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. As we guide you through the steps of setting up a low-tech, planted aquarium, please follow along.
Before You Start: Gather the Planted Tank Supplies
Let’s start by making a list of the 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
You can get one from your local pet retailer. The rim serves a purpose, to protect against any unevenness between the aquarium stand and the tank.
The fish tank should be placed on a hard and level surface, such as an aquarium stand, kitchen counter, or solid piece of furniture. You need to ensure that the aquarium setup (and the floor underneath it) is strong enough to support the additional weight of water, substrate, equipment and decorations.
Although an aquarium cover might seem unnecessary, it is a great investment. It reduces heat loss and electricity consumption. 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. Plasti Dip rubber coating can be applied to the tank’s back panel. You could also 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. Find out how to select the right size heater for your setup.
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. We love the Finnex Stingray light because it is solid and provides great value for low- to medium-light plants. But, for more information, see our article on choosing the right planted aquarium light for you. The light timer will ensure that your plants have consistent lighting throughout the day, and prevent any algae growth.
Substrate has been a hot topic within the planted aquarium community. Although enriched and dirt soils are often regarded as the best, they can also leak into the water and cause problems or even blooms. For beginners, we recommend using inert substrates without nutrients such as aquarium gravel, coarse sand, or sand. Learn how to choose the right substrate for your plant tank.
Tweezers are useful for planting aquarium plants or adding root tabs into the substrate.
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. For inspiration, you can search online for ideas or simply pick what looks best 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.
Let’s finally talk about purchasing the live aquaculture 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 helpful tips when making your plant selection:
If you are new to planting tanks, it is a good idea to start with beginner plants. They are generally more forgiving of our mistakes and harder to kill. – Buy a wide variety of plants to try out because some species may thrive in your water conditions and others may not. – Save up and buy lots of plants upfront if possible. Having a large density of plant mass helps to use up the available nutrients in the tank and decrease algae growth.
How to Set Up a Fish Tank with Live Plants
Here’s a step-by guide for assembling your aquarium once you have all the necessary supplies.
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. The tank should not be placed in direct sunlight or near an AC vent to prevent algae growth and temperature swings. Also, avoid high traffic areas where the tank may get bