What are some pros and cons of bare bottom tanks?

BettaJunky

Member
Thinking about doing a bare-bottom for my ADF tank, I was curious to see what you guys thought.
Also, how are fake plants kept down?
 

CROWNTAILBETTA

Member
A pro would be that it is easier to clean, a con is that is that it does not provide a textured surface for the beneficial bacteria.
 

TexasDomer

Member
But even that isn't really a con as most of the bacteria is in the filter anyway.

A pro for some aquatic life is that they can't accidentally ingest the substrate.

For the fake plants, you can place stones in the bottom part to hold them down.
 

BluMan1914

Member
Pro: little easier to clean, you will see all debris. This is very important with some fish such as Discus that need pristine water conditions, and a lot of discus owners keep bare bottom tanks.


Con: is that some fish can become disoriented, and will just swim along the bottom. To counter that, put something black on the bottom to help.
 

Girdnera

Member
I don't like bare bottom tanks because I think designing/decorating the tank is half the fun. I do see the practicality of it. Here is a heck of an Aquarist authority weighing in on the topic. All hail the King!
 

jamie2201

Member
My tank was bare bottom for a week and I didn't like it just because it shocked me just how much my fish poo every single bit shows up I was vac'ing my tank twice a day because I couldn't stand the sight of it
 

DAB56

Member
Girdnera said:
I don't like bare bottom tanks because I think designing/decorating the tank is half the fun. I do see the practicality of it. Here is a heck of an Aquarist authority weighing in on the topic. All hail the King!
The king he is
 

NavigatorBlack

Member
A con is that it is a sterile, unstimulating environment to look at, for you and the adf. It has fewer biological processes going on, and no 'give'. It is entirely dependent on you at all times. With no live plants, it is totally technologically dependent.
A pro is easy cleaning.
 

TexasDomer

Member

Fettuccini

Member
While bare bottom tanks are "cleaner," they don't especially promote a healthy, balanced ecosystem within the tank. Exceptions would be with discus (which is highly debatable in itself) and fry, which usually need to be kept in very controlled conditions to get a high survival and growth rate.

It sounds counterintuitive, but with a bare bottom tank, expect to put more work into maintaining a stable, healthy environment. Microorganisms are the backbone of any ecosystem (I'm not just talking about nitrifying bacteria either, there are a whole range of other microorganisms in there keeping your tank alive) and the less conducive your tank is to them, the harder it is to keep your fish alive.
 

NavigatorBlack

Member
Fettuccini said:
While bare bottom tanks are "cleaner," they don't especially promote a healthy, balanced ecosystem within the tank. Exceptions would be with discus (which is highly debatable in itself) and fry, which usually need to be kept in very controlled conditions to get a high survival and growth rate.

It sounds counterintuitive, but with a bare bottom tank, expect to put more work into maintaining a stable, healthy environment. Microorganisms are the backbone of any ecosystem (I'm not just talking about nitrifying bacteria either, there are a whole range of other microorganisms in there keeping your tank alive) and the less conducive your tank is to them, the harder it is to keep your fish alive.
True words. I don't even use bare bottomed tanks for fry, and certainly never did or would when I kept Discus. Half the fun in a tank is in trying to emulate the natural environment of the animal to be held in it, as much as you can with a small glass box. We are limited, for sure, but the behaviour of animals in bare conditions when compared to well set up ones is really different.
Putting small pots with plants in them, and using floating plants is a major step up on the Mall parking lot tank, but my adfs used to like caves, cover and I believe (they wouldn't answer questions) a more complex tank design.

It comes down to taste though, as the answers are subjective, and have a lot to do with how you see an aquarium. It does come down to pros and cons and a personal choice- in my choices, I just simply don't see pros!
 

clk89

Member
I use bare bottom for my quarantine tank. I use it because you can easily see the poop and assess if it's healthy poop or not. It is also easier for me to medicate without worrying about getting medications out of the substrate. Plus not having to wash substrate if say I ever got calmarious (spelling?) worms. I know people recommend it for some fish such as juvenile Discus.

For cons I would say it honestly doesn't look cleaner to me, since you can see all the poop and not eaten food. I also find that the substrate gives my tanks more depth and allows for my fish's colors to pop out more. I also love live plants of all kinds including those that need to be planted in substrate to grow well. I also like snails which seem to enjoy my tanks with substrate more then my quarantine tank. Then there is also the fact that I feel some fish should have substrate, specifically sand, such as cory cats and loaches. They like to bury, and sift through it.
 

TexasDomer

Member
Fettuccini said:
While bare bottom tanks are "cleaner," they don't especially promote a healthy, balanced ecosystem within the tank. Exceptions would be with discus (which is highly debatable in itself) and fry, which usually need to be kept in very controlled conditions to get a high survival and growth rate.

It sounds counterintuitive, but with a bare bottom tank, expect to put more work into maintaining a stable, healthy environment. Microorganisms are the backbone of any ecosystem (I'm not just talking about nitrifying bacteria either, there are a whole range of other microorganisms in there keeping your tank alive) and the less conducive your tank is to them, the harder it is to keep your fish alive.
If you have live plants or driftwood, why couldn't you also have those microorganisms? You don't need substrate to have microorganisms in the tank.
 

