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Can someone give me advice on keeping the fish clean please?

13 replies

CharminglyOdd · 14/12/2011 11:31

DP bought me two fantail goldfish as a present. A combination of excitement and rubbish advice from the pet shop meant we did everything wrong for the first couple of weeks, including having to cycle the tank with them in it. We weren't even told that the tank needed cycling although we told them that it was bought that day (from a different shop).

The main problem is that the tank is far too small and it's a bowl. This isn't something that can be resolved until at least April for financial reasons (DP doesn't see the point in getting a large enough tank and, believe me, I've tried everything to persuade him it's kinder). By that point we'll have had them for over a year.

I did a big clean about two months ago but I am a very nervous owner and very worried about killing them (they were very sick for the first few weeks thanks to our inexperience and the bad advice we got). I asked DP to move them between the bowl and the container (emptied some tank water & weed into it then transferred them via submerging a jug) only he literally dropped them in from a height rather than submerging the jug into the container. I was so cross but I am also terrified of dropping the jug (am very very clumsy and have wrist joint issues). I realise I need to grow up on this issue!

I think the way to go now is by cleaning the gravel (until I can grit my teeth over another big clean) but I have no idea how to do this - I saw on another current thread that you can buy machines to do it and someone else mentioned making something with a water bottle and a pipe (?). How does this work please and how can I best avoid traumatising the fish?

Thank you to anyone who can help :)

OP posts:
hohohEauRouge · 14/12/2011 14:31

Hello :)

Yes, you do need to clean the gravel, otherwise you can get patches of anaerobic bacteria. A gravel cleaner is easy enough to use, it doesn't have to be hi-tech; I've always just used a plastic bottle with the bottom cut off. You just thread the syphon tube through the neck and push the bottom into the gravel and jig it around a bit as you syphon out the dirty water. The idea is to dislodge any crud, which will get sucked up the syphon tube, and to kill off any patches of anaerobic bacteria. This is a step-by-step guide to doing a water change. You shouldn't need to take the fish out so that'll save your wrists a bit!

Tank-wise, it will be really hard to keep them clean in a bowl. If you don't have a filter then I would actually consider re-homing them because they will be slowly getting poisoned by their own waste. A plastic storage box is a good temporary home, as long as it's food-grade plastic. You can get a 60 litre storage box in Staples for about a tenner.

Long-term a pair of fantails will need a tank of around 40 gallons, which would be approx 4 ft long. Goldfish get huge and can be expensive, high maintenance pets so if you can't provide them with a home for the rest of their lives (10-15 years) then now would be a good time to find them a new home. I don't mean to put you off, just forewarn you. There's a good article about goldfish requirements here.

Hope that helps a bit, let me know if you need any more info.

CharminglyOdd · 14/12/2011 14:56

Thank you! :) What harm can anaerobic bacteria do please? I've just googled it and all I found were articles aimed at experts.

They have a filter - one of the things the pet shop (actually a fish specialist) told us was that we didn't need a filter with a bowl and we could 'act as the filter' by doing a small water change a few times a week. I only realised this was stupid when they got ammonia burns :(

I took them out of the bowl to also clean it - I cleaned it lightly with a sponge and the old water, then rinsed the gravel (very lightly - had heard about destroying good bacteria) and filter under the tap.

DP told me the other week that he expected them to last only a few weeks, which made me both cross (I really don't agree with 'animals as presents, not for a lifetime') and even more determined to keep them going.

The only people I know who have the facilities to look after them would be my aunt and uncle, 400 miles south of here. I would love to keep them as they are so dopey and friendly.

I'm also going to get some different weed as the current lot doesn't stay rooted and I think that's helping pollute the water (it degrades). They dig it up after a few minutes so I either pop it back in every ten minutes or so (not practical when I'm out a lot) or let it float on the top. Do you think I'd be best just throwing it away now and getting more tomorrow? Would that have a bad impact on them overnight?

Thank you for taking the time to help.

