Goldfish are popular starter pets for children and a good parental choice when it comes to budget and time considerations. You should take note that goldfish can grow to be anywhere from 6 to 12 inches and may live for as long as 10 years.<B>
Getting Ready</B>On the day before you take your child to the pet shop, you should fill clean buckets with 10 gallons (that's 16 quarts or nearly 40 liters) of water so that it has 24 to 48 hours in which to allow chlorine, lead and any other toxins to evaporate. Also, this will allow the water to come to room temperature. A heater is not necessary as goldfish can survive in a wide range of temperatures, from above 50 to below 80 degrees Fahrenheit (that's 10 and 27 degrees Celsius respectively). It's the sudden change in temperature that kills them. Add about 2 teaspoons per gallon of uniodized table salt (the big crystals, not the fine stuff from your saltshaker).<B>
What to Look For</B>Remember to look for a lively fish when choosing and to stay away from tanks with any obviously sick fish in them. If the owner catches the fish without a net, either by scooping or using his hand, that's a sign that you're dealing with a professional. Fish have a slimy protective coat (that's why they feel so slippery in your grasp) and using a net can cause damage to this surface.<B>
The Aquarium</B>If you've got a spare 10 to 20 gallon size aquarium at home, that's great. If not, any similar size waterproof container will do as long as it's got enough surface room for the fish to breathe. Standard glass fishbowls are inappropriate as they are obviously too small; furthermore, they do not provide enough oxygen.
Every inch of fish (head and body measure) needs 20 square inches of surface (multiplying the length and width of your container will give you the area, so a 12" x 8" rectangular tank has a total surface area of 96 sq. inches, enough for a fish four inches in head/body length).
Special lights are not required for your goldfish, but do put the tank near a window so it gets plenty of indirect sunlight. A homemade cover (which can be foil loosely placed over top) helps keep out dust and also keeps an active fish in! Sand or gravel bottoms look nice, but make work in that they must be cleaned. If you have a clear aquarium, just put a placemat under it and you'll have an instant sea floor or sandy base. A little mirror propped up on the outside of the tank will give your fish "company."<B>
Clean Water Means a Healthy Goldfish</B>Change the water every second day, replacing the old with water that's been aged and salted. It just takes a minute and means that you don't have to buy a filter or air pump, which means a substantial savings.
Scoop your fish out of the aquarium in a holding pail, dump the dirty water from the aquarium, rinse a few times, re-fill and return the goldfish.<B>
Feed Sparingly and Wisely</B>Soak the food you buy from the pet shop so that it sinks to the bottom of the tank when you feed your goldfish. Feed a tiny amount every time you change the water, and if you like, supplement that with some plants you find growing wild in fresh water rivers and ponds such as anacharis (which is probably the most common aquarium plant and readily available in any pet store).<B>
Have Fun</B>You and your child will not only have fun but will learn together while caring for your little golden water creature. And I'll bet you'll name her "Goldie"!
<CENTER><B></B> </CENTER>Stephanie Olsen, published writer, homeschooling mother of two and ESL teacher currently residing in Europe, is also owner of the expatriate site, Family Life Abroad familylifeabroad.com
where you'll find humorous and informative articles by experienced expatriates on all aspects of living abroad, with lots of links and travel tips.<!--for 'share your thoughts' - fill in subject/url--> <!--end share your thoughts--><!--end story here--><!--insert ad here-->