Looking to aquascape a goldfish tank?

Want an impressive aquarium in your home or office that looks like a master did it?

It’s not as hard as you might think!

Today I’m going to give you my very best 9 goldfish tank design ideas to help you get inspired – and be floored with the final result of your efforts!

Yes, in case you’re wondering – this is going to be a bit of an opinion piece.

(Because design is subjective.)

But – it’s based on what the experts are doing (people that aquascape around the clock and win competitions for it).

I’ve made a point to give you constructive tips tailored for goldfish.

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1. Go Rimless

There’s a reason that the professional aquascapers use rimless aquariums to showcase their works of living art.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

Frames are distracting, dated and downright UGLY.

You will be absolutely floored at the difference using a rimless aquarium will make in your aquascape – for the better.

Now the focus is on the fish and plants – what’s inside and not around it.

Instead of an eyesore, your tank becomes a blank canvas for what you want to design.

No tacky black plastic that only shows mineral deposits like chalk on a chalkboard…

… Just simple, understated elegance.

2. Use Clear Pipes and Clear Tubes for Your Canister Filter

Let’s face it:

Hiding those unsightly, intrusive black or gray filter pipes in your aquarium can be pretty much impossible.

And they detract from the clean layout of the tank.

When I first learned of this trick of switching out the typical tacky plastic filter pipes for nearly invisible glass ones – it made a HUGE difference.

And it got even better when I learned I could swap out the standard tubes (which are colored) to totally transparent ones.

Here’s where you can get the glass pipes and clear tubes with the fastest shipping.

I didn’t mind the wait, so I got the pipes cheaper on eBay.

And the aquarium hose that fits them (I used the 12mm for the pipes in the link above).

Bonus tip:

Place the pipes and their connected tubes on the side of the aquarium near the back (so you don’t notice anything as you look inside the tank face-on)…

… And use transparent suction cups to prop your lily pipe up a bit higher (level with the surface) so there’s more oxygen exchange for your fish.

Aquascaping score!

3. Plants for a Natural Flair

planted aquarium

Image credit: úlfhams_víkingur, Wikimedia CC 2.0

It’s true:

Goldfish can be little lawnmowers in an well-planned aquascape – especially if the plants aren’t carefully chosen.

But is the solution just no plants, ever?

I don’t think it has to be.

A successful goldfish plant aquascape CAN be done (more on that in a moment).

Sure, a hardscape-only tank can look stunning.

But I think goldfish appreciate having plants as part of their environment, both for shelter and as a more natural enhancement to their environment in captivity.


The key is either to choose only goldfish-proof plants for your aquascape, or ones that grow so fast it won’t matter if some gets eaten.


To create depth, place taller plants in the background and lower ones towards the front.

Read More: Best Goldfish Plants for Your Aquarium

4. Sand is Your Friend

When it comes to choosing the substrate for your goldfish tank aquascape…

There’s only one thing I recommend.


You can get it in just about any color you want.

But if you want to go for a lush planted tank, be sure you get the kind that provides nutrients to your plants (I highly recommend Seachem Flourite Black Sand).

This will look great – and help you get ahead of the game with key elements like iron.

In turn, less work for you (you may not have to use liquid dosing).

I’ve used Caribsea Supernaturals “Crystal River” is lighter and beautiful for a tank with mostly rocks and low-maintenance plants like Hornwort and Anubias.

So what you choose depends on your flora

5. Hide that Heater

Oh no… did someone say heaters

Another unsightly monster that wants to invade your beautiful tank design?!

(But, often necessary.)

What to do?

I’ve got a trick up my sleeve for that as well…

Use external heaters connected to a canister filter!

If you have a solid desk or cabinet-type aquarium stand, all that ugly, useful equipment will remain in the unseen black depths where it belongs.

Not even a cord will be seen!

6. Light it Up

aquarium lighting

Image Credit: Karl Muscat, Unsplash

Don’t be afraid to use a nice, bright light for your goldfish tank.

Not only does it bring a touch of vivacity to the tank, it makes your plants a million times happier.

Happy plants = pretty tank. 🙂

“What about algae with lots of light?”

Yes, it is true that algae also loves light…

Many times algae = ugly tank 🙁

But if usually your tank is balanced and you have a good ratio of plants to fish, the algae should be out-competed over time (or may never even surface).

That said:

Each situation is unique, and sometimes just due to the composition of the water and nutrient load algae may still appear no matter what it seems.

So you may want to keep an algae scrubber on hand (I like the magnetic kind!).


And don’t forget a snail cleanup crew!

Snails eat algae and break down waste in the tank, making it more bioavailable to your plants.

7. Be Bold, Be Backless!

Can I be frank here?

You can just throw out those photographic backgrounds that come on rolls from the pet store.

Just not convincing at all (and they remind me of those old 90’s aquariums you see in some older books on fish care.) 😛

With a rimless aquarium, you can go all out minimalist.

Less hassle, looks fantastic and crisp.

If they DO have a back (most don’t, and it’s often the ones that already have black trim along all edges) then they keep it solid black.

Don’t believe me?

Take a peek at the video above and notice how nearly ALL the aquariums are backless.

So if you’re in a situation where what’s behind your tank is just hideous and you just can’t to clear…

…Black is still a nice, sleek look.

Clear is just my preference for many goldfish aquascapes.

8. Lids and Hoods Off


Having a lid has its perks.

It prevents evaporation and can protect an athletic fish like a Common or Comet from jumping out.

On the other hand…

Unless your light sits flesh against the hood, you may have trouble with a glare reflecting off of a glass or plastic lid.

And you have to remove it every time you want to get in the tank to do a water change.

So it may be worth considering getting it off altogether.

(Those intrusive black hoods should be banned.)

9. Integrate a Goldfish-Safe Hardscape

Beware of poky sticks and driftwood.

Smooth, fish-safe rocks are ideal.

Don’t use all the same size rocks – break it up with some big, medium and small if you want things to look natural.

Also, the rule of thirds:

Avoid placing objects in the “mathematical middle.”

This rule can be broken, but it takes a really talented aquascaper to pull it off.

Instead, putting large hardscape objects off to one side using the rule of thirds is recommended.

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Wrapping it All Up

I hope you got some inspirational tips here.

Do you have any to share?

Got big plans for an awesome goldfish aquascape?

Feel free to share your comment below!