Articles Goldfish

How to goldfish-proof your aquarium

January 5, 2013
oranda goldfish

If you’re used to peaceful tropical community or shrimp tanks, switching to (fancy) goldfish is a big step. Not just because goldfish are coldwater fish that require big tanks (for more info on why bowls and small tanks are bad, check out this article) and very specific diets, but also because they’re super destructive and love to uproot and eat plants. Keep reading for some tips that will help you keep your aquarium from turning into a wasteland!

Buy plants that won’t be eaten

I always recommend java fern (normal and lace variety) for goldfish tanks (my own goldfish tank is overflowing with the stuff!)

Java fern can be tied to a rock so it won’t be uprooted, goldfish don’t like the taste of it, it’s easy to take care of, and best of all, it looks great! Other plants that tend to do well with goldfish are Anubias varieties, Java Moss, Cryptocoryne, Vallisneria varieties and Hygrophila varieties. Duckweed and Anacharis will usually be considered a tasty snack, but they both grow so quickly that they won’t mind being munched on a bit. 

Cryptocoryne (left) and lace java fern (right).

Go barebottom.

Goldfish poop. They eat messily. They tear off bits of plants and leave them to rot. If you’re getting tired of cleaning the gravel, you might want to consider just taking it out and going barebottom.

If you’re not familiar with barebottom aquariums, you might think I’ve just lost my mind – what’s an aquarium without a nice layer of gravel? Well, cleaning is a breeze, the fish have more space and there won’t be any waste getting stuck in corners any more. And while you might expect otherwise, there are actually endless possibilities when it comes to planting your tank! Try plants in vases/pots (big or small) or an aquarium terrace, tying Java fern and Java moss to rocks or driftwood or getting floating plants.

I recommend taking the gravel out slowly (over the course of 2-3 months) so you don’t remove too many good bacteria or release too many toxins into the water at once (gravel that’s been undisturbed for a long time might contain some harmful stuff). It’s possible to take the gravel out all at once, but if you do this it’s advised to put the fish in a separate container, remove the gravel and do a very big (80-90%) water change. To prevent ammonia/nitrite spikes, consider dosing with bottled beneficial bacteria afterwards.

A barebottom aquarium can look just as great as a regular one.

Just ditch the plants

No plants in the goldfish tank means no risk of them being eaten.
Some of the most beautiful aquascapes I’ve seen didn’t contain any plants! Again, this is a great opportunity to be creative. You can go crazy with anything without sharp edges: driftwood, rocks, fake plants and aquarium decorations (make sure they’re not hollow though).

If you have any more tips or want to share your own experiences with fancy goldfish keeping, feel free to leave a comment below. Happy fishkeeping!

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  • Reply Rebecca March 24, 2016 at 4:15 am

    This is great! Thank you. My main want for going bare bottom is purely selfish.. My goldfish tank is in my bedroom and the fish digs around all night long. I’m happy to see that removing the substrate out and filling the space with plants instead is a viable option!

    • Reply Mari March 26, 2016 at 10:37 am

      I’ve heard that before, the gravel against the glass can drive you nuts! As long as you safely remove the substrate it’s perfectly fine. 🙂

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