Planted aquariums can be extremely beneficial for your fish as well as look great.
They provide the aquarium with essential dissolved oxygen as well as additional filtration.
A lot of people keep fake plants because they think that planted tanks are too expensive and require a lot of maintenance.
This however is not true. There are a lot of easy beginner plants and popular fish out there to get you started into the world of planted tanks.
Within this article, we cover everything you need to know about planted aquariums. From some of the plants and fish, you can stock, to how to set up a planted tank and different ways you can scape it.
Easy Aquarium Plants
Let’s start by looking at some of the easiest and most beautiful aquarium plants to keep in home aquariums.
Otocinclus: Oto Catfish Care Guide ...
Vallisneria also goes by the name American Eelgrass due to its appearance (it has long flattened green or red leaves).
They should be planted into a coarse substrate as it will provide good aeration and allow essential nutrients to mix and the roots to branch out.
It’s a very hardy and fast-growing species which makes it ideal for beginner hobbyists.
The Amazon Sword plant is native to the tropical freshwaters of the Amazon Basin in South America. Because of this, they grow best in waters with a temperature of 60-83°F and a pH of 6.5-7.5.
This has long broad leaves which bear a resemblance to swords or the head of a spear. These leaves can grow up to 20 inches in length and provide the perfect location for freshwater Angelfish to lay their eggs as they would in the wild.
Planting them into a coarse substrate like gravel allows the roots to take hold much quicker as it provides space for them to extend as well as allowing the water to mix through and add beneficial nutrients.
Java Fern is a great beginner plant species for many different reasons.
They are able to adjust to vast arrays of different conditions such as being able to grow well under low to moderate lighting conditions.
These plants need to be attached to wood using either twine or a fishing line to allow them to attach on their own using their root systems. Alternatively, you can also plant these plants into a coarse aquarium soil and substrate which can supply plenty of nutrients required for growth.
Java Moss is found growing on rocks and submerged tree trunks in tropical rivers and streams throughout Southeast Asia. It is a hardy species as it is able to accept a wide range of water conditions.
These can vary from poor to direct light in aquariums with a temperature of 59-86°F with a pH of 5.0-8.0.
Java Moss is so simple to propagate that you will soon have a large colony of it to spread throughout your aquariums or trade with other hobbyists. All you need to do is cut out a chunk of it from the main clump and place it elsewhere where it can continue to grow.
American Waterweed (Elodea)
American Waterweed or Elodea (as it is also known) grows best when provided with direct light and planted into the aquarium substrate. Although it can also grow perfectly well when left free-floating in the tank or when weighed down.
It is a fully aquatic species and grows completely beneath the water except for when it blooms small white flowers at the surface.
The greatest thing about this plant is its exceptional ability to produce huge quantities of dissolved oxygen which is vital for the respiration of all living organisms. This makes it a perfect plant for all freshwater aquariums.
Best Fish For Planted Aquariums
There are a variety of different fish and other organisms which can be kept in planted tanks.
These living organisms have a symbiotic relationship with one another, the fish create waste which is converted into nitrates (an essential nutrient for plant growth) and the plants produce oxygen.
Generally small colorful shoaling fish provide a great contrast to the lush green planted environment. You could include:
- Neon Tetra
- Galaxy Rasbora
- Cardinal Tetra
- Zebra Danio and Ember Tetras
Because the leaves of plants provide the perfect habitat on which unwanted algae will grow, fish like Otocinclus Catfish and Siamese Algae Eaters will do a fantastic job of eating it and therefore keep the plants healthy.
Planted aquariums also provide the ideal habitat for larger freshwater species like Rainbowfish, Discus, and Angelfish.
You should avoid keeping any herbivorous fish species in your planted aquariums, particularly if you are keeping expensive plants as these fish will eat your plants.
Fish like Silver Dollars, Buenos Aires Tetra, and Mbuna Cichlids are notorious for doing this.
Types Of Planted Aquariums
There are a lot of different plants to choose from and there are many different ways in which you can arrange them.
Planted aquariums also go by the name aquascaping which is essentially underwater gardening.
