Water changes for goldfish in bowl -- I know bowls are bad, not my fish!

turtledove avatar
3 years ago #1
turtledove
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Before I start, important points I want to make:

1) I know how horrible goldfish bowls are.
2) It is not my goldfish.

I am trying to get this fish moved to a tank, but so far, no luck. So I'm trying to improve conditions for him while he's imprisoned in this bowl. But I don't want to screw anything up.

The bowl holds only a gallon, but is only half full. It's a 4-5" fish. I started doing virtually 100% water changes daily and tests show the fish is putting out 4 ppm ammonia per day. Amazingly, this fish is several years old, I don't know why he's still alive, since he his overfed and has old food stinking up the gravel and only weekly water changes until now.

My question is about the water changes. I hear that changing too much water at once can shock the fish. But if I change only half, he's going to be swimming around in 2 ppm ammonia if I change 50%. By the next day, it'll be up to 6 ppm before changing, and then halved down to 3 ppm after a 50% change.

What is everyone's advice about how often to change it and how much?

Should I add Ammo-lock to minimize the ammonia exposure?

Does Ammo-lock sit around waiting for ammonia to be produced, so I can put in enough to treat 3 ppm (1 dose) and it will treat it as soon as it's produced, or does it only work on what's there at the moment of adding it? I also hear you can put in as much as a triple dose at once -- per manufacturer -- although probably only double is needed with daily changes.

I can do this 5 days a week, but on weekends, I'm not there to do water changes. So the other question would be, assuming there was no water change on the weekend (although there probably is), or the change was on Saturday, leaving a day with no water change, should I alter what I do on the Monday as there will be a greater ammonia buildup?

I will have the fish in my care for a week. Should I clean the gravel thoroughly, or could this cause the fish to go into shock? I read a story where someone cleaned up too much at once and it killed the fish.

As far as getting the fish into a tank, I almost had the go-ahead to put it in a 5.5 gallon tank I had lying around (better than a half-gallon, anyway), then he changed his mind and said he'd buy a new tank himself. Now I'm thinking it's never going to happen for this poor fish. I can't nag anymore, I just have to do what I can for this fish.

Thanks for any advice.

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jlk avatar
3 years ago #2
jlk
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Thats very, very sad and cruel

Ok, a bigger tank is this fish's only hope but in the interim, change 100% of the water daily with a double dose of amm-lock. Make SURE the new water is temperature matched & properly conditioned! The amm-lock works for about 24hrs by converting ammonia to less toxic ammonium. I honestly would put the fish in the 5g until your friend decides to get a bigger tank. Even better, a 30g plastic storage bin ($10 at walmart). Water changes will still need to be done regardless. If there is gravel in this bowl, I honestly would just remove it along with the waste & debris. There is no functioning nitrogen cycle in an unfiltered 1/2gallon bowl and there never will be.

Ill post the goldfish link in case you havent read it yet- perhaps you can show it to your friend so he/she can learn something about goldfish. Unfortunately, the damage this fish has undergone from high levels of toxins & stunting is not reversible and will likely greatly shortened his potential lifespan- the best that can be done is to provide him with the best environment possible so he can live out the balance of his life in happiness and comfort.
http://www.myaquariumclub.com/goldfish-101-11174823.html

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johnarthur avatar
3 years ago #3
johnarthur
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The new aquarium will need a working nitrogen cycle, and the beneficial bacteria associated with the <email> mostly in the substrate and filter elements. To help the goldfish, you may want to buy a small air pump and sponge type filter. This assumes the bowl has no filter at present.

The next step is feeding no more than the goldfish eats in a couple of minutes. The bowl also needs to be filled even if you need to put something on top to prevent jumping and water evaporation. Doubling the water volume will halve the ammonia concentration.

Finally, change about 25 percent of the water every day or two. This dilutes the ammonia and other toxic nitrogen compounds while not suddenly changing water temperature and other parameters. As you have discovered, aquarium fish are adaptable to different conditions, but sudden changes are both shocking and stressful.

I'm tempted to moralise just a bit. If a person assumes the responsibility of caring for another creature, part of that responsibility is to provide a decent environment, not a marginal one.

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turtledove avatar
3 years ago #4
turtledove
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Yeah, I agree on the care issue. People buy the fish for 99 cents when they're small, they grow, and they figure it's "just a fish."

Regarding filling the bowl to the top -- that means the surface area for oxygen exchange will be even less, due to the shape of the bowl. Without any added air, a problem, right?

