I have always loved planted aquariums and I have also always loved goldfish. whenever I would try to find suggestions for setting up a planted goldfish tank I was always told that it wasn't possible so naturally, I decided to test that. Now maybe I lucked out and got goldfish who don't really want to eat plants but from my experience, goldfish are more prone to digging them up than actually eating them. The only two plants that I've witnessed my goldfish actually eat are mosses and duckweed. I wanted to share my journey in the world of goldfish and plants.
My Planted Goldfish Tank Journey
Let's start with the tank info first.
tank size: 90 gallon
filtration: 2x fluval fx6 (they were on sale so I splurged, flow is way too high so I've turned the outflow down by like 50% which I know is not good for the motors long term but that's a future problem), 2x zeiss filters (once again over-kill but I had a couple extra ones with no other tanks to put them in so why not. they double as airstones as well)
lighting: 3x fluval 3.0s (2 on the glass and 1 suspended from the ceiling for the emersed plants)
substrate: Safe T Sorb - it was the cheapest substrate I could find that had the natural brown gravel look I wanted in the tank. I did no presoaking which I highly recommend and I have found that it absorbs nutrients/ferts very well.
co2: none at first but I decided to set it up for faster growth later on.
ferts: Flourish comprehensive, it's the lowest nitrate comprehensive fert I've found + root tabs
temp: between 74-76F
I knew from my experience with goldfish that they would likely dig up all of the plants. There are really only two ways this can be avoided. The first is to let the plants grow in for the first 1-6 months before adding the fish in so they develop strong, large root systems and are more difficult to dig up. The second option is to block the plants somehow with various decor (or Aquarium Co-ops plant holders) so that the goldfish can't reach them to dig. A combination of the two is your best chance at success.
I used driftwood and large black river stones to block off the back 1/3 of the tank so the goldies would have a more difficult time digging there and left the front 2/3 open for them to dig to their hearts' content.
Ignore the mess but this is the newly set up 90g. I built the stand for it as well out of butcher block. At this point I only had 1 fx6 from their previous tank and I was using a hob with media from a different filter to help quickly cycle the tank. You can see the caves hidden in the substrate for the plecos/catfish. This is from November 2019.
I picked up some more driftwood to add and some more plants. This is when I tried to add riccia flutens to the driftwood and it did not last. Photos are between February-March 2020.
I tried covering the moss to give it a chance to attach to the wood but they are right through that.
goldfish tax. You can see the substrate better here, I am a big fan of it personally. Very good absorption and it has a very natural look. The only negatives are how dusty it can be, it breaks down over time as it compresses, and it's lighter than eco-complete so it is harder to get plants to stay rooted.
April 2020 I added some emersed plants using a diy planter. Being furloughed and locked in my house meant I had time to dedicate to this tank. Plants include: 2x peace lilies (one on each side), lots of photos, corkscrew rush (did not do well long term even though it is a pond/marsh plant), and a sweet potato. The diy planters hold a mix of fluval stratum and red eco-complete which was the extra substrate I had laying around.
I also added a second Fluval fx6 at this point cause I impulse bought it on sale. Still only running the one Fluval 3.0 at this point.
Growth of the tank as of May 2020, the emersed plants really took off. I picked up a second 3.0 to add since the plants were blocking the light for the hanging light.
A few days later I decided to get co2 for the tank.
You can see the rock retaining wall blocking off the plants well here alongside the driftwood. I have pleco caves hidden underneath the rocks as well dug into the substrate so the plecos and catfish have good hiding spots that are still visible to me. Because they are in the substrate, I can plant plants above them so they aren't taking up valuable space. The cave on the left is a 3" pvc I cut and spray painted brown for a larger hiding spot. There is one on the right corner as well. Ignore the empty snail shells, goldfish love snails as I learned.
July 1, the emersed plants are looking amazing and are doing fantastic. I added a few red mangroves I wanted to try out as well.
Unfortunately I didn't take photos but I did add some new plants to the tank between June and August. I added some leopard val, giant jungle val, pogo stellatus octopus, and a few others I can't remember. August 2020 and the tank is being filled in well. The barriers for the plants is working and the goldfish don't have access to dig behind the driftwood and rock barrier wall. It also doubles as a great safe space for the plecos, platys, and snakeskin gourami.
Taken during a water change so you can see the diy planters I made. They're positioned in front of the fx6 outflows so they get plenty of water flow through the roots. You can see that at this point the corkscrew rush isn't doing well, I think it was not getting enough light since it would turn brown where it extends above the light. Peak summer so I have a fan going to keep the tank from being 80F.
The pogo stellatus is a great goldfish plant, they don't touch the stems and it is a fast grower so it is one I recommend trying with goldies.
Post water change
September 2020, kitten tax with Benji my rescue goldfish up top. You can see that the plants are nearly reaching the surface at this point. I am still only dosing Flourish comp and iron whenever I remember to.
I have added a third 3.0 now to add light to the front of the tank as well. Also taken September 2020 during sunset hours. You may have noticed that a few goldies are missing, I fed some newly nought frozen foods from my lfs one night and the next morning half of them were dead. I think the food was thawed and refrozen at some point or I got a bad batch but it killed most of them. It was heartbreaking and I've avoided both that lfs and that food since.
October, this guy was a gift from a friend in the beginning of the year. He was about 2-3" when I got him and this is him at around 7". We have very hard and mineral rich water so he is thriving in it. You can see the plant growth behind him as well.
This is the tank in November, the giant val and pogo stellatus took off and I added some monstera to the top.
catfish eating some rasberries. I have some amazon swords in here that neither the goldfish nor the plecos touch. Maybe I'm just lucky in that aspect.
December 2020, the emersed plants are looking amazing and the aquarium plants are also filled in and looking fantastic. No issues with the goldies digging them up and the val that has spread to the front of the tank as no issues either cause of the dense root system. Taken as the lights are dimming so it's a little dark.
late night water change. I removed the planter from the left and the roots just hang in the water since they outgrew it. No issues that I can see of the roots being nibbled on
And that brings me to 2021. These photos are of my snakeskin gourami pair from January hiding in the val. The platys are constantly breeding as are the plecos, I just allow whatever fry to survive in the plants to survive.
I finally had the heart to add some new goldies in January. Goldfish tax. A couple of the new additions:
A good shot of the pleco caves.
And finally, some glamour shots from last week showing the tank as it is now. I have added some bolbitis earlier this year. I need to trim the emersed plants since they are getting choked out now for light with how dense they are.
susan and sam (snakeskin pair) have really grown since I first got them at 3". They're between 7-8" now and I want to breed them this year. The blue gourami is an opaline gourami, she has also been in here since the beginning. I wouldn't recommend this combo to anyone but I've had her for about 5 years now so I'm attached and she's too much of a bully to go into my other tanks. In this tank I think the combo of cooler water and bigger fish keep her calm and I have zero issues with her picking on anyone. She's a big girl at around 5" as well. You can see how big Benji has gotten in the few months I've had him/her as well.
new ranchu tax
If you scrolled through all of that, thank you! I would love to hear suggestions, thoughts, etc. I can also answer any questions you may have. I plant to keep this journal updated with future growth and progress, I did remove half of the bolbitis to add to a different tank I am redoing. I do also have a tank upgrade in the future for these guys since I know they're gonna outgrow the 90g. The pandemic put a hold on that but I think this home is good for them for this year at least.
Thanks for reading!