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Bare Bottom Vs. Gravel


nicoleauryn

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So, I was aware when I purchased my tank almost a year ago, that you should buy bigger gravel because some goldies like to pick them up and swirl them around their mouths and could potential swallow/choke. My current gravel is large, but it could be a potential risk I wonder for a 5-6 inch fish. Or would switching it out (somehow!!?!) for big flat river rocks be better?

But... is gravel/rocks better than a bare bottom? Would there be any other reason to *not* have gravel other than potential swallowing? I also have live plants, and two pieces of drift wood with willow moss crawling up it - how would that work if a bare bottom tank is more recommended?

Advice welcomed!

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Barebottom tanks make maintenence easier and make the water less likely to foul. Gravel gives anaerobic bacteria a chance to populate it especially if it's over one inch. They produce toxic gases and should your fish root around in it they get hit with it and can die. Unless you do routine maintence with very frequent gravel vacuums gravel is quite risky. You can put the plants in flower pots, or get anubias and java ferns instead that grow on rocks if you tie them on. As for the driftwood be careful that it's not lowering your pH and leaching tannins.

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Barebottom tanks make maintenence easier and make the water less likely to foul. Gravel gives anaerobic bacteria a chance to populate it especially if it's over one inch. They produce toxic gases and should your fish root around in it they get hit with it and can die. Unless you do routine maintence with very frequent gravel vacuums gravel is quite risky. You can put the plants in flower pots, or get anubias and java ferns instead that grow on rocks if you tie them on. As for the driftwood be careful that it's not lowering your pH and leaching tannins.

Interesting, I was completely unaware of this and have had goldies (pearlscale, Ranchu and Oranda) with gravel before and never had an issue. Does all gravel produce gasses? Also I boiled and soaked the heck out of the drift wood - no more tannin and no tea colored tank :)

I have had experiences where I would put a clay pot in the tank and the fish die afterward.

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I started out like that, had larger gravel at first until Hugo hit the 6 inch mark and started what looked like chewing on gravel... I'm sure that's not what she did, but she freaked me out with that, so I switched over to river rocks which are a lot safer in my opinion. Not just unswallowable for goldfish, but they also have a much smoother texture.

Hugo had a light bacterial infection on the bottom lobe of her tail fin from dragging her tail over the rough gravel whenever swimming back and forth lower in the tank.

With river rocks you also don't have the risk of anaerobic bacteria, as Tay just explained. Since the space between the rocks is bigger, less waste gets caught in it, which is another plus.

Eventually I went bare bottom though, as the goldfish really don't care if there is gravel or not. I only got two shallow glass dishes with colored glass gems as deco and because Hugo loves digging through it for treasures. :rolleyes: I bet she believes she is the tank's queen now.

Also with bare bottom, if you have great filtration you will not find waste on the bottom of the tank at all. I was amazed, I always thought bare bottom would show all the poop, but when the fish swim around and swirl up the poop it gets sucked in by the filters instantly. Only in the morning I find some laying around as the fish naturally were quite inactive over night. It literally takes care of itself within 15 minutes of turning on the tank lights though.

Another good thing about bare bottom is that it will allow more room for water. I don't know the exact conversion for this, but just look at how big for example a 5lb bag of gravel or rocks and other ornaments (including driftwood) is, and all this could be replaced with water. The more water, the more diluted the waste, the better the water quality :)

As for the plants and driftwood: as Tay said, anubias and java fern can simply be tied to rocks or the driftwood and will attach themselves to it. Other plants can be put in little flower pots. I know they make really tiny flower pots which are perfect for the tank plants. Just make sure you carefully stir up the gravel in the pots though when doing water changes - anaerobic bacteria prevention.

The driftwood may lower the pH, you can avoid this by boiling it. This will also get rid of almost all of the tannins. I put my piece of driftwood in a tall pot and boiled it for nearly two hours, turning it upside down (the driftwood, not the pot, of course) halfway through to make sure all of it is boiled.

But you already got moss growing on it, so boiling the driftwood now would be bad news for the moss.

Keep an eye on the pH level in your tank! I had my driftwood on the bare bottom, with plants tied to them, and it still looked great.

EDIT: The thing with the anaerobic bacteria doesn't necessarily happen, especially if you gravel vac then you don't need to worry about it. Only if the gravel is undisturbed for a longer time, it can happen because of all the poop trapped in there, bacteria builds up and produces toxic gases.

Sorry about the clay pot and your fish! It might be that the clay pot had been in contact with some chemical. Did you clean it well, boiling water and scrubbing? I used a clay pot before and had no problem, a lot of people use clay pots in their goldfish and especially tropical tanks as hideouts for fish and snails.

