38-gallon Bare-bottom/Part-planted Goldfish tank - tank diagrams & fish photos - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-26-2007, 05:41 PM Thread Starter
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38-gallon Bare-bottom/Part-planted Goldfish tank - tank diagrams & fish photos

Long story short, last winter I ended up with more goldfish than I really had room for, due to a last-minute rescue of a then tiny, scrawny, floating, mud-colored little Moor. Since then my main goldfish tank has been pretty overstocked, resulting in the need for several large water changes each week and other necessary work, and I've been really looking forward to having additional tank space to split the group up. Finally, I decided to ditch the plans I had made for aquascaping my 38-gallon Balloon Molly tank, move the Mollies out, clean out the tank, and move two of the goldfish in.

Last autumn I converted my main goldie tank from gravel to bare-bottom, and the joys of it are unending. It is immensely easier to clean--the tank currents direct all poo to the filter intakes, so there's rarely any that needs to be vacuumed up--and I don't have to worry about any of the fish getting gravel lodged in their mouths (which happened to one of my females twice.) So I really wanted this tank to be bare-bottomed, as well, but I also wanted plants.

The simple solution was to make a contained area along the back wall where i can plant, leaving the rest of the tank bottom clear. And so I found a couple of "Zen" vases online that were almost exactly the right size and ordered them. Originally, I had been planning to move my two girls to this tank, but because they're both sight-impaired (one completely blind) telescope-eyes and the edges and corners of the vases are relatively sharp, I decided to move the boys instead.

Tank specs (may be subject to change):
38 gallons
1x 96 watt compact fluorescent fixture/bulb
2x Fluval 405 canister filters (340gph each)
2x rectangular glass "Zen" vases (4"h x 5"w x 14"l each)

1 red/white Ryukin (6+ inches, male)
1 blue/chocolate Oranda (5+ inches, male)

Planned plants:
Anubias barteri coffeefolia
Java fern
Amazon Sword
Vallisneria nana

All of these plants should be pretty well goldfish-proof, except for the Anacharis, which I'm including as a salad bar. If the boys end up making an absolute mess of it, then it'll likely get replaced with something else.

In order to help soak up excess wastes, I'm also going to be adding a small, floating aquaponics system along the front of the tank, which will mainly contain Pothos. I've been taking some in-progress photos of the aquaponics assembly, and I may post them up later in the diy section. It's simple and cheap, and fairly fast to throw together.

The Pothos won't be quite so dense as in this diagram, and will eventually probably reach to the floor. Aside from it's more practical purpose, it will also frame the tank with nice, live green, hiding the light fixture and tank edges.

And lastly, here are a couple of (really not recent, lol) photos of the goldies going in this tank. Old as the photos are, they're still fairly accurate to the fishes' looks, although they've both certainly grown since.

Ryukin, October 2006 (>_o oooold photo. I can't believe I didn't have anything more recent uploaded online.)

This guy has bulked up, grown, and his color is deeper; now a nice, sligtly orange red.

Oranda, February 2007

This guy's wen finally started really growing in, and his cheeks now cover the lower half of his eyes, while the top is several millimeters thick.

There will, of course, be more photos once the plants and aquaponics are set up--hopefully this weekend.
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-27-2007, 02:51 PM
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Very nice. I did that myself at one point. From my experience, I can say you'll have two issues with your plans.

Having the pots so close to the back wall will mean detritus and mulm will get caught in that little space. Leaving enough space for the fish to swim along behind the pots will fix this. It also gives the fish more dimensional space where they can be in a part of the tank where they can't see the other fish rather than one large open front area.

The other issue is that the mulm and detritus will also embed itself into the pots' substrate which negates your reason for going bare bottom in the fist place. What I found myself doing was removing the plants and rinsing the substrate once a month, which made for a lot of extra work.

For this reason I would suggest rather than using pots and substrate, go for a piece of driftwood with anubias and java fern... but - by not using CO2, and with all the nitrates produced by goldies and the phosphates from their food will lead to a lot of algae on the leaves, so slow growing plants like Swords and anubias will eventully be covered. Ramshorn snails would help, except some goldies will munch on them.

