Perfect Aquarium, Hospital Tank, or Quarantine? Everything Perfect to Make or Keep Fish Healthy
There are a few essential criteria for improving fish health and if you’re not already “doing it thusly” perhaps it’s time. There are TONS of ways to “do it right” but the following is how I treat fish, and house my tropicals. Goldfish benefit from all the same. At my house, this isn’t just for hospital tanks. This is exactly how I keep my community tanks.
A Perfect Environment?
For fish to recover from diseases and disorders they should experience minimal crowding, clean, pH-balanced well aerated water, good food and hiding places. Subtle differences exist in pH requirements among fish but the regular hobbyist will do fine with 'neutral'.
Less than 1" of fish per gallon water in tank
78 degrees Fahrenheit
pH regulated to neutral
High aeration and pristine filtration
Biologically active nitrogen reduction
To provide the ULTIMATE in hospital / treatment tank water, sponge filtration is THE BEST. The filter at right fits in a 20 gallon tank but it's made for 120 gallons, and would be many times the needed filtration but you can't have "too much" but here's a link to other sizes with the correct pore size. Aquaneat has the right pore size.
Sponge filtration is great because it won't suck up the fish, not even baby fish. And it colonizes super fast and it's easy to clean. It runs with an aerator, not electricity. So the "power" is OUTSIDE the tank. Better still, that makes the tank essentially 'silent' but very well aerated. Because the aerators are sometimes noisy, I hide the aerator and run a long supply line to the tank. At home, I run an Aquascape Pro Air 60 with a supply line from outside the house. On a small tank use THIS ONE. At right, an air pump good for up to 500 gallons. I own 4 of these 45L units and they run for literally: YEARS
You have to get air from the air pump gang valve to the filter. I really, really like silicon airline tubing and if you haven't used it, you're in for a treat because it has no memory and so when it unrolls is straightens out, and drapes, instead of trying to roll back up. At right, is a BIG FAT roll of silicone tubing. You could be two or three PACKSof tubing, or this practically "lifetime supply" roll for about the same money.
78 degrees is good for any fish recovering from an illness and accelerates clearance of white spot. 78 degrees also bolsters the fish immune response to fungal infections. Getting 78 degrees is easy with tank heaters, and my favorite is titanium, with an easy to read LED display and controls ON THE CORD and not on the unit. See the unit at right. It's all that. Also, it's 400W which means in a tank of 20-30 gallons it can hit the mark with minimal "on" time. The heater you see at right is too big for a ten gallon tank. You could use one of THESEfor a 10 gallon.
The system you put the fish into has to have biologically active media - beneficial germs that digest nitrogen. It's easy to get these from a healthy system already at equillibrium. Even the pet shop may spare you some media-squeezings. At right, click the button to read about how to "bio-seed" a new system.
There are tons of ways to bring and hold a pH to "neutral" which is the "important" thing. My preference, among LOTS of good ways to peg the pH, especially in a hospital or quarantine, is SeaChem's Neutral Regulator. They make a "liquid" version but what I have noticed about liquid pH regulators is LACK OF ECONOMY. Beginners could apply a dose to their tanks once a week and avoid pH issues forever.
So you set up a quarantine or hospital facility and you're seeing cloudiness in the water, and some cloudiness is okay if it's mineral haze but if it's bacterial you need to knock it down. You can use a water clarifier which works AMAZINGLY with a sponge filter as above. In tanks, the one at right (Accu-Clear) is the best. There's a POND version of clarifier that works well with a little better economy.
A substrate in a fish tank or hospital tank also colonizes with beneficial bacteria and is a welcome sight to sick fish. I left gravel behind in my tanks about 6 years ago and never looked back. I use black sand. I've used black Fluorite. It's good too. The thing about black sand is that it intensifies colors in fish and it doesn't coagulate a bunch of fish poop. I get little snowdrifts of fish poop SOMETIMES but normally the poop gets swept up into my sponge filters.
Maybe somebody died, (sorry), or maybe you bought a house that has a fishpond. Maybe you’ve always wanted one and the presence of the fish pond has been a pleasure. But there are fish in there, and you’re wondering what to do about them?
What I think I will do, is go through the most important things for you to know right up front.
First and foremost, fish can only live in water, or ponds (like you have inherited) as long as there is some water circulation. This is more true if there are more fish, and this is even more true if the water is warm. You see, water carries more oxygen when it’s colder. So if you’ve inherited your pond full of fish in the winter time then circulation isn’t really that important (besides, perhaps, keeping ice from forming over the entire surface of the pond). To learn more about the care of Koi during the frigid months of winter and about ice in the pond, please search the site for “winterizing“. (There are three articles)
So, if you have fish living in the yard somewhere, you must always be vigilant to make sure that there is sufficient circulation to provide them with enough oxygen to live. It is not uncommon for a person with a sizable collection of Koi or pond fish to lose them all in the middle of the summer when the water is warm, due to a power outage and a lack of water circulation.
Okay, before we go much further I should let you know that there are things called “Koi clubs” and “Pond Clubs” that are groups of people who are crazy about Fish and Ponds and if you don’t wantthe fish that you’ve just inherited, and you can reach out to these clubs, very commonly, they will find homes for the fish.
And, why would you necessarily want to fill the pond in and get rid of it when you could just get rid of the fish that seem to represent work and concern?
The answer commonly seems to be “I don’t want mosquitoes in my yard”
Well, on the one hand, you are absolutely right. A fish pond or standing body of water with no fish in it to eat the mosquito babies will become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. However, you don’t have to have Pond Fish to keep the mosquitoes at bay. In fact, there are fish called mosquito fish, or Gambusia, or even wild guppies that you can put in there which require no filtration or any particular care, and they become very abundant.
You can also put a handful of “feeder Goldfish” from the pet store into this pond, they are small fish about $.16 each. They are never particularly healthy but that’s not the point. You would put a dozen of them into the pond and they will either die back to the carrying capacity of the pond, or they will reproduce to the carrying capacity over the pond. If it’s a good pond, you may have unlimited little goldfish in two years.
You’re not even obligated necessarily to keep the Pond! There’s a technique where the pond is filled in with gravel and rocks and sand and driftwood and then the waterfall looks like it is just draining into a swale. They are called Pondless waterfalls and many pond set ups can be modified into that, so that you’re not even dealing with standing water. Nobody drowns in a pondless waterfall. The reservoir is under the gravel and dirt out of sight. Keyword search pond list waterfalls and you will be loaded down with information on this relatively new phenomenon.
Having read this far, you know you can get rid of the fish anytime you want, you can keep the pond and keep mosquitoes at bay, and you can even fill the pond in mostly and have a pond less waterfall, but if you are still reading then it is probable that you would like to keep the fish and enjoy them.
You already know that the water needs to be moving around (preferably a lot) in warm weather, to keep the fish alive.
Well the fish have to eat. Pond fish are not demanding. You can get a decent staple food for less than two dollars a pound.
How to Feed Koi:
You should stand next to the pond and scatter food on the surface and wait till it’s all gone before you put any more in, then put a little more on the surface, and do that for a total of five minutes. Take note of how much food they ate over the course of five minutes without leaving any on the surface. That is how much you should throw into the pond tomorrow. While it is fine to feed fish several times a day, I would recommend that, at first, you feed them a little less than you’d like and you only feed them once a day.
Without a doubt, water pollution is the number one killer of pond fish especially among beginners.
Ultimately, it is important to understand what “pollution“ actually is because there is a certain amount of chemistry involved in that, which you have total control over, and if your fish are worth any money or sentiment at all, you should master it. I would say it is easier than mastering a thermometer. If you look up “Water quality“ you will be loaded down with information about things like ammonia, nitrate, pH, and oxygen as well as carbon dioxide and live plants.
All of those things fit together to create your “water quality“ but for now, let’s just under feed our fish, and rarely.
Clean, Clear Water
If the water is nice and clean, then it suggests that the pond is “established” and has beneficial germs and a certain “equilibrium” to it. It may also be getting lots of new water through an overflow water input system. Advanced hobbyists do this. Or, it might just be understocked, not many fish taxing the environment.
But in many cases you have inherited a pond that looks pretty good because it has a filter on it.
I was browsing for a salt document and I found a web site with someone who should know better, recommending that people salt their ponds all the time, to maintain a moderate 0.1% solution of salt all the time.
Not a good idea.
Fish and plants don’t ‘thrive’ that way. Your fish could be doing “okay” with salt all-the-time, but they’d be doing better and more vigorously without it. Besides, parasites get used to it.
“I’m going to break down, and sterilize the tank, gravel and plants.”
It’s promised often and it’s USUALLY unnecessary.
Sterilization of Environments is suggested as “The Way” to prevent diseases. This is widely advocated at the retail and wholesale level. They logically feel that a sterile environment is preferable to one that might harbor a pathogen from “the last batch” of fish. This is perfectly logical and actually works for some people.
On the other hand, it also means that your system (unless you use an existing filtration system which defeats the point of sterilization anyway) is starting from ‘scratch’ and will have to go through the entire nitrogen cycle again. This means that the incoming fish will have to bear up under Ammonia, then Nitrite, and then Nitrate, only then being rewarded by some algal growth and stability. I wager that the nitrogen ‘roller coaster’ is worse for the fish than anything (parasitic or bacterial) they could bring in with them.
Sterilization is usually unnecessary. It costs the system its entire ‘balance’ and you lose the beneficial bacteria and algae.
Besides, after you sterilize a system you’re only going to Bioseedit again, so it’s unsterile again.
After you’ve sterilized the tank and gravel, when the fish come back in, they will soon defecate in the tank, and will thereby (in most instances) inoculate the tank with the same pathogens that you’ve just tried to annihilate.
Most of the time, when you’re sterilizing a tank to “get rid of whatever killed the last batch” you’re actually trying to ‘sterilize’ a water quality problem that you didn’t know you had.
When the fish come in, you would observe the rules we laid out for Quarantine, especially observation (or the use of a microscope and diagnose any parasitic burden as early as possible). The earlier you diagnose and treat the fish, the better off you will be.
If you DO sterilize a tank, gravel and ornaments, set it up as new and do the following:
Let’s just say, for the sake of argument that you’re not persuaded, and you want to be sure that there are no “leftover” pathogens in the tanks when your new fish come in. Here are some ideas you could employ with good success.
Double dose Potassium permanganate with peroxide reversal. See formulary.
Leave tank unoccupied for 14 days at seventy-five o This will eliminate parasitic pathogens, which require a host to survive for that long at that temperature.
You could apply Formalin at 50 PPM with water change in four hours. This would also annihilate any parasite that might have been left behind. If you were concerned that flukes may have been there, you would repeat this treatment in 4 days.
You can accomplish, against my advice, 100% annihilation of all viruses, bacteria and parasites with a 1:30 Clorox bleach dilution with water. Simply spray down tank or aquarium surfaces and wring out the sponges [or other filter media] with this dilute solution. Rinse with freshwater and refill, then you must de-chlorinate. Beneficial nitrifers are also annihilated.
The two-gallon fish bowl is ubiquitous in our society and has seen the residence of literally billions of Koi, goldfish and pond fish. I would estimate that almost all of us have had a two-gallon fish bowl. The original fish is usually some hapless Comet Koi, goldfish and pond fish which lives for about a week. The reason it died is that your fish bowl had no filtration system, and therefore no bacteria to reduce the excreted nitrogen from the food it was (over)fed. Ammonia surged and killed the fish. No one knew to test this parameter.
So, you buy a second fish, which lives a week more, then dies of Ammonia poisoning despite water changes.
Eventually, a Comet survives because enough beneficial bacteria have colonized the gravel and plastic-plant to reduce the Nitrogen. You may have fed less frequently by this time as your childhood enthusiasm for Koi, goldfish and pond fish waned. Roman numerals get confusing as you get out to Beloved Koi, goldfish and pond fish George the XIII
Just as you begin to breathe a sigh of relief that “this one” is going to make it, you buy him a “friend” and you don’t know to do any kind of quarantine. The new one and your old one perish when they get Ich. You use “Ich-Be-Gone” with Formalin, which kills off that little bit of beneficial bacteria on the plant, and you’re into another Cycle when you restock.
After another full cycle and ten more “Georges” you finally get another fish to survive, and you decide that “new friends” are a bad idea. This particular fish actually does fairly well and starts to grow. It eats algae on the sides of the bowl and starts to get kind of big.
Eventually, it gets cramped and the fins start to curl. Cataracts develop when the fish is only four years old and the skin turns pale for lack of real sunlight. The spine begins to curve for lack of space and because of the refined flake food diet. By the time the fish is five years old, it has undergone years of chronic stress due to its own crowding. It’s only grown to be six inches long and finally perishes at the age of five-and-a-half looking like a geriatric specimen.
I am not so rabid as to call for the “outlaw” of the two-gallon fish bowl. In fact, it is not the manufacturer of the fish bowl who has committed the ‘wrong’. It is our responsibility to educate as many people as we can about the proper way to keep Koi, goldfish and pond fish. We can do it with helpful support, not condemning attacks. We can do it with understanding, not intolerance. Folks using fish bowls have not ‘seen the light’ and enjoyed the pleasure of having fish in larger facilities.
If you’ve been using glass heaters, or you’ve ever lost a tank to an exploding heater or a failure that boils your fish, then this is a good tutorial for you.
So, over the years I’ve gravitated to Titanium heaters on thermostats and I encourage anyone with valued fish to do the same and here’s why.