NavigatorBlack

Member
TexasDomer said:
If you have live plants or driftwood, why couldn't you also have those microorganisms? You don't need substrate to have microorganisms in the tank.
I'm not the original poster of the quote you responded to, but IMHO, plants are needed. Substrate technically isn't. After that, it's preferences.
 

TexasDomer

Member
My point exactly. Bare bottomed doesn't mean bare tank in general.
 

Fettuccini

Member
TexasDomer said:
If you have live plants or driftwood, why couldn't you also have those microorganisms? You don't need substrate to have microorganisms in the tank.
Well, I never said that. However, substrate does provide an environment for beneficial anaerobic bacteria that plants and driftwood dont. Yes, you can do without substrate, I'm not saying it's absolutely necessary, but it really does make things a whole lot better and easier in the vast majority of cases. There's a very good reason that bodies of water with muddy or sand bottoms tend to support more diversity and quantity of life than ones with bedrock bottoms, for example. In a small, closed system, I want all the help in there I can get to keep my fish healthy and happy.
 

TexasDomer

Member
Fettuccini said:
Well, I never said that. However, substrate does provide an environment for beneficial anaerobic bacteria that plants and driftwood dont. Yes, you can do without substrate, I'm not saying it's absolutely necessary, but it really does make things a whole lot better and easier in the vast majority of cases. There's a very good reason that bodies of water with muddy or sand bottoms tend to support more diversity and quantity of life than ones with bedrock bottoms, for example. In a small, closed system, I want all the help in there I can get to keep my fish healthy and happy.
I don't think the diversity differences between bedrock and sandy bottom bodies of water are applicable to bare-bottom vs substrate tanks. Tanks are closed systems and are limited in what can colonize them. I don't think having substrate makes it easier to keep a healthy, thriving fish tank either. Bacteria will colonize mostly in the filter, like in any tank, with some on the decor as well.

That said, I do keep substrate in all of my tanks except the QT tank, but I do this for the plants (I like rooted plants) and for fish that like to dig (kribs, keyholes, plecos, banjo cats). If I didn't keep plants or fish that like to use substrate or if I couldn't find a substrate that I liked the look of, I would keep a bare bottomed tank. OP, I would feel comfortable keeping ADFs in bare bottom tanks provided that you gravel vac regularly to keep the bottom clean
 

Fettuccini

Member
TexasDomer said:
I don't think having substrate makes it easier to keep a healthy, thriving fish tank either. Bacteria will colonize mostly in the filter, like in any tank, with some on the decor as well.
It very much does, though. With a sand substrate, (not so much the case with gravel) the deeper layer of it where water can't easily circulate gets colonized by anaerobic bacteria that simply can't colonize a bare bottom tank (or a filter, which is highly oxygenated.) This bacteria makes a huge difference, as it completes the last stage of the nitrogen cycle that people tend to ignore: converting nitrates into harmless nitrogen gas that makes its way to the surface to dissipate into the air. As you can imagine, this drastically reduces the need for frequent water changes, which we all know makes up the bulk of the work of tank maintenance. It's the same general principles behind deep sand beds in saltwater tanks where frequent water changes are impractical, but it applies equally to freshwater
 

TexasDomer

Member
Fettuccini said:
It very much does, though. With a sand substrate, (not so much the case with gravel) the deeper layer of it where water can't easily circulate gets colonized by anaerobic bacteria that simply can't colonize a bare bottom tank (or a filter, which is highly oxygenated.) This bacteria makes a huge difference, as it completes the last stage of the nitrogen cycle that people tend to ignore: converting nitrates into harmless nitrogen gas that makes its way to the surface to dissipate into the air. As you can imagine, this drastically reduces the need for frequent water changes, which we all know makes up the bulk of the work of tank maintenance. It's the same general principles behind deep sand beds in saltwater tanks where frequent water changes are impractical, but it applies equally to freshwater
I doubt that most tanks with sand have a deep enough sand bed to achieve this on an efficient scale, and it's also not necessary because we do water changes to remove nitrates. Water changes do more than remove nitrates, so this should not replace water changes.
 

Fettuccini

Member
To get an effecient colony of anaerobic bacteria, it only takes 2 to 3 inches of sand, or about 8 inches of gravel (why I said it doesn't work with gravel.) As long as you don't disturb the sand too much, introducing oxygen that kills it off, it does a surprisingly good job. I know it doesn't replace the need for water changes, I never said it does. But it can quite easily make the difference between needing to do them weekly versus only having to do them monthly or so.
 

Lynxster

Member
For me the reason of having a tank is not just the fish but the aqua-scape so I don't particularly have any interest in a bare bottom tank and I don't think there is that much advantage if you have a good gravel vac. I could see where it is advantageous for a non-displayed fry tank or grow-tank since they are easier to clean.
 

TexasDomer

Member
OP can go with or without substrate. Either would be fine for the ADFs (depending on substrate type, I've heard to avoid some kinds with ADFs) and neither are particularly advantageous in this setup. It's down to preference. OP will be able to cycle the tank and have a healthy setup in either case.
 

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