There are various different aquascape styles and below we will discuss two of the most popular types.
As its name suggests, this style of aquascape comes from Holland’s popular culture of flower and plant arrangement.
It is done in such a way that creates colorful scenery with different sized, shaped, and colored plants placed into beds, rows, and columns to contrast one another.
Large aquariums are a must for this style as there needs to be plenty of space due to a large number of plants.
Unlike the popular natural style of aquascapes which we will come onto shortly, this style does not incorporate hardscapes or ornaments within the tank but instead uses different kinds of plants to create a beautiful looking aquarium.
Carpeting plants are a must in this style.
Natural aquascapes were introduced into the hobby by master aquarist Takashi Amano. He is also well known for adding a cleanup crustacean to his aquascapes (Amano Shrimps).
This kind of aquascape involves the use of hardscapes such as rocks, driftwood, or bogwood being specifically placed to become the centerpieces of the scape.
Not a lot of plants are used in this kind of aquascape, only a few different species of Moss and carpeting plants are usually planted.
Within these tanks, it is commonplace to keep smaller species of fish like Neon Tetras or Galaxy Rasboras.
How to Setup a Planted Aquarium
Step One: Research and Design
Before buying an aquarium, it is vital that you first research the plants, fish, and any other organisms you want to keep within it. You need to make a list and make notes on the specific requirements each one needs and see if they are compatible with one another.
Once you have done your research, you should have a rough idea of the size of aquarium you are going to need in order to achieve your dream tank.
Now that you know which plant species you want to keep another good thing to do would be to make some sketches of what you want the finished tank to look like. This will prevent unnecessary rearrangement later, which can disturb the substrate and cause cloudy water.
Step Two: Preparing the Aquarium
Whether you have purchased a new aquarium or a second-hand one, you will need to clean the tank. New tanks can have harmful chemicals leftover on the surface of the glass or acrylic.
When it comes to cleaning your aquarium, you should avoid using any detergents as they can also be harmful to plants.
Instead, the best thing you can use is vinegar and a cloth for glass aquariums.
Read our guide here for more information.
Step Three: Positioning the Tank
The location you choose to place your aquarium is very important.
If you place the tank in direct sunlight like on a window ledge, it can promote algae growth.
Species like hair algae, if not removed quickly can outcompete your plants for resources.
Locations that can raise the temperature of the tank also cause the same problem.
Somewhere that is cool and out of direct sunlight is perfect. Just make sure you have a power outlet nearby in order to run the essential equipment.
Step Four: Adding the Substrate, Plants, and Water
Now that you have the tank in place, you can begin to add the substrate layers to the bottom of the tank. For planted aquariums, it is recommended that you first place a soil-based substrate that will provide nutrients to the plants.
Start by adding a 1-inch layer of this substrate to the tank and spread it across the tank evenly. Then add a 1-inch gravel layer on top, to prevent the soil from mixing with the water.
Now that the substrate is in place, you can begin to plant your different aquatic plants.
The next thing to do is to add pre-conditioned water to the aquarium. Conditioning the water before is essential because it removes Chlorine, Chloramine, and other chemicals and traces elements that are harmful to the beneficial bacteria required in the nitrogen cycle.
Step Five: Adding the Equipment
Next, you need to add the essential equipment required for maintaining a healthy aquarium.
The first piece of equipment you need for your planted tank is a filtration system (make sure it has a capacity matching or exceeding the size of your aquarium).
Lighting is also vital and enables plants to photosynthesize and therefore maintain healthy growth. LED lighting is extremely popular and extremely efficient – 10-12 hours of daily light will be enough.
Heaters are also important but not always necessary, it depends on whether you keep tropical or cold water species in your aquarium.
Carbon dioxide injection systems can aid in the growth of your aquarium plants, but they also are not always necessary. The plants discussed earlier in the article will grow well without this expensive piece of kit.
Step Six: Cycling the Tank
This is the most important step in setting up a planted aquarium.