What I’m using at home now is a POPETPOP titanium heater at 400W and under $30 which is a steal.
Then what I do is put the above heater or heaters on a thermostat to ‘redundantly’ control the heaters and prevent overheating, which is fully explained in the recording.
Cost-Effective Titanium Aquarium and Tank Heaters
Normally in BIG facilities I’ve used pain bucket warmers – and in my 1500 gallon tank, I’ve used THREE of them but then lately the crazy people in the heater industry came up with a tiny, submersible 3000 Watt heater I’m going to try next. I’ll use the above thermostat to control it.
Why Can’t Koi and Goldfish Live in the Dark? Is “Sunlight” Absolutely Necessary?
It bears mentioning that light has several effects on fish which can ensure your success or failure. Full spectrum lighting with sufficient intensity and spectrum will stimulate the growth of healthy, green sessile algae. Algae benefit the fish in numerous ways including:
Providing edible phytoplankton for the fish to consume
Providing for the reduction of Nitrate in the environment
Raising dissolved oxygen during its photosynthesis during the photo-period.
The algae layer is slick, and preferable to any other surface for fish contact
I strenuously encourage the hobbyist to allow as much sessile green algae to remain on the ornamentation and sides of an aquarium as is aesthetically tolerable.
Lighting also provides the fish with certain metabolic capabilities. It is truethat without a full spectrum light source such as natural sunlight or biologically accurate full spectrum fluorescent bulbs, the fish will not be able to activate Vitamin D in their dermis and will eventually suffer calcium abnormalities, which may stunt growth or depress the immune response.
Sunlight Improves Koi, and Fish Color
No one who is experienced in this hobby will argue that full spectrum illumination or sunlight will enhance and improve skin condition and color in Koi, goldfish and pond fish.
How To Keep Goldfish Happy – All About Their Tank – Bigger is Better.
Outlaw the Goldfish Bowl
Invest in at least a ten or twenty gallon system. The bigger the tank, and the more aeration the fish get, the happier they will be, the more active they will be and the easier it will be for them to grow big.
Filtrate with an Undergravel plate driven by a single powerhead, or with a sponge filter.
If used, make sure the powerhead runs Venturi-style, which aerates well.
Supplement the efficacious filtration of the undergravel with a sponge filter like the Tetra Brilliant sponge filter. Hang on filters with pads and such are a nuisance to clean and have limited biological surface area.
Of course, Wet Dry trickle systems are superior, but they are correspondingly expensive.
Invest in some live plants. **Aponegeton**, Anubias, Cryptocoryne, **Pennywort**, etc are all good ones.
Anachris, Cabomba etc are a little messy and like cooler water. If you like fake plants, like I do, you can use most of the fake plants from Michaels. People talk about occasional fish toxicity to those but in recent decades, they have had to make the fake plants chewable by human babies without dying. So they have. And I’ve used a LOT of fake Michael’s plants. Check this out:
Feed a good small pelleted food like Hikaritwice per day.
Perform water changes every week or every other week. Use a siphon hose to clean the gravel periodically.
Did you know that a Goldfish can grow to be 8 inhes long in a single season (one year) if fed well and given enough space?
*LET ALGAE GROW ON AT LEAST ONE PANE OF GLASS IN THE TANK*, Algae reduces nitrate accumulations and is a big healp for Goldfish tanks.
What Size Tank Should You Keep Goldfish In
“If the goldfish bowl were actually outlawed it would be a shame for anabantoid owners. I have enjoyed Paradise Gouramis in goldfish bowls for years.” Doc Johnson
First, I use sponge filters in all my tanks and I’m not ashamed. They’re soft on fish bodies, easy to clean, effective, and they won’t even suck up fish babies, water clarity is GREAT and they Bioseedovernight (If you have a donor system). No moving parts. Every once in a while you have to take them out and clean the sponge, and replace the air stone, if you use an airstone in them, at all.
The second reason for this article is that at the time of it’s publication, I found these monstrous 8x8x8″ 250-gallon size sponge filters at TEN BUCKS on Amazon, while literally EVERYONE else sells them for $23 to $25 each. I bought a dozen when I saw this. I don’t know if, by the time you read this, whether they’ll still be $10.
Many Goldfish keepers are unaware that the highly selected Asian “carps” are very well suited for warmer waters. Ranchus, Orandas, Bubble eyes, etc all do better in heated systems, e.g. 74-78 degrees at a minimum, which *might* mandate a heater, especially during the winter.
