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Rescued Goldfish Losing Scales

Guest Emily

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Guest Emily

Hi. My husband and I rescued two very small goldfish from a neighbor who was leaving or Israel for one month without making any arrangements for the fish. :angry: (She planned to leave two of those long-feeding things in their little, dirty, one-half gallon bowl.)

Well, we immediately bought a 20 gallon tank and a Penguin Biowheel 200 filter. We also bought an aerator and a bubble wall and some plastic plants and rocks. We ordered the ProGold from Goldfish Connection and feed them in the morning and the evening. Also, sometimes we feed them freeze-dried bloodworms or brine shrimp. They also get romaine lettuce and an occasional cucumber or orange slice.

After one year of care, both fish have grown tremendously. I do 25% to 30% water changes every weekend, and to date, their water is pristine. (I do not have water testing equipment.) I have a few questions/concerns:

1. Recently, their water never seems to look crystal clear. I haven't changed my procedure which is to do a 25-30% change every weekend. Also, I vacuum the gravel once every two weeks and replace the filter or media basket on alternate cleanings. However, the water never seems to actually look crystal clear. I have noticed that the Biowheel seems to be a lot browner. The only thing I add is Stress Coat to dechlorinate the water. What could be happening?

2. Also, the larger fish (about 4 inches not including tail fin) is missing scales on one side. His behavior is fine and he eats well, but the missing scales worry me. Should I add salt? Is kosher salt preferable to aquarium salt?

3. Lastly, is my 20-gallon tank large enough? One fish is about 4 inches (not including tail fin) and the other is about 3 inches (not including tail fin).

Thanks so much for any help you guys can offer. This is a great site!

Emily and Brian

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Guest Mfish

First off, :welcome

Its great you rescued your fish!

1. Your cleanings are great. The only thing I can think of is Nitrates slowly building up over a long period of time. Get a water test and see whats wrong. You can bring some tank water to your LFS and they will test for free. You could also buy a test kit.

2. Adding salt is always a good idea. Still, make sure your other fish isn't tormenting him and picking at his scales.

3. Your twenty gallon tank is plenty big. Your fish are lucky to have a good home.

I'm not very much help. Wait til one of the aquamods gets on. They can help you with all your problems.


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Guest Emily

Hello again,

Thanks for your reply.

I was reading a post about how aggressive goldfish can get when mating, and about the necessity of getting larger and larger tanks as they grow and grow.

Geez! We live in a studio apartment in Brooklyn with two rescued kitties (Gina and Dewey). We already had to give away a chair to accommodate the 20-gallon tank! :blink: I guess a 30-gallon won't take up that much more space. haha

Anyway, thanks again. I'll await other responses, as you suggest.

Happy 4th of July.

Emily and Brian

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  • Regular Member

Hi Emily,

I was so happy to read of your kind rescue!! You really brought a smile to my face. :) :)

Could you tell me what are the sort of goldfish you keep? Are they common goldfish? These can get a bit aggressive, especially if they feel cramped. You could try rearranging the plants to form a partition, perhaps this would help.

They aren't swollen or bulging at the belly are they? (Just to make sure it's not an infection).

Tank size is a tricky one because if your fish are commons, a 20g tank is marginally undersized. They may even be having territorial fights because of space issues.

I think they would grow a lot bigger in a larger tank, but this would mean adding another filter. (I would get a bigger tank )

Good thing to put in salt, it will help to prevent infections. Kosher salt should be fine and may be better than aquarium salt because it is cleaner :)

With regards to your cloudy water, could you tell me its colour?

Cloudy water could be caused by:

Algae bloom - greenish

ammonia spike - whitish

filter probs/uneaten food - brownish

There may other causes that I have missed. :huh:

Tell us the colour and we can work from there. (Nice to see you feed a varied diet, much better than I can manage)

Hope this is usesful, and do post back soon.