At the start of the cycle, you are going to need to add small quantities of ammonia to help the beneficial bacteria to establish. Around 2-4 parts per million (ppm) should be enough for day one, with an extra 1ppm to be added every other day.
Be sure to check your ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels weekly as it can take 6 to 8 weeks for the nitrogen cycle to be completed. You will know once it has because ammonia and nitrite levels will return to 0ppm.
Step Seven: Adding the Fish and Other Inhabitants
When your tank has completed the nitrogen cycle, the final step is to add your fish.
The first thing you need to do is place the plastic transport bags into the aquarium to acclimate your fish to avoid shock.
They should be left there for anywhere between 30 minutes to 1 hour.
When the temperature in the bags is the same as the tank, you should open the bags and place 1 cup of aquarium water into the bags every 5 minutes – repeat this for a period of 30 minutes.
After the 30 minute period is over, quickly but carefully place the fish from the net into the tank.
FAQs Planted Aquariums
How To Setup A Planted Tank?
The most important step in setting up a planted aquarium is to do your research. Different plants and fish require specific parameters in order to thrive and survive within an aquarium system. Throughout this article, we have provided you with an in-depth step-by-step guide for setting up a planted tank and we suggest that you closely follow each step.
How Long To Leave Aquarium Lights?
Different aquatic plants require different water parameters and lighting. There are many different species that will thrive in low light conditions however increased lighting will help them thrive. Generally, though you should be providing light for a period of 10-12 hours each day, in the region of 6000-6500 Kelvin
How To Get Rid Of Hair Algae?
There are a few different methods for removing hair algae from your aquarium. The first method is to manually remove it with your hands although a toothbrush is extremely effective at removing hair algae that have become intertwined with your plants.
Another method is to purchase some algae destroying chemicals from your local fish store – when using these chemicals be sure to follow the instructions on the packaging carefully as overuse of these chemicals may harm your aquarium plants.
Remember when choosing plants to add to your aquarium, there are countless species to choose from. All of which may require different water parameters which is why it is vital you do your research.
There are lots of different fish, shrimp, and snails which make excellent inhabitants for planted tanks.
Be careful though as herbivorous fish can destroy your little slice of Eden.
Also, avoid adding fish species like Goldfish to your planted tank as this will result in murky water.
What are your favorite aquatic plants? Let us know in the comments section below…
How do you make a successful planted aquarium? ›
- Bigger is better. ...
- Limit fish population. ...
- Daily maintenance. ...
- Plant as heavy as you can. ...
- Good continuous fertilization. ...
- Invest in a good quality substrate. ...
- Invest in a proper Co2 system. ...
- Get good lighting.
To cycle a new planted tank, one needs to add a source of ammonia. This can be some fish food that starts rotting as well as diluted store-bought ammonia. Ammonia is the food source for beneficial bacteria that will start to grow. Plants also eat ammonia, so keep the concentration around 2ppm.How long does it take for plants to establish in an aquarium? ›
4-6 weeks is the average amount of time it takes for your plants roots to establish themselves in the substrate. Although, some aquascapers will keep their dry start going for a couple of months until a lush, full carpet has spread in their tank.What temperature should planted aquarium be? ›
A very common temperature that aquarists keep their aquariums at is about 78F (~25.5C). Most aquarium plants do well at this temperature if they are kept in their ideal conditions (e.g. sufficient CO2 level, a good source of light, enough nutrients).How often should you do water changes in a planted tank? ›
Conduct a water change of a minimum 30% each week. This prevents the build up of organic waste which algae thrive on. During the first 2-4 weeks you should be changing the water more often until your tank matures.Do fish like heavily planted tanks? ›
Some species of fish prefer to have plenty of open tank space for swimming and may not do well if the tank is completely filled with plants. Some species, on the other hand, will benefit from the shelter provided by large groups of live plants in the tank.How much flow should a planted tank have? ›
Some websites say that water should circulate around a tank at least four times an hour, so if you have a 100-gallon tank, then you need a filter and/or powerhead that can move 400 gallons per hour (GPH).How do you tell if aquarium plants are doing well? ›
DIAGNOSING PROBLEMS WITH AQUARIUM PLANTS.
