How to Care for that Carnival Goldfish

Goldfish© iStockphoto/Thinkstock

It’s a summertime rite of passage for many families: You take your child to the local carnival, he wins a game … and you’re stuck with a sickly-looking goldfish in a plastic bag. Your kid declares that little Nemo is his new best friend. Days later, he finds the fish floating on its side, leaving him devastated.

Luckily, there are steps you can take to keep that carnival goldfish alive. But before reading, consider this: Goldfish can live more than 20 years—long after your child has gone off to college!

Drive carefully
Try to avoid bumps or heavy braking on the ride home from the carnival. Bouncing around can cause stressful vibrations that could break down the goldfish’s immune system and cause disease.

Watch the water
Chlorinated tap water, bottled or distilled water, or water that is too acidic or alkaline can kill a goldfish. So buy a solution at a pet store that removes chlorine, adds nutrients or minerals, or measures acidity. Try to keep the water at about 70 degrees. You will also need a filtering system to remove waste, which contains ammonia that is toxic to the fish.

Buy the right home for the fish
If you’re a new goldfish owner, purchase a 2- to 5-gallon plastic aquarium kit with a filter, air pump, and chlorine remover.

Release the fish carefully
Place the fish in its bag in the tank before releasing it to reduce stress.

Take cover
Unless you want your pet to commit goldfish suicide, keep the tank covered at all times!

Let in the light
Goldfish need natural sunlight to keep their colors from fading.

Feed the fish daily
We know how easy it can be to forget to feed a pet that doesn’t bark or meow when it’s starving. But don’t forget to treat your goldfish to flakes or pellets every day. For a real treat, let it sometimes snack on freeze-dried worms, beef heart, brine shrimp, or algae.

Change the water weekly
Luckily, you’ll only need to change 10 percent each week—and you won’t have to move the fish.

Be a good housekeeper
Change the filter medium and clean the gravel regularly. If you have a power filter, change the filter container every few months.  You should also clean the sides of the bowl or tank with baking soda—never soap—every few weeks, placing the fish in a cup or separate bowl while you clean.

Sources: Associated Press, American Goldfish Association,

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