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MexiMike83

Gravel, sand, or bare bottom and why?

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I'm trying to plan for what type of aquarium set up I want. Pros and cons? For those that have tried both bare bottom and gravel/sand, have you noticed any difference in your fishes' behavior? I've read that the reflective bottom can be stressful for some fish is this true of goldfish? I would think that a bare bottom would be easier to clean. And while I haven't tried sand before in an aquarium, I would think that it would be the 2nd easiest to clean since there are less cracks for debris to fall in.

Thanks in advance. Sorry if this has been posted once already.

Edited by MexiMike83

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I've been through pretty much all of these, and more. :D

Bare bottom: There is barely a noticeable reflection for the fish. We see this mirror effect because we see the tank from a whole different angle than the fish. When you look down into a tank with a bare bottom, all you see is through the bottom glass. To them there is no more reflection than there is reflection of you in a window. :)

Bare bottom is very easy to keep clean. If you have the required filtration, almost all the waste will be sucked into the filter.

Algae can grow all over the glass though, but with bare bottom it is very easy to wipe it off.

Gravel: I think here it depends on which kind gravel you have. I started out with the white epoxy coated gravel. It was really pretty during the first few months, but then the paint started coming off and it looked like crap. You also have to do weekly thorough gravel vacuuming to get any waste out that is trapped. Otherwise deeper gravel can develop pockets of harmful bacteria.

I like some colored gravel, but because on most of them the paint will come off eventually, I prefer the natural looking type.

Some goldfish have been known to choke on gravel. It is rare that it happens, but it is not unheard of. Made me paranoid and I switched to river rocks.

River rocks: Look great in combination with bare bottom. I first had my tank bottom basically covered in river rocks, but since they are heavier than gravel, they are a bit more of a pain to vacuum. Instead, having the tank mostly bare bottom and having several little "islands" of river rock is very nice looking and easy to clean. The good thing is that river rocks come in many different sizes and colors. Too big to be swallowed by the fish.

Main down side is that if your tank tends to grow unwanted algae, the river rocks are annoying to clean (to me personally) because you have to fish the rocks out, wipe them off, arrange everything again.

Sand: I currently use Tahitian Moon Sand (TMS). I love it. The fish love it too. It is heavier than regular sand and is less likely to get into the filters. It stays very nice and clean, it is too dense to have waste trapped under it, so it stays just as clean as a bare bottom tank where the filters will suck the waste right off the bottom. Algae doesn't grow on it. So far I would say my fish like this one the most, the love sifting through it all day long, thinking there might be goodies hidden somewhere. It's like a 24/7 easter egg hunt in there :D

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It doesn't matter what option that you go for to be honest. You will decide on one, go out and buy it, put it in your tank and get it set up just the way you want it. Then you will come on here and see someone elses tank and suddenly like what they have done with theirs. Your tank will then no longer seem as good as it did a few weeks before so you will go out and get some new stuff and put it in your tank. Then you will log on here and see another tank ..... you get the picture :)

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It doesn't matter what option that you go for to be honest. You will decide on one, go out and buy it, put it in your tank and get it set up just the way you want it. Then you will come on here and see someone elses tank and suddenly like what they have done with theirs. Your tank will then no longer seem as good as it did a few weeks before so you will go out and get some new stuff and put it in your tank. Then you will log on here and see another tank ..... you get the picture :)

LOL And that is one of the reasons why I went from gravel to river rocks to bare bottom to TMS :lol

But I know that so far my fish like the TMS the most. :)

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i had gravel at first but will never go down that road again, it was a pain to clean and a few times some got caught in their mouths. Plus, it looked great at first bt like fang said, the color might have faded and algae gew on it even with cleanings every week.

Bare bottom for me got ugly really fast. Poop wouldnt collect but algae grows fast for me so i had to wipe down the tank every 5 days to make it look ok.

Now i have moon sand but just started using it. The one large oranda i have seems to love sifting through it and the poop settles on top. Seems like it will be easy to clean.

