Bare Bottom Fish Tanks: Pros, Cons & Ideas (With Picture)

Bare bottom fish tanks provide a simplified and easy-to-maintain environment for your aquatic pets. With no substrate or gravel, these tanks are easier to clean and reduce the risk of harmful bacteria buildup.

They also offer a clear view of your fish and allow for better water flow and filtration. Additionally, bare bottom tanks make it easier to spot and remove any uneaten food or waste, helping to maintain optimal water quality.

Overall, bare bottom fish tanks are a practical choice for those looking for a low-maintenance and visually appealing setup for their aquatic animals.

A bare bottom aquarium with plants and decors
A bare bottom aquarium with plants and decors

What Are Bare Bottom Fish Tanks?

If you’re a fish enthusiast, you might have come across the term “bare bottom fish tanks. ” But what exactly does it mean?

A bare bottom fish tank is an aquarium setup that does not have any substrate, such as gravel or sand, covering the bottom. Instead, the tank bottom is bare, showcasing the glass or acrylic surface.

This type of setup offers a unique aesthetic appeal and comes with several advantages for both the fish and the aquarium keeper. Also, they have some disadvantages to deal with.

Bare Bottom Fish Tank Pros And Cons

A bare-bottom fish tank is a unique option for aquarium enthusiasts who want a different approach to setting up and maintaining their aquatic environment. Before you decide whether or not to go bare, it’s essential to understand the pros and cons of this setup.

A bare bottom tank set up with Axolotol
A bare bottom tank set up with Axolotol

Bare Bottom Fish Tank Pros

Let’s take a closer look at the advantages of having a bare-bottom fish tank.

  • Easy maintenance: One of the significant advantages of a bare-bottom fish tank is the ease of maintenance. Without a substrate layer, cleaning becomes a breeze. Debris and leftover food are easily visible and can be swiftly removed, helping to maintain water quality.
  • Better water circulation: Without a layer of substrate, water flow throughout the aquarium is improved. This enhanced water circulation can benefit your fish by providing better oxygenation and helping to distribute heat evenly, promoting a more balanced environment.
  • Improved water quality: With no substrate to trap uneaten food, fish waste, and debris, maintaining good water quality becomes easier. It allows for more effective mechanical and biological filtration, resulting in healthier aquatic life.
  • Better visibility: The absence of substrate enhances visibility, allowing you to fully appreciate the vibrant colors and behavior of your fish. It also makes it easier to spot any signs of illness or distress since there are no hiding places for the fish or potential contaminants.
  • Disease prevention: Bare bottom tanks help in preventing the accumulation of harmful bacteria and parasites that can reside in the substrate. This reduces the risk of diseases spreading and makes it easier to treat any outbreaks that may occur.
  • Easy breeding and fry rearing: The lack of substrate reduces the chances of eggs or fry getting trapped or lost in the gravel. This makes it easier to clean and maintain a suitable environment for breeding and raising young fish.
Bare bottom breeding tank
Bare bottom breeding tank

Bare Bottom Fish Tank Cons

While a bare bottom fish tank has its benefits, it’s essential to weigh them against the potential drawbacks before making a decision. Here are some cons to consider:

  • Lack of natural environment: A bare bottom tank does not mimic a natural ecosystem, which can be less stimulating for your fish. Substrates such as sand or gravel can provide hiding places and create a more natural habitat that promotes the well-being and behavior of your aquatic pets.
  • Algae growth: Without a substrate layer, bare bottom fish tanks are more prone to algae growth. Algae can quickly multiply on the tank’s surface, diminishing the visual appeal and creating an extra maintenance task of regular algae cleaning.
  • Stressful for certain species: Some fish, especially those from freshwater river or lake habitats, prefer a substrate for digging, burrowing, or foraging behaviors. A bare bottom fish tank may result in stress or anxiety for these species.
  • Limited biological filtration: A substrate layer can act as a host for beneficial bacteria, which play a crucial role in biological filtration. Without this layer, the colonization of beneficial bacteria may be limited, affecting the overall stability and balance of the tank’s ecosystem.
  • Reflection: Bare bottom provides reflection and makes the fish uncomfortable. Fish may feel some other predator fish is present in the tank, and it may cause stress to certain fish.
  • Make the glass susceptible to breaking: When you don’t have the substrate on the bottom, any misplacement of rocks, and decors can break the glass. Extra carefulness is required than it had in a substrate tank.

