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I have a 30 ltr hexagonal starter tank (which I have owned and ran since Christmas), it currently holds a common pleco of about 2” and two small goldfish of about 1.5”, until recently I also had a shubunkin, but he was displaying breathing difficulties and swimming abnormalities (swimming on his side and slightly doubled up) so I separated him and sadly lost him. Since then the 2 goldfish have started to display unusual behaviour, they are not interested in their food and seem a lot less active, they also appear to be gulping continuously both at the surface and in the water, I am worried that I am about to lose two more fish.

I have the filter that came with the starter kit that runs constantly, I also have a bubble generator which I have on for about an hour a day, there are four oxygenating plants in the tank as well. I did a 30% water change when I removed the Shubunkin in case it was something in the water. The only recent change is that the light has isn't working as efficiently as before with the bulb only staying bright for a few minutes when I first switch it on and then it dims to just a low level this has been happening for the past month so I don't believe this is the cause. I will be upgrading to a bigger tank in the near future and I am concerned that if I transfer the fish over they will spread a disease. I hope you can advise. I feel very bad for my fish and I don't want them to be in pain. Clare

It is slightly worrying that you appear to be mixing tropical and coldwater fish in the same aquarium. The Common Plec is not suitable for inclusion in a coldwater tank or, alternatively, Goldfish wouldn't be too happy under tropical conditions.

Your description indicates some lack of oxygen in the aquarium, which is quite small at around six gallons or so. The surface area of the aquarium would also be fairly small and this would also make for poor oxygen intake from the atmosphere although running your filter continuously together with your bubbler will help a bit. In warm weather, water holds less oxygen anyway and this may be aggravating the situation. It might be better to keep the bubbler going all the time.

Your fish are not sick and I think you will find things will turn out better when you move your fish to a bigger tank, but you should decide what to do about a 'mixed' collection before that time comes – make it either a coldwater or a tropical aquarium, not both.



We recently purchased 2 Mixed Oranda, both are "red" and black. After having them only 2 weeks a have a few questions I was hoping you could help with.

Firstly, the smaller of the 2 fish is now loosing its black colouring, and its starting to turn white. The larger of the 2 fish has a black strip from its mouth leading to a wholly black fin, which seems to be changing to "red". Is there a reason for this? They seem fine but are they unwell? We are really concerned about it.

Secondly, how do you tell their sex? The larger of the 2 fish has a rear tail which has 2 separate pieces and the tail fin is longer and larger than the other fish. The smaller fish has a rear fin that is one piece like an upside-down "V" does this help?
Any help you can give would be appreciated. Kind regards, Andrea.

Goldfish change colour quite a lot, especially as they grow from youngsters into adults and it is nothing to worry about health-wise, although it can be disconcerting if they change into colours you hadn't bargained for. Generally, colours change come up from the bottom of the fish and so your black stripe gradually disappearing is quite normal as the fish changes into 'gold'.

Sexing Goldfish is not done by looking at the finnage but by other clues: male Goldfish develop tiny white pimples on their gill covers and maybe the front part of their pectoral fins. You can see a picture of a male Shubunkin at here
Female Goldfish are generally much more plump (as they fill up with eggs, prior to spawning) especially when viewed from above. In a pond, if you see the thinner fish chasing the fatter fish then it's the boys chasing the girls!


I have got a small pond and I would like to get some fish or animals to help keep it clean. I have already got pond snails and I have even tried a Mussel! Can you tell me what pond life would help me? Louise.

Keeping a pond clean can be a problem but introducing extra pond life is not the best way to do it. Snails will eat the pond plants and fish eggs and generally make more trouble than any cleaning up. A mussel is also an unreliable method as it is often difficult to make sure it is still alive, and the last thing you want in a pond is a dead anything as it will pollute the pond as its remains decompose.

Usually, a pond will find its own 'balance' after a few months or so. The aquatic plants, once established, will help keep the water clean, but make sure these are planted in pots and not in soil on the pond base. If you have any soil (or even gravel) on the pond base the fish will be constantly stirring it up as they forage for food.

You will find the pond will often turn green in Spring as algae grows in the water but this should clear as soon as the real aquatic plants grow up. Overfeeding will lead to more algae growth (through uneaten food laying in the pond) so make sure you remove as much of the silt on the bottom of the pond each autumn.

It may be difficult with a small pond to fit a filtration system but this will help. In short, time, patience and good pond management works best.



I have a query which I was wondering if anyone could answer. 
At my workplace, we have a topical fishtank, with two sawtail Platies (there were 3) one black Molly, one Tiger Barb and a Corydoras.  Recently, snails have seemingly appeared suddenly.  As far as I know they haven't been put there, it's as if they have materialised all by themselves!  How is this possible?  My friend says the same thing happened to someone she knows.  Could it be that they were there all along and nobody noticed?!  Or have they been hibernating in the gravel or something?  There seems to be two of them at the moment. Another thing that happened the day the snails were discovered, was one of our sawtail Platies was found dead and half-eaten. Could the two be related?
Any light that could be shed on this would be very much appreciated, as it seems like such a mystery to me, having never had a tropical fish tank before. Thanks! Suzanne

An invasion of snails is not unusual in the aquarium. Snails are usually introduced (unknowingly) when new aquarium plants are added as 'egg stowaways' on the underside of the plant leaves and then hatch out over the coming weeks and months. They also live in the gravel and could emerge later as you suspect. I expect your dead Platy was eaten after it died.

