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I Don't Think I Can Do This Anymore...


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For those of you that had been following my thread in the Obituaries area, you know I recently experienced two deaths in my tank pretty much back to back. I now have left one Red Cap Oranda, "Rubio," who has been growing and doing well but because it was suspected something bacterial may be killing my goldies on a systemic basis -- coupled by the admitted fact that I don't do deep gravel cleanings nearly as often as I should -- I just today attempted a deep gravel vac and removal of about 75 percent of Rubio's water...the end result was beyond exhaustive and I don't know if I have the stamina for this anymore...there HAS to be a better way...

Because my 60 gallon is decorated in a kind of Asian-esque theme with fake plants, a "water garden," bridges and an Asian gazebo -- plus two 18" bubble bars -- it is an absolute NIGHTMARE to get in there and clean on a regular basis. The Marineland 60 gallon tank I have is ridiculously deep and tall, making it nearly impossible to clean...I have to stand on a bridge chair to get the gravel vacuum into the substrate, and this KILLS my back from getting up and down on and off the chair, bending into the tank and then lugging each three gallon bucket to the bathtub...at any rate, I just completed the deep gravel vac on the tank as best I could, removing decorations and plants and really getting in there with the syphon...a massive amount of crap did come out from the water, turning the bucket water nearly black in some places, so the tank DID need a cleaning...

But I got to thinking...was this the best thing for Rubio? I think it may have caused more harm than good because now his water is teeming with cloudy debris, even after I flushed fresh water through during the water change process...I hope I didn't burn his scales or gills digging all this stuff up. It was suggested to me by someone in my obit thread that I remove Rubio before doing this -- but I didn't want to cause any added stress on him because I always feel like chasing them around a tank and capturing them to move into a quarantine tank of some kind is horrifically frightening based on their behavior...

Yet now I think I may have caused him the same stress anyway since the tank was ridiculously murky after this deep gravel cleaning....yes, the filters are up and running to suck all this back in and filter it, but I don't know if I can go through this with the gravel on a regular basis...now, my ENTIRE aquascape has been messed up, nothing is anywhere it should be in the tank because I couldn't go on any further due to my back hurting and the sweat I was producing and my house, which was just cleaned from top to bottom by me yesterday, is a mess upstairs due to the water splashing of this escapade...

What is the key here? Does gravel vacuuming have to be done on EACH weekly water change? I know most goldfish enthusiasts go bare bottom on their tanks for this reason...but I just hate that look. Should I consider taking out the amount of gravel that's in there to manage a bit better? It's a pretty thick layer...

I don't know what to do anymore; each of my goldies died in turn from a "swelling up/under-the-scales tumor" issue and it was suspected when I discussed this in the other area of the forum that not cleaning the gravel could have indeed made bacteria build up to the point something bacterial took hold...but I simply CANNOT do these deep cleanings on a regular basis with the tank I have now...it's TOO hard...is there any alternative I haven't thought of here?

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Since you do not want to be bare bottom, I'd honestly suggest sand. You can vacuum the surface easily without sucking up the sand and the debris sits on the surface, rather than penetrating the substrate like it does with gravel. A quick, few-second siphon over the surface of the sand and it's sparkly clean. I keep my intakes half way up the tank and never experience sand in the filter.

I can take a quick video tomorrow when I do my siphoning to show you how easy and hassle-free it is.

Edited by Chai
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To make things a whole lot easier I'd either get rid of the gravel completely and go with sand if you hate barebottom, or make the gravel a very thin layer. To save on lugging buckets and getting up and down off the chair I'd invest in a python (or similar brand)...It seems expensive but it's worth every single cent. It used to kill me to do water changes, I also have to use a step stool thing to reach the bottom of the tank. It has made water changes a ton easier on me and my back. Getting rid of the gravel also helped a lot, I know just have glass pebbles scattered around, I'd like to get sand eventually, but I want the black one xD

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I'm so sorry that you are feeling overwhelmed with fishkeeping :( I've been there myself. I also had that 60 gallon tank and I hated it. I now have a 55 and it is much easier to reach into it. The dimensions are the same as the 60 (just not as tall) so you can use the same stand :)

As for sand, I LOVE it! Super easy and the fish love to sift through it.

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Thank you so much Molly and Molbert for your input; means a lot...