I can't add or detract from the current setup by putting in any pumps or filters. I am just a pet sitter for his dog and I took on the goldfish's cause, but I have to be careful about stepping over lines. The bowl is on the kitchen counter and I can't start putting stuff in this person's house.

Any idea how long it takes a goldfish to use up the oxygen in a 1-gallon bowl filled only halfway?

So only change 25% of water every 2 days even though he's generating 4 ppm ammonia per day? I just want to make sure I'm getting that right. I see other advice for doing the whole bowl every day, which I guess is risky due to shock issues, although it seems his water quality changes drastically in a 24-hour period anyway with the large volumes of untreated ammonia.

I'm wondering which is worse, all that ammonia all the time, or 75-100% water changes that get rid of it, but change a lot of the water quality at once.

I think saying he'll buy a new tank may be a way to get me to back off. When I offered to do it for him, he said no, despite my attempting to educate on the issue of ammonia and the nitrification process, need for oxygen, etc. So I can't be too pushy and feel like I have to just be quiet and do what I can behind the scenes.

And of course, he can always argue that the fish is years old already, so obviously it's not so bad.

Thanks for responding. I'm tuckered out by this situation.

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johnarthur avatar
3 years ago #5
johnarthur
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Filling the bowl all the way would reduce surface area, but the filter would provide surface agitation and thus encourage oxygen to dissolve into the water.

It seems you have no real options with respect to fish care. Stated another way, the goldfish will likely die and there is nothing you can do about it. People often resent interference even if it's well intentioned. You may want to demonstrate the advantages of following some aquarium basics by setting up your own aquarium.

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jlk avatar
3 years ago #6
jlk
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I am very sorry about the situation your facing. It's very unfortunate but manage the best you can. I stand by doing 100% wcs to give the fish a little relief even if it's only temporary. You can set out a pot or bucket of water the day before to use for the wcs- the parameters & temp will be the same as the bowl minus the ammonia. I do 100% wcs regularly but I also don't have parameters this poor fish is facing. Unfortunately, when your friend returns, the fish will be returned to his prior conditions & lack of care. Try your best!

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johnarthur avatar
3 years ago #7
johnarthur
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Very clever about letting the water stand over night to equalise temperature. Aquarists used to do that so the chlorine would evaporate, but it doesn't do anything about the chloramine now in most municipal water supplies.

Probably in a dirty aquarium with no filter, the temperature equalised 100 percent water change will help. If it were me, I would take the liberty of adding a few more inches of water then admit to my "mistake."

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turtledove avatar
3 years ago #8
turtledove
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Thanks anyone who reads this, and for all the advice.

Surprisingly and unfortunately, the owner bought a tank, and put the fish in the same day and overnight it died. I suspect it was shock. Even if all the water from the bowl (1/2 gallon) were added in, and it probably wasn't, it had another 4 gallons of new water and probably couldn't take the change, that's my guess.

I also saw a bottle of opened Tetra Easy Balance Plus, which balances pH (maybe it balanced it too much right off the bat) and says nothing about neutralizing chlorine. The bottle of tap water conditioner had almost been down to nothing and still had something left, so I'm thinking that the Easy Balance was mistaken as a chlorine neutralizer, and that could've done it, too.

And of course, water temp changes, if not enough time was given to let it equalize with room temp.

Amazing that a fish can survive years of being in 20+ ppm ammonia, and then getting better quality of water too fast kills it.

I'm sad, because getting the tank was my idea. But implementing the changeover was potentially the cause of death of this fish. I wish I had been allowed to do the setup, but then again, it might've died anyway and then I would've felt responsible for that, too.

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mozphoenix avatar
3 years ago #9
mozphoenix
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A sad story, but you tried to help and you should be proud of that. In the end, I'm thinking a quick death was more humane than the slow death he was experiencing in a tiny bowl.

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 avatar
3 years ago #10
turtledove
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Thank you for your words of comfort. I agree on the slow death in the bowl.

It was probably so unnecessary, though. From what I'm reading here, just doing a slow introduction to the new water would probably have avoided the problem, although I don't know if chlorine was a factor and how fast chlorine kills fish.

Well. lesson learned, a friend of mine is about to give a little girl some fish, I'm going to pass on what happened as a word of caution to her on how to do it right.

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johnarthur avatar
3 years ago #11
johnarthur
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Thanks

Chlorine will kill fish, but it easily evaporates. Because of this, municipal water systems also disinfect water with chloramine, which is a combination of chlorine and ammonium and does not evaporate. Both things are harmful to fish, but most tap water conditioners treat for them.

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