|Symptoms Exhibited||Likely Cause|
|Plants failing to grow properly, white deposits on new growth||Carbon dioxide deficiency|
|Leaves yellowing from the tip then become transparent||Iron deficiency|
Most planted aquariums do not need more than 8 hours of light. Setting your lighting period for longer than 6 hours in NEW planted aquarium set-ups. During the first month your lighting period should be shorter to keep away algae while your plants grow in.What color do aquarium plants like? ›
Colors of Light for Healthy Growth of Aquatic Plants
Red and blue lights are used in photosynthesis of plants. Red light is attenuated rapidly in water while blue light has better penetration in water.
How do you tell if a planted tank is cycled? ›
If you are getting zero levels for both even after you added fish food a week ago and continuous rising of Nitrate levels, your tank cycling is complete. Perform a 50 % water change if your Nitrate levels reach + 40 ppm.Should you cycle a tank before adding plants? ›
Cycling your aquarium is necessary to avoid harm to your tank's inhabitants. After your tank has been properly cycled, beneficial bacteria will thrive in your filter media and keep the nitration cycle going. Remember, establishing beneficial bacteria in your tank is key to cycling and maintaining a balanced tank.How long does a tank need to cycle before adding fish? ›
Typically, you should wait at least 24 to 48 hours and even up to a week before adding fish to a new tank. Waiting ensures that all the set conditions for the ecosystem have had time to establish themselves. This also gives your fish enough time to acclimate to their new environment.How often do you use root tabs in aquarium? ›
To maintain healthy growth, we recommend adding more root tabs about once a month to continually build the nutrient base in the ground, especially if you are using an inert substrate like aquarium gravel or sand that doesn't contain any nutrients on its own.Can I add fish and plants at the same time? ›
Fast-growing plants absorb the excess nutrients and therefore minimise the growth of algae. Introduce algae-eating snails and shrimps as soon as possible after start-up. We recommend that the introduction of fish is delayed for 3-4 weeks until the plants have established.How many fish should be in a planted tank? ›
The most widely known rule for stocking a tank is the one inch of fish per one or two gallons of water rule.Do aquarium plants need CO2 at night? ›
At night when there is no light available and plants are not able to photosynthesize, they consume oxygen and release CO2 as part of the respiration process.What temperature is too high for a fish tank? ›
What happens if your aquarium temperature is too high? Warm water causes the biggest issues, typically once temperatures exceed 90°F (32°C). Your fish breathe by drawing oxygen out of the water.Does a heavily planted tank need a filter? ›
For many tanks a filter is used to provide water movement & flow. Water circulation in a planted tank distributes oxygen/carbon dioxide evenly throughout the tank and brings waste to filter elements. Giving the importance of flow in a planted tank, it's important to have a pump for water movement if no filter is used.How do I increase water flow in my planted tank? ›
Add in Pumps if You Need More Flow
So, if you need to up the amount of water flow in your tank, consider getting a water pump or an air pump. I really recommend getting a wave maker if you're struggling to get the correct amount of flow. The one that I recommend is a rather cheap model from Sunsun.
