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Golden Goldfish Rules
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STEP 8: Water Changes

Water Changes


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The most important thing you can do for your goldfish is to perform frequent partial water changes by replacing only a percentage of old tank water with your freshwater source. Almost anything wrong with a goldfish; besides transmittable disease, has something to do with its environment or water conditions. Harmful bacteria and parasites thrive in poor water conditions, and when introduced to an unhealthy ecosystem with unhealthy fish, can and will become deadly

  • Do filters remove toxins?

You may have been led to believe that a filtering system will keep your aquarium clean and safe for your goldfish for weeks at a time, but this is untrue. Filtering systems cannot reduce the levels of toxins produced. If you've studied Step 2; the nitrogen cycle, you've learned that goldfish waste first turns to ammonia which is toxic to goldfish. The ammonia is then converted to nitrite, which is just as deadly. The third and final conversion of the nitrogen cycle is nitrates which can only be tolerated by goldfish in low levels; and can only be removed by means of a partial water change, or by adding water treatment to fresh water, however, water treatment cannot take the place of fresh water changes. Another means of lowering nitrates are adding plants to the environment. Plants feed on nitrates keeping levels at bay, and there is one plant that forms naturally in the right conditions, and that's algae, the living plant

Read about the effects of high nitrate levels on goldfish Nitrate Poisoning

You've learned that beneficial bacteria is responsible for this conversion and without it goldfish would be poisoned by their own waste, and we would forever be performing daily water changes; forced to turn to medicinal antibiotics to destroy harmful bacteria

  • Where do friendly bugs live?

Beneficial bacteria or friendly bugs prefer to build their colonies in the mechanics of pumps and filters; particularly where there is fresh, running water. When left undisturbed, and under the right conditions they quickly multiply. The stronger the colonies, the less risk your fish have of being poisoned by harmful bacteria or toxins

When these bugs are present they create an almost perfect biological balance for your goldfish. Once this balance is achieved you have what we call a 'cycled tank' meaning the nitrogen has completed its cycle; the colonies of beneficial bacteria are established, and doing their job

Water changes

If the environment in your goldfish house cannot support beneficial bacteria then it is likely a type of environment that will support harmful bacteria. If harmful bacteria flourish in your tank or pond, your goldfish will not

Is your fish wearing a healthy slime coat? Learn how to protect your fish from infection and much more by increasing its slime coat Goldfish Slime Coat

Another reason to perform frequent water changes; goldfish emit a growth hormone that can be dangerous at high levels. Goldfish in overstocked tanks are at risk of being poisoned by these hormones which may stunt growth, cause cancer, heart disease and even death, but the best reason to perform a water change is to increase the overall water value

Goldfish cannot tolerate the slightest reading of ammonia or nitrite, and to prevent poisoning; daily partial water changes must be performed on a tank or pond that isn't cycled

  • How often should goldfish tank water be changed?

Water changes

If your tank has not cycled, perform daily water changes between 20% to 30% (depending on stocking levels) for the next 3 to 4 weeks; using water treatment (enough for entire tank size) that eliminates ammonia, nitrite, chlorine and chloramines. Slowly over another 2 to 3 weeks reduce the amount of partial water changes performed as you increase the amount of water being exchanged until you are changing out 20% to 30% weekly

Never perform a 100% water change; along with the bad bacteria and toxins, you'll be throwing out the good bacteria too; your tank will never cycle. Use enough water treatment for your entire tank size with your daily partial changes; your goldfish will be protected from the toxins while the friendly bugs build their colonies

If your tank has cycled, perform weekly changes of 20% to 30% (depending on stocking levels) using water treatment (enough for amount exchanged) than eliminates chlorine and chloramines. If your stocking levels are high; then your nitrate levels will be high also; instead of performing larger weekly changes, perform frequent smaller changes 

An overstocked tank requires increased amounts of partial water changes

Consistency in maintenance routine encourages a reliable cycle

Two 1" goldfish in a five gallon aquarium would require only a 20% weekly water change, but if these same two fish were kept in a 20 gallon tank only 5% weekly would have to be exchanged. As your fish grow, the amount of food being fed should be increased accordingly. Increased amount of waste means increased amount of friendly bugs which means nitrate levels will increase also, but at gradually enough so there is no spike in the cycle; keep a watchful eye out for this toxin because it is deadly 

Test your tank water before every water change; adjust water changes accordingly. Consistent levels of 20 ppm and below are preferred; offering a safe zone in case of a spike

  • How to perform proper water changes

Never use detergents or cleaning agents on goldfish house or equipment

Tap water is the preferred freshwater source; it contains important minerals your goldfish need for good health. This is what we call the general hardness and carbonate (total) hardness of your water. Do not use bottled water which has no value and will not sustain life; except to lower GH

  • Since water changes involve dealing with a lot of water; here are some tips to keep from having accidental spills

    1. Make sure water buckets have strong and secure handles 

    2. Keep the buckets light so they're easy to carry; don't over fill
    3. Take your time. Don't rush through bailing water; slow and steady
    4. Keep a towel beneath buckets while removing or adding water to the tank
        Last, but not least
    5. Never leave running water from a faucet unattended

1. Using an empty (free of contaminants) bucket, proportionately sized; match the amount or percentage of old tank water you are going to remove with your freshwater source
To prevent contamination use two separate buckets and do not use the freshwater bucket for anything else

 2. Premix water treatment (treatment should eliminate ammonia, nitrite, chlorine and chloramines) in freshwater bucket; using enough to treat size of entire tank
 Never add water treatment directly to goldfish tank

Work water over to remove supersaturated gases from tap water
 Bubble Disease

Half of the old tank water should be removed by siphoning or vacuuming the bottom of the tank, and half by scooping water from the very top of the tank's water surface
Check under decorations by lifting gently and vacuuming beneath

4. Replace old tank water with freshwater gradually in order t
o prevent nitrate shock. Take your time in refilling the tank or pond by replacing 10% every half hour
This added effort will help your fish to acclimate to the change of nitrates and temperature of the fresh water, reducing the risk of shock

Partial water changes accomplish much more than assuring the production of friendly bio bugs; it allows the goldfish to remain in the safety of their tank or pond, although there may be some stress involved with the production, much less than being caught and relocated temporarily. These partial water changes also reduce the risk of shock; reduce temperatures, pH levels and nitrates gradually.

STEP 9: Testing Water Parameters




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