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The short answer to the title of this post is YES, you should have a filter for a goldfish tank. I got away with not having one in the beginning because the fish were very small and I had a big enough tank to keep them in. Never keep Goldfish in a one gallon fishbowl, unless you want to see them die. If you change the water often enough and you only have a small fish or two, then you don't necessary need a filter in the beginning.
When we first purchased our two fantail goldfish from Petland, we had a 20 Gallon tank filled with water from the day before, that was it. I didn't have any other tools or decorations for them. I settled them in the water, while they were in the bag, to get the water temperature in the bag to come to equilibrium with the water in the tank. Never change water temperature too quickly, this will stress the fish and get them sick.
Once in the water, they swam away whenever I got near them. The next day, I put a little decoration in for them to hide behind. I fed them tiny Aqueon Goldfish Granules that a friend had given us along with the tank. We had some minor problems with the two fish, which I'll about next time. I had no idea about the Nitrogen cycle, so the tank was not cycled during beginning. Lucky for me, the fish survived the first few weeks.
If you are thinking about getting a Goldfish for a pet, I urge you to get as big a tank as you can afford (both money and space wise) and get a good filter. An HOB filter to start would be good. If you have goldfish of your own, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment if you've read this far. :)
In a future post, I'll write about what I've learned about the nitrogen cycle and how it works in my own experience. I'll also explain how a simple filter works - I recently made my own and it works fairly well as a secondary filter - for very little cost from things you probably already have.
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