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Sand, Gravel or Bare Experiment


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:hi There has been much debate lately about whether sand, gravel or bare bottom tanks are best for our Goldfish. I thought of an interesting experiment that could allow us to let our finned friends weigh in. Take an aquarium and install a divider that goes about 1/3 up the height of the center of the tank. Put a filter on both ends so that the current is the same on both sides of the divider. Then add sand to one side and leave the other side bare. Then, add a fish and see which side they prefer more. Then add gravel to the bare side and see if the behavior changes. You could also switch fish or try multiple fish.

I am going to try this at some point. But, it would be helpful to have other's findings to create a larger test group :)

Edited by jmetzger72
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The problem is that it would be pretty subjective. :) *I* think that fish look happier when they are able to forage through sand. Others do not think this. So . . . the end result would be what it is now--a matter of taste! :)

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I disagree. I would keep the sand to one side by cleaning it up daily and the 1/3 divider would keep most of it in check. Feeding time is only a small time interval. The observation would be where the fish spends most of it's time when not feeding :)

Edited by jmetzger72
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The problem is that it would be pretty subjective. :) *I* think that fish look happier when they are able to forage through sand. Others do not think this. So . . . the end result would be what it is now--a matter of taste! :)

That is the point of the experiment. To see what the fish, not the keeper chooses.

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In my tank, you would have to set up a camera to find out. The fish 'acts up' whenever anyone is in the room.

In my tank, you would have to set up a camera to find out. The fish 'acts up' whenever anyone is in the room.

That is a good idea!

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A large tank would be needed for this. Otherwise, the fish will make use of the full tank no matter what is on the bottom.

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In my tank, you would have to set up a camera to find out. The fish 'acts up' whenever anyone is in the room.

Mine too lol

And I agree, big tank and one fish at a time to see if the results are the same for one fish as they are for another.

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It's a good experiment. You would have to preselect time periods for observation. Then use a stopwatch to determine how much time the fish spends on each side of the divider in, say, a 5 minute observation period. It would be interesting to do the experiment with two different fish singly and then with the two of them together.

A camera would be great, but the amount of data would likely be overwhelming.

Edited by jmetzger72
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Thank you all..your comments are giving me ideas. I could use a feeding cone at the very center of the tank and only offer frozen bloodworms. This way, the food wouldn't really be a large factor. And maybe only keep each fish in the tank for a couple of days before rotating in another fish. If after say 5 fish have done the experiment, all or most have spent the most time on one side or the other, I might have a good beginning to a hypothesis.

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A much better experiment would be to measure the amount of time a individual spends foraging through a substrate after it is fed, because ease of foraging would most likely correlate into what 'preference' the fish would have. So you would take an individual and measure the time it spends after feeding on sand/barebottom/gravel/etc. The downside would be that you would need to test multiple fish and you would need to do each trial many times on different substrate while trying to keep all other factors unchanging.

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Another option would be to feed the fish right before moving them into the test tank so that they are not hungry and then not offering any food for the initial observation period. I thought about fasting, but I think hunger might drive them to the substrate side to forage for possible food.

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A much better experiment would be to measure the amount of time a individual spends foraging through a substrate after it is fed, because ease of foraging would most likely correlate into what 'preference' the fish would have. So you would take an individual and measure the time it spends after feeding on sand/barebottom/gravel/etc. The downside would be that you would need to test multiple fish and you would need to do each trial many times on different substrate while trying to keep all other factors unchanging.

I'm not sure I want food to be the determining factor for this experiment.

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But moving the fish would cause stress therefore changing its base behavior. So it's not practical from a scientific standpoint.

I agree this a problem :)

Keep 'em coming people. We may end up with an entirely different experiment :rofl

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A much better experiment would be to measure the amount of time a individual spends foraging through a substrate after it is fed, because ease of foraging would most likely correlate into what 'preference' the fish would have. So you would take an individual and measure the time it spends after feeding on sand/barebottom/gravel/etc. The downside would be that you would need to test multiple fish and you would need to do each trial many times on different substrate while trying to keep all other factors unchanging.

I'm not sure I want food to be the determining factor for this experiment.

I think food is important though, because what are our goldfish if not eating machines? LOL And it would be interesting to see if they spend as much time scouring a bare bottom for food as they do foraging in sand/gravel.

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A much better experiment would be to measure the amount of time a individual spends foraging through a substrate after it is fed, because ease of foraging would most likely correlate into what 'preference' the fish would have. So you would take an individual and measure the time it spends after feeding on sand/barebottom/gravel/etc. The downside would be that you would need to test multiple fish and you would need to do each trial many times on different substrate while trying to keep all other factors unchanging.

I'm not sure I want food to be the determining factor for this experiment.

I think food is important though, because what are our goldfish if not eating machines? LOL And it would be interesting to see if they spend as much time scouring a bare bottom for food as they do foraging in sand/gravel.

Agreed and foraging is solely for the purpose of finding food, so food would act as a great catalyst.

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Regarding "happiness." Right now I have two fish in a QT with a bare bottom, and to ME subjectively they don't look happy. Happy goldfish TO ME are nose down picking through the substrate. These guys in the bare bottom just kind of swim back and forth like "Well, guess I'll go over there now... and back over there." So I really think this is an interesting experiment. :)

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But moving the fish would cause stress therefore changing its base behavior. So it's not practical from a scientific standpoint.

But moving the fish would cause stress therefore changing its base behavior. So it's not practical from a scientific standpoint.

This is an excellent point. And it leads me to think that the fish would be stressed. So, what if say all 5 "stressed" fish go to the sand side and remain there? Then, we might have the beginnings of a hypoethis that the substrate gives them some sort of comfort.

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But moving the fish would cause stress therefore changing its base behavior. So it's not practical from a scientific standpoint.

But moving the fish would cause stress therefore changing its base behavior. So it's not practical from a scientific standpoint.

This is an excellent point. And it leads me to think that the fish would be stressed. So, what if say all 5 "stressed" fish go to the sand side and remain there? Then, we might have the beginnings of a hypoethis that the substrate gives them some sort of comfort.

It just doesn't seem practical, and all the moving would also be very harsh on the animal.

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