Can Goldfish Live In Tap Water? (Untreated vs Treated Tap Water)

Image of a goldfish swimming in tank water

Goldfish cannot live in untreated tap water for too long. Untreated Tap water usually has high concentrations of chlorine and heavy metals that poison the fish and kill it. However, neutralized tap water that is free from chlorine-based disinfectants and heavy metals is suitable for goldfish.

With that said, let’s take a deeper look at this…

Why Is Untreated Tap Water Unsuitable For Goldfish?

In the wild, goldfish live in murky water. So, do you find it weird that clear tap water is unsuitable for this fish?

Well, the components of tap water that are toxic to fish are not visible.

It includes chlorine, chloramine, and heavy metals like lead and zinc.

Let us look at why these ingredients are dangerous to fish in closer detail.

Chlorine And Chloramine In Tap Water Poisons The Fish

Chlorine is used to disinfect water in public water systems and eliminate waterborne bacteria like E-coli, and microbes like the norovirus.

So, this chemical renders tap water safe for humans.

However, the same chlorine is toxic to goldfish. To make things worse, some places use chloramine instead of chlorine.

This deadly combination of chlorine and ammonia is even more dangerous for goldfish.

Chlorine and chloramine affect the gills of goldfish. Gills are the respiratory organs of fish.

It is delicate and highly sensitive to toxic chemicals.

Chlorine causes a burning sensation and makes breathing difficult for goldfish.

Continuous exposure to chlorine causes irreversible damage to the gills and causes the fish to die.

Chlorinated Water Wipes Out The Good Bacteria In The Tank

Another problem with chlorine in tap water is that it kills the good bacteria in aquariums.

Good bacteria develops in the tank filters and substrate through a continuous process of cycling the water.

It makes the tank safe for fish by converting ammonia in the water into nitrate.

The bacteria do this by keeping a nitrogen cycle running in the tank, which reduces the need for frequent water changes.

However, chlorine kills the colonies of good bacteria.

Just like it wipes off waterborne pathogens, it destroys good bacteria.

In the absence of good bacteria, the ammonia levels in the tank rise and upset the delicate eco-system in an aquarium.

Heavy Metals In High Concentrations Of Tap Water Are Toxic To Goldfish

Chlorine in tap water is only part of the problem.

In addition to it, heavy metals like mercury, zinc, and cadmium are also present in untreated tap water.

In some places, tap water contains lead and copper.

All these heavy metals have an adverse impact on all creatures, including us.

However, the effect is severe on smaller organisms like fish.

High concentrations of heavy metals weaken the immune system and induce pathological changes in fish.

They cause immense stress and affect the health and well-being of goldfish.

By now, you would have realized the extent of damage caused by untreated tap water to fish.

So, adding tap water directly to your fish tank is a big no!

But what is the alternative?

You may already know that goldfish are messy fish, and they need frequent water changes.

Even with a good quality aquarium filter, you will have to change the water in their aquarium every few days.

So, if not tap water, how will you handle these frequent water changes?

Let us look at the practical solution to this problem.

How To Make Tap Water Safe For Goldfish?

You should not directly use tap water in goldfish tanks.

However, you can use it after eliminating the chlorine-based chemicals and heavy metals from it.

There are two ways to do this and make unsafe tap water safe for your goldfish.

Use A Water Conditioner

Almost every pet store carries water conditioners to treat aquarium water.

Some of these conditioners will only remove chlorine and chloramine from the water.

Others will completely condition the water and eliminate both chlorine and heavy metals.

To choose the right water conditioner, you should know what toxic elements are present in your tap water.

If the tap water contains chloramine, a water conditioner that eliminates chlorine wouldn’t be enough.

It would neutralize the chlorine but leave toxic ammonia behind.

To play it safe, you can use a water conditioner that eliminates both chlorine and chloramine.

Use Pre-Treated Or Filtered Water

Pre-conditioned or treated water is also available at pet stores. It is free from chemicals, and you can directly use it in your aquarium.

However, it can turn out to be an expensive option in the long-term as you will need large quantities for regular water changes.

Using a water conditioner often turns out to be more economical.

Whether you use a water conditioner or pre-treated water, you should add only small amounts at a time.

Remove up to one-third of the water in the aquarium at a time and replace it with treated water.

Another very important factor to remember is that you should never wash filter sponges or other aquarium parts in tap water.

Good bacteria reside in these parts of the tank. They will be destroyed when exposed to chlorinated water.

Related Questions

How long can you keep goldfish in tap water? Goldfish should not be kept in untreated tap water at all. Damage to the gills and skin of the fish will set in as soon as the fish is exposed to chlorinated water. Even the smallest traces of chlorine or chloramine will severely damage the gills. It will show visible signs of distress like rising to the surface and gasping for air. The fish will most likely not survive for more than a day in tap water. It will be unable to breathe and most likely perish in just a few hours.

How do you clean a goldfish tank? To ensure that your fish tank is an optimal environment for your goldfish, clean it at least a few times every month. During cleaning, you should replace at least one-third of the water in the tank with freshwater. Remove algae from the walls of the tank using a scraper. Dirt and leftover food particles can be removed manually or by using a gravel vacuum. Clean the aquarium walls with filtered water and replace it with fresh water. Don’t wash the filter sponges, gravel, or any tank ornaments in tap water.

Does boiling tap water make it safe for goldfish? No, boiling tap water doesn’t make it safe for goldfish. By boiling, you can remove pathogens. However, this process does not remove chlorine or heavy metals, which are toxic to the fish. Only a chemical treatment can neutralize chlorine, ammonia, and other toxic ingredients in untreated tap water.

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