Slugger :D

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Guest Emily

:) Hi Slugger,

Many thanks for your reply.

I googled a bunch of websites and looked at pictures of goldfish varieties. Wow! So many beautiful fish! I discovered that my two guys, "Fincent and Gilly," are actually comets.

They don't seem to have swollen bellies, but they definately have "beefy" bodies. When we got them a year ago, their shape was completely different. They bodies were short and rounded. (They lived in that little bowl for over 2 years. :angry:) Since we moved them to the 20-gallon tank, we watched their bodies elongate and even their tails have gotten quite glamourous. hahaha

The water is kinda translucent or pale, pale gray. Usually, after a water change, I see this color but it turns crystal clear after a few hours, so I assumed it was oxygen. Yesterday, before I did the regular water change, the water appeared slightly brown.

I think you may be correct in assuming that I need a larger tank. I never had this problem before, but the guys have really grown in size. I guess, like kids need new shoes, "Fincent and Gilly" need a new tank and filter. :blink:

Also, how much kosher salt do I add? I've read a few different suggestions. Also, should I add the salt regularly, i.e., add the proper amount for the amount of water change?

Lastly, how large will these guys get? I'm wondering whether to get a 30-gallon or larger tank? (We spent so much money on the 20-gallon tank and cabinet. Haven't a clue as to what to do with the tank once we buy a new one.)

Again, many, many thanks. You're very kind.

Emily and Brian

Brooklyn, New York

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  • Regular Member

Hi again,

It's nice to see you've been able to nurse a couple of sad looking comets to health. :D

I'll tackle the easy question first, salt.

You've probably read that healing can be helped along with a salt concentration of 0.1% (1 teaspoon per gallon). In your case, this would mean 20 level teaspoons of salt, dissolved in tank water, then poured in. Next time you do a water change, if you take out 10g of tank water, you must put in 10 teaspoons of salt in the new water.

The next easiest question is water cloudiness. I suspect the greyish water (excuse my English spelling), may be disturbed particles from your gravel and shouldn't be a major concern. Your tank water gradually turning brownish, may be due to uneaten food like lettuce. You do take out uneaten veggies straight away don't you? Another possibility could be the filter not being able to cope with the volume of waste. Though brown gunk is good for beneficial microbes, check that the filter isn't blocked with too much brown gunk. If your filter seems OK, then I would suspect Fincent and Gilly might be making too much waste. How much do you feed? If you feed only moderately, then fishy size might be an issue.

Moving on to the missing scales, have you ever seen Fincent and Gilly fighting? The scales could have been rubbed off, accidently on ornaments. Do they exhibit "flashing", where they rub their sides on the tank or ornaments, as if to scratch? I don't want to alarm you, but I think it might be prudent to make sure there are no symptoms of parasites. (I am currently battling them now :( )

The toughest part, tank size. I think you can probably guess that tank size might be the issue. Apart from water quality, tank size affects growth by limiting surface area. Comets are pretty good swimmers and ideally need 20 gallons per fish to allow room for growth. Your tank is only a bit undersized for your current size of fish, so if you don't want to spend more money on a larger tank just yet, there are things you can do to remedy and monitor closely.

1. I would suggest you obtain a basic "master test kit" (liquid dropper) to monitor ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and pH. If you test your tank on a weekly basis, you will know for sure if your filter can cope.

2. You could add another penguin 200 to double your filtration. If you decide to get a bigger tank at a later date, 2 of these would be able to cope with a 40g tank.

3. Rearrange plants and remove potentially dangerous ornaments to try and give each fish their own space.

These guys can get pretty large, I've seen them get to 7" excl. tail, but have heard tell of them getting even larger in ponds.

Apologies for the long reply and hope this is useful.

