Getting a new goldfish: What you need to know.

After shopping for a new goldfish, you just picked out the one you fell in love with.  It’s adorable and healthy and you are so excited to take it home.

But how do you get it there safely and minimize the stress on both you and your new pet?

Less Stress is Best!

The process of getting a goldfish to the store in the first place is very stressful.  Stress plays a major role in the weakening of your fish’s immune system, which can lead to disease and even death.

The process of getting your goldfish home is also going to be very stressful for it, but with some thought and attention you can help to minimize that stress.

Some tips:

  • Be prepared.  If it is a very hot day, it may be a good idea to bring a cooler with you to the pet store with a few ice packs in it.  This will prevent your fish from overheating.
  • Figure out your schedule.  If possible, come straight home after picking up your fish.  The more stops you make along the way, the more you are taxing your goldfish’s stress level.  Too many stops and you could have a dead fish on your hands.  This bears repeating: the sooner you get home, the better.  Try to keep the “bag time” under an hour, at most.  15 to 20 minutes is better.
  • Have your tank set up beforehand and completely cycled.  You do not want to lose your new goldfish to New Tank Syndrome!

At the Pet Store

When you have decided what goldfish you want, the person who is helping you at the pet store is going to net out your fish from the rest.  The chase that will ensue is stressful to your fish and can cause them minor scale damage.  We do not recommend using nets on your goldfish at home unless absolutely necessary for these reasons, so keep in mind that this should be a one-time-thing.

Once the employee has caught the fish and put it into the plastic bag you will take it home in, make sure that it is the one you want!

At this point, it is a good idea to ask the worker helping you to give your goldfish extra water.  While some believe that having more air than water in the bag is better, the truth is that more water will be less subject to temperature changes and aids in actually providing more oxygen to your fish as it waits in the bag.

Bigger fish will need huge bags, and the more water they have the better.

The Ride Home

It is likely that your goldfish will struggle on the ride home.  You want to minimize this so your fish doesn’t get “worked up.”  Keeping your goldfish in a paper bag or in multiple layers of plastic bags is a good idea, as the reduced lighting helps to calm the fish.

Please resist the urge to take your new goldfish out and oogle at it during this time – that can come later when you have put it safely in the tank.

Minimizing the bumps and jostling can also help in keeping your goldfish calm.  Setting it on the floor may not be a good idea if you are on a rough or curvy road.

We suggest that you delegate the task of holding the goldfish to someone else in the car if you are driving, or try to hold it in your lap, extremely still.

Watch the surface of the water.  If it is splashing around wildly, your goldfish is being jostled.  If it is mostly smooth, you are doing a good job.

Introducing Your New Goldfish to the Tank

Once you have arrived safe and sound at your house, you will want to acclimate your goldfish to its tank. Which we’re assuming you already have set up and ready for your fish.

Acclimating your goldfish is very important.  You don’t want to just open the bag and dump it all in right away – remember; minimize the stress.  Drastic changes cause stress. Gradual adjustment reduces it.

Temperature is one thing that is important to gradually adjust.  You do this by floating the bag in the tank for at least 20 minutes before releasing the fish.  It is also a good idea to rinse the outside of the bag with tap water to prevent contaminants from entering the tank, if you can do this without traumatizing your goldfish.

After 20 minutes have passed, you will want to open up the bag, pour out 1/2 of the bag’s water (not into the tank!) and replace it with tank water. This will help the goldfish adjust to its new water parameters.  Wait 10 more minutes.

It is now time to put your fish into the tank.  You do not want to pour the water from the bag into the tank.  This is asking for trouble, as it can introduce pathogens into your water.  Instead, use your clean hand to gently scoop out the goldfish from the bag and transfer it into the tank.

Then you can take the plastic bag out of the water, pour the bag’s water down the drain, and throw it away.

Congratulations!  You have successfully brought home and introduced your new goldfish into the tank!  You are now on your way to becoming a wonderful goldfish owner. Just be sure that you’ve researched how to care for goldfish.

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