So, before you opt for a bare bottom fish tank, carefully consider these pros and cons to ensure it’s the right choice for your aquarium setup. Assess your fish species’ natural behaviors and preferences and take into account your own aesthetics and maintenance preferences.

How to Overcome the Cons of the Bare Bottom Tank?

As you already know there are some disadvantages of a bare bottom tank. But there are also ways to overcome. Here I’ll share some tips to make bare bottom tank works.

  • Invest in a big enough filter: Bare bottom tank lacks the surface area provided by the substrate to host beneficial bacteria. So, you need to invest in a quality filter so that you can ensure good bacteria colonies always exist in your bare bottom tank.
  • Not all filter works well: I would suggest investing in a canister filter or sponge filter. The canister filter contains separate biological media which provide ample surface area for bacteria to grow. However, if you have a small tank like 5~10 gallons a sponge filter will be sufficient.
  • Clean frequently: The bare bottom will require more cleaning, as waste will develop, and become unsightly quicker than it would if the tank had substrate. So, increase the cleaning frequency using a siphon to remove the dirt and debris from the tank.
  • Paint the bottom: I’d also encourage you to paint the bottom of the bare bottom tank or look into the slate bottoms, or other options to do “something” on the bottom to help prevent reflection and make the fish feel more at home.
  • Prevent losing bacteria during filter cleaning: The filter will be the one and only option for beneficial bacteria for a bare bottom tank. So, you need to be extra careful while cleaning the filter. You can’t afford to lose bacteria during cleaning. Always use old tank water to clean the filter. Never use untreated tap water which may contain Chlorine, and kill the bacteria colonies all of a sudden.
  • Perform water change and test parameters: Perform weekly 10~25% water change, and test the water with a reliable kit to ensure water parameters are good for fish.
  • Limit the number of fish: Limit the number of fish, as more fish equals more waste, and will hamper the water quality faster. So, keep only a few species until you get enough experience.
A bare bottom tank set up with decors inside
A bare bottom tank set up with decors inside

When Bare Bottom Tank Is Recommended?

While gravel or sand substrate is the more commonly preferred choice for most aquarists, there are certain circumstances where a bare bottom tank can be advantageous and is recommended.

#1: Breeding And Fry Rearing

  • Improved hygiene: For breeding purposes, a bare bottom tank minimizes the risk of bacterial or fungal infections. This is especially important during the delicate process of fry rearing. Also, the lack of substrate reduces the chances of eggs or fry getting trapped or lost in the gravel.
  • Easy cleaning of fry tanks: The absence of substrate makes it easier to maintain clean conditions in a dedicated fry tank. This reduces the risk of contamination and promotes healthier growth and development.

#2: Quarantine Or Hospital Tanks

  • Easy maintenance and monitoring: Bare bottom tanks are often preferred for quarantine or hospital setups due to their ease of cleaning and monitoring. The absence of substrate reduces the chances of harboring pathogens and allows for efficient treatment.
A bare bottom hospital tank
A bare bottom hospital tank

When Bare Bottom Isn’t Ideal

  • Burrowing fish: Some fish and invertebrates rely on a substrate for their natural behavior, such as burrowing or sifting through sand. Make sure to provide alternative structures like driftwood or rocks to accommodate their needs and ensure their well-being if you want to keep them in a bare bottom tank.
  • Rooted Plants: In a bare bottom planted tank, nutrients are primarily delivered through the water column rather than the substrate. But root plants are not suitable as they rely on their roots and get nutrients from the substrate. Floating plants are best fit for a bare bottom tank as they can access nutrients from the water column.

Top 5 Bare Bottom Tank Ideas

Creating a bare-bottom fish tank can be an appealing option for many aquarists. Not only does it provide a clean and minimalist look, but it also offers several advantages for both the fish and the owner. If you’re considering setting up a bare-bottom tank, here are five ideas to inspire you:

#1: Bare Bottom Planted Natural Aquascape

Tank Size20 gallons (75.7 liters) or larger
AccessoriesDriftwood and rocks, plants, filtration, lighting, heater
Tank ConditionWater temperature: 24-26°C (75-79°F)
pH Level: 6.5 – 7.5
Benefits1. Natural and minimalist appearance
2. Suitable for small to medium-sized fish
3. Ideal for showcasing driftwood and rock formations

Embrace the simplicity of a bare-bottom tank by focusing on a natural aquascape. Use a combination of live plants, rocks, and driftwood to create a visually stunning underwater landscape.

