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Bare Bottom With Plants?


Midnight112x

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if i go bare bottom with my tank, how can i keep my plants down? The gravel holds them down now. If i use pots and put gravel in the pots, cant bad bacteria hide in there? Do i have to use pots? I tried buying some thread and some plastic netting to tie it to but that didnt work. I really like my live planst but i am not seeing too many positives of gravel other than the looks

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Bad bacteria (I'm assuming you mean anaerobic bacteria?) will grow in, well, any anaerobic conditions. Whether this is in your substrate or in a pot filled with gravel, they can still grow. Of course, it is unlikely that they'll grow in gravel of less than a few inches since gravel is large enough for water to flow through. Anaerobic bacteria is more likely to grow in sand tanks. I sincerely doubt that keeping gravel in your tank is going to harbor bad bacteria. If you really don't want to use any gravel, anubias, java fern, and java moss can be tied to large rocks or driftwood. Hornwort can be left floating or simply held down with weights since it doesn't grow roots. Moss balls just kinda sit there. And water lettuce, frogbit, and duckweed are all floating plants that of course don't need gravel. I think the reason why people keep bare bottom with pots of gravel is so that the plants can be removed easier and it is easier to clean the tank, not because a few inches of gravel in a pot is inherently safer than a few inches of gravel on the bottom of your tank.

Oh, just to add... there are a lot more positives to gravel other than the looks. I've kept gravel in my tanks for ten years now and no problems whatsoever. Gravel provides more surface for bb's to grow (although it is disputed as to how much bb's do grow on it). Gravel gives you more room for plants, which supply the fish with veggies and act as a kind of additional filter since they can absorb ammonia and nitrates. Fish can also exhibit their natural behavior of sifting picking the gravel for food which they can't do in a bare tank.

Edited by Calluna
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I keep my anubias and my java fern tied to large rocks in my tank because I prefer not to have any pots. They are tied with clear fishing line, which you really can't see.

Edited by tithra
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i have anacharis plants, lots of em. My gravel is not too deep. It is deeper in spots where i have the plants grounded. The only reason i would remove the gravel is because i have read here that some folks think it is unsafe. I really dont want to remove it and it has not caused problems from what i know of yet. Maybe it is best tht i leave the gravel. I could tie my crypt to a rock but the anacharis would be a pain

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Bad bacteria (I'm assuming you mean anaerobic bacteria?) will grow in, well, any anaerobic conditions. Whether this is in your substrate or in a pot filled with gravel, they can still grow. Of course, it is unlikely that they'll grow in gravel of less than a few inches since gravel is large enough for water to flow through. Anaerobic bacteria is more likely to grow in sand tanks. I sincerely doubt that keeping gravel in your tank is going to harbor bad bacteria. If you really don't want to use any gravel, anubias, java fern, and java moss can be tied to large rocks or driftwood. Hornwort can be left floating or simply held down with weights since it doesn't grow roots. Moss balls just kinda sit there. And water lettuce, frogbit, and duckweed are all floating plants that of course don't need gravel. I think the reason why people keep bare bottom with pots of gravel is so that the plants can be removed easier and it is easier to clean the tank, not because a few inches of gravel in a pot is inherently safer than a few inches of gravel on the bottom of your tank.

Oh, just to add... there are a lot more positives to gravel other than the looks. I've kept gravel in my tanks for ten years now and no problems whatsoever. Gravel provides more surface for bb's to grow (although it is disputed as to how much bb's do grow on it). Gravel gives you more room for plants, which supply the fish with veggies and act as a kind of additional filter since they can absorb ammonia and nitrates. Fish can also exhibit their natural behavior of sifting picking the gravel for food which they can't do in a bare tank.

I've actually mostly read the opposite. Gravel is more likely than sand to have anaerobic bacteria. Gravel is looser and allows poop/food/debris sink into it allowing more bad bacteria to form, which is why we have to be so diligent in vacuuming gravel thoroughly. Whereas on sand it will remain on the top to be cleared by filters or vacuuming. With sand you never have to vacuum deeply. You just lightly stir/rake through it occasionally. And if not planting you go with a light layer of sand.

