How to Set Up a Beginner Planted Aquarium
Live aquatic plants are a great way to improve your aquarium-keeping skills. Not only do they add a natural beauty to your tank, but they also help consume toxic waste chemicals and purify the water for your fish. We will walk you through setting up your low-tech planted aquarium.
Before you begin: Get the necessary supplies for your planted tank
Let’s first form a shopping list of necessary materials. You don’t have to spend a lot if you are just starting to plant aquariums, or if your budget is tight. There are many options.
regular glass tank
The rim from your local pet shop works perfectly and serves a purpose to buffer against any unevenness between aquarium and stand.
The fish tank should be placed on a hard and level surface, such as an aquarium stand, kitchen counter, or solid piece of furniture. The aquarium setup can weigh in at least 10 pounds once it is added to the tank.
An aquarium container can seem expensive, but it reduces heat loss as well as the electricity used by the heater. A lid also decreases evaporation, which can cool the tank and cause swinging water parameters that stress your fish. Plus, a fish tank cover is a simple way to prevent fish, shrimp, and snails from accidentally jumping or climbing out of the aquarium.
An aquarium lid stops fish from jumping out and other household pets from getting in.
A background for your aquarium is an optional option, but it’s a nice feature. It hides power cables and airline tubing. You can buy a background from the local pet store, spray the back panel of the tank with Plasti Dip rubber coating, or even tape posterboard to the aquarium. We personally like black backgrounds since the color seems to make plants stand out more and hides algae better.
A heater and thermometer are usually necessary if you plan to keep tropical fish. Learn how to choose the right heater for your situation.
There are many lighting options available. For beginners, we recommend a plant LED light. They are specifically designed to produce the best spectrums and levels (Photosynthetically Active radiation) for growing fish. Because of its great performance and value for low to moderate light plants, the Finnex Stingray is our favorite. However, you can read our article to learn more about how to choose the best planted aquarium lighting for your needs. A light timer is also extremely helpful for making sure your plants get a consistent amount of light every day and preventing algae growth.
Substrate is another hotly contested topic in the planted aquarium world. Because of their high levels of nutrients, dirt and enriched soils are frequently cited as the best. However, these nutrients can leach into the water and cause algae blooms or water quality problems for novice hobbyists. Therefore, we recommend that beginners start with inert substrates that contain no nutrients, such as aquarium gravel or coarse sand. Find out more about choosing the right substrate for your tank.
Tweezers may be used for adding root tabs or planting aquarium plants.
You can design your aquarium using only live plants, but many people like to add hardscape, such as aquascaping rocks and driftwood that are safe for fish tanks. You can find inspiration online or choose what appeals to you. These plants tank supplies are also useful:
– A dechlorinator to remove chlorine from water. – Easy Green all in one fertilizer to feed plants. – A water test kit to determine how much fertilizer is needed. – Algae scrubber for aquarium walls. – Pruning scissors to remove or propagate leaves. – Aquarium siphon to change the water.
Finally, let’s talk about buying the live aquarium plants. The reason why we saved them for the very end of the checklist is because you should wait until you have almost everything set up before shopping for them. It would be a shame if you get your plants only to realize that there isn’t enough substrate to cover the tank bottom. Here are some useful tips for choosing the right plant:
If you’re just starting out with planted tanks, start with beginner plants. They are generally more forgiving of our mistakes and harder to kill. You should buy a variety of plants so that you can try them all. Some species might thrive in certain water conditions while others may not. – Save up and buy lots of plants upfront if possible. A large plant density will reduce algae growth by utilizing the nutrients available in the tank.
How to Set Up a Fish Tank with Live Plants
Once you have everything ready, we will show you how to build your aquarium.
1. Pick a suitable location. Ideally, the fish tank should be near an electrical outlet, as well as a source of water for easy water changes. To minimize algae growth and temperature swings, don’t place the tank in direct sunlight or near an air conditioning vent. Avoid high-traffic areas, where the tank might be bumped into or explored by curious pets.
Find a place for your aquarium near an outlet and water source.
1. Install the aquarium stand/counter space and clean the surface. 2. Rinse the aquarium and accessories. First, wash the tank, substrate, and hardscape with water (no soap) to reduce cloudy water. Next, place the aquarium background if necessary. Some people choose to quarantine their live plants at this point to remove duckweed, pest snails, and other hitchhikers. 3. Add the substrate to the tank and place it on the stand. Insert root tab fertilizers in the ground if you use an inert substrate. (Read this article on how to use root tabs and which plants require them.) 4. Put the equipment and hardscape into the aquarium. Use the decorations and plants to hide the heater and filter. You will need to arrange the rocks and driftwood in order to create the “skeleton” of your plant tank design.
Before you add any water, spend time moving around the hardscape and plotting out where the plants will go.
1. Fill the tank half with dechlorinated tap water. The lowered water level supports the plant leaves when you plant them. This will ensure that they don’t break or bend too much. To avoid disturbing the aquascape design, pour the water into a colander or onto plastic bags or bowls. 2. Place the plants. There is a blog article that details the different methods for each type. Place the taller plants in the background so they won’t hide the shorter plants in the front. You should also consider the location of aquarium lighting so that the low-light plants can be placed around the tank’s edges and shadows. The higher-light plants can be placed right under the light. You should not move the plants after they have been planted. The plant will need to adjust each time it is moved before it can become well-rooted again. 3. Fill the remaining tank with water, then add the lid and light. Check that everything is operating properly. If you are using a heater, you may need to wait 30 minutes for it to acclimate to the water temperature before turning it on. 4. Avoid algae growth by starting with very low fertilizer and low lighting levels. At first, plants may not be adapting to new environments and will not be as productive. For the first 5-6 hours, set the timer. As you begin to notice plant growth, gradually increase the lighting and Easy Green fertilizer.
Don’t feel pressured to replicate the aquascapes professionals have created online. Your creativity is your best tool to create a planted aquarium that you love.
Don’t throw out your plants if some of their leaves are starting to melt. Most likely they are growing new, smaller leaves that will be more accustomed to living underwater in your local tap water, as described in this article. However, if your plants are still not doing well three to four weeks after planting them, read our article on plant nutrient deficiencies to make sure they’re getting all the essential building blocks they need.