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Aquascape Your Goldfish Tank Like a Pro: 10 Methods That Work

Oliver Jones

Everyone wants to have an aesthetically pleasing tank to view. This brings both comfort and tranquillity to the fish keeper and provides a lush environment for your goldfish to thrive in.

It is rewarding to look at a crafted tank with various colors and themes to match the environment in which the tank is kept. Not only will your goldfish thank you for providing shelter and enrichment into its life, but it will also make them stand out more than if they were in a boring sparsely decorated tank.

When it comes to decorating and designing the interior tank layout, many fish keepers do not know where to start. Fortunately, this guide will help you professionally and easily aquascape your goldfish tank!

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Aquascaping

feeder goldfish_JuanCarlosPalauDiaz_Shutterstock
Image Credit: JuanCarlosPalauDiaz_Shutterstock

This is the term used to describe the skill of designing the layout of the body of waters like aquariums and ponds using hardscapes like rocks, wood, stones, and a variety of different species of live aquatic plants. It can be described as a type of underwater gardening and can require minimal to advanced skill. Aquascaping an aquarium can be difficult for smaller tanks where everything must be carefully sized to still leave a swim room for the inhabitants. It can take years to develop the skill to perfectly aquascape an aquarium or pond, and many novice aquarists will start with a minimalist variation of aquascaping.

Not only is aquascaping pleasing on the eye, but it also provides a lot of inner praise once all the hard work and dedication are completed.

Maintaining the Aquascape

Telescope Goldfish_Walter_Navarro, Pixabay
Image Credit: Walter_Navarro, Pixabay

Lighting and plant fertilizers are essential in the upkeep of an aquascaped aquarium. To get the live plants to flourish, you will need to have a good lighting set up tailored towards the brightness the certain plants require to grow and photosynthesize. You may also develop problems with different types of algal growth on the grass, leaves, and rocks within the aquarium. Algae can be effectively removed with an old toothbrush for surfaces within the tank and a magnetic algae wiper for the glass.

The water will still need to be regularly replenished to keep the water clean. Fish and invertebrates will require both a filter and aeration system inside of the tank. Plants take in oxygen when they are not in light and this can cause the inhabitants to suffocate without proper surface agitation. If you plan to aquascape a tropical tank, you will also need a heater.

Types of Aquascapes

goldfish plant_gunungkawi, Shutterstock
Image Credit: gunungkawi, Shutterstock
  • Iwagumi aquascape: This is a Japanese style of aquascape that uses rocks as the focus within the tank. This can look rather dull if it is done correctly, but skilled aquascapers have found a way to use the perfect colors and types of rocks to give the aquarium levels and a unique look to goldfish homes. The rocks typically do not take up a lot of vertical space and thus allow room for larger, single-tailed goldfish varieties to swim. This is also a common aquascape technique for shallow ponds or if you have goldfish that uproot and eat live plants. The aquascaper can choose to use a few to none live plants in the setup.
  • Natural aquascape: This aquascaping technique uses lots of live plants, minimal rocks, woods, and a deep layer of brown to a tan-colored sand substrate. This is one of the most popular aquascapes seen today and is typically the type of vibe aquarists want to achieve. The plants and natural decorations bring out a goldfish’s natural habitat and will make them feel more at home. Short growing plants are usually paired with large driftwood pieces and flat rocks scattered around.
  • Dutch aquascape: This originates from Holland and follows a colorful plant and flower method. It involves different terraces and beds for a variety of colorful and vibrant plants. This is ideal for smaller goldfish like black moors or fantails and adds a colorful yet natural touch to the aquarium.
  • Minimalist aquascape: Aquarists use little decorations to the layout of the aquarium, yet they make it look professional and neat. The most common pieces used in minimalist aquascapes are large rocks and short, broad-leaf plants. Goldfish that are on the larger and active side will find it easier to swim in a tank that has open room for laps.

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Top 10 Pro Tips to Aquascape Your Goldfish’s Aquarium

1. Design the Layout

aquarium set up_Krysja_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Krysja, Shutterstock

Draw up a rough sketch of what you wish to achieve with your aquascape. You should also plan what type of aquascape you are looking to do. Minimalist and Iwagumi aquascapes are best for large goldfish who need a lot of swim space. Whereas smaller goldfish will be content in a Dutch or natural aquascape design. Consider the size of your aquarium and what type of filters and aeration systems you will be using. If you find the aquarium equipment an eyesore in your aquascape, you can hide them behind tall and bushy plants if they do not obstruct the purpose of the equipment.


