Monthly Archives: September 2012

My Halloween-Themed Aquarium

As promised in a previous post, here’s a video of my tank all decorated for Halloween!

I really love it. Every time I walk past the tank, I smile!  Here are some still images too.

They look like they’re caught 
in the spider web in this one!

I hope you love it as much as I do!  Happy Halloween everyone!

Training Your Fish to Eat from Your Hand

This is something that a lot of people tend to ask about, so here’s my take on it. 

First, clean your hands thoroughly!
Step 1: Spend time near the tank to get your fish used to your presence.
Step 2: Get your goldfish used to your hands being in the tank. 
Step 3: Feed them by putting your food-filled hand in the water and making sure they see you drop the food.  Let them eat it away from your hand.
Step 4: Start holding the food in your hand while staying motionless.  Let them come to you and investigate without moving your hand.
Step 5: Your goldfish will begin to eat from your hand! 

Goldfish Art – Kenshiro Iwata

I’m always on the lookout for unique and interesting goldfish art, and I recently stumbled across an awesome artist!  His portfolio website is all in Japanese, and I don’t know the first thing about the language, but here’s what I could glean from it by using Google Translator.  Kenshiro Iwata was born in the town of Hayama, Kanagawa Prefecture in 1979 and he graduated from the Ochanomizu College of Art in 2001.

Although I could only find a few details about the artist and his work, I think the images speak for themselves and they’re really beautiful!  My favorite of his images are those from a goldfish series done in 2011.  Each image features a distinct goldfish variety (for example, a tosakin, redcap oranda, or a jikin) and a young girl next to the goldfish. The girl is styled in a way that reflects the shape, colors, and overall look of the goldfish she stands next to.

Please check out his online portfolio for more:  Kenshiro Iwata Portfolio

Here are a few of my favorites from the goldfish series!

He also has a few pieces that are, I think, a little more whimsical.  Here are a few of them.

Decorating Your Goldfish Tank for Halloween

Click here to see My Halloween-Themed Aquarium!

Halloween is just around the corner, and that means people everywhere will be busy decorating their homes for the holiday! But why stop there when you can decorate your fish tank as well?

Typically I don’t like a lot of decorations inside a goldfish tank because (as you undoubtedly know) goldfish are clumsy! They can get hurt brushing up against rough surfaces, they can get stuck trying to fit into a hollow ornament that’s just not quite big enough for them, and harmful bacteria can build up in hollow ornaments or deep gravel. Even with all this in mind, I still really wanted to decorate my goldfish tank for Halloween this year, so I came up with a few ideas that won’t pose a threat to my clumsy fish.

For Inside the Tank
Choices for decorations inside the tank are limited, but there still are a few options.  When selecting any decoration for inside your tank, just keep in mind that goldfish are clumsy!  Regardless of where you buy them, all in-tank decorations should be cleaned well before use.  I find that dipping them in boiling water works well.

Flat Glass Marbles

I don’t use gravel in my tank because it’s difficult to keep clean enough, and it can harbor nasty bacteria.  Instead the bottom of my tank is painted black on the outside, so it has a nice finished look without substrate.  So to decorate for Halloween, I bought some flat glass marbles from Michael’s craft store in orange and black colors.  These will be safe for my fish because they aren’t sharp and they aren’t small enough to get stuck in their mouths (as gravel often does).  I simply scattered these glass marbles on the bottom of my tank.  If you have black sand in your tank (many people like the black Tahitian Moon sand by CaribSea) you could use these flat marbles in just orange to add a pop of Halloween color.  If you have natural colored sand, you could use both the orange and black colored marbles.    

Skull Ornaments 

I was well aware that I’d have to be careful selecting an ornament that wouldn’t pose a threat to my fish.  Most tank ornaments are made with holes in them because they’re designed for small fish to hide in.  This isn’t necessary for goldfish though, and they can even seriously injure themselves by trying to swim through the holes.  So I had to select an ornament that; either didn’t have holes, had holes that allowed ample room for my fish to swim through, or had holes that were much too small for my fish to fit into.  I found a life-like human skull ornament at Petco that I really liked and had small enough holes that my large goldfish wouldn’t be able to fit into.  I normally don’t like to use hollow ornaments because they can become a trap for bad bacteria.  However, since I’m only using this ornament in my tank for a very short time over Halloween, I’m not concerned about this.  I will also be removing it from the tank at each weekly water change to clean it out well.  It’s important to select only ornaments that are made specifically for aquarium use, because other ornaments can contain harmful substances that could leach into the water and kill your fish.  Of all the types of ornaments pet stores usually offer, I think a simple skull is the safest for most goldfish tanks because it’s typically a little more open than other ornaments (like tree branches or pirate ships) and thus the water inside is less likely to become stagnant.  With any hollow ornament, adding an air stone inside it can help keep water moving through it consistently.

