Let's be honest - there are a lot of websites out there recommending products to people just to scare them into making purchases. Great for the seller...not so great for you (or your ability to sleep at night!)
Here's a listing of what we use, and what we'd recommend you have on hand when we send you a fish in the post. Nothing "woo-woo" or silly, nothing we don't use ourselves.
After all, it's tough enough to keep the space under an aquarium stand looking at least semi-organized, am I right?
Nowhere in the goldfish hobby is there more unnecessary "stuff" available than on the water care shelf. 90% of that stuff you just don't need, so don't let a label guilt you into buying something, and don't try to use a chemical to solve a physical problem (I'm looking at you, algae fixers!).
Pretty much the only thing you need to add to your water on a regular basis, and all we add to ours.
The danger with low pH readings (if your water or aquarium ever measures a pH under 6.8) is that it can cause your filter to stop working.
Adding crushed corral to your sand or gravel bottom mix, or adding it into a filter for a bare bottomed tank, can provide a slow-release solution to those pH problems.
Baking soda can be used in a pinch, but it's riskier because it acts extremely quickly and has to be re-dosed with every water change.
Adding Stress Coat to your aquarium can help new or injured fish to adapt to your aquarium.
Although this product can add that effect and also do the job of a dechlorinator, you're paying more for the privilege.
Not a gimmick like some, but getting into the realm of not really required.
If you have a lot of big tanks to change on a regular basis, moving to Seachem Safe can be a real wallet saver.
This is what we use here, and normally make up a week's supply in old Prime bottles for convenience.
If you try safe, just be aware that the solution you make doesn't have the stabilizers that Prime does, so try to use the Safe solution within a week or so.
Fear of liability prevents me from calling these products "a complete waste of money and aquarium cabinet space", so I'd never dream of doing that. I'll just say that I've never needed to use them myself, and your mileage may vary.
I'm also not picking on API intentionally, but more the class of products in general
|Any chemical that promises to "stabilize at 7" or "instantly adjust" pH||
Normal scenario: you read on a website somewhere that the best pH to keep goldfish at is 7.2-7.6 (or something similar).
Your water is about 8.3, or even higher.
So you buy this sort of chemical, smile as the water tests "right" after you add it, and swear the next day when it's back to where it was.
Before worrying about high pH, know that as but one example our hatchery here ar Arctic Lights has an incoming water pH that's normally around 8.3, and many fellow breeders report something similar.
It's great! Goldfish love the minerals, and especially baby fish grow up strong and healthy with the extra mineral content. So don't worry about high pH.
Next, the minerals in hard water tend to laugh at these chemicals unless used in extreme doses, so you're probably wasting your time anyway.
Last, pH swings are very damaging to all fish. Stable is good, swinging is bad.
|Ammonia or Other "Locking" Products||
This product is commonly purchased by people starting new tanks, presumably to combat ammonia issues.
The best way to keep ammonia levels low in new tanks is to feed very little at first, however, and to change water when ammonia or nitrite levels show danger readings.
For spikes that the filter can't handle, Prime can be used in double or triple doses to temporarily lock ammonia or nitrite until water changes can be performed.
|Chemical Algae-Fixing Solutions||
People wanting to get rid of algae quickly and easily is something that's easy to understand, especially when products with names like Algaefix are available.
That said, there have been a lot of health issue reports from people using these sorts of products. This is potentially coincidence, but I've heard enough that I don't personally chose to use them.
Algae is best combated by limiting light, changing to different light spectrums of bulb, and good old fashioned elbow grease.
In my mind this is a case of "if it seems too good to be true..."
|Chemical Water Clarifiers||
Products that promise to give clear water with just a chemical are another that get my goat.
Most work by making particles suspended in the water "sticky", which causes them to clump together and fall out of suspension.
Those same particles are passing through your fish's gills, however, and remember that they're usually suspended fish waste.
Much better than trying to dump them all over the bottom of the tank is to just remove the particles in the first place!
Used to vacuum waste and uneaten food from the bottom of the tank (not that goldfish leave much food!), a siphon like this one from Python is your first step in keeping a goldfish aquarium clean.
