All that glitters is not goldfish friendly. Your goldfish may need protection from things you may not see. Goldfish have very well developed vision; in fact the optic lobe–the vision center–is the largest part of your goldfish’s brain. Though a little short sighted, they have an almost 360 degree view of the world because their eyes are on the sides of their head. That lets them see two things at the same time – which is great for finding food and for keeping an eye open for predators.
Like us, goldfish see in color, but they can also see ultraviolet light. They have greater sensitivity to light than we do but, unlike us, they have no eyelids because their eyes are constantly bathed in water. That gives them a problem we don’t have; they can’t shut their eyes to avoid bright lights. Furthermore, they can’t dilate their pupils, so their eyes adjust to changes in light levels much more slowly than ours. It can take goldfish twenty minutes to adapt to lights being turned on or off, which is why they often dash for cover when you turn on a light. It’s impossible for them to look away so all they can do is try to hide behind rocks and plants.
It’s important to protect your fish from bright lights and sudden movements and to spend a little time working out the right location for their tank.
Avoid placing your tank on or near a windowsill – the worst place for bright sunlight. If you can’t avoid putting the tank near a window, make sure you shade it from the incoming light using window blinds, or the wrap-round tank ‘wallpaper’ that most fish shops sell.
Remember that bright sunlight isn’t a problem only in the summer months. It can be worse in winter because the winter sun is lower in the sky. Think how dazzling it can be when you are driving your car towards the sun, and think how much worse it could be for your goldfish in their tank if they have to suffer that all day, every day.
Add some stones or a small upturned flower pot for your fish to find refuge in.
There may be problems with bright light that you haven’t noticed. Try crouching down at each end of the tank and look through it to see what your fish see. Check for mirrors or other shiny objects that may be causing a problem for your fish but which have never been a problem for you.
Room lights can be another problem for your goldfish. Although you may think nothing of it when you switch a room light on or off, your goldfish needs up to twenty minutes to adapt to the change in light. If your tank doesn’t have a lid, it’s a good idea to get one, especially if you have a ceiling light shining directly into the tank. If your fish tank is fitted with a light, turn the room light on first and then wait fifteen minutes before turning on the tank light so your fish has time to adjust to the light.
At night, switch the tank light off fifteen minutes before you switch the room light off. If you have dimmer switches for any of the lights near your fish tank the job is easy. You could also consider putting your tank light on a timer so it comes on after you start your day, and goes off before you go to bed.
Sudden movement is something else your fish can’t close their eyes to. When you’re positioning your fish tank, it’s important to think about the activity that will happen near the tank. Avoid the hallway and kitchen if you can. Both these locations might seem like good ones, but each has drawbacks. The hallway is likely to be one place in your house that gets a lot of traffic so your fish may see a lot of giant fast moving objects hurtling towards their world.
The kitchen, though a common place to put a fish tank, can also be a busy place. Cooking involves constant moving about between refrigerator, work top, cooker, and cupboards. If your fish are nearby they get a constant stream of rapid and unexpected, and possibly frightening, movement they can’t escape from.
A quiet corner of your living room is often a much better location, and provides you with the opportunity to sit and relax watching your goldfish. But even here it’s not necessarily relaxing for your fish. Make sure the tank is not in line of sight of the TV – a rich source of sudden movement. Your bedroom is a good location, because most of the time there’s not much happening there. Your child’s bedroom, however, could be a very active place, depending on the age of your child.
Of course, in every home there will always be some bright lights and some sudden movement. However, by using tank ‘wallpaper’ to cover one or more sides of the tank, you can protect your fish from the worst of them, and create a greater sense of security for your fish. Keeping plenty of healthy plants in the tank helps screen fish from visual noise, and makes the tank more interesting for you to look at. Developing a fish eye view of the world helps you give your fish a more comfortable and healthier home, and a longer life.
By Elaine Rushmore
Elaine Rushmore is the author of ‘The Goldfish Doctor’ – a top quality, step-by-step guide to the diagnosis, treatment and cure of sick goldfish. Goldfish owners around the world have benefited from the information this book contains. Protect your family’s goldfish now – http://www.goldfishdoctor.com