What water is best for planted tanks? ›
If you want to be sure your aquarium water is free from mineral and chemical contaminants, deionized water is a great choice. Deionization is ineffective against bacteria, but it does filter some contaminants that even reverse osmosis systems cannot catch.Is fish poop enough for plants? ›
While it may sound a bit yucky, just like manure, this waste is full of biological activity and well-balanced, essential plant nutrients and many other micronutrients. This means feeding plants with fish waste gives them the nutrients they need, plus adds plenty of beneficial biological life into the soil.What do aquarium plants do at night? ›
During the day, aquatic plants absorb CO2, producing O2, and during the night they absorb O2 and produce CO2.How many bubbles per second should a planted tank have? ›
Using the needle valve again, aim for around 1-2 bubbles per second coming through your bubble counter (a higher rate may be required in larger aquariums). The needle valve is quite sensitive, so only small movements are needed to alter the rate of CO2.What filter media is best for a planted aquarium? ›
What to use ? Use more ceramic media if you are lazy on maintenance as they do not clog as easily as sponges. They are more costly though. Use finer pored filter sponges if you are very particular on fine particles in the water column - this however requires more regular maintenance.How deep should a planted tank substrate be? ›
If they are planted in the substrate that is not deep enough, the roots will become entangled and the aquarium plants will suffer from a lack of nutrients. The deep-rooted plants need at least a 6 cm deep substrate (2 to 3 inches).What are the signs of nitrogen deficiency in aquarium plants? ›
Classic signs of nitrogen deficiency include old leaves turning yellow and translucent, especially starting at the leaf tips, as the plant consumes nutrients from its old leaves at the bottom in order to make new leaves at the top.What are the signs of CO2 deficiency in aquarium plants? ›
There is no need for CO2 injection at night. The main symptoms of carbon deficiency are: (1) necrosis, (2) chlorosis, (3) stunted growth, and (4) twisted leaves. Necrosis is the death of plant tissues, turning it brown. Chlorosis is the yellowing of leaves as chlorophyll begins to die.Can a planted aquarium have too much light? ›
Depending on the plants you have chosen and the height of the tank, a light at 100% brightness may be too strong and cause algae to flourish. Start with a lower light intensity around 20–40% brightness and gradually increase the intensity if there is no algae growth.
Lumen: Plants that require low light do fine on just 15 to 25 lumen. 25 to 50 lumen is for plants that need moderate light and above 50 works well for plants that require extra brightness. You can measure lumen, or light strength, using a light meter.
Are LED lights good for fish? ›
LED lights for aquariums are an excellent option. They cost less to run, use up to 80% less power than fluorescent lights, last longer, and emit less heat that can be harmful to fish.How long should aquarium lights be on to avoid algae? ›
To provide animals and plants the lighting they need, 10 to 12 hours a day is sufficient. Installing a timer or purchasing a unit with integrated timing can make lighting easier––just set it and forget it. Keep in mind algae loves light as well. So if you notice algae growth starting, cut back on the duration.What color light is best for fish? ›
Tropical, or Colour-Lite bulbs, are designed for fish viewing. These accent red and blue hues, and are ideal for making your fish stand out better. They will give a much brighter visual, and mean that you see your fish more clearly and get the best out of them.What color light makes algae grow? ›
Our results show that algae grows the best under white light and more in blue light than red light.How bright should aquarium lights be? ›
That all depends upon which plants you have chosen for your aquarium. If you have chosen nothing but "Easy" plants, 10-20 lumen (0.25 to 0.5 watts) per litre is adequate. For "Medium" plants, we recommend 20-40 lumen (0.5 to 1 watts) per litre, while "Advanced" plants require more than 40 lumens (1 watt) per litre.What are the symptoms of new tank syndrome? ›
Symptoms. New tank syndrome leads to ammonia toxicity in the fish, which can quickly become fatal. Fish will often die suddenly, without warning. The aquarium water is frequently cloudy and smelly due to the excessive ammonia and nitrite levels.Does algae bloom mean tank is cycled? ›
At some point in the process, you'll notice the beginnings of life in your sterile tank, in the form of an algae bloom. This is a sign that the cycle is nearing completion – there are enough nitrates in the tank to support algae.What is new tank syndrome? ›
New Tank Syndrome is a term used to describe problems that occur due to the build-up of invisible, toxic compounds in an aquarium. It gets its name as the issue is most likely to occur when your filter is maturing when starting a new aquarium.How do you set up a planted tank for beginners? ›
- Step 1: Set-up and Start with Quality Plant Substrates.
- Step 2: Test and Regulate pH Levels and Hardness (KH)
- Step 3: Add Light Fixtures.
- Step 4: Add Aquatic Plants.
- Step 5: Add Fish.
- Step 6: Add Supplementary Plant Nutrients as Needed.
A common misconception to most novice fish keepers is that plants cannot be added to an uncycled aquarium. The first notion is that the plants will die off causing further problems but this couldn't be further from the truth.