Getting rid of snails is not too complicated, although preventing them from getting in is best – always inspect new plants for snail eggs! Hang a small piece of lean raw meat on a string in the tank overnight and remove in the morning complete with attached snails. Do this regularly and eventually you will have removed most of the snails. Additionally, if you introduce Loaches (Botia species) into the tank they will hunt out the snails for you.


Hi there,

I have a 400 litre outside fish pond with around 14 goldfish. 2 are around 11 years old, (about 9 inches body length) 6 are self sown and range from 7 to 4 years and 6 were bought about 4 years ago. One of the old ones has had a protruding right eye for several years and did not appear to be affected by it. More recently the protrusion has increased significantly and the other eye is showing similar symptoms. Now the other old one is showing some eye protrusion. Yesterday whilst the two old one were 'basking' in the sunlight I noticed that lumps have erupted around their body. Looks like cysts but no colour difference. Is there any treatment I can use to fix either or both problems?

Since day 1 they have been fed with commercial granular fish food except when we go on vacation when I give them a slow release block. Occasionally there is an algae problem which I treat with simazine and in summer a flocculant. Pond is clear water filtered with a bubbler and with pond weeds. Can you help? Thanks, Russell

Protruding eyes in Goldfish, apart from those Fancy Varieties specifically bred with them, can be distressing to see but are not generally life-threatening.

Usually, unsatisfactory water conditions aggravate any such condition. Your fish appear to be doing very well on what can only be described as a limited diet and it may be that they have an immuno-deficiency as a result. It is recommended that they are given a varied diet (mix up the brands from time to time) using sticks, pellets, flakes etc. Live food such as Daphnia, Bloodworm etc are all excellent for getting the fish into prime condition.

It should not be necessary in an established pond to rely on food blocks for vacational feeding as there should be enough natural food for the fish for at least a couple of weeks absence. Any uneaten food block will merely pollute the water further.

Your pond is a bit small for the number (and size) of fish and relying on an airstone and aquatic plants to keep it clean may be on the optimistic side. If the oxygenators are getting a bit rampant, then on warm (especially hot) nights they will deplete oxygen levels in the pond quite quickly and the fish could suffocate, so keep the plants thinned out and/or leave a hose trickling into the pond overnight too.

After using a flocculent to clear algae (which was probably encouraged by excess nutrients from the feeding blocks) you should remove all dead algae and also perform a reasonably large water change.

Incidentally, Goldfish can suffer sunburn so providing some shade over the pond might also be needed.


I only have 2 goldfish, have had the fish for about 3 years over the last year one of the fish has been consistently ill.
It buries its head in weed in the lily pot and it only swims on one side if I dislodge it from the weed it doesn't seem to feed at all; when it seems OK, it swims around the pond banging its head and feeding off the sides. It never comes to the surface to feed on the food I give it.  The other goldfish is OK.

The last time this fish was ill I managed to revive it with a antif-ungus stuff that I added to the pond. We have had a problem with the pump in that it keeps blocking with silt, I think I have now rectified this. Can you help? Sue

There are one or two possibilities. Your fish may have a swim-bladder problem in that it cannot maintain a chosen position in the water – like rising or falling to and from the surface. It may feel off-colour and be seeking refuge in the lily-pot area (or there may be more enticing food around that particular area!). It could be that it has gone blind an, but this does not seem to affect fishes as it would humans, as they have their specialised 'lateral line' navigational system to assist them swim around without bumping into things.

The fish's overall health may have become affected by poor water conditions.

If your pump is being constantly clogged with silt, there may be too much silt in the pond which harbours pathogens. You could try giving the fish a temporary 'salt bath' to dislodge any parasites that may be on its skin – banging its head on things may indicate the presence of parasites. Remove the fish from the salt bath if it becomes distressed in any way. You can find details of salt bath treatment on this website here

If your pump is only used to operate a fountain, then raising it up off the pond floor one a couple of bricks will cut down the intake of silt for a while. If the pump operates a filter then it is important that it is capable of shifting the dirt from the pond up into the filter.
A clogged pump can indicate that it may not be of the type known as 'solids-handling' which is required for this purpose. The sponge filter on the intake of a fountain pump is only there to protect the pump against damage from any grit drawn into it and is not there to 'filter' the pond water. In either case, excess silt on the pond should be removed each autumn rather than leave it there over winter during which time it will convert itself into food for next year's algae and possibly harbour other toxic material.

Keep an eye on your 'sick' Goldfish – if it seems OK otherwise then there isn't much you can do for it.



Just wondering if you could help. I have transferred my 3 goldfish into a larger tank.
Whilst doing this the largest one broke a piece off his flowing tail. Will it grow back or is there something I should do? Thanks, Vivien

Fortunately, Goldfish are resilient creatures and there is no reason why your fish shouldn't regrow its damaged fin even although it might not quite reach the length it was before.

The real problem with damaged fins is that the wound provides an excellent entry point for any secondary infection, and 'fin rot' is a case in point. However this comes about as a direct result of poor water conditions. As long as you carry out regular routine aquarium management - regular partial water changes, siphoning out detritus reasonably often, don't overfeed - then you should have no worries.


Last updated August 17th, 2005