You set it up, figure out how to make the thing go, and drain the waste water into a spare 5 gallon bucket (the Lowes ones are blue, which seems appropriate for water).
To fill the tank you're still stuck lugging buckets, but if you only have one or two to change each week it's at least doable.
Good old mechanical algae scraper...pretty much the best method for removing algae from an aquarium (just say no to chemical fixes).
Use the fuzzy end on soft, brown diatom algae, making sure not to drag any sand or gravel up with it or you might scratch your tank.
Use the scraper blade (if you have a glass tank) on hard, green spot algae.
This is a case of "do it every week and it's not that bad". If you leave it for months on end, that's when it becomes a big job.
Pro-tip: if you use some fine sandpaper to gently round the inner edge of the plastic frame on your aquarium before you fill it up, it'll hurt a lot less when you scrape your knuckle on it using a glass scraper.
|A Water Change System That Connects To The Tap||
Other types of aquariums might be able to make do with hauling buckets back and forth between the tap, the tank and the bathroom, but that's just not a long-term solution with goldfish tanks.
To drain a tank, just connect the system to the tap and turn the water on to create suction. Turn off the tap to keep gravity draining or leave it on if you have to suck water uphill.
To fill the tank again, just dose the tank first with Prime, run the tap for a second to match water temps, and connect the fill hose again to fill.
No mess, no sore backs, and no buckets of water spilled on the floor (my specialty!)
Dedicated aquarium thermometers are a pain.
The cheap floating "mercury" type break fairly easily, don't look great, and are fairly useless for using under running tap water.
The stick on type aren't accurate, and the electronic ones designed for aquariums aren't much better.
Solution? Meat thermometer to the rescue.
They're even waterproof too, which is nice.
|In Tank Aquarium Scrapers||
A partial replacement for the handled scraper, these magnetic aquarium scrapers are more convenient and don't have a risk of scraped knuckles!
One part goes outside the tank, one part inside, and a big magnet joins them together. The make versions with variously powered magnets for different glass thicknesses, just so you're aware, and professional strength versions can run into the hundreds of dollars.
That said, they're much easier to accidentally scuff up your tank with if you're not careful, and you have to make sure you buy the right version (glass or acrylic).
Water Transfer Pump and Fittings
If you have big tanks to drain and don't have all day to wait for a Python hose to do the job, it's time to step up to one of these big boys!
This inline transfer pump was life changing once we started changing 125 gallon tanks, since it'll draw one down in less than 15 minutes. With gravity alone, that used to be almost an hour!
The trick to connecting one is to get a couple of male Gardena connectors, and to thread them onto the pump connections.
Next, buy two Gardena hose connectors, cut your Python hose in two close to the tap (long enough so the pump can rest on the ground), and to add them to the hose.
Now you can clip your pump inline to your Python, or use a Gardena hose extension joint instead of the pump to use the system like before.
To run the pump, first start the Python like before to suck a bit of water from the tank into the tube. That primes the pump. Then turn off the tank, plug in the pump, and just sit back.
When you start to collect lots of tanks, or big tanks, you'll NEED this setup.
|Digital Temperature Guns||
Required compared to the meat thermometer above? Heck no.
Super fun to play with, with no risk of transferring disease between tanks. You bet!
The temperature guns are accurate enough to be useful for us, and make sure you're not risking contaminating one tank from another.
Plus, if you want to know what temperature your cat (or significant other) is at any given time, you can do that too! (lol)
Although just about every aquarium owner has at least a few of these SOMEWHERE in the house (darned if we can find them though!), fish nets are basically not needed with fancy goldfish.
If you have any single-tail goldfish around you may still need one to catch and doctor a fish, but we move all our fancies around by hand.
It can be a little scary to pick up and move a fish at first, and you might get a mouthful of water if they decide to be feisty, but moving fish by hand prevents damage to the delicate fins and body that nets can cause.
Just make sure to go easy on the hand cream, wash your hands with a tank-friendly hand soap like this one (not labelled as such, but we've used it with no problem), and make sure to keep a good grip on your fish friend.