2. Type of Goldfish

goldfish_kaori_Pixabay
Image Credit: kaori, Pixabay

Before you begin adding hardscape and substrate material, you should consider the type and color of goldfish you will be getting. This is important beforehand and is essential. Common and comet goldfish will require larger aquariums than the smaller fancy varieties will need. Single-tailed goldfish can also tolerate cooler water temperatures and may not require a heater to keep the temperature stable over 20°C. This will also help you determine the size of each hardscape to purchase so that it allows a swim room for the goldfish.


3. Substrate

tosakin goldfish_Sad Agus_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Sad Agus, Shutterstock

This is where your plants will do most of their growing. You will need to use fine sand that is at least two inches deep to allow the plant to root properly. If you find your goldfish uproot the plants, you can use plant anchors to keep them down. Choosing the color tone of your substrate is also important, this will determine if it clashes with the rest of the hardscape materials.


4. Hardscaping

goldfish in freshwater_ luckypic_Shutterstock
Image Credit: luckypic, Shutterstock

This is where you will choose the types of wood and rocks for the aquascape. This can be bogwood, driftwood, Mopani wood, and various types of rocks or stones. Ensure that each hardscape piece is safe for use in aquariums. If you plan to do the Iwagumi technique, ensure that no rocks can be knocked over as this will crush or entrap your goldfish. Hardscape is the essential piece needed to bring the whole aquascape together. Keep in mind you can place plants in crevices between the rocks to enhance the overall view.


5. Live Plants

aquarium plants_susemeyer0815_Pixabay
Image Credit: susemeyer0815, Pixabay

The best part of an aquascape is putting together different varieties of aquatic plants. You ideally want to choose plants that your goldfish do not like to eat. This would usually plant like anubias, amazon sword, or hornwort. There are not many options when it comes to choosing plants for a goldfish aquarium. They are known to regularly rip plants out from the roots and consume them overnight. Choosing sturdy and thick-leaved plants to aquascape with will be the best for goldfish.


6. Water

Goldfish_dien_Shutterstock
Image Credit: dien, Shutterstock

The next method is to choose the aquarium’s source of water. You have the main options of rain, tap, bottled, and borehole water. All these water sources will need to be dechlorinated to remove any chlorine and heavy metals. You can add tannins into the water with driftwood or Indian almond leaves. Adding tannins into the water helps to bring out the natural watercolors that goldfish experience in the wild.


7. Equipment

aquarium filter_Andrey_Nikitin_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Andrey_Nikitin, Shutterstock

Once you have set up all your decorations, it is then time to start choosing the equipment that you want to add to the tank. You want a filter that can filter five times the water volume in a minute. There are many types of filters to meet your standards and blend into the tank. You should also choose the type of aeration system you want to run in your tank to oxygenate the water. The main types can be a waterfall system, air stone, and air stone.


8. Lighting and Fertilizers

Aquarium light_TIPAKORN MAKORNSEN_Shutterstock
Image Credit: TIPAKORN MAKORNSEN, Shutterstock

This is an important set for planted aquascapes, and lights will help your plants to grow beautifully. Fertilizers are also necessary since commercial water sources lack the valuable minerals the plants will need to grow. Do not add too much fertilizer too frequently as it can do more harm than good. If you have a large variety of plants, they will all be competing for nutrients within the water, and this will cause nutrients and minerals to quickly diminish.


9. Cycle the Aquarium

aquarium cycle_hedgehog94_Shutterstock
Image Credit: hedgehog94, Shutterstock

Once everything is set up and the filter is running, you do not want to rush to add goldfish yet. Every new tank set up should be cycled for at least three to six weeks. This is also known as the nitrogen cycle and beneficial bacteria convert toxic ammonia to a much safer water chemical which is nitrate. You can kick start the cycle by using old filter media from another tank inside of the aquascaped tank’s filter so that you can shorten the amount of time you wait for your tank to cycle. Doing a water test with a liquid testing kit will give you an accurate reading of the current parameters. Once the ammonia and nitrite read 0ppm and the nitrate is below 30ppm, your tank is cycled.


10. Hoods or Canopies

Goldfish_hineck_Pixabay
Image Credit: hineck_Pixabay

This is optional but beneficial if you want to stop any goldfish from jumping out of the tank. Some hoods or canopies will come with built-in LED lights to enhance the view of the tank and aquascape. Make sure that you choose a size that fits your tank and does not hang over the front or sides. Adding a hood or canopy also helps to make the tank look complete and more professional.

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Conclusion

Aquascaping an aquarium is a fun experience that will help your aquarium layout expand. Aquascaping a goldfish tank is ideal and wins over bare tanks or plastic decorations. Although aquascaping is more expensive than placing commercial plastic decorations around the tank, it adds more vibrancy and life to your goldfish aquarium while looking sophisticated and unique.

We hope this guide has helped you to decide how you are going to aquascape your goldfish’s home.


Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.