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sarahjane90's avatar

How to achieve thriving plants in a goldfish aquarium?

Asked by sarahjane90 (1805points) December 22nd, 2010

Are you an experienced goldfish keeper, with a keen interest in creating a natural environment within your aquarium? If you are, I would love for you to share some knowledge!

I will give you all a bit of a description of my current set up and what I would like to achieve:

I have a 200L goldfish tank. I only have one goldfish in the tank, due to the fact that I have discovered that in the context of goldfish, less is definitely more. I also have some cold water minnows in the tank.

I don’t have a problem with the fish over eating the plants, and I have two grow tube bulbs in the tank for lighting. I have a bubble tube which extends across the width of the back of the tank for aeration. I also have a great external canister filter, and the water quality is optimal.

If anyone experienced with growing plants in a cold water tank could let me in on a few tips on their favourite plant varieties (my java ferns and pond weeds look the healthiest, the least healthy being the amazon swords), fertilisation methods, etc would be appreciated. I would love to add some sort of more nutritious substrate also. Sadly I planted these live plants after my tank had been set up and cycled, so I only have standard aquarium gravel. Seeing as the tank isn’t empty, I am unsure about the best way to go about adding extra substrate (worried about possibly making it muddy or unsafe for my fish if I just added it now).

Ideally, I would love to create a very green, ‘lush’ aquarium. I think the long, wispy background plants are beautiful, however I am not sure that those would do well in a cold water tank. I have seen photos with aquarium ‘grass’, especially in the foreground. I do have moss, but have not had any luck with any floor coverage.

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7 Answers

earthduzt's avatar

First and foremost a goldfish tank will be a goldfish tank before anything else, Goldfish are notorious rooters and grazers. If you don’t mind not having the “perfect” aquascaped planted freshwater aquarium then that is ok.

Get plants that do not taste good to Goldfish, your Java fern is an excellent choice not only do they taste bad to goldfish but they also are a very hardy plant and have low light requirements. I believe your swords are looking the weakest because they are root feeders and they require a good and nutrient filled substrate and do not like their roots exposed and also like moderate light levels (about 2.5w per gallon) I’m not sure what your running as a lighting system

Here are some plants I have found that make a good choice for beginner aquariusts.

* Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus) A very hardy plant, with low light requirement. Goldfish tend not to like the taste of this one. It can be tied to rocks, decorations is therefore not easily uprooted.
* Anubias (Several varieties) Again a hardy plant with low light requirements. It has thick leaves and goldfish leave it alone. Best when tied down to decorations.
* Java Moss (Vesicularia dubyana) Java Moss is a hardy plant with low light requirements. Goldfish are not likely to eat it. But they may tear it up during spawning. Because of this it can make your tank quite a mess and have moss fragments slow down your filter. On the other hand when my goldfish spawn I like to provide them with Java Moss as spawning material.
* Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) A plant that can float or be placed in the gravel if you prefer. It is hardy and usually escapes goldfish jaws. Mine have kept pace with goldfish grazing the last three years. I like this plant. It provides cover and it is a good nitrate consumer. If I plant it in the gravel and if (or when :)) it gets pulled out I do not have to rush to replant it. It likes to float and it gets good light at the top of the tank.
* Crypts and Swords (Echinodorus species) Crypt and swords are rootfeeders. They require a good and nutrient filled substrate. They would not like to be uprooted nor have their roots exposed. For that reason they do not always make the best choices but if you have goldfish that are not too pushy try them. They are very beautiful, and will do well with moderate light levels (at least 2.5 per gallon). While my goldfish were smaller I had both plants.
* Vallisneria (Vallisneria species) produce runners and it gets part of its nutrients from the water and part from roots so it requires a substrate. It is hardy and with low requirements. While my goldfish uproot this plant often it does well if I keep replanting it.
* Hygrophilas (different varieties) and Watersprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides) These are stemplants and relatively hardy. However goldfish do tend to like to snack on their rather soft leaves. I tend to find them ‘cut down’ a bit if I leave the goldfish without food for a couple of days. But if you have luck with ones above you may want to try these next. Both tend to like better lighting than low, though. Watersprite has the advantage that it does well floating if it is uprooted.
* Anacharis (Egeria Densa sometimes called Elodea Densa) Is a common pond plant. It can float or be planted in the gravel. It is good nice colour. People have varied success with it. Some goldfish tend to be particularly fond of anacharis. My goldfish leave them pretty much alone. However the plants tend to prefer cooler temperature and is often hard to keep in warmer aquariums.
* Duckweed (Lemna minor) A tiny floating plant that really does grow like a weed if given the chance. In a goldfish aquarium it is rarely given the chance. My goldfish treat these as snack. They have the advantage of providing cover (if they are allowed to grow) and they are good nutrient absorbers without many high requirements. However they tend to like low surface movement and if the you have a lot of filter power these tiny things may be drawn into the filter.

Remember though most plants are tropical and like warmer waters so running a cold water tank you will be limited in your plant choices. When I was into fresh water and growing plants (I run a coral reef tank now) I used Flourite aquarium plant substrate, it worked well for me and made my rooted plants happy as can be.

But using substrate in goldfish tank can be difficult. Goldfish like to look for food in the substrate they often move rocks around or take them in their mouths to try them out. However if you place your rootfeeders in clay pots you may be able to keep some. You can cover the toplayer of the pot with very small gravel and even use a plastic mesh to help keep the plant from being uprooted. Good luck with your new endeavor.

ever thought of just getting rid of the Goldfish and cold water minnows and moving to a more tropical fish(es)?

El_Cadejo's avatar

well I was going to answer this but earthduzt did about a million times better a job than I could imagine. GA sir.

I really dont know much about plants, just coral.

earthduzt's avatar

@uberbatman I know you could’ve given just as good an answer…and thank you sir

sarahjane90's avatar

Thank you for your response. I will try potting some of the more temper-mental plants. As for the lighting I have, I have two fluval grow light tubes. My goldfish is quite well behaved and luckily doesn’t uproot anything, and tends to nibble only on the floating pond weed.

I would replace my goldfish, but I have become very fond of the little thing. The fish is extremely active, and the healthiest goldfish I’ve had, going strong for almost two years! I am worried about adding any new fish, because I would hate to disturb how well this one is doing on its own.

Do you know anything about CO2 fertalisation? I am thinking perhaps my plants would do much better with pots, new substrate and a co2 device. Although my tank is 200 L, I believe this kit may be effective:

earthduzt's avatar

@sarahjane90 you do not need CO2 when you have goldfish in the tank, they make plenty of CO2 on their own as part of their normal respiration. One wonderful thing about goldfish is that they are such excellent fertilizers themselves.

El_Cadejo's avatar

aka gold fish are filthy :P

earthduzt's avatar

@uberbatman haha that’s the truth

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