I actually gave up on plants in my goldfish tanks altogether for these reasons:

1. The substrate in the pots harboured bacterial levels just as high and as risky to the goldies' health as any standard gravel bottom. Perhaps even more so as the fish don't disturb the substrate in the pots and oxygenate it as they would gravel.
2. I now permanently salt my goldfish tanks. Not good at all for plants.
3. It is virtually impossible to maintain NO3:PO4 ratio in the required 7:1 ratio to suppress algae. Goldies are just too much bioload!
4. CO2 is something I wouldn't ever try growing plants without again. I did use it at the beginning but you need to push the carbonate hardness up very high otherwise CO2 drops the pH well below the goldfish ideal pH of 7.4-7.5.
5. My goldfish appeared to be adversely affected by fertiliser. I couldn't isolate exactly which specific ingredient bothered them, so I stopped all ferts completely annd they all improved immediately. Off the shelf plant food seems to be the worst culprit.

If the plants are growing well and heathily, I never had a problem with goldfish eating plants. They only like soft, mushy plants to chew on which, unless it's a very soft stem plant, in most cases means the plant's likely already dying and deteriorating anyway.

I hope I haven't put you off! It's just that you've taken on the most difficult planted tank project of all - a goldfish one. So good luck!

Here are two pics to show you what I tried myself. I found Italian Val to be the best potted plant for a non-CO2 goldfish tank in my experience:

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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-27-2007, 02:55 PM
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And here's a picture to make all the plant enthusiasts here go 'oh no!'.

Not to worry though. The leaf was healthy and strong, so he eventually just spat it out unharmed. If it had been soft and mushy he would have chewed it to pieces.

PS. Sorry to hijack your thread with my own pics. I'm very much looking forward to seeing your setup when it's done this weekend. Your two fish are great btw, especially the ryukin (which are my favourite).
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-27-2007, 03:18 PM
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I like your fish man.....men, both of you.

I was thinking about ryukins for my pond, but they're a lil slow for predators feast!!!

cool idea.

Just wondering, why do you want to eradicate all detritus and bacteria in the gravel?

i mean, i can see why you would do bare bottom, but wouldn't the vbacteria in the substrate help filter out waste into nitrate?
and faster growing stem plants suck up nitrate like a shopvac.

Steve irwin- a father, a hero, a memory now. -We'll miss you mate
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-27-2007, 04:14 PM
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Thanks Devin. Because goldfish are such a large bioload the bacteria go on a feeding frenzy on the detritus and multiply rapidly to such large numbers they can quickly overcome the fish's natural immunity to them. Then your goldies get finrot, ulcers, flipping, floating, bottom-sitting and any other number of problems, including sudden death.

It's the main cause for goldfish sickness and losses in home aquariums in my opinion, and hence the main reason for bare bottom tanks, so you can siphon it away more easily.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-27-2007, 06:39 PM
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lovely goldfishs though. barebottom tank like this is the only way i think can keep the fishs happy, since they poop so much.
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-28-2007, 05:00 PM Thread Starter
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That's a lot of stuff there, awrieger, thanks! Part of the whole reason for posting this here is so others can catch things I've missed, so this is great! I do fully expect to be changing things and moving things around as I figure out what works and what just won't cut it.

Layout and planters:
What I'm planning to do is have the filter exhaust on the right directed at the lower center of the back wall. This should flush out any detritus that falls behind the planters immediately. Meanwhile, the left exhaust will be pointing toward the left wall/forward left corner, which should create sufficient currents to blow waste around the front of the tank back toward either of the intakes. I expect that I'll be doing a bit of tweaking to get everything flowing just right.

Bits that manage to get wedged beneath the planter edges will be cleaned easily by sliding the planters forward during weekly maintenence.

I could very easily end up moving the planters forward, regardless of anything else, but for now I'm going to try them in their current positions. My original idea was to have the plants as a background to the fish, so I'd like to see how it will pan out.

