Before you buy a pet fish you need to learn how to look after it properly. You may be tempted to rush out and buy a fish now but if you don't prepare, the fish will be unhappy and may die.
To keep things as easy as possible to start with we're going to learn about coldwater fish (including goldfish).
Fish kept in a tank (experienced fishkeepers don't keep fish in a bowl so neither should you) need three things to keep them happy:
1. Clean oxygenated water.
'Oxygenated' means full of oxygen (part of the air we breathe). Fish have special organs called gills that take oxygen out of the water in the same way that your lungs take oxygen out of the air.
Fish can't breathe air and you can't breathe water so don't stick your head in the tank!
To make sure the water is clean and oxygenated you need a filter. Filters work by moving the tank water through a sponge (or other filter media) to clean the water in two ways. The first is by trapping bits and pieces (like fish poo!) to prevent them whooshing round and round the tank and the second is by what's known as 'biological' filtration which is a bit difficult to understand, but as long as you only wash the filter sponge using water taken from the aquarium the 'biological filtration' will continue to work.
Oxygen levels are kept high because the constant water movement leads to oxygen being absorbed (taken in) at the water's surface replacing the oxygen used by the fish.
The best way to buy the home for you first fish is to buy what's known as a 'complete set-up'; this should include the tank, a filter, some gravel and possibly food, tap water treatment and other bits and pieces.
We recommend that you visit a few shops and explain that it's your first fish and see who gives the most friendly advice. People setting up their first tank can become very good customers so the staff should be willing to spend time with you.
You will need to buy the tank and set it all up and have it running a few weeks before you buy any fish. This may be boring and frustrating but if you want your fish to be happy you have to do this. The reason for this is quite complicated, have a look at the other sections on this site if you want to know more.
Before plugging anything in have an adult check everything is safe, get them to look over the instructions with you to make sure everything is correct. Water and electricity are VERY dangerous together, both for you and the fish.
Every week you also need to take 10% (the amount of water in your tank divided by 10) of the water from your tank and replace it with treated water (using a tapwater conditioner from the petstore). Use the water taken from the tank to clean the filter.
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