Setting up a new goldfish aquarium should be done slowly and carefully. An aquarium is a delicate eco-system in its own right and achieving the right balance of micro-organisms is crucial. Refer to the other pages in this section for more information about choosing the right goldfish aquarium, water filters and air pump, heating and lighting, water plants and gravel and decorations. Keep reading this page to learn about the fundamentals of keeping your aquarium safe from ammonia and nitrates.
You worst enemies in the goldfish aquarium are ammonia and nitrates (a derivative of ammonia). Ammonia is produced by your goldfish - the more they eat, the more ammonia will you get in the water. Ammonia is also created by particles of decaying plants and excess food. Ammonia in the water is very dangerous to your goldfish.
The ammonia needs to be broken into less harmful substances by special beneficial bacteria. The bacteria lives on the gravel and the objects inside the goldfish aquarium, but it needs time to develop in sufficient quantities. The bacteria break the ammonia into the less harmful nitrites, which are then broken into the harmless nitrates. This process is referred to as the Nitrogen Cycle.
If you're setting up a new goldfish aquarium from scratch, you should not introduce more than one or two goldfish for the first few months. Too many goldfish with too little bacteria will cause the ammonia level in the water to rise and harm your goldfish. It is possible to use chemical filters and other devices to help control the ammonia levels, but for the beginner goldfish owner, it's always best to start safely with no more than two goldfish.
You can monitor the levels of ammonia and nitrates in your goldfish aquarium by using a special test kit. The test kit usually contains color-coded test strips that show you the levels of ammonia and nitrate levels, as well as PH level, water hardness and other parameters. You may think these kits are strictly for the pros, but actually if you're new to goldfish, you would probably need to monitor the ammonia level in your aquarium very carefully. Even over-feeding your goldfish, can cause a sudden rise in ammonia levels in your goldfish aquarium, and kill your goldfish virtually overnight.
To keep the water in your goldfish aquarium clean and ammonia free, you have to change approximately 25% of the water every one or two weeks. Let the new water stand in a clean bucket for 24 hours before you add them to the tank where your goldfish live. That way you will lose most of the chlorine present in tap water. Don't change more than that at once - you might lose too much of the beneficial bacteria in the process.
To sum it up - to avoid ammonia in your goldfish aquarium -
Provide the beneficial bacteria space and time to grow.
Start your aquarium with only one or two goldfish.
Avoid overcrowding your goldfish.
Do not over-feed your goldfish! Remove any food that your goldfish haven't consumed within a few minutes.
Use a good water filter in the goldfish aquarium.
Use a good air pump in the goldfish aquarium. Bacteria thrive best in oxygenated water.
Regularly change approximately 25% of the water in your goldfish aquarium every one or two weeks.
Monitor the level of ammonia and nitrites in the goldfish aquarium.