The cloudy water dissipated in a week (I didn’t thoroughly wash the gravel like I normally do.)
This setup is ideal for fancy goldfish. For slim-bodied fish I would double the gravel cap to 3″ and add a 1″ layer of bentonite between the soil and gravel. You may also want to skip the carpet plants.
Fish were added same day. Water quality checked frequently and remained safe, no ammonia/nitrite spikes.
Soil was soaked for a week prior to adding to tank to remove tannins. Every other day I would drain and refill the soaking tub. This mineralizes the soil.
If ordering plants online like me, I found it helps to time things so your plants come very close to the day you want to build your scape. It helps prevent stress from having them sitting in a bucket with no light, CO2 or ferts somewhere.
I chose a fine gravel as the primary substrate.
It is the ideal size to hold the plants down well but too small to get stuck in their mouth.
Substrate base consisted of a cosmetic barrier around the perimeter of the tank. I used the first bag of gravel to create the barrier around the front and sides.
This barrier was then lined with fine white sand to prevent soil & ferts from discoloring the gravel on the sides.
I recommend using 1″ soil to cap the fertilizers at the bottom, topped with 1″ sand or bentonite clay, then 2″ gravel to cap the soil. (This helps fertilizers from making a mess, especially during replanting.)
For the fertilizers, you want to use enough to spread in a thin layer along the bottom of the tank, up to double the depth where you want to plant.
To calculate how much fine gravel you need:
Aquarium length inches x width inches x desired depth inches divided by 32 = the weight you need (in pounds)
I am not adding any CO2 to this tank.
I run the lights on a 5-4-5 hour pattern, to give the plants a break midday and let CO2 levels rise naturally.
This is called the “siesta” method as per Diana Walstad.
I won’t lie:
There was a MAJOR diatom outbreak about a week after setup.
The good news is my cleanup crew got it under control.
Plants are planted in white waterproof nylon fabric squares filled with organic potting mix, a bit bigger than the size of a golfball – used a rubber band to secure. These bags are hidden behind rocks and midground plants. The plants are easy to reposition and the goldfish won’t make a big mess with digging. But they will have the nutrients and carbon they need from the soil. You could also use small glass vases instead of fabric and cap the soil with gravel, which could be easier to work with.
Any object or living creature that has been in a tank with other fish has the possibility to transmit disease.
The more “harmless” hitchhikers like pond snails are common.
While not as dangerous to your fish, they can quickly become an out of control (and tricky to eradicate) problem in your tank.
Many sellers make sure to get rid of snails prior to selling their plants, but not all.
But it gets worse:
Parasites and their eggs can also be brought in with new plants.
How do we make sure they are safe?
You can do two things to ensure the plants are disease-free:
Isolate the plant for 28 days minimum. Without a host, parasites will die off.
Use a 1 hour MinnFinn bath at regular strength to kill off parasites and most parasite eggs (washing the plant thoroughly in tank or tap water is also a good idea). I have not tried this with all plant species but it has never harmed any of the ones I tried it with.
An avid goldfish breeder and keeper for nearly 20 years, Meredith Clawson is the founder of the Pure Goldfish website and author of the book The Truth About Goldfish. Pure Goldfish has been featured in Wikihow, Wikipedia, The Aquarium Guide, and more.