Edited by Oerba Yun Fang
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It's not necessarily the gravel producing gasses but the bacteria that gets in it that does. It may not affect the fish directly but it deteriorates water quality. Sometimes you get really gross cloudy water due to all of the wastes that accumulate in it. The aerobic bacteria all live in a tiny top layer of the gravel, anything beneath it oxygen can't reach and becomesa cesspool in time without good vacuuming habit.

Everything else Fang hit right on the head. :)

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If you want gravel, I would only do a thin layer, just enough to cover the bottom and if necessary put your plants in pots of it instead of making the whole tank thick. With river rocks I would scatter them out a lot, I had a solid layer of river rocks and the amount of muck they trapped was manky! The danger with river rocks (and gravel) is that stagnant water encourages anaerobic bacteria which produce sulphides, when they build up enough the form gas pockets but they can also make sulphur-y water which is almost as bad and will slowly poison your fish. This is why hollow ornaments are so bad. I have had river-rocks and gravel (and both at one point!) and I was never able to keep them both clean, and both were only in a thin layer, every time I thought I was done hoovering I'd go back to a previous section and a load more would come up. I now have a barebottom tank with a few glass nuggets scattered about (one of my fish likes to push them into lines...) and my plants are all attached to bigger rocks and driftwood, that I can lift to clean under and move around as I like. It makes tank maintenance so much quicker and easier. Don't get me wrong there's still muck gets stuck under the driftwood and the big terracotta plant pot, but I can see it to get to it easily! I wouldn't go back to gravel or river-rocks, it takes a bit of getting used to but once you do I don't know many who'd ever go back.

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Oh yes, I meant to mention this: With river rocks, don't pile them up! As devilduck said, scatter them around. I had only enough to cover about a quarter or maybe a third of the bottom. It looks nice for example to use all black river rocks, that makes a good contrast to colorful fish.

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Thanks for this thread. I'm in the same boat as Auryn, trying to decide what to do. I like the underwater woodland look with lots of plants, but also admire the barebottom look and its ease of cleaning. I also like the idea of giving as much swimming room as possible.

I also like Oerba's suggestion of using black river rock in part of the tank to show off the fish...This Sunday I'm setting up the tank and will share pictures at that point. It sort of depends what the fish store has in stock...so we'll see what happens.

Mj

Edited by mjbubbles
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I wanted to mention also since we were talking about your pH last night, that regardless of soaking out the tannins I think your driftwood could still be lowering your pH. I think it was Koko that lost fish to a driftwood related pH crash?

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WOW!!! Thank you everyone for this! It all makes sense. I clearly have WAYYYYYY too much gravel. This

http://picasaweb.google.com/nicole.auryn/WhiteFish#5550338263052765026

and

http://picasaweb.google.com/nicole.auryn/WhiteFish#5550348191345516578

So, could I go to like, nnnnnn or a Joanne's craft and pick up river rocks? I will rinse them but anything else I should do? Any stress-free-for-the-fish tips of when I scoop out *all* that gravel and add river rocks? Should I remove him?

I just realized that a bare bottom would look horrid aesthetically, but I also want to go what is best for my current goldfish and future goldfish. Turns out, if you remove the floor of the tank, you can see right down into the cabinet. The tank is supported by a lip that goes around the parameter of the stand. So with a bare bottom, you can see all my extra gravel, food, canister filter, other equipment etc. So I think a thin layer, just enough to slightly cover of river rocks is best in my case. Maybe I will also just use one drift wood and one large rock or two drift one for my plants. Only one of my plants needs to be potted, which I can get a small pot for.

I really like this idea for better filtration.

My drift wood I had in a bucket for weeks and then boiled it for 2 hours. Yep. So the one right now with moss on it is fine, it was soaked and soaked and boiled to death.

Re: Clay pot. I only rinsed. Come to think of it.... it was next to some fertilizers at the store.... I didn't even think twice about it. I bet you my nitrites spiked. Mother eff.

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I wanted to mention also since we were talking about your pH last night, that regardless of soaking out the tannins I think your driftwood could still be lowering your pH. I think it was Koko that lost fish to a driftwood related pH crash?

Why on earth would the drift wood effect the pH if it's been in the tank a long time? (if I has said that in person it would have sounded less snotty and more goofy) :)

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I also like Oerba's suggestion of using black river rock in part of the tank to show off the fish...This Sunday I'm setting up the tank and will share pictures at that point. It sort of depends what the fish store has in stock...so we'll see what happens.

