Why you shouldn’t keep goldfish

By Jeffrey the Barak

Oscar Night (the goldfish)

I once worked as a “cubicle farmer”, in an office. To provide a soothing distraction, I raised a couple of batches of “Sea Monkeys” and at the peak of their success, I was able to project their shadows onto the wall and enjoy their company for a very brief time.

Following that experience, I bought a single Comet Goldfish for a dollar and a simple plastic bowl. He (or she) was an exceptionally attractive goldfish with large spectacular fins and tail, and it was only a matter of time before escalation took place with progressively larger tanks and filters and other fishy friends for Oscar Night, as I called him.

In the end, my office desk sported a 30 gallon aquarium with a large canister power filter system under the desk. Water changes and tank cleaning took up many hours and it was a lot of work, but I feel that Oscar Night made the years spent inside a cubicle for forty hours a week much more bearable, and he provided mood enhancing entertainment for dozens of fellow employees who passed by my partitioned universe.

I like goldfish. They have faces, they have intelligence and they have personalities. Tropical fish, albeit sometimes quite beautiful, are wild, and they are the eat-or-be-eaten type of animal that you never really get to know as friends.

A goldfish is a poor man’s koi.

But knowing what I know today, I would not recommend keeping goldfish as pets unless you can promise that each fish will have twenty gallons of water, and that you can commit to keeping the tank clean, the water properly balanced and will be able to maintain a proper feeding, cleaning and water-changing schedule. Anything less can be cruel to a fish. And if you follow the recommend cruelty-free ratio of water to goldfish, then you will have a largely empty aquarium to look at. After all, if you add gravel, rocks, plants and decoration, then the thirty gallon tank may only have room for twenty five gallons of water. One large goldfish!

A goldfish might survive for a long time in a bowl, if you change the water once a day or even twice a day when it grows, but after two years, that pet store goldfish will need a large body of seasoned water to swim around in while it survives on it’s way to becoming an old foot-long friend over the years. And since they are social animals, it is only reasonable to keep a minimum of two pets, so they can interact with each other and remain sane while you are away from the other side of the glass.

That’s right, experts recommend a big, empty forty gallon tank with a large external filter, for a pair of humble goldfish. It is unlikely you will ever find any goldfish enjoying that kind of volume.

If you start with a jar and you love the fish, you better have a plan to set up a large pond someday. That one dollar goldfish might cost you a couple of thousand dollars if he makes it through the years.

Or you could plan on constraining the escalation, and stopping at the goldfish-bowl level, at the expense of the fish’s well-being and life-span. Perhaps if you rescued a doomed “feeder fish” you can justify that.

Jeffrey the Barak is the publisher of the-vu.

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