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CharminglyOdd · 14/12/2011 15:00

Sorry, the reason I'm curious about the anaerobic bacteria is that could I notice if I have it already please?

OP posts:
hohohEauRouge · 14/12/2011 15:23

Unfortunately, rinsing the gravel and filter under the tap would have killed a significant portion of the good bacteria. Tap water contains chloramine which is designed to kill bacteria so water is safe to drink- it's no good for fish tanks though! So you need a chlorine removing product like Aquasafe or Tapsafe and rinse out the filter in water you've removed from the bowl. It doesn't need to be really clean, just clear enough for the water to flow through.

You're right, any dying plants will cause extra pollution. Do you know what kind of plant you have, is it this one?

Black patches in the gravel are a sign of anaerobic patches. These can form if you don't clean the gravel enough so make sure it's not more than an inch deep and that you give it a good turning over when you do a water change. If the anaerobic patches build up then they can release sulphur dioxide into the water which can kill fish.

CharminglyOdd · 14/12/2011 15:41

Yes it is that one. It falls out when I take the wrap off to plant but in this picture (which incidentally shows the other type of weed we have, although I got the Elodea as the fish don't eat the other and I read it was good for them to eat weed) the plant still seem to have the wrapping on. Is it safe to keep the wrapping on please? Pet shop told us to take it off and separate the plants.

We did have a lot of black patches before I did the big clean, that was what prompted me to do it.

The gravel is about 2-2.5 inches deep, should I take some out please?

OP posts:
hohohEauRouge · 14/12/2011 16:12

Yes, I would remove some, you don't really need that much in there.

The shop did get something right after all, you should plant each individual stalk in the gravel. It takes a while to root and it doesn't help that goldies are diggers. They will eat it anyway but it grows quickly so you might be lucky! Vallis grows quickly too but gets really long, I had some in a 4ft tank and it got too big in there. Goldfish will munch on that too but again it grows quickly so it may survive. Do you have any lighting in the tank?

CharminglyOdd · 14/12/2011 16:18

No. It was under the window but we moved it during the summer as I felt it was getting too warm in direct sunlight. It's now out of direct sunlight but in a place that gives it the most light in the flat. It's in the living room so in the evenings there is constant light until about 12-1am (DP is a night owl) and then from 6-7am when I get up. Is that enough light - when I get a larger tank should I get one with a light?

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hohohEauRouge · 14/12/2011 16:39

Room lights won't be doing much, they need a full spectrum light. You can get ones that clip onto the side of a bowl, it only needs to be a few watts. Lights are only essential if you want live plants, they do make the tank look nice though.

CharminglyOdd · 14/12/2011 16:42

Thank you so much :) I feel much more confident now - google is the worst thing for getting confusing answers. Particularly with the gravel cleaner I got so confused I gave up, which I shouldn't have done.

I'm actually trying to find things to do with DP's Mum when she visits this week so an extended period of boring her looking after the fish together might be in order

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hohohEauRouge · 14/12/2011 17:18

You'd be amazed how many people are bored shitless fascinated by the nitrogen cycle Wink It makes a great dinner party topic! I get invited to none lots.

CharminglyOdd · 16/12/2011 12:36

Well we went out this morning and bought new weed, a lamp (£30! DP nearly fainted Grin) and a syphon. Took a while to get the syphon going and I didn't understand that I should have left the fresh water out and only put in after the syphon had finished (I thought it would take up dirt only ) so I filtered the syphon water through a mesh, which got a lot out. DP took one for the team and got the syphon started with his mouth Envy

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hohohEauRouge · 16/12/2011 13:07

That all sounds brilliant :)

If you do accidentally get some fish water in your mouth then spit like crazy and gargle with some vodka. Give your hands a good scrub too, there are things you can catch from fish- nothing really dangerous but I still think those people who get fish pedicures are bonkers.

Let me know if you need any tips for setting up a when you get a new tank. Have a good Christmas!

CharminglyOdd · 16/12/2011 18:28

Thank you! Merry Christmas to you too Xmas Smile

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