Of course in a heavily planted tank, the plants use this waste as nutrients, so I'm guessing less chance of anaerobic bacteria forming. For those not wanting a heavily planted tank, thin layer of large gravel, bare bottom or sand is a better choice.

Pots of gravel with plants make it easier to clean yes..you can lift the whole thing out to stir/rinse the gravel. While stirring/vacuuming in tank always has the risk of disturbing a pocket of anaerobic bacteria and harming our fish. And again the plant in this small pot will take care of the waste/bacterias I guess.

I guess we all have to find what works best for us, with the pros & cons of all options. :)

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Gravel provides more surface for bb's to grow (although it is disputed as to how much bb's do grow on it).

I agree with this, and will add that we have a lot of evidence that show that gravel/substrate is a SIGNIFICANT source of beneficial bacteria. People who remove all their gravel at once will have cycle bumps, or worse, crashes. That's why we always advise people to slowly remove gravel over days/weeks in order to allow for the filter media to pick up the slack.

Of course, gravel is not NECESSARY to have a strong and stable cycle, as have been demonstrated by so many beautiful barebottom tanks. However, if you do have gravel, you really must consider it to be a significant source of beneficial (and possibly other types of) bacteria and treat it accordingly.

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Gravel provides more surface for bb's to grow (although it is disputed as to how much bb's do grow on it).

I agree with this, and will add that we have a lot of evidence that show that gravel/substrate is a SIGNIFICANT source of beneficial bacteria. People who remove all their gravel at once will have cycle bumps, or worse, crashes. That's why we always advise people to slowly remove gravel over days/weeks in order to allow for the filter media to pick up the slack.

I don't necessarily agree. Many of us keep bare bottomed tank with no issue, so the filters (when you have large enough, well maintained filters, of course) have more than enough good bacteria to maintain the cycle. Biomedia and foam have SO much surface area for bacteria to grow, there's really no need to maintain it elsewhere in the tank. Of course extra is always good, but with a proper filter the loss of the good bacteria in the gravel should not have an effect on the cycle. The bumps we see when removing gravel almost always come from trapped debris being released into the water which in turn cause huge ammonia spikes, etc.

As for the bad bacteria....anaerobic bacteria are often bad, but some aerobic bacteria are too. The thing is, good bacteria (the kind that maintain our cycle) usually out-compete the bad for nutriets (ammonia, nitrate, etc.). But when you get excess nutrients from poor tank cleaning, the bad bacteria have plenty to feed on and can grow.

When it come to gravel, the biggest issue is trapped waste (poo, etc.). Unless you have a thin layer, it's often very hard to get the gravel completely clean. I have sand in my tropical tank and as Red mentioned, find it much easier. If you had an air pocket in the sand you could get a growth of nasty anaerobic bacteria, but I've never had that happen.

Back to the plant issue...what has really worked well for me is either anchoring my plants with fishing line to large rocks, ornaments, as others have mentioned, or planting them in small containers of river rock (not gravel). The advantage of the larger rock is that it's easier to clean. I take my containers out when I do a waterchange and pour tank water into them (usually I hold them under the outflow of the hose that's removing the tank water). This flushes out any trapped 'gunk' that's in there :)

I like the look of substrate too, but when I had gravel I just could not keep my nitrates under control. Now I have a very thin layer of river rock which I love because it is super easy to clean, you just push the rocks around with the python (or whatever you use) and suck up all the stuff that's fallen between them.

Edited by Chrissy_Bee
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thanks chrissy. If i cant even buy a nitrate (they never show-maybe due to all my plants) would you say that i am doing a decent job at cleaning the gravel. I do sift through all of it except for right under the plants... i know you cant give a definitive answer but theoretically speaking...?

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You mean you don't register any nitrates on your test kit at all? If so that's great, I would think it's got a lot to do with the plants :)

It is possible to keep a healthy tank with gravel for sure, don't get me wrong. As long as you are very diligent about sifting through it and cleaning it very regularly. If your water tests good and you aren't seeing a lot of 'mystery' issues with your fish it's not really anything to worry about.