The problems you can encounter with Goldfish kept too cool include:
Increased susceptibility to bacterial infection,
Increased incidence of irreconcilable Dropsey or floater diseases; where the fish floats helplessly at an unusual angle, even upside-down!
Filter bacteria in cooler systems do not function well, and ammonia problems may result.
All in all, you will only enhance th health of the fish and the function of the aquarium when you heat it up, as I said, 74 degrees minimum.
Goldfish success in seven easy steps:
1. Undergravel filter or sponge filter. (My favorite sponge filter)
2. Partial waterchanges weekly (Or trickle!)
3. pH supported above 7.2
4. Temperature 74 degrees or warmer (Best heaters EVER)
5. Live plants whenever possible (Apon, Anubias, floating Wisteria, Duckweed)
6. Turbulence but more importantly, high aeration are a must. Silent tanks spell death. This is VERY important.
7. Salt at the first sign of trouble. 0.3%
Use a siphon hose to clean the gravel periodically.
Did you know that a Goldfish can grow to be 8 inches long in a single season (one year) if fed well and given enough space?
Goldfish Care and Success: Filters
“I Heard undergravel filters were bad!”
In the olden days, Undergravel filters were driven by airpumps. People had little idea about good water quality and if the water looked clear, it was “good.” Ages ago, people with undergravel filters left them alone for years at a time, and over time, the gravel would stagnate with toxic amounts of mulm and gas – Nowadays we understand that toxic gases can be made in stale gravel beds and these gasses can invisibly kill our fish. The key to using an undergravel filter successfully is to keep the gravel siphon-cleaned on a semi regular basis.
Still, there are arcane hold outs who still believe that Undergravel filters, even when properly employed, are dangerous and can result in toxin production. Whatever.
Then, instead of using an Undergravel filter plate, which at the very least keeps *some* water moving through the gravel, the poor hobbyist *eschews* the Undergravel filter and then suffers the fish on two inches of deadspace gravel with no circulation.
Consider the following on Undergravels:
Just as your article stated, after 24 hours of undergravel in place, a transformation beyond anything I have ever seen was evident.
The energy level of Goldies was increased, the clarity of water increased (although I did think it was clear before) their appetite increased, their colors were more vibrant, even the ulceration on Blackie had almost disappeared!
Ok, ok, 50 lashes with a wet noodle for me! I regret not installing the undergravel sooner- I probably would not have lost my Ranchu or Fantails. Me a culpa. I’m telling all my fish buddies to install their UG’s before it’s too late.
Your expertise has proven to be invaluable.
The Use of Salt as a Remedy
The following, on salt, is included because for a goldfish-beginner this should be your knee-jerk reaction to goldfish getting sick, once you’ve checked your water and proven the pH is okay.
I recommend that you use salt, before you try anything else for parasites.
I recommend salt so darn often because it has so many benefits over other medicants. Namely:
1) It does not harm the majority of fish species.
2) It rarely pushes sick fish “over the edge.”
3) It eliminates, QUICKLY, 5 of 7 ciliates I can easily recall.
4) It does not get bound out of the system by organics or sunlight.
5) It does not pose a health risk to humans contacting it.
6) It is CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP.
and 7) It WON’T harm your filter!
Salt knocks off the following baddies:
50% of Costiasis (Ichthyobodo necatrix)
Almost every single Trichodiniid/Tripartiella organism.
Inhibits trematode reproduction, clears 30% of adults.
Salt: Remove submerged plants. Perform a fifty percent waterchange if possible, and clean the tank as well as reasonably possible without causing undue delay in treatment. This is because after you apply salt, you should probably leave it in for a little over a week – meaning you won’t be doing consequential water changes AFTER application.
Apply one teaspoon of iodized-or-not-doesn’t-matter table salt per gallon of water every 12 hours for three treatments (3 tsp per gallon). Alternatively, for larger systems, dose one pound per hundred gallons of water every 12 hours for three treatments (3 pounds per hundred gallons). Add all at once in the case of epidemic mortality.
A word of caution on SALT though. It should be food-grade or non mineralized cattle feed grade. It should have no additives like Yellow Prussiate of Soda, (YPS) and it should not be a “trace-mineralized” feed grade salt. Further, it should be avoided when native South American fish are involved, eg: Brochis britskii cats, and native or wild caught Discus. Rams dislike it also. Figure if a fish was wild caught in the Amazon, it shouldn’t be salted.
Almost all submerged plants perish in the salt dose listed above.
Do not use salt if you value your live plants.
Note the divided dosing, so as not to add it all at once. It’s less disruptive to the fish when added over 36 hours.