I will consider the sand or making a thin layer of gravel; but are you all sure the goldfish can have sand in the tank? They won't choke on it or try to eat it?

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They will eat it and also spit it out. They'll digest it just fine, I assure you.

Most people here have either bare bottom or sand.

My girls already have digestive issues (not related to the sand) and they digest it easily. In the wild, they live in all sorts of mucky sandy environments and what they don't spit out and ends up swallowed is digested with their food. If anything the gravel presents a larger "threat" to goldfish because sometimes the larger pebbles end up lodged in their mouths and they can potentially choke on it.

I'm not going to go and start a war against gravel or anything, I'm saying that sand is the lesser of the two in regards to a choking hazard and for it's difficulty to clean. It can be a great substrate but it looks like it's frustrating you too much to be worth it.

Edited by Chai
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If you are looking to simplify things, maybe stay with the one fish in a smaller tank...say a 20 gallin.

Bare bottom is easier, and I thought I'd hate it.

But I found a design I liked.

If that won't work for you, try a thin layer of sand.

But either way, a smaller tank with one fish will make things easier.

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Thank you...I appreciate all the input. I suppose I will think about what I want to do at this point, but it's good to know the sand won't kill the fancies if swallowed...and the point about the gravel being more hazardous to swallow makes total sense (and something I had been thinking about before).

I'm concerned, though, about the actual physical maintenance of the sand -- I know everyone is saying it's much "easier to clean" but is it done the same way as with gravel? I mean, do you use the syphon the same way, digging in and sucking up, releasing the substrate while the syphon sucks up the dirty water? And does ALL debris just sit on the surface of the sand? None of it sinks?

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If you are looking to simplify things, maybe stay with the one fish in a smaller tank...say a 20 gallin.

Bare bottom is easier, and I thought I'd hate it.

But I found a design I liked.

If that won't work for you, try a thin layer of sand.

But either way, a smaller tank with one fish will make things easier.

I considered downsizing, but we spent a nice chunk of change on this 60 gallon and this guy has really been getting big...I don't think he'd be that happy in a 20 to be honest.

I think a thin layer of sand might work, but because I always go heavy on the décor, it's always a pain in the you-know-what to clean the substrate...moving everything around and out of the way, etc.; would a thin layer of sand be able to anchor the fake plants?

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Not often. The gunk gets stirred up and into the filters for the most part. It just accumulates around the base of plants and other decor so I just hover the vacuum over those areas when I do a water change.

As for the fake plants staying anchored I couldn't say. You could always attach some plant weights to the bottom of them to help hold them down.

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I have a couple of fake plants in my 55, and about 1/2" sand covers it.

Not sure if this could be an issue, but you said you have a lot of ornaments.

I used to have a cave in the tank.

Problem with ornaments like this is that bacteria can linger in those hollow spots...so I was told.

You mentioned bacteria killed your other two...could this be an issue?

Maybe less ornaments, if nothing else, will help with cleaning.

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Not often. The gunk gets stirred up and into the filters for the most part. It just accumulates around the base of plants and other decor so I just hover the vacuum over those areas when I do a water change.

As for the fake plants staying anchored I couldn't say. You could always attach some plant weights to the bottom of them to help hold them down.

Thanks...

Let me ask you this: I never have to worry, with sand, that pockets of toxic pathogens are falling deep into the layers like what happens with gravel? I just don't want to have to go through this whole mega-deep cleaning thing constantly...it's impossible with my current setup...

In other words, I will never have to really sift DEEP into the sand from end to end?

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I never have and I've had sand for years. Other may feel differently but this is my experience.

My only negative with sand was when I had Tahitian Moon sand made by Carib Sea. It is metallic and caused problems when I wasn't super careful about it getting sucked up into my filters. Lots of people have that one on here and love it. I personally have the Sunset Gold Carib Sea sand that I love because it is just like the sand at Lake Michigan :D

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I never vacuum deep into the sand, I just poke it with a long stick in as many places as I can during water changes to make sure there aren't any pockets of air.

You just lightly pass the siphon over it and clean the surface. Goldies and their sifting all the time keep it moving. :)

Edited by Chai
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Thank you both -- and everyone else -- I appreciate all your feedback...