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You mean you don't register any nitrates on your test kit at all? If so that's great, I would think it's got a lot to do with the plants :)

It is possible to keep a healthy tank with gravel for sure, don't get me wrong. As long as you are very diligent about sifting through it and cleaning it very regularly. If your water tests good and you aren't seeing a lot of 'mystery' issues with your fish it's not really anything to worry about.

Thanks Chrissy. I made a vow to my fish that i would take care of them from the day i learned that i was doing them wrong. So i am trying my best to keep them thriving. Havent had any issues since joining here and my home is happier now that i have happy aquariums. :)

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I made a vow to my fish that i would take care of them from the day i learned that i was doing them wrong. So i am trying my best to keep them thriving. Havent had any issues since joining here and my home is happier now that i have happy aquariums. :)

:goodjob :goodjob :goodjob

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I had around 1/2 inch of gravel in my tank for quite a while and had no problems with it - aslong as you put the time and effort into vaccuuming it thoroughly on a regular basis! The reason I removed mine (very gradually, just to be on the safe side) was because one of my goldies kept getting bits stuck in his mouth. The others never seemed to have a problem with it, I guess Clive is just exceptionally greedy .. :P

I've got quite a few live plants in my tank now (anubias and java fern) which I've tied to rocks with cotton. It is a bit of a pain to do, and every now and then when I'm removing them to clean one will become untied.. I keep trying to think of better ways of doing it but never quite getting round to it :P One of the ideas I had was to use some kind of netting (like fishnet tights or something) to keep them attatched to the rocks, but that probably doesn't look very good, plus I'd worry about the effect it would have one a) possibly restricting the roots of the plants and b) whether the material could damage the fish/leech anything into the water in any way.

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I had around 1/2 inch of gravel in my tank for quite a while and had no problems with it - aslong as you put the time and effort into vaccuuming it thoroughly on a regular basis! The reason I removed mine (very gradually, just to be on the safe side) was because one of my goldies kept getting bits stuck in his mouth. The others never seemed to have a problem with it, I guess Clive is just exceptionally greedy .. :P

I've got quite a few live plants in my tank now (anubias and java fern) which I've tied to rocks with cotton. It is a bit of a pain to do, and every now and then when I'm removing them to clean one will become untied.. I keep trying to think of better ways of doing it but never quite getting round to it :P One of the ideas I had was to use some kind of netting (like fishnet tights or something) to keep them attatched to the rocks, but that probably doesn't look very good, plus I'd worry about the effect it would have one a) possibly restricting the roots of the plants and b) whether the material could damage the fish/leech anything into the water in any way.

I got frusterated trying to tie them down. I think i will just make sure i clean the gravel during the water changes every week. Afetr all, my syphon is right there why not use it to clean the gravel?

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I got frusterated trying to tie them down.

I find that the easier way to attach plants to rocks/dw is to just use rubberbands. Not fussing with thread or knots and loose ends! Then you can just cut them off later.

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I tried to tie my java fern to my big fake rock with fishing line. It was surprisingly difficult, so I tied the fishing line with some slack and then tucked the roots underneath. When I made the loops first and tucked the plants in, it was easy.

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I like to have some form of substrate for the fish to root around in. I think rooting it is a healthy natural behavior for them, something they would constantly be doing in the wild. However, substrate or no substrate, you don't need to grow plants on the bottom to have a beautifully planted tank! To attach plants, I use rubber bands all the way! Check out the photo of when I first attached various anubias and some java fern with rubber bands!

acro_s_old_goldfish_setup_.jpg

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Acro, thats a nice picture. I could use rubber bands. I was actually thinking about buying some glass black rocks and your rubber band idea could work. This way i can take out a little gravel and add the black rocks. This is more for peace of mind. My fish right now are happy as can be.

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I'd be paranoid that as the rubber disintegrates over time, it could leech something into the water? I have no idea if it would but.. still scares me a little!

I just put in some plants yesterday and anchored them with rubberbands because others here had mentioned they did this. I was having too much trouble trying to tie fishing line. But I also wondered about the rubberbands leeching something into the water. I would be sad to think I'm doing something detrimental to the fish this way.

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Yeah good point - never really thought about just how many types of rubbers/plastics are used in our tanks! There's suction cups on filters, airline tubing etc... but yeah, brightly coloured ones would be best to avoid, I guess.

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