of back washing into the tank; practice makes perfect.
To reduce the risk of sucking up small goldfish into the mouth of the vacuum; using a rubber band, fasten a net over the mouth. This might make gravel cleaning a little slower, but better to be safe than sorry. Some goldfish quickly learn that the gravel vacuum stirs up passed over morsels of food, and follow it around, unaware of the danger.
The bucket used for old tank water should sit lower than the tank; this makes for a steady flow. Vacuuming a pond that sits below grade is next to impossible unless you're using a motorized python.
How much and what kind of gravel to use in a goldfish tank
In keeping with a natural ecosystem, use natural pea gravel that is indigenous to your area. Natural
gravel will assist in buffering the general hardness of your water. These trace
minerals which are in all small bodies of water are important to good goldfish
health. The natural shapes reduce
the risk of swallowing. Keep only a thin layer of gravel in your tank or pond's bottom; 1/4"
so the goldfish can peck to the bottom. This keeps
harmful bacteria from forming in between vacuuming.
Never use sand. Sand irritates the gills and clouds the water, depleting oxygen levels. Sand also encourages harmful bacteria. You won't find sand in a body of water where carp are found.
Use sea shells and crushed coral or pea gravel made up of carbonate (limestone) to increase KH.
Use to peas gravel made up of magnesium and calcium (dolomite) to increase GH levels.
Marbles are not recommended for use; they often crack and then break; leaving shards of glass that may injure the fish or even worse.
Painted pet shop rock often peels as it ages, and does nothing to
contribute to the ecosystem.
Never use detergents or cleaning agents on your goldfish tank or goldfish equipment; even when safely performed; retards bacteria formation; good and bad alike, making the nitrogen cycle difficult to complete. In order for the friendly bacteria to accumulate only a portion of your old goldfish tank water should be changed. Common mistakes by the new goldfish keeper is doing complete water changes and not using water treatment.
What size goldfish tank do you need?
Recommended stocking level:
2.5 gallons of water per1" of body
You can increase the size of your goldfish tank as the size or your goldfish increases, but it's much easier to start with one that is adequately sized. Goldfish will easily reach 2" their first year, averaging 1" per year, and if their growth is not interrupted or stunted by close quarters they will keep growing for most of their life span, which averages 16 years, and some live for much longer, growing much larger. If containers are sized appropriately temperatures will be more consistent; oxygen levels higher and nitrates lower.
If kept in too small of container, the goldfish's growth may be stunted; their life span may be shortened, and they could be at risk for nitrate poisoning or infection, but with proper care and proper housing a common goldfish could easily out live your dog or cat.
It's necessary to separate the smallest fish from the largest. Goldfish are omnivorous and will eat anything that fits in its mouth; including other goldfish. Even though they form attachments to their keepers and tank mates, their natural instinct to survive in the wild drives them to nibble at anything and everything; they just can't help it.
There are many styles and sizes of goldfish aquariums on the market today, but keep in mind when choosing a
container that goldfish require less depth and more surface area.
Most aquariums are not properly shaped to house goldfish comfortably. The
tall and narrow tanks often cause serious floating issues for goldfish because
of the increased pressure placed on their bodies by increased depth.
The deeper the tank, the higher the levels of carbon dioxide (a gas created from waste) which hang heavily at the bottom of a tank or pond; keeping oxygen from entering. Although goldfish that have suffered nitrate shock or poisoning prefer deeper water, most goldfish will be more comfortable in a shallow container.
Increased surface area increases oxygen levels in the water because oxygen is absorbed from the surface. If you keep your fish in an aquarium; leave it uncovered so the surface is exposed to fresh air. This is why goldfish fare much better in tubs, stock tanks or ponds. Besides surface area and depth, the most important factors in choosing a container is that it is large enough, strong enough to hold water and free of contaminants.
Floating and Swim Bladder Issues
The comfort zone for water depth ranges from 6" to 18" depending on body shape and size of fish
Goldfish can unintentionally or in some cases intentionally jump out of their water. Depending on the size of the fish, keep the water level a minimum of 3" to 8" from the tank's top to avoid accidents; and yet another reason to have a larger container for your goldfish. Most aquariums come equipped with lids, but goldfish fare much better in open topped tanks with water surface exposed to greater amounts of fresh air. If you feel more comfortable with a top, consider a screen instead.
Goldfish tank decorations
It's fun to play around in your tank or pond; it's hard to resist beautiful decorations, and sometimes we have a tendency to over do it. Make certain that the decorations you place in your tank or pond are aquarium safe before adding; if quarters are tight make sure that the object is not taking up valuable space the goldfish needs. Goldfish are easily injured on sharp objects, especially the fancy varieties. Most materials, such as plastic, metal, fresh concrete, or wood will affect the water quality. These toxins can be deadly for goldfish.
There's a variety of fake plants to choose from, but the silk ones are safest; some plastic plants can injure delicate fish. If you choose real vegetation, be prepared to replace it regularly; goldfish enjoy nibbling on plants, and some fish are very aggressive with their nibbling. Make sure the plants you place in your aquarium are not toxic and have been checked for infestation before adding them to your set up.
- Goldfish tank or aquarium lighting
In the wild, goldfish feed
throughout the day and spend most of the night resting. If your tank is not
placed in a position to receive natural lighting, set the timer on a plant light
to match the rising and setting of the sun. Keep in mind that most lights
give off heat; so keep an eye on the thermostat during summer months.
You can use any type of lighting for your fish, but if you're trying to grow plants a brighter light is preferable. Brighter lights encourage plant growth, but the spectrum of lights may also affect plant growth. Plants growing above the surface require a more intense lighting than algae or plants growing below the surface.
Various plants prefer various colors. Many plants and algae included flourish in blue lighting. You may notice that plant lights are often tinted blue. This tint and the higher wattage is the only difference between a plant light and a regular light. Florescent tube lighting found in most light fixture topping aquariums work well too; giving a brighter reflection and using less energy in the process.
Eyes of a Goldfish
Offer your goldfish a place to hide, be it a thicket of natural planting or a decorative ornament; the more discrete, the safer the goldfish will feel in times of upset, keeping stress levels low.
Locate your goldfish house in an area that doesn't get too hot or too cold. A common error with new goldfish keepers is placing the tank in a kitchen with fluctuating temperatures, or over a vent. Goldfish have no core body temperature being cold blooded creatures. Their comfort zone is 64 to 74 degrees. They can tolerate lower temperatures above freezing. The colder the water, the less oxygen they use, but have absolutely no tolerance for higher temperatures.
Be aware of the use of chemicals in the area of your goldfish tank. Provide plenty of surface action, and perform frequent, partial, freshwater changes, and your goldfish will have the perfect goldfish house.
Goldfish have been known to jump from their tank or pond, but it's important that the surface is exposed to fresh air. Here is a very attractive example of a goldfish aquarium top, fabricated from gutter covering.
Author: Brenda Rand
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