How to goldfish-proof your aquarium




Een Goudvis

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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!

Best Plants For Goldfish Infographic

Buy plants that won’t be eaten

I always recommend Java fern (normal and lace variety) for goldfish tanks. 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.

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.

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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6 thoughts on “How to goldfish-proof your aquarium”

  1. Thanks for this great article! I’m curious about why you specified using only aquarium decorations that aren’t hollow? I also had heard that a common danger with goldfish (fancy or otherwise) is that they can easily be overfed, so we’ve only been feeding ours a small asking once or twice a day. How much would you usually give them at each feeding time, if you’re feeding so frequently?

    • Hi Benni!

      I’m glad we could help you :-)! Believe it or not, a lot of hobbyists have lost fish due to hollow decorations. The fish simply get stuck and can’t get themselves back out. It might also be hard to find hollow decorations that a goldfish won’t quickly grow out of, and you might have to remove the decoration anyway once the entrance/exit becomes too small.
      As for feeding, one to two small feedings a day should be enough; fish don’t actually need to eat that much, but it’s really hard to ignore when they’re practically jumping out of the tank asking for food! The problem with goldfish is that they naturally create a lot of waste. Increasing feeding will only contribute to this and leftover food may be left to rot in the water, which can cause poor water quality and algae. Overfeeding can also possibly lead to bloating and/or constipation. As long as your fish are finishing everything you’re giving, then you’re good!

      I hope this helped! Good luck with your goldfish!

  2. In terms of having fish, these are in aquarium inside, are these plants viable to use as a means of creating a relatively sustainable aquatic eco system if I were to have an outdoor fish pond? And in terms of replacing water, how would that be done in an outside pond? Would having a sufficient internal and exterior filter, suggested in your other posts about goldfish management specifically, be enough?

    • Hi! Whether you can use the plants discussed here in a pond depends entirely on your climate. If things stay warm year-round you can, if not then you’ll have to look at species that are more suitable for your area (there are many, luckily). Replacing water is usually necessary in a pond, although very heavily planted ones with bog filters don’t need nearly as many water changes because the plants utilize nitrates and other nasty components to grow. You can change water using a pump to remove water (and gie it to your garden plants, which will be very pleased). Then you hook a hose up to your tap or well and run it to the pond to refill it. Quite easy!

      If you have any more questions feel free to let me know 🙂

  3. 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!

    • 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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