A bare bottom natural aquascape
A bare bottom natural aquascape

Arrange the elements strategically to mimic nature, allowing the fish to swim freely and providing them with ample hiding spots.

  • Incorporate hardy aquatic plants such as java fern or anubias, which can thrive in a bare-bottom tank.
  • Position the rocks and driftwood to create caves and crevices for the fish to explore.
  • Include floating plants for additional shade and visual interest.
  • Trimming the plants will require to preserve the aquascape.

#2: Bare Bottom Reef Tank (Marine Biotope)

Tank Size50 gallons (189 liters) or larger
AccessoriesLive rock, coral, protein skimmer, powerhead/wavemaker, led lighting, marine salt mix, heater, filter
Tank ConditionWater Temperature: 24-26°C (75-79°F)
pH Level: 8.1 – 8.4
Fish to ConsiderClownfish, Royal Gramma Basslet, Firefish Goby, Damselfish
Benefits1. Simulates a natural marine ecosystem
2. Suitable for people interested in marine biotopes

Set up a bare-bottom reef tank that replicates a specific marine biotope. Research the natural habitat of the fish species you plan to keep and recreate their ideal environment within your tank. This approach provides a more naturalistic setting.

A marine aquarium
A marine aquarium
  • Choose appropriate live rocks and coral specimens that are native to the selected marine biotope.
  • Opt for fish species that are known to thrive in a bare-bottom reef environment.
  • Research and maintain the specific water parameters required for the chosen marine biotope.
  • Note: This won’t be suitable for absolute beginners, and proper maintenance is essential for this type of tank.

#3: Bare Bottom Goldfish Tank

Tank Size30 gallons (113.5 liters) for a single fancy goldfish
50 gallons (189 liters) for multiple fancy goldfish
Accessories1. Large Water Filter: To handle goldfish waste and maintain water clarity
2. Aquarium Heater (Optional): To keep water temperature stable
3. Decorations: Smooth rocks, driftwood, or ornaments
4. LED Lighting: Suitable for plant growth (if adding live plants)
Tank ConditionWater Temperature: 18-22°C (64-72°F)
pH Level: 7.2 – 7.6
Appropriate Fish1. Fancy Goldfish (e.g., Oranda, Ryukin, Fantail, Black Moor)
2. Common Goldfish (for larger setups)
Benefits1. Provides a safe environment for the goldfish to explore
2. Ideal for showcasing the goldfish’s natural colors and beauty

Goldfish tanks can be a beautiful addition to any home or office, and creating the perfect environment for your goldfish is crucial for their well-being.

Bare bottom goldfish tank
  • Add hiding places: Goldfish still need places to explore and feel secure, so it’s essential to include decorations and plants to provide hiding spots and enrichment.
  • Extra filtration needed: As there is no substrate to act as a biological filter, it may be necessary to invest in a more powerful filtration system to maintain optimal water quality.
  • Adjust feeding habits: Without substrate to root around in, it’s important to adjust your goldfish’s feeding habits. Consider using sinking pellets or feeding your goldfish in a separate container to prevent the food from sinking to the bottom.
  • Increase aeration: With no substrate, the tank may have less surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow, so increasing aeration can help provide additional oxygen and promote a healthy aquatic environment.
  • Consider the desired aesthetic: A bare bottom goldfish tank might not fit everyone’s aesthetic preference. If you are looking for a more natural-looking tank, with plants and substrate, an alternative setup may be more suitable.

#4: Bare Bottom Betta Tank

Tank Size5 gallons (19 liters) or larger
Accessories1. Betta Hammock or Leaf Hammock: Resting spot for the betta
2. Silk or Live Plants (with soft edges): For natural decor
3. Floating Log or Cave: Hiding spots for the betta
4. Sponge Filter: Gentle filtration suitable for bettas
5. LED Lighting: Soft and adjustable light for the betta
6. Aquarium Heater: To maintain water temperature stability
Tank ConditionWater Temperature: 24-28°C (75-82°F)
pH Level: 6.5 – 7.5
Appropriate Fish1. Betta Fish (male or female): Only one betta per tank
2. (Optional) Snails (e.g., Nerite Snails)
Benefits1. Allows better observation of betta behavior
2. Suitable for bettas’ solitary nature
3. Ideal for showcasing the betta’s vibrant colors and fins
A bare bottom betta fish tank
A bare bottom betta fish tank

Bettas can live happily in a bare bottom tank, but I would suggest doing something to prevent Betta’s own reflection. You can paint the bottom, or put something below the tank surface, or anything you find helpful to solve the problem. They can be stressed seeing their own reflection because f their territorial nature.