Orange and Black Fake Plants
When selecting a fake plant for a goldfish tank, I’m always careful to pick ones that are soft and lack sharp edges.  Goldfish can rip their fins and damage scales by rubbing up against the sharp edge of a plastic plant.  As with all aquarium decor, it’s important to select only fake plants that are made for aquarium use.  I found a really nice tall bright orange plant from a local aquarium store.  I normally don’t like unnatural colors for fake plants, but this is Halloween decor, so different rules apply!

For Outside the Tank
There are many more options for decorating outside of the aquarium.  You can use a wider variety of objects since they won’t be coming into contact with the aquarium water and thus won’t be posing any threat to the health and safety of your fish.

Window-clings can always be found at any place that sells Halloween decorations, and these would look awesome either on the front glass of the tank, on the back glass, or some combination of both!  This can be a fun way to involve children in the decorating too!

Paper Cut-outs
I wasn’t able to find exactly the right window-cling that I wanted, so I drew and cut out one of my own using black construction paper.  I made a black cat silhouette for my tank.  This is a great alternative to window-clings if you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for at the store.

Spider Web and Spiders
I found some fake spider web material at the dollar store, and it even came with some little plastic spiders!  This can be draped over certain areas or corners on the outside of the tank, it can be hung from the tank stand, or it can even be hung from the wall or ceiling over the fish tank.  You may want to use a little bit of tape or some tacks to hang it though, since it only clings well to rough surfaces.

String Lights
There are many types of fun Halloween-themed string lights that you can hang in many different configurations around your fish tank.

Get Creative!
There are any number of great Halloween decorations you can use on the outside of your goldfish tank, so go shopping and see what you come up with!

Goldfish Breeding Tubercles

Goldfish Breeding Tubercles (Carassius auratus auratus) 

Whatare they and what are they for?
Jennie Connelly 2012 
Breeding tubercles are keratin-based skin nodules found on male goldfish.  They most often occur on the leading rays of the pectoral fins and the opercula (gill covers), but they can also be found on all rays of the pectoral fins, on the head and around the eyes, on the leading rays of the pelvic fins, and even on the body of the fish (not to be confused with the parasite Ichthyophthirius multifiliis).  When breeding tubercles occur on the body of the fish, they are arranged on the scales in a neat pattern matching the contour of the scales.  In contrast, the ich parasite occurs randomly all over the body.  Breeding tubercles are induced, in part, by testosterone, and there is great variation in their appearance.  There may be just a few tubercles on the pectoral fins, many tubercles all over the fish, or anything in-between. 
This red veiltail telescope has tubercles above his eye, on the leading ray of his pectoral fin, and on his operculum.
This red broadtail has many tubercles all over the rays of his pectoral fin, all over his operculum, and all over his face.
This black butterfly telescope has many tubercles on the leading ray of his pectoral fin and some tubercles on his operculum.
This calico butterfly telescope has tubercles on his operculum and on the leading ray of his pectoral fin.
This image illustrates the difference between breeding tubercles on the body and the ich parasite on the body.
There is no clear consensus as to what the breeding tubercles are used for, but there are many possibilities.  They may be used for male/female differentiation, protection against injury, weapons in intense pre-spawning male behavior, as a means to stay close to their mate during spawning, stimulators during spawning, an indicator of male health, or an indicator of male dominance.  The actual purpose of breeding tubercles could be some, or all, of the above things. 
In a study by Kortet et al, it was found that the breeding tubercles of the Roach (a fish related to the goldfish) serve as a status badge, with more dominant males possessing more tubercles than less dominant males.  They also found that the tubercles serve as an indicator of male quality, meaning that males with more tubercles have greater reproductive success and are healthier (have fewer parasites).  This means that the breeding tubercles serve as a marker to help the female fish pick mates that are healthier and have a better chance at fertilizing their eggs during a spawn.

Work Cited:
Kortet R., J. Taskinen, A. Vainikka, and H. Ylonen. 2004. Breeding Tubercles, Papillomatosis and Dominance Behavior of Male Roach (Rutilus rutilus) During the Spawning Period. Ethology 110:591-601.

Fish Lice

Back in 2009 I worked as a Pet Care Specialist at Petsmart (unfortunately!), and I had to deal with a lot of fish parasites and other maladies the fish shipments arrived with.  While looking at the feeder goldfish tank, I saw a curious green spot on a comet’s tail.  I took the fish out to further inspect, and the green dot fell off the fish!  It was a fish louse.  Nasty little things!  Here’s my detailed photo and a video that shows its size in relation to my finger.  I’m glad I’ve never had these in my own aquariums at home!

Fish lice are one of the few fish parasites that can be seen with the naked eye, and they pose a serious threat to aquarium fish.  They use a sting to insert digestive enzymes into the fish, and then feed on the liquidized body fluids.  They cause tissue damage at the site, and can also create openings for opportunistic bacterial infections.  Fish lice should be picked off gently with a tweezers, and the tank should be treated using Dimilin according to the directions on the package.