Slugger :)

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Guest Emily

Hello Slugger,

Thank you again for taking the time to reply. :heart

I've been calling around to get an idea of the cost of upgrading to a 40 gallon tank. :cry1 As you probably know, it's really expensive. Since my current 20-gallon set-up was bought in February, 2005, am I gonna have to upgrade every 6 months? Will a 40-gallon tank be large enough for two, fully-grown, comets? (You mentioned that they might grow to 7".)

Slugger, when they guys are fully-grown, is a release possible? There is a huge, well-maintained lake at the Corporate Headquarters of Pepsico with Japanese Koi. They are absolutely gorgeous. Most of them are at least 12" in length or longer.

If I got permission, would fully-grown comets survive in the lake with Japanese Koi? (The groundskeeper told me that the koi are not fed. They survive naturally.) Would my comets learn to find food on their own?

Slugger, if I were a fish, I would love to live at Pepsico. It's a beautiful, safe setting. The lake and sculptor park is constantly monitored by Pepsico volunteers, who are very protective of the koi. Visitors love looking at them, but are closely monitored and not allowed to feed them. Would my comets, when fully-grown, thrive in the lake? It seems kinda sad to limit them to tank. They really love to swim and investigate. However, I wouldn't want to do anything that could harm them. I'd rather keep them than to put them at risk. Any thoughts?

About the missing scales: Haven't seen either Fincent or Gilly "flashing" against any ornaments, plants. I took out some rocks to give them more space. Also, I was thinking maybe the rocks might be partly responsible for the missing scales. I also rearranged the plants.

Added salt today, as you suggested, and will get the larger tank this weekend. Until then, I'll watch them carefully.

I think I might have been feeding them a bit too much ProGold. (Geez, they're always "begging" for food. <_<) I soak the ProGold pellets, and use a spoon to drop individual pellets into the tank, one at a time. That way, I can monitor how much each guy eats, and I don't have any waste at the bottom of the tank. (They seem to enjoy catching the pellets as they drop.) After reading a few posts, if each fish should get as many pellets as roughly the size of their eye, I've been feeding them too much. (Of course, they're not complaining!) I guess the more they eat, the more waste they produce. So, I've cut back on the amount of pellets, but I still feed in the morning and evening with a fresh veggies on occasion.

You were right. I checked the filter and it was a bit more gunky than usual. More evidence that I need a bigger tank, larger filter, and should feed a little less.

Well, Slugger, I think my post is actually longer than yours! :lol:

Seriously, thanks again for your help. I hope you get those nasty parasites under control.

Stay well,

Emily & Brian

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  • Regular Member

Hello Emily,

I'm afraid new tanks are pretty expensive, especially the larger ones. A 40g tank would be good. Secondhand ones are a lot cheaper, sometimes free, but you need to spend some time and effort to locate one.

Your current filter should be able to cope, so perhaps you may be able to hold off getting a larger tank for the time being, provided you lightly clean the filter and cut down on feeding. If you find you still have water quality issues, you could add another filter, which can be reused on a larger tank. Size wise, Fincent and Gilly may be OK for a few months yet, but a larger tank will be needed later on.

You could use the next few months to try and track down a bargain!! :) If you can't find one you like, just get a new one, but at least you tried.

Good thing you are keeping an eye on the damaged scales, make sure there isn't any deterioration. If you don't see them fighting, it may just be clumsiness on the fish's part. After a week or two, you should be able to see some healing and at this stage, you may want to start taking out the salt. Just be vigilant for any symptoms of parasites. (Once bitten, twice shy ;) )

In Hong Kong, we have a saying that goldfish will never starve to death, they only ever eat themselves to death. :) I feel they only ever do 2 things, eat and poop. Try giving them cooked shelled peas on ocassion, to keep them regular.

I think Fincent and Gilly would absolutely love to live in a pond. They should be good enough swimmers to avoid any aggressive Koi and would be able to forage for themselves. For me, could I part with my fish, would be the toughest question to answer.

If you have more questions, feel free to ask. In any case, do post back to let us know what's going on.

Slugger :)

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