A lot of goldfish diseases can be completely prevented if you take the time to pick out healthy stock in the first place. However, that can be a difficult task in itself if you haven’t been keeping Goldies for very long – especially if you’re trying to sort through a tank that has a couple dozen Oranda Goldfish in it.
What to Look for Before Buying any Type of Goldfish
There’s a lot more to check than simply making sure it’s swimming!
Examine the overall appearance of the Goldfish
When I do this I’m looking primarily at the color – is it dull? Does it appear sickly or malnourished? If the color is very pale compared to the rest of the fish the one in question is probably suffering from some kind of stress or illness. You also want to pay very close attention to the belly – a fish with a very sunken appearance to its stomach is likely carrying internal parasites.
I also like to take a quick look at the shape of the body – in general, I avoid Goldfish that have a very distorted, deep body because I don’t want to deal with buoyancy problems later on.
Observe the way the Goldfish is swimming
This should only take you a few minutes – all you are doing is watching the way the Goldfish swims in comparison to the rest of the Goldies in the tank. You should avoid purchasing a Goldfish that is bottom sitting or scratching against objects. Likewise, I don’t recommend purchasing a fish that is already showing signs that is has difficulty maintaining buoyancy. For instance, avoid the ones that have an apparent tilt or occasionally stop to float on one side.
Examine the fins on the Goldfish and its tank mates
This is a very easy step because there really isn’t a lot that you need to look for. However, the condition of the fins can tell you a lot about the health of a fish. For instance, you do not want to purchase a Goldfish that has any red streaking or white cottony growths along the edges of the fin. If the fins have a very shredded appearance or look like they are being eaten away by something do not purchase anything from that tank!
Examine the feces if possible
You are ideally looking for a Goldfish that has solid strands of poop, not one that has clear or very stringy poop. However, many Goldfish at the pet store are already suffering from a mild case of constipation because they are only offered flake food, so I would not be terribly concerned with a bubbly or clear strand of poo – instead, I would just fast the fish once I got it home and then offer it organic whole peas for a few days.
While you are observing the feces, make sure you also take a quick look at the vent (where the poo is coming from). You do not want to purchase a Goldfish that has a bloody or very swollen, irritated vent. The vent area of a Goldie should gently slop upwards toward the tail.
Look the Goldfish over to see if it is missing any scales
The scales on a Goldfish act like a layer of armor in respect to its immune system – these are the first things that any bacteria or parasite come in contact with. If the barrier is compromised in any way, like a patch of missing scales, the fish is left very vulnerable to infection and disease.
Generally, a Goldie that has patches of missing scales will also show other signs of being unhealthy as well. However, occasionally I overlook a missing scale or two because it’s very apparent that they are being picked on by the other fish which isn’t a rare occurrence in an already overcrowded sales tank.
Look for any growths, lesions or fuzzy patches on all of the Goldfish in the tank
This one is pretty self-explanatory – you do not want to purchase a Goldfish that has any open wounds, ulcer-like markings, or fuzzy patches on its body/fins. You should also be on the lookout for fish that look like they have been sprinkled with salt – if any fish have this appearance do not buy anything from the tank.
Observe the other Goldfish in the tank
After you have taken the time to examine the Goldie you want to buy, take a couple minutes to look at all of the other fish in the tank. You ideally want to find a tank that doesn’t have any dead Goldfish floating around.
However, please keep in mind that it will be almost impossible to find a tank that meets that criterion if you are shopping in a large chain pet store. The tanks at these stores are grossly overstocked which makes dead fish an inevitable reality. Instead, make sure that the other Goldfish do not have any visible external parasites, growths or signs of fish ick.
The goal of the above check list is to help you pick out a healthy Goldfish; however it is not implying that you should be rigorously examining the fish to make sure it fits show quality standards. For instance, if the fish you like has a minor flaw, like a bent fin, but otherwise appears healthy then go for it!
The health of the fish is the most important consideration. Just make sure that the new Goldfish will be compatible with your other Goldies and have proper place to living.
Goldfish Will Not Survive Life In a Bowl
Unfortunately, many new goldie owners are led to believe that goldfish live happily in bowls – and this couldn’t be further from the truth!
A goldfish that lives a whopping four months in a bowl didn’t even come close to its full life expectancy, yet most people think that’s normal and just keep replacing Bubbles.
There are many different types of goldfish, and every single one of them will outgrow a bowl – in fact, most of them will even outgrow a 20 gallon aquarium as well. For the purpose of this discussion, we’re going to group goldfish into two categories – fancy and single-tailed.
The fancies have a double tail and a very round, egg-shaped body that can grow as large as a softball. Single-tailed goldies are a very stream-lined fish that can grow up to a foot in length, and sometimes over! An example of a fancy goldfish is an Oranda, and by single-tail we are referring to breeds like Comets and Shubunkins.
But I’ve Always Kept Goldfish In a Bowl?
There are many reasons why your new goldfish can’t live its life in the confines of a glass bowl. Here are some of the most important ones.
Goldfish are very messy fish in general
If you were to keep a baby goldfish in a bowl, you would be doing multiple water changes per day in an effort to keep the water quality pristine. Unfortunately, most people don’t have the time to dedicate to such an endeavor.
Goldfish are not only very messy when they eat but they are also constantly grazing which leads to quite a bit of fish waste throughout the day. It’s hard enough to keep the ammonia levels from breaching deadly toxicity in an adequately sized fish tank – imagine how much more work a bowl is going to be.
Goldfish grow very large, very quickly
Goldfish don’t stay small for very long, and as they grow that tiny bowl won’t be enough room for them to comfortably turn around in. Expecting a goldfish live in a bowl is similar to buying a dog crate with your Chihuahua in mind, and then deciding that you’d rather put a Great Dane in it.
Goldfish need oxygen and plenty of it
Goldfish rely heavily on well-oxygenated water to function properly. A bowl just cannot provide this for them. Once you place them in an environment where the oxygen is limited they will begin gasping at the surface and showing signs of distress.
The surface area is a large factor in aerating the water – a bowl does not provide a very long or wide surface and thus does not have good potential for aeration. Just remember, the bubbles from your air stone do not magically put oxygen into the water – the disturbance at the surface of the water does.
Goldfish need a good filter, it’s not an option
Because they excrete so much ammonia throughout the day a goldfish needs a good filter that can remove the waste from the water. A good filter should be able to filter at least twice the amount of water you have in the tank, and it should provide all of the three types of filtration – biological, mechanical and chemical. It would be impossible to find a filter that meets these requirements and still fits on the side of a fish bowl.
Some Final Considerations About Having Goldfish Live in Bowls
Aside from the above reasons, keeping a goldfish in a fish bowl is just cruel. You wouldn’t subject any other kind of pet to this kind of inhumane abuse, so why would you be willing to let a goldfish live in an environment that forces it to swim around in its own waste?
Provided that it receives good care, that tiny goldfish has the potential to live a couple decades. They may not be able to come out of the water and sit on your lap or kiss your face, but they do recognize their owners. If you aren’t willing to commit to the level of care that a goldfish requires then you should probably consider a different type of pet that doesn’t require as much space and maintenance.