Me too, I am thinking a very dark color (black would clash with my home a bit I think). We should post pics after we do this :D

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haha the great debate between the two.

personally, i prefer gravel. mainly for the look, plus i prefer to have the natural look and have real plants, planted in the tank. i know you can use pots and what not. but it is not the same. if you look back at my threads, you will see my tank update thread, and you will see how my set up is, if that interests you, just tto see what i have.

barebottom, dont like.. too bare for my tasting, though yes, its easier to clean, yes there is more space for goldies/fish and yes you will less likely have less nasties hiding at the bottom. but if you maintain a gravel tank well. then you shouldnt see too many issues.

as for fish swwallowing gravel. i have seen my fish maybe pick em up before, but they just clean em basically then spit em out. i have never been concerned. when i went to tropical fish, same thing, may larger fish dont really do much. im sure its instinct anyways when looking at their TRUE natural habitat. though yes, most fish are bred in places, but you know what i mean.

if you havent had any dead fish, any real issues etc, i wouldnt worry about it. if anything, just do what you gotta do.

just looked at your pics now. the gravel is a lot larger than what i have, and even having 1-2 or more inches isnt horrible. i have seen tanks with 8 inches and even then, i wouldnt worry. with plants, they do their magic, and of course, good cleaning from the owner of that tank and you will be fine.

just my opinion. i prefer gravel. if anything, i wish i had more, as my plants are pushing up.

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took a look at your photos, pretty tanks and great pics! How many gallons are the goldfish in? Looks small to me.

I do like the idea with river rocks though, and no I haven't had a problem with the rocks I have now. I *will* say it is a pain to clean and lots of nastiness does get stuck in there. Sometimes the grit that comes out when I syphon turns the water black! (not the whole tank black just the area where I syphoned)

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I went bare after having some deaths due to dropsy. I would religiously vacuum the gravel every few days but there was ALWAYS soooo much gunk coming out!!!!!!! :krazy:

these are examples of 2 of my tanks. one is goldie an the other turtle. I also thought that a bare bottom tank would look sooo ugly - but now I LOVE it. and it always stays soooo clean!

DSCN3299-1.jpg

DSCN3242-1.jpg

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I went bare after having some deaths due to dropsy. I would religiously vacuum the gravel every few days but there was ALWAYS soooo much gunk coming out!!!!!!! :krazy:

these are examples of 2 of my tanks. one is goldie an the other turtle. I also thought that a bare bottom tank would look sooo ugly - but now I LOVE it. and it always stays soooo clean!

DSCN3299-1.jpg

DSCN3242-1.jpg

That second picture is what I'm going for in my tank. Thanks for the inspiration!

mj

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I went bare after having some deaths due to dropsy. I would religiously vacuum the gravel every few days but there was ALWAYS soooo much gunk coming out!!!!!!! :krazy:

these are examples of 2 of my tanks. one is goldie an the other turtle. I also thought that a bare bottom tank would look sooo ugly - but now I LOVE it. and it always stays soooo clean!

DSCN3299-1.jpg

DSCN3242-1.jpg

That second picture is what I'm going for in my tank. Thanks for the inspiration!

mj

I love them! How pretttttty! I wouldnt mind a bare bottom tank if I couldnt see inside the stand :/

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are you sure you can see inside the stand? usually once the tank is full of water it gets a real neat mirror effect - you will just see the fish reflection.

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are you sure you can see inside the stand? usually once the tank is full of water it gets a real neat mirror effect - you will just see the fish reflection.

Actually yeah you can kinda see, sorta. Maybe it's more the fact that I KNOW it's there. Maybe I will do what you did, have rocks, have not :) Now I just need my other questions answered in this thread and I think I am all set! Thanks so much!

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Yes Jo-anns or pet*smart will work. As for removing the gravel do a handful a day so you don't disturb too much of anything and so you don't mess up the cycle.

Ok! Now should the river rocks be washed or just rinsed. Also for tying moss/plants to rocks/wood - what should I use? fishing line? rubber bands?

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Not really advice, just my two cents... When I joined this forum my tank had gravel in it and I had never even thought of having a bare bottom tank until I started looking at pictures of other people's tanks on here. I was having trouble getting all the stuff out of my gravel, even with the gravel vac, so I decided to transition to bare bottom (with a few scatteres large river rocks). I've only had it for a few weeks now, but I love it. My water seems cleaner and it gives me peace of mind knowing that there isn't anything bad lurking in the gravel. Also, Cleaning the tank is much easier. I think it looks nicer too.

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Not really advice, just my two cents... When I joined this forum my tank had gravel in it and I had never even thought of having a bare bottom tank until I started looking at pictures of other people's tanks on here. I was having trouble getting all the stuff out of my gravel, even with the gravel vac, so I decided to transition to bare bottom (with a few scatteres large river rocks). I've only had it for a few weeks now, but I love it. My water seems cleaner and it gives me peace of mind knowing that there isn't anything bad lurking in the gravel. Also, Cleaning the tank is much easier. I think it looks nicer too.

Yep, I think that is exactly what I am gonna do! I am excited about this!

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Rinsed and never wash with soap or anything. You can test any rocks you get for acidity by dropping vinegar on them, you can clean them with that too to sterilize them :)

Wrong choice of words, by wash I mean like, scrubbing. Didn't know about the vinegar tho good to know. I know no soap or even window washing stuff for the outside of the tank is no good for the fish.

Thanks!

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