My moon sand is black, which is basically awesome

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It doesn't matter what option that you go for to be honest. You will decide on one, go out and buy it, put it in your tank and get it set up just the way you want it. Then you will come on here and see someone elses tank and suddenly like what they have done with theirs. Your tank will then no longer seem as good as it did a few weeks before so you will go out and get some new stuff and put it in your tank. Then you will log on here and see another tank ..... you get the picture :)

ahaha yes!! I originally thought I was happy with gravel, then I saw all the gorgeous barebottom tanks on here and switched over. so far so good, have been happy with barebottom with big rocks and a few ornaments, but I'm kind of bored of the layout so I might redesign it soon...

in terms of pros and cons, I think the usual is just that with gravel, people think there is more surface area for good bacteria to grow, although they only live on the top layer so having deep gravel is pointless, if not dangerous (bad bacteria form deeper down). also goldfish love rooting round in it! on the other hand, debris like old food and poop get stuck in it so it's more of an effort to clean. also I've had one of my goldfish get a piece of gravel stuck in his mouth, so that also contributed to my switching over. I feel barebottom is much easier to clean and you can see all the grot so it's easier to net them out. I've left marbles in so they still have something to nudge around for fun! in regards to algae, I have no objection to having a nice layer of green on the bottom/back, so I used to scrape (with an old credit card) it off the front and sides. since getting a new tank, algae's not taken over, plus I have a nerite snail to keep it in check. I don't know about sand but I hear Tahitian Moon Sand is a favourite on here, because it's not so fine that it screws with your filters.

Edited by cathface

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I had SO many issues with gravel....stuck in the fish's mouths, forever trapping debris and driving my nitrates up, etc.

I had barebottom for a long time but over the years I've gradually added some larger river rock. Now I have not quite enough to cover the bottom. I really like this set up because it doesn't look as barren, but is super easy to clean (just push the rocks out of the way with the gravel vac).

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It doesn't matter what option that you go for to be honest. You will decide on one, go out and buy it, put it in your tank and get it set up just the way you want it. Then you will come on here and see someone elses tank and suddenly like what they have done with theirs. Your tank will then no longer seem as good as it did a few weeks before so you will go out and get some new stuff and put it in your tank. Then you will log on here and see another tank ..... you get the picture :)

So true! That is exactly why I switched to CaribSea's black Tahitian Moon Sand. But I got tired of how dark it was, so when I set up a new tank, I used lighter natural sand, and I love it.

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I much prefer bare bottom having tried both. It is easier to clean and I personally prefer the look of it. I didn't notice any significant difference in the behavior of my fish with sand or not, I keep a small scattering of stones on the bottom of the tank and they are just as happy picking through that as they were the sand ;)

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I think it's a matter of preference. I had bare bottom and I didn't like it. Maybe it was just my fish because I know people have happy fish with barebottom tanks, but they seemed bored to me. Still have one that is bare bottom and it's an algae magnet. Looks really bad and I can't keep it clean. I got some BN plecos to help, and they are cleaning it slowly but surely, but adding huge piles of poo. I had sand, and it broke one of my filters, even though I went to great (and disgusting) lengths to keep it out of the filter. The fish liked it but it was black, and one of my fish has big thick poos and they were constantly littering the bottom and looking icky. When I moved one fish from the sandy tank to the barebottom, the next day there was sand in there. Apparently they eat it and poop it. That kind of freaks me out. So I prefer gravel. Right now in two tanks I have natural colored gravel, it's bigger rocks in the goldie tank. I vacuum with every water change which isn't a big deal to me, and it always looks nice, plus they have a fun time picking through it all day. :)

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There is no question to me that barebottom is much easier to clean, and I love the aesthetics of it. However, my fish definitely like to play around in their Moon sand (and gravel), and I couldn't deprive them of that :)

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I love my barebottom!

I had various substrates before and all freaked me out for one reason or another. I have been bare for almost 2 years now.

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When I moved one fish from the sandy tank to the barebottom, the next day there was sand in there. Apparently they eat it and poop it. That kind of freaks me out.