Does adding fish food help cycle a tank? ›
A very easy way to begin the cycle in a fish tank is to just add fish food. Adding food for the first day or two, feeding as if there were fish in the tank, will be enough to start the cycle. The food will break down and start releasing in to ammonia, starting the cycle.How often should you do water changes when cycling a tank? ›
Aim to do 10-25% water changes every 2-3 days. Any more, and you'll risk removing the ammonia and nitrite that beneficial bacteria needs to feed on. Make sure you add de-chlorinator to the water. Adding chlorine/chloramines will kill the bacteria and ruin the cycling process.How do you layer a substrate for a planted tank? ›
First, you use a layer with good CEC, like peat, soil or clay. Then you use a large grain substrate, 3-7 mm in size, as a sealing substrate, to not let the nutrients escape in the water. Lastly, you top that off with small-size gravel (1-2 mm) or just sand.How do I know my planted tank is ready for fish? ›
Let your aquarium run for a full two to three weeks in order for the nitrogen cycle to become established – your plants will help this process along. Test your aquarium water again – if the ammonia level reads zero, your tank is ready for fish.Is sand or gravel better for planted tank? ›
Sand is usually so compact that plant roots have difficulty growing and spreading out. Like gravel, sand also does not provide nutrients for the plants. Even with the addition of root tabs, it is not the best option for a planted aquarium.How deep should sand be in planted aquarium? ›
The general recommendation is at least 3 inches. Not only will this amount be pleasing to look at, but it is also deep enough to allow plants to root without floating away. While there is no upper limit to how much substrate you should use, there are some things to keep in.How thick should a substrate be in a planted tank? ›
Substrate material should be between 3 and 8 mm thick. Large granules will block root growth and smaller ones can actually crush the roots. It is recommended when starting the tank that you add the substrate in phases.What is the best gravel for planted aquarium? ›
The clay gravel is porous, and ideal for plants and their root structures. The substrate isn't chemically treated, and won't alter the water chemistry in your tank. If you choose Seachem Flourite, I recommend you clean it before adding it to your planted aquarium.
Normal soil is recommended – the kind found in everyone's backyard. Make sure the dirt does not have a lot of decaying matter in it. Aquatic plants, those found usually growing on soil that has had most of its nutrients washed away by the water.How often do you change aquarium soil? ›
Depending on the amount/type of soil used, water change schedules and growth cycles, aquasoils start depleting their nutrient stores significantly after 6 to 10 months. In soft water tanks, their buffering capacity may last awhile longer than that.
Do aquarium plants need sand? ›
Arranging Soil/Substrate In An Aquarium
As soil is full of nutrients, aquatic plants do much better with soil rather than sand and gravel, however, you can still add gravel and sand to make your aquarium more decorative, and it is also a great solution to prevent your aquarium water from going muddy.
In general, most fish do quite well on one or two feedings per day. Most fish require 16 to 24 hours to fully digest the food they eat, so a once-a-day feeding is quite sufficient. However, some owners prefer to feed their fish very lightly twice a day.What to do after setting up planted aquarium? ›
- Fill the tank partially with dechlorinated water. ...
- Plant the plants. ...
- Fill the rest of the tank, and add the lid and light. ...
- Start with low amounts of fertilizer and lighting at first to avoid algae growth.
Aquarium gravel depth
Gravel needs to be at least two inches deep to anchor live or artificial plants, or if covering an undergravel filter. Too deep and the tank loses fish swimming height, and it traps a lot of dirt.
In general, you can't go wrong with a 10-gallon tank, or preferably a 20 gallon+ tank. With all of that said, don't be afraid to let creativity be your guide. Above all, creating a healthy environment for the livestock is the goal; if you can create an aesthetically pleasing set up along the way, even better!What substrate for beginner planted tank? ›
Substrate: Many newcomers use an inert and/or non-nutritive substrate such as gravel, pebbles, rubble, or sand in their tank. The type used will affect what you can and cannot plant—or whether you can plant in the substrate at all. A key point is grain size.