There seems to be a growing trend among goldfish keepers in order to maintain a more “sanitary” environment, bare bottom tanks. It is seemingly neater and easier to keep clean – which can be extremely helpful with dirty little water pigs. But, is it really better for your goldfish friends?
Aquariums should be an ecosystem, every living organism interacting within a solely contained environment. Besides natural lighting, a mechanical filter to provide aeration (via surface movement), live plants and hiding places, your tank needs two to three inches of substrate. And just because they’re goldfish, doesn’t mean the same rules don’t apply to their tanks.
There’s a little more to substrate than meets the eye, it isn’t there just for aesthetic reasons. You can utilize sand, gravel, dirt or clay chips – sand being a better choice for goldfish so they can sift through it according to their instincts. See, aside from your mechanical filtration, substrate provides a suitable housing environment for extra beneficial bacteria. Yep, just like the ceramic media housed in your canister or hang on back filter, substrate gives a home to our tiny friends.
Considering how much waste a goldfish creates, since they’re constantly eating and pooping, wouldn’t you want as much beneficial bacteria as you could get? Seriously, most goldfish keepers are changing a minimum of 50% water on a weekly basis. Now, that’s not to say that you should provide your goldfish with fewer water changes, or less fresh water, but it is to say you could add a few more elements to aid in keeping their home cleaner.
The more natural aspects you include in your tank will result in fewer ammonia spikes, ph unbalances and emergency situations when kept on a regular routine cleaning schedule. Consider adding a few live plants and a good amount of substrate, and you will be on your way to a more practical living environment, not just for goldfish, but for all of your aquatic life.