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Pet Set

Goldfish Bowl Do's and Don'ts

Sunday, August 8, 2004; Page M02

Last month, the town council of Monza, Italy, banned citizens from keeping goldfish in bowls. The receptacle, statute sponsor Giampietro Mosca told Agence France-Presse, "doesn't allow for good oxygenation of the water" and gives fish "a distorted view of reality." The emotional well-being of your finned friend is anyone's guess, but most experts do agree that keeping him in a tiny container isn't ideal. If you must, though, you can take steps to make him comfier.

1 Invest in a filter

Does it look like something fishy is going on in your bowl? It may be time to upgrade the amenities. (Brand X Pictures/getty Images)

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Goldfish get the oxygen they need two ways: by using their gills to process it out of the water or by rising to the surface and gulping air. In an oxygen-poor, filterless bowl, they have to over-rely on mouth breathing, which "puts a huge stress on them and shortens their life span," says Alison Davidson, curator of fishes at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Help 'em out by buying a simple box filter (starting around $3). Don't know which to get? Food giant Tetra (www.tetra-care.com) gives advice on its Web site based on the type and size of your bowl -- and even lets you sign up for fish-care e-mail.

2 Super-size him

Yes, a goldfish can fit in a small container, and yes, he can look very decorative that way. But would you be happy living forever in that "cute" closet that was your first apartment out of college? According to Tracy Blaeuer, an owner of Super Pets in Annandale, "for every inch of goldfish, you should have at least a gallon of water." Others are even more generous: Jo Ann Burke, author of the self-published "Health Care Standards for Goldfish and Koi" (call 251-649-4790 to order), suggests three gallons per inch of fish.

3 Go long

When it comes to bowl shape, water surface trumps depth, Burke says: "Goldfish need a lot of surface area to help them breathe and get rid of waste." If you have a traditional fishbowl, try filling it only two-thirds of the way for a better air-to-water ratio.

4 Keep the water cool

Goldfish are pykothermic -- they can adjust to

almost any temperature -- but thrive in chillier

water, anywhere between 60 and 75 degrees.

Avoid sudden spills or plunges and never put your bowl in direct sunlight: Not only will it overheat the water, it can also encourage the growth of bowl-clogging algae.

5 Add some stones

An inch of gravel on the bottom of your bowl

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