Posted in pet health

One Fish, Twelve Fish. What Fish? Goldfish!

I’ve made a mental list of things I never want to do again, and way at the top of the list is “buy a dozen goldfish.” Possibly the biggest goof I’ve ever made was thinking it was a great deal to get 12 of the glittery finned fish for $1.69. I bought them, as well as a 10-gallon tank, a filter, an air pump, and all the assorted decorations and tools for the upkeep of the tiny slippery fellows.

Maybe I looked like I knew what I was doing. Not one person in the pet store questioned my purchase, nor did I give it a second thought.

I left the store with an air of confidence, the tiny fish bobbing around in the plastic bag that sat on our son’s lap on the ride home.

But those of you who have raised goldfish before are probably thinking, “What an imbecile!” Not about the number of goldfish, but more likely about the size of the tank. The tiny, tiny 10-gallon tank, for a dozen goldfish.

Within a few days, the number of goldfish had begun declining rapidly, as one after another went belly-up and floated at the top of the tank, and the filter kept the water flowing in a steadily purring cascade.

I can remember winning a goldfish years ago at the Grahamsville Fair. It had done quite well under my care. It had been the object of the “toss the ping pong ball in the tiny goldfish bowl” arcade game, and had had a growth on one of its fins when I received it. In a few months of swimming in the often-changed spring water, the goldfish was perfectly healthy and had never looked better.

So I thought I knew what I was doing.

My advice now is, to anyone who’s considering buying any kind of pet: do your research first. What I had failed to learn about goldfish before bringing these home is that they are possibly the dirtiest, most labor-intensive fish commonly available.

But keeping them healthy is not impossible.

After the third fish died, I called the pet store and talked to someone who knows about fish, especially goldfish. I learned that I could make the situation much better by increasing the filtering process, and using a bigger, 20-gallon tank. Adding aquarium plants and aeration also helped, as did frequent partial changes of the tank’s water. I learned how to siphon out the water to make cleaning the tank easier, too.

I’d have done better to start with only one or two fish, too. Eventually, one of our goldfish grew to be over six inches long and was, I think, the happy result of my initial folly.

If you are considering starting a goldfish aquarium, you can borrow books on the subject through the public library. To search for an item within the Ramapo Catskill Library system, start from their Web site.

And start with only one or two goldfish — please!

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Owned by three cats over age 13