I've had my other goldfish tank set up with potted plants since the end of last year, and I've never had any problems with it; no disease or illness. Here's a photo of that tank shortly after I added the potted plants:

As you can see, all of the containers are clear glass. Because of this, I had been concerned from the start about food and such getting inside where they would rot and make everything look mucky from the get-go. So I purchased a length of acrylic tube and began placing it in the tank at meals and pouring the food into it. Food goes straight to the bottom and out of reach of the vase mouths. Now the only things that get into the vases are stray crumbs (which are minimal) and the occasional piece of poop. These things, if they are not nipped up or tossed out by the fish, are very easily sucked up during weekly vacuumings. Any tiny bits that remain work down to the substrate where they act as fertilizer.

With such small amounts of waste remaining in the tank once all is said and done--and those eventually being put to good use--I haven't yet encountered a situation that has become hazardous to the fish.

Actually something I hadn't considered. The reason that I removed the original gravel from the tank was only because the one goldie got it stuck, and I stayed with it because it's so much easier to clean; again, I never had any health issues with substrate.

Whatever wastes don't get used by either the standard bacteria in the filter and substrate, or the aquatic plants, should get black-holed into the pothos. Unless I was to skip on water changes for at least a few weeks, there shouldn't be enough nutrients leftover for excess bacteria to populate on.

Plant care:
I've gotten a fair number of plants (including most of those that I'm including in this tank) to grow quite well without CO2, and while it's definitely something that I would want for a really lush, fully planted tank, because I'm planning for this to be fairly low maintenance and I'm not in a hurry for things to fill out, I've opted to leave it out, at least for the time being.

Any fertilizers in this tank will be root tabs. I'd prefer to keep as many nutrients as I can out of the water column.

I, too, have never had a problem with my goldfish eating most plants. Unfortunately for the plants in the photo above, they were grown emersed, and so not long after the pic was taken they died back. Most of them have regrown nicely (especially considering how low-light that tank is), except for a couple of Amazon Swords that haven't gotten passed being babies because the Ryukin keeps muching them while they're still small and soft. This time around I ordered all the plants online from a company that only grows their plants submersed, so I should be able to avoid that problem.

I had Italian Val and Gigantic Val in this tank when it was still full of Balloon Molly fry. They were both well on their way to taking over the entire tank surface before I removed them, lol.

You might try some brackish-tolerant plants for your salted tanks. Vals certainly work well. As do, from what I hear, java fern, micro and chain swords, and a number of other plants.

I've been looking into getting some olive nerites to act as cleanup crew. If I decide not to go for them, I do have plenty of baby ramshorns that I can raise up and try in this tank. I know that my guys will eat small snails, but adults might be large enough to not get munched. Maybe.

It's always great to see goldfish pictures, imo, especially when they're as gorgeous as yours! Ryukins have always been my favorite, too!

dufus, I feel your pond pain. If I ever want to have fish of any sort in my yard, I'd have to make sure the pond was proof against cats, dogs, raccoons, foxes, hawks, herons, snakes, and who knows what else. Personally, I've never had a problem with excess bacteria in goldfish substrate. The reason I switched to bare-bottom to begin with was to prevent gravel getting lodged in a fish's mouth (again.) It is possible for waste levels--especially in a tank with big waste producers, like goldfish--to build to a point where the normally harmless bacteria will have a population explosion, which can get to a point where it's fatal to fish.

On that note, awrieger, you are the only other person who I've heard of having such a bad bloom. I did have one such occurance last autumn in one of my topical tanks, which killed most of the fish (including a bichir); the only survivors were a good-sized common pleco and 2 apple snails. I'm still not sure what triggered it, but I've never even had a minor bloom in my goldfish tanks.

baowow, bare-bottom is definitely my choice for any goldie tank, without question. The difference between the amount of work and worry with gravel and with bare is immense! These days I almost never even see a poop unless it's just coming out.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-30-2007, 01:40 AM Thread Starter
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Well, because of next week's holiday, the plants I ordered aren't getting shipped until Monday, which means they should arrive next Tuesday or Wednesday. Hopefully I'll have enough time next weekend to get all the in-tank plants set up (family's visiting, so it's not guaranteed. :/)
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 12-31-2010, 03:03 AM
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What are those plant boxes made of? Where did you get those? I've been trying to find rectangle shape ones
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