As bettas are territorial and should be kept alone in their tanks. The tank size I mentioned here is the minimum recommended size for a single betta; however, larger tanks can provide more space and enrichment for the fish.

It’s crucial to maintain stable water parameters and provide regular care for the betta’s well-being.

#5: Bare Bottom Community Fish Tank

Tank Size30 gallons (113.5 liters) or larger (Depending on the number of fish)
Accessories1. Driftwood and Rocks: For natural decor and hiding spots
2. Live or Artificial Plants (with soft edges): For aesthetics
3. Community-friendly Fish Food: Suitable for all inhabitants
4. Multi-stage Filter: To maintain water clarity and quality
5. Aquarium Heater: To maintain stable water temperature
6. LED Lighting: Suitable for the needs of the fish and plants
Tank ConditionWater Temperature: Varies based on fish species
pH Level: Varies based on fish species
Appropriate Fish1. Neon Tetras or Cardinal Tetras: For colorful schooling
2. Guppies or Endlers: Colorful and active
3. Harlequin Rasboras: Peaceful schooling fish
4. Cherry Barbs: Active and vibrant
Benefits1. Harmonious and diverse community of fish
2. Reduces the risk of aggression and territorial behavior
3. Provides a visually appealing and natural-looking habitat
4. Great for beginners interested in community tank setups
Bare bottom community fish tank
Bare bottom community fish tank

Creating a bare bottom community fish tank is another great idea. You can include several fish peaceful in nature, and they can live harmoniously in the tank. As always proper tank parameter, diet, and maintenance is crucial.

Frequently Asked Questions Of Bare Bottom Fish Tanks

What Are Bare Bottom Fish Tanks?

Bare bottom fish tanks are aquariums without any substrate or sand at the bottom. These tanks are easier to clean, provide better water quality, and prevent debris buildup. Bare bottom tanks are also ideal for reef tanks, as corals can attach directly to the glass or rocks without interference from the substrate.

What Are The Benefits Of A Bare Bottom Fish Tank?

Bare bottom fish tanks offer several advantages. They are easier to clean, allowing for efficient waste removal. Better water quality is achieved as debris is minimal and easy to spot. Fish health is improved as the lack of substrate reduces the chances of harboring harmful bacteria.

Lastly, bare bottoms are ideal for showcasing the beauty of corals in reef tanks.

How Do I Set Up A Bare Bottom Fish Tank?

Setting up a bare bottom fish tank is simple. First, clean the tank thoroughly. Add a sponge filter for mechanical and biological filtration. Place rocks and decorations on the bare glass bottom, arranging them to create a natural environment. Install the appropriate lighting and heater. Finally, add water and allow the tank to cycle before introducing fish or corals.

Is A Bare Bottom Tank Better Than A Substrate Tank?

There is nothing to be better, both types of tank is ok if you can maintain the tank. Proper maintenance, feeding, and cleaning are required for all aquariums to thrive either it is a bare bottom tank or a gravel aquarium.

How Often Should I Clean A Bare Bottom Fish Tank?

Regular maintenance is crucial for the health of a bare bottom fish tank. Perform weekly water changes of around 25% to 30%. Use a siphon to remove waste and debris from the tank. Wipe the glass with a suitable algae scraper to maintain a clean appearance.

Monitor water parameters to ensure optimal conditions for fish and corals.


Bare bottom fish tanks offer a perfect home for aquatic life. The absence of substrate not only simplifies cleaning but also eliminates the risk of harmful bacteria buildup.

In addition, the smooth surface of the tank promotes optimal water circulation, reducing the chances of diseases and ensuring the overall health of the fish. Furthermore, the bare bottom design allows for better visibility, allowing us to appreciate the beauty of our underwater pets.

Whether you are a beginner or an advanced hobbyist, considering a bare bottom fish tank can lead to a more enjoyable and successful fishkeeping experience. So, take the leap and create a stunning aquatic habitat that your fish will thrive in, with the practical and aesthetic advantages of a bare bottom tank.

Sujit Modak

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