It's actually not bad for them to eat the sand though. Some people actually think it helps their digestive system by keeping things moving along. If the grain size of the substrate is just the right size though (depends on the size of the fish, but usually this only happens with gravel) it can get stuck in the gut and become a huge problem for the fish.

Oh and all my tanks are barebottom and have been for a few years! I love it this way. Sure, by the end of the week you have to scrub off some diatoms from the bottom, but that's not difficult at all. And you get a nice, clean look where the fish can be the center of attention rather than the decorations. You can also paint the underside of the bottom whatever color you like; I prefer black.

Edited by Sakura

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I've done all three as well. One of my tanks went from barebottom, toplaysand (killed 2 filters), to black gravel and finally to TMS.

My goldfish tank is huge and I hated the barebottom look. So I did some searching and decided to give the TMS a try. The goldies love it.

It does collect algae in my tropical tank though. It is easy to get off with the gravel vac though.

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I suggest sand or a light layer of gravel. Just give them something to pick through as they would naturally. They need some sort of mental stimulation sitting in a tank for hours and hours just wating for food.

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I think that if you have any inkling that you might want to go barebottom, I would try that out first :) It is a lot easier to add sand/gravel later than to take the sand/gravel out (it is possible, but it is a bit of a pain)

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I think that if you have any inkling that you might want to go barebottom, I would try that out first :) It is a lot easier to add sand/gravel later than to take the sand/gravel out (it is possible, but it is a bit of a pain)

I agree 100 percent. Taking ALL of the gravel out is a pain...

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I'm all bare bottom. Its amazingly easy to clean and it has a really clean look! paint the back, bottom any color and it looks modern but its effective:)!!! Watch some of Sakura/Jennie's(??) video's and it'll change your mind :)I had gravel and she completely inspired me to lose the gravel, though it was a major pain

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I have done all 3 myself as well ;) but mostly bare bottom for my goldies :) a few years now as well :) I LOVE it :) super easy to keep clean,try it out for a bit,if your not thrilled you can easily add what ever your liking :)

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I do almost barebottom, I toss a handfull (literally) of substrate for them to sift through, they seem to like it, and it is still pretty easy to clean. I would like to try some substrate, but I have so many veiltails and they tend to drag their tails on the bottom of the tank a lot, and I'm afraid of bacterial infections.

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Interesting thoughts. I think I will take tithra's advice and start out with a bare bottom and add to it later. I wonder if I could find some...plastic icicles or something and make small pillars or something in it. I think that would be cool. As for the TMS sand, does it come in any other color than black?

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Interesting thoughts. I think I will take tithra's advice and start out with a bare bottom and add to it later. I wonder if I could find some...plastic icicles or something and make small pillars or something in it. I think that would be cool. As for the TMS sand, does it come in any other color than black?

you might look for some glass ornaments to put in the tank :) One of our members (shellbell) has some pretty ones.

Tahitian moon sand is just the name of the color. Carib sea supernaturals (or instant aquarium) is the brand name. There are several different colors that vary a bit in terms of texture. Here's a link: http://www.caribsea.com/pages/products/super_nat.html

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I assume that I have the sunset gold in my tank. It was CaribSea Supernaturals that I got at Petsmart, and it was the only other sand what was the same size as the black.

6679045381_94d6060dd9_z.jpg

If you want a lighter-colored sand, there are other options, but you have to be careful to get a sand that's not too fine. :)

Edited by ShawneeRiver

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I have TMS in the betta tanks and like it, but I took it out of the big tank and replaced it with ecocomplete for the plants. It is like a small gravel, though a different substance. The fish sometimes suck it up with food, but spit it out--it seems just small enough not to get stuck in their mouths. I do find the siphon pulls some TMS out when I try to get the waste off the bottom of the betta tanks, and I worry about it accumulating in my drain pipe. Also, in a small tank, the siphon can stir it up and it can get sucked up into the filter intake, unless you turn it off first.

BTW if sand gets in your HOB filter and it stops working, see if the motor on the bottom untwists and comes off. Aquaclear and palm filter motors do. I was able to save a filter that way when a piece of coral got in here--opened it up and shook out the grit, and it worked again.

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