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Please help, I think the goldfish are dying

(19 Posts)
NittyDora Thu 25-Jun-15 20:17:11

I've never kept fish before but we wanted DS to have a pet and this is what the people in our local pet shop recommended, given our family circumstances.
We took advice from the staff, set the tank up with cold tap water and the tap safe and prohibitive supplied by the shop. We weren't able to go back the next day for the fish as they recommended but they did say if we left it until just before closing time to collect the fish we could add them that day which we did - so the tank Sat for about 6 hours before the fish went in.
DH followed the instructions on the tap safe and probiotic, adding a small drop of each for the first few days. The fish were probably over fed for the first few days but was cut down to a tiny pinch after that.
We did a partial water change after a week - about 30% with conditioned but not temperature matched water as we thought the staff at the shop had given us all the instructions we needed.
Yesterday we found one fish floating dead so removed it and went back to the shop for advice.We discussed using less tap safe and food.
Today I noticed that the second fish was swimming up near the top of the tank, not looking very well. I checked the chemicals the pet shop had sold us and saw the probiotic was months out of date. I went back to the shop for more advice and to replace the probiotic. They had none and agreed I should do a water change until they can get me more tomorrow.
I'm really upset that the poor fish died and that it's mate is in danger. I bought these fish and have responsibility for them and I'm losing a bit of faith in the pet shop. Can some one tell me if there is anything else I need to do to save my fish and keep him alive and well in the long term?

Furball Fri 26-Jun-15 05:42:23

You are right to lose faith in the pet shop, they have given you really bad advice.

A tank needs to be 'cycled' before any fish can be added.

tap safe is not added to the water everyday - you add it to any water being added to the tank during a water change. - it is to get rid of chlorine etc in the new water.

I think a) the tank wasn't cycled but b) the fish are being poisoned by all the adding.

Have you a syphon to remove the water? if not get one asap from any pet shop. I would do at least a 60% water change, read the tap safe and add as much as it says and like I said you only add it to the new water. dip your hand in the tank and one in the new water in the bucket and try and get them a similar temperature, the fish will not take to cold tap water just being added.

Unfortunately for fish there is more to it than just plonking them in a fish bowl.

I have had fish for about 8 years and never used probiotics

Eaurouge is the fish expert here, hopefully she will be along to advise more. If she doesn't, do a search and private message her as she really is a fish expert smile

NittyDora Fri 26-Jun-15 06:34:22

Well the good news is our lovely fish survived the night and seems to be swimming much lower in the tank and to be more active and less frantic. I think the water change did
the trick. My next question is do I
carry on with daily water changes
until the tank bacteria are
established as recommended on
some sites or will that increase the
ammonia content as warned about
on others?
To be fair to the pet shop the
instructions to add a small drop
every day for the first few days while
setting up came from the leaflet
about setting up the tank that came
with the tank itself and when we went
back they advised what you advised.
I feel so bad, I thought keeping goldfish was just feeding them and keeping the water clean and I trusted
what the pet shop told me. I had no
idea about water chemistry or any
thing about cycling the tank. Poor old fish, I only started doing the reading after the second one got sick.
I'm off to buy a water testing kit and a thermometer. I've also heard of conditioner that reduces nitrates and ammonia- would that be useful here?

EauRouge Fri 26-Jun-15 07:31:04

Morning. I am currently in the process of drinking a lot of coffee so I hope this makes sense grin

Yeah, the shop has cocked up here and given you some shocking advice. Don't feel bad, this happens to pretty much everyone when they start out with fish. It's infuriating but really it is completely reasonable to expect someone who is selling something to at least know a bit about it. But anyway.

Yes, you need to carry on doing as many water changes as possible in the next few weeks. The tank isn't cycled so you need to keep the ammonia and nitrIte down. You will also need a water test kit like this one (this is a good brand so I'd go for this one, but you might save a couple of quid if you shop around). Monitoring the water is a very important part of fishkeeping, it is not just for the experts. You have complete control over their environment so you need to know what's going on.

Adding less tap safe is bonkers confused never listen to the shop again! There are a lot of bacteria products that are meant to instantly cycle a tank, but I have never tried one that actually works. I wouldn't bother with them, good old-fashioned water changes are what you need. You could use Ammolock which converts the ammonia into ammonium, which is less harmful, but still allows the tank to cycle. I wouldn't worry about buying stuff to reduce nitrAte unless your tap water nitrAte is really high (you'll need to test it). Not sure what there is to reduce nitrItes but this can all be done with water changes so I'd probably just stick with that.

What sort of filter do you have and what sort of sponges are in it? A lot of filters these days are crammed full of chemical filtration (which really fucks me off) and that will make a big difference to the cycle. It is very important to never wash the filter in tap water because the chlorine in it will kill the good bacteria.

You didn't mention how big the tank is. This may be a problem for you, but goldfish do grow very, very big- it is a myth that they grow to the size of their tank.

I'd be tempted to find a different shop too. Tbh, the majority of places that sell fish are pretty crap, but you do get the odd one that employs total geeks that know what they're doing. And you are more likely to get healthy stock in those places because the staff know how to treat ill fish and monitor water quality.

After I've had more coffee, I'll probably think of something else. But I hope that helps for now.

EauRouge Fri 26-Jun-15 07:31:27

That was long and rambling. Basically, water changes.

NittyDora Fri 26-Jun-15 08:43:04

Thank you so much. I just feel I have complete control over whether this fish lives or dies so I better get it right.
We have a Hagen Marina starter kit with a 14l tank and a Marina i 25 filter.
How much and how often should the water changes be? I've been using a well washed and rinsed plastic bucket to keep the water in until the it reaches room temp and adding the conditioner at the start of this process. Is that ok?
Thanks again, I really appreciate you taking your time to help us, you are lovelyflowers

NittyDora Fri 26-Jun-15 08:44:42

There is a specialist fish shop on the other side of town so I'll make my way over there when they open.