Let me see how Rubio does the next few days since this gravel cleaning (I just turned the lights on over the tank and the water is remarkably clear already, believe it or not) and decide what direction we're gonna go...I DEFINITELY want a new theme/décor layout in there anyway...:)

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I have a couple of fake plants in my 55, and about 1/2" sand covers it.

Not sure if this could be an issue, but you said you have a lot of ornaments.

I used to have a cave in the tank.

Problem with ornaments like this is that bacteria can linger in those hollow spots...so I was told.

You mentioned bacteria killed your other two...could this be an issue?

Maybe less ornaments, if nothing else, will help with cleaning.

Thank you, Hyde -- this is DEFINITELY something I need to take into consideration.

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As one of the few people who have gravel in their tanks I just thought I'd let you know about my maintenance. I vacuum the gravel very thoroughly every week. There is always some gunk that comes up and I just keep suctioning until the water comes up clear, usually this is about half way through my 80-90% WCs. I'd imagine if you keep up with vacuuming your gravel weekly it will get easier to maintain.

For years I kept about an inch of gravel in the tank. Recently I removed some of the gravel. Now the back third of the tank (the planted section) has about 1 1/2" of gravel and the front 2/3 only about 1/4-1/2" of gravel. This change does make it much easier to siphon clean.

I use a gravity fed siphon and buckets, but my siphon came with a clamp to stop the flow of water without interrupting the suction. After I dump the bucket I open the clamp and the drainage continues. This saves me having to restart the suction and my shoulders thank me for it. This solution works well for me, but I can imagine a python would be a very useful tool.

What I have described works for me and my diligence about keeping my gravel clean has kept my fish healthy. That being said either sand or bare bottom would be much easier to maintain. My second tank is bare bottom. I didn't originally intend it to be bare bottom. I had the tank set up and was going to wait a while after the purchase of the tank before purchasing substrate. The bare bottom was to be temporary. After having the tank set up for a month I decided I liked the bare bottom after all and have kept it that way. The maintenance is super easy!

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About your concerns with sand I'd love to point you to this article I've written! As well as stating that sand will pass through the gut easily and with no issues. Sand is the most 'natural' substrate you can provide for them and keeping a small sandbed is much better than gravel imo. Fish love to forage through it as well!

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I have had both gravel, and sand in my tanks, so I can definitely offer you some insight here. When I had gravel, I felt as though it was never clean enough. I vac'd the substrate twice a week, with each waterchange, and I would always still be sucking up tons of crap. It was time consuming, and my back also hurt doing it. I went barebottom for over a year, after I removed the gravel, and I was honestly very happy. I wiped the tank down with a sponge, before I started siphoning, and then did my water change. No mess, no drama, and mostly yuck-free. Eventually, I was itching for a change, so I decided to try sand.

It used to be that I told everyone that I would *never* do substrate in a goldfish tank again, because it was simply too much upkeep. After agonizing over whether or not to try sand, I just quickly did it on impulse, sure that I'd hate it, after a while. After living with it for almost six months, I can tell you that it's much easier than gravel, but slightly more work than a bare bottom tank. Here is how I maintain it:

During each w/c (I do two 85% changes weekly) I remove all of my decorations, and pass the siphon over the sand. It's only very *slightly* over, as you don't really want to stick the siphon into the sand. It'll put all of that sand into your dirty water bucket, and you don't want that! Lol! When I've sucked up the poop that that is on the surface of the sand bed, I continue on simply draining the water until it's time to fill up again. Every two or three weeks (whenever I think about it, honestly), I will suck the debris off of the surface, and then use my fingers to agitate the sand bed. I'll turn over the entire tank floor, then smooth it out, and then pass the vacuum over the surface once more. This serves two purposes: Getting anything that might have been buried by the fish in their foraging, and also helps keep anaerobic pockets from forming.

If you're going to do sand, you'll want it to be a thin layer, no higher than an inch. I think that I remember your tank having a much deeper gravel layer?

In any event, I wish you luck. Cat has recently added a fifty pound sack of play sand to her tank, and is quite happy with it, but as with any sand, it does require quite a bit of rinsing before it is tank ready. If you do decide to buy sand for your aquarium, do let us know, so that we can help you along the way. I'll be honest with you, there is a learning curve, but now that I'm used to it, I really like having it. I feel like the aquarium just looks more "finished", and it's much nicer.

If you decide to make the switch, I do not think that you'll be disappointed, and I also think it will make your maintenance much easier!

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