Aquarium Substrates - Choosing and Preparing Gravel for Your Goldfish

The choice of substrate is an important step when aquascaping your aquarium. Aquascaping is a fancy word, that means setting up the inside of your tank so that it's pleasing to the human eye and more importantly good for your fish.

Remember that what substrate you put into your aquarium, it will play a very important role in its overall biological cycle. The substrate will house future colonies of healthy bacteria that will start growing on top of and trough the substrate bed. Bacteria will help keep the water clean by breaking down waste products in the water. Understanding this, you will see the importance of having a bareless bottom tank.

Another useful role of having a substrate in your aquarium is for anchoring live plants, different decorations and for holding down various types of artificial plants.

Choosing The Ideal Substrate

Choosing substrate is a matter of taste as well as functionality. What I mean by this is that you can find the substrate you like the most and it could be fatal for your fish.

Substrates come in different shapes and sizes and can be categorised this way:

  • fine gravel - is small like sand
  • medium gravel - this is the standard gravel found in most retail stores
  • coarse gravel - used in large setups and mixed with medium gravel to reduce the posibility of getting any waste, debris or uneaten food trapped

Manufactured gravel is probably the best choice when setting up a freshwater aquarium, like the one you want to keep goldfish. This good because it's easy to clean and widely found in pet stores.

Before we move on, another consideration is the type of filtration you are intending to use. Why? Fine gravel like sand is too small for use with undergravel filters because the grains fall into the slats in the filter plates, blocking them. In this case it would be best to use a medium size gravel when going for a undergravel filter.

One important point to remember is that some substrates can affect the pH of your aquarium water. If the gravel has calcareous material, and you put it in your freshwater aquarium, you will end up with hard alkaline water. To make sure you add the right gravel for your goldfish, add a few teaspoons of vinegar on a pile of substrate, if it fizzes, don't add this gravel into your aquarium. Simple as that!

As a final tip here, make sure you don't use marbles or brightly colored gravels. For one, marbles are large, like coarse gravel that allows debris and fish waste to be trapped between their surfaces. This can lead to bad water quality and diseasesed goldfish. Second, brightly colored gravels take away all the natural beauty from your fish, causing their colors look washed out. Trust me, you wouldn't want a disco floor in your aquarium.

Preparing and Adding The Substrate

Gravel is dirty no matter the size. You need to wash the gravel before you can add it to your tank. To do this, you need to add some sand in a bucket(not too much). Add water and agitate with you hand. Drain and repeat the process until the water is clear. This means the substrate is clean.

If you are using an undergravel filter, you want a 2 or 3-inch layer of substrate in order to create a proper bacterial bed. If you're using a power filter, a one-inch layer of substrate should cover the bottom of the tank.

However, if you're planing to use live plants, you want to will need to add a bit more substrate to make sure the plants stay anchored and not start floating.

You can add the gravel using your bare hands, a bucket or a clean flowerpot. As you add the substrate, spread it over the bottom. You can arrange it to be flat, or bank it slightly so that so that it's lower at the front than at the back.

Where can I get some beautiful gravel?

Here's just a few websites from where you can purchase some gravel types to decorate your goldfish tank:

Love to you,
Flo

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