WhenMarnieWasThere Fri 26-Jun-15 08:53:41

Unfortunately the tank is far, far too small. You should be able to get a refund on it purely on the basis that it is not fit for purpose. The smaller the tank, the harder it is to keep everything balanced. Especially as goldfish are mucky little blighters that create a lot of waste.

If you have a friend with an established tank, perhaps they could spare you some of their filter sponge to add into your filter which will massively speed up the cycling of your tank.

If the fish are gasping at the surface it is a sign,not that there isn't enough oxygen in the water, but that they are being poisoned by the nitrite levels in the water like when carbon monoxide prevents our bodies from using the oxygen in the air.

I would be doing big changes, 50% at least, daily or whenever the dish is showing signs of stress.

NittyDora Fri 26-Jun-15 09:34:18

How big should the tank be?

NittyDora Fri 26-Jun-15 09:46:10

He's not gasping, he was just hanging about up there looking listless and have a bit of a frenzied flutter about every now and then. Even to me that looked like he wasn't
well.
That's a really good idea about
transferring bacteria into the tank.
Could you explain how I would do
that? Would I just squash it into the
cartridges with our existing sponge
or is there a better way?
I'm off to the aquarium shop now so won't be on for a bit.
Thanks again for all your help.

WhenMarnieWasThere Fri 26-Jun-15 10:09:21

The first problem that builds up in the water is the ammonia they produce. Their listless behaviour and the loss of the first fish could be down to ammonia poisoning.

Nitrite builds up later as the first lot of bacteria grow, eat the ammonia and produce the nitrite as waste. Then you wait for the second lot of bacteria to grow that eat the nitrite.

If a friend has a filter and is happy to squeeze the gunk over your filter sponge that would do. Even better would be for them to give you some filter sponge if they can spare it. Either way, the bacteria dies quite quickly so you would have to get it into your tank quickly.

Lots online saying that 30l is the minimum for 2 goldfish, but others would advise bigger.

My favourite line I've read is one that says that aquarium owners keep water, not fish.

We keep the water healthy.
Then the water keeps the fish healthy.

EauRouge Fri 26-Jun-15 12:03:08

Nothing at all should be kept in a 14 litre tank and Hagen should be bloody ashamed for making them. 30 litres is still way, way, way too small for goldfish. Goldfish can top 8 inches easily. For a pair of fancy goldfish (fat round ones with lots of fins) you'd need about 150 litres. Common goldfish (normal fish shaped ones) are really best off in a pond but if you want to keep them indoors then you're looking at about 200 litres. Sorry if this is a shock. It seems to be closely guarded information, because no one would buy goldfish if they knew this.

Yes, good call on the bacteria borrowing. That will definitely help. I would still get the test kit to be sure what's going on though.

NittyDora Fri 26-Jun-15 17:23:34

No, I had no idea that goldfish grow so big.
He was looking bit rubbish when I came in so tested the water. Ammonia is fairly low but the nitrate is at the highest colour on the scale.
I've changed about one third of the
water (temperature matched and
conditioned as I've learned )

EauRouge Fri 26-Jun-15 17:55:42

Hmm, it could be that your tap water nitrAte is very high then. Can you test it? You might need to get some nitrAte reducing stuff.

Or do you mean nitrIte? NitrIte (NO2) is very bad news for fish because it inhibits their ability to transport oxygen in their bloodstream. Bit like a diver getting the bends. But nitrAte (NO3) is the end result of the nitrogen cycle and is only harmful in high levels, so the aim is to keep it lower than about 40ppm with regular water changes. Obviously the lower the better, but at least under 40ppm.

TreeSparrow Sun 28-Jun-15 10:13:08

As an emergency measure, until you get a bigger tank (look on gumtree for some cheap big tanks) you can buy a plastic dustbin. That'll give you the large water volume you need as a temporary measure for not very much money. Move the filter over into it. Ammonia poisoning literally burns the poor fishes' gills and will build up quickly in only 14L of water.

You've had excellent advice so far so I'll leave it there for now, good luck!

NittyDora Mon 29-Jun-15 09:31:46

Despite all the great advice I'm very sad to let you know that the poor fishdied. I think the damage had been done before I started taking action.

The plan now is to leave the tank for a week or two and test again to see ifthe nitrogen cycle is complete. Once we know it has we'll transfer the water and the filter to a bigger tank and test the water until its safefor new fish. Thanks for all your help. Leaving this thread sadder but wiser.

EauRouge Mon 29-Jun-15 10:01:31

Oh no, I'm so sorry sad I'm glad you are not put off keeping fish, it's really fascinating once you get into it. What a rough start, I am furious at the shop for giving you such awful advice.

To keep the nitrogen cycle going you will need to add a source of ammonia. If you shove a handful of fish food inside an old pair of tights and hang it in the tank then that should keep it going.

NittyDora Mon 29-Jun-15 12:07:43

EauRougue - thank you for the time you took to help us out. We've learned a lot and won't be making any of those mistakes again, such a shame it came at the cost of 2 wee lives.

Furball Mon 29-Jun-15 12:16:13

A sad story NittyDora - but glad you are going to still have fish and haven't been put off.

At least now you have gained some knowledge or know where to ask if you need it.

and when it comes to fish - the world is your oyster, so many to choose from.

I have Neon Tetras, Danios and they have been extremely easy to keep smile

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