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I Can't Keep Goldfish Alive


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#1 natalie265

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Posted 04 May 2011 - 11:28 PM

First of all, although i am new to goldfish, i am not new to fish keeping and have successfully kept freshwater tropicals for years, so i'm extremely stymied over my inability to keep goldfish alive.

I have a 55 gallon fish tank in my office at work (i work in a school) and i've been trying to keep it stocked with 3 fantail goldfish, but in the past school year, i have lost 4-5 fish.

In all but one case, the fish showed no signs of illness before they died (one of the fish became listless a few days before he died). They were swimming normally, eating normally, good color, and no marks or growths on their bodies. Still, i have treated the tank twice for bacterial infections and fungus, just in case, but i have lost two fish since this treatment. One thing i did notice is that they didn't seem to grow much. Even the one fish who lived the longest...probably about 8 months, didn't get much bigger in that period of time. None of them ever looked underweight, they just didn't seem to be getting any bigger.

I haven't tested the water since this most recent death (i'm going to test tomorrow), but i do test periodically, and the results have always been the same: ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 20, ph 8. Being at room temperature, it might be a little warm for their liking. I do have a heater in the tank set as low as possible for they turn the heat down in the building nights and weekends and i figured a stable if warm temp was probably better than a constantly fluctuating one. I clean the tank at least once every two weeks.

I feed them a combination of flake food and 1 mm sinking pellets, both of which are not made specifically for goldfish (could that be the problem??). They also get peas about once per week and are usually fasted over the weekend.

I hate to give up on goldfish! They are so personable and the kids are much more interested in them than they were the fish i had in the tank previously. However, it doesn't make sense to continue putting goldfish in my tank only to have them die within a few days or weeks or months. Any ideas on what the problem might be? I'd always thought that goldfish were considered to be pretty hardy. I just don't know what i'm doing wrong!

Oh, one more thing, i have eight zebra danios in the tank. They seem completely fine.

#2 Baccus

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 05:24 AM

I am not really up on how much 55g's is I only know litres but I believe 55g should be a fair sized tank possibly around the 4ft length. Goldfish really need a huge area with plenty of filtration and well oxygenated and cool water.

Have you seen the danio's ever nipping at or harrassing the goldfish? Because if they are they could be causing the goldfish too much stress, making them subcomb to illnesses that they would normally be able to shrug off.

I give my goldfish tropical flakes even though it's not designed for them and they seem to thrive on it, but they are in a pond with plants (when they let them grow) and all sorts of yummy pond life that invaribly mysteriously materailises in any outdoor water.

Do you ever see the goldfish gasping at the surface of the water, not just their usual feed us gulping but constently hanging around the surface gasping when there is no food around? Is so this can (usually) means they are low on oxygen and are actaully sufficating from the lack of oxygen in their environment. My goldfish used to die from heat stress and lack of oxygen in summer (Central Queensland so pretty darn hot and humid)in their pond until I made sure they get shade all day and added a large airstone. Now my goldfish sail through summer without a backward glance.

The lack of visable growth of the fish might be down to the fact that they have already reached thier maximum size available to them by the confines of the tank size.


My main suggestions for improving the surviral rate is get more air in the tank and try to keep the temp around a max of 20 degrees cel. And if you do restock again try to get slightly smaller goldfish to start with, but not extra numbers. If all else fails try comets as they are very hardy and pretty forgiving.

#3 tenohfive

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 02:29 PM

The lack of visable growth of the fish might be down to the fact that they have already reached thier maximum size available to them by the confines of the tank size.


The 'gold fish grow to the size of the tank' saying is a bit of an old wives tail - I read about a study that showed that goldfish will continue to grow, though I think it was speculated that poor water quality (as so often goes hand in hand with a tank that is too small for them, and filtration that can't handle their waste) can lead to nitrogen related stunting.

It does sound strange. A few questions:

1. What have you got in the way of filtration?
2. Are you using a liquid drop based testing kit or strips?
3. When did you last test for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate?
4. Do you have a thermometer in the tank and if so what is it reading now?

55G is still too small for goldfish long term but I think it's unlikely to be the cause of their deaths. The temp is prime suspect in my mind at the moment - I've not seen harm come to my goldies due to fluctuating temperature, and they've been outside in a garage (granted, one with some slight insulation) through the winter we've just had with no adverse effects...I've never seen it stated anywhere, and it may be a bit of a leap to suggest it, but in their natural environment fish deal with dips in temperature overnight I would have thought.

As an aside, you may want to consider cichlids as an alternative in future - South/Central American cichlids have got just as much (if not more) character than goldfish, are generally more colourful and in a 55G tank you'd probably get away with an interesting trio of relatively peaceful cichlids such as Sajica, Rainbow Cichlid, Festivum, Keyhole Cichlid, Angel fish etc. If it's something you're interested in stick a post in New World Cichlids.

#4 nigelchapman

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 03:21 PM

I have read you post and understand your problem as you say that there is no sickness sign in your fish then it just died. So I think there may be level of pH or other chemical is not up to the mark so it will create problem. You have to change your filtration system it will help.

#5 natalie265

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 04:04 PM

Come to think of it, they DO spend a lot of their time up at the surface of the tank! I wouldn't say they are gulping, i mean, they don't look distressed, which is why i didn't think it meant anything, but they definitely spend a lot of their time at the surface. And the tank really doesn't have a lot of surface agitation. I'm pretty sure i have an extra pump at home. I'll add some bubbles to the tank and see if it helps. I bet that, along with the warmer temperatures is what my problem is. Thanks!

Yes, 55 gallons is about a four foot tank. Do you really think that is too small to house three adult fantails? I mean, assuming i could get the oxygen and temp sorted out.

Okay, i'm going to answer all your questions in case you have any more insight. My filter is a Rena xp canister filter, plus a hang on back filter. The temperature is about 72 degrees f or 22 degrees c. I tested today with a strip. My results were nitrate: 20, nitrite: 0, ph 8. I also have a liquid kit. When i used it last i got ammonia: 0, nitrate: 0 (i don't trust this kit because it always gives me a zero reading for nitrate), nitrite: 0 and ph:8.

I don't want to use comets because they get so large, but if i can't keep this last goldie alive, i think i'm going to have to switch to tropicals. I really have no way to keep the temperature down. I do not control the temp in the building. I could take the heater out and let it cool down at night. Maybe i'll try that.

#6 nurglespuss

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 07:53 AM

Hi there,

First off I would say drop your temperature to 20'C - the danios will be fine at this temp, and it will boost the dissolved oxygen.

On that note also install a bubble curtain/air stone to help with water surface disruption.

Second, are you buying the fish locally? i.e. are they on a different water supply? (the pH seems high, which may be difficult for them to adjust to).

Third, goldfish (especially these varieties) can be extreemly poor quality, and you might be doing nothing wrong at all, just poor stock! Try adding just one goldfish from a seperate stockist (pick the youngest you can find).

Last thing, I don't know what your tank looks like, but do you have any plants/hiding places? - this will also help (pop in a weighted bunch of Elodea).

Good luck!!

#7 natalie265

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 11:14 PM

The fish are at room temperature, and since they are at my place of business, i have no control over the temp. I do have some live plants, mostly java moss and java fern. And several pieces of drift wood and some fake plants too.

I am buying the fish locally, and our water is just very hard here.

I did wonder if i was just getting bad stock. Most of the fish were purchased from petsmart. I bought one of the more recent goldfish from a more trusted, locally owned shop, but that one died as well.

At this point, i'm thinking its too high temp and not enough oxygen in the water. I'm going to add some bubbles, as multiple people have suggested, and hope that works. If not, i'm going to switch to tropicals.

Edited by natalie265, 07 May 2011 - 11:15 PM.


#8 fishnovice

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 10:54 PM

The fish are at room temperature, and since they are at my place of business, i have no control over the temp. I do have some live plants, mostly java moss and java fern. And several pieces of drift wood and some fake plants too.

I am buying the fish locally, and our water is just very hard here.

I did wonder if i was just getting bad stock. Most of the fish were purchased from petsmart. I bought one of the more recent goldfish from a more trusted, locally owned shop, but that one died as well.

At this point, i'm thinking its too high temp and not enough oxygen in the water. I'm going to add some bubbles, as multiple people have suggested, and hope that works. If not, i'm going to switch to tropicals.

I have taken in lots of rescued goldfish which had been previously kept in appalling conditions in filthy tanks, sometimes with no food. The majority survived and many, not all, grew. The only time I suffered a tragic loss -5 fish in 2 days- was when we had a heat wave and the water temp rose to 30'. 3 goldfish in a 4ft tank is not bad, I have lots more in my 4ft tank but I do have a very efficient filter 1200l/hr which keeps water quality very good.
My feeling is, as others have suggested
1. Temp too high -switch off that heater now. Temp fluctuations are normal, especially when fish are kept outdoors in ponds.Heat is a definite goldfish killer in my experience
2. Gasping at surface suggests lack of oxygen, goldfish don't normlly hang out at the surface all the time -move your filter outlet just above the water surface to agitate the surface and aerate the water. I learnt this trick from another forum member and now use it in all my tanks.
3. Poor possibly inbred stock. Goldfish are normally very hardy and can survive in unbelievable conditions that would kill all other fish inc small unfiltered tanks and filthy bowls with no water changes. Avoid extreme fancies with bulging eyes and badly deformed bodies inc moors which are more delicate. Try fantails with normal eyes and bodies which are hardier.
4. Get some goldfish pellets or flake. Triopical flakes are too rich as a main diet for goldfish which need more veg in their diet. However this does not normally kill them
Good luck!

Edited by fishnovice, 05 June 2011 - 10:56 PM.


#9 fishguy2727

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Posted 06 June 2011 - 12:43 AM

IME the best food for them is NLS Thera+A.

The temp is not an issue unless there is inadequate aeration, in which case a higher temp will cause problems. However, with only goldfish and zebra danios in there I would only have a heater in as stated, to prevent big swings in temp. So I would set it one or two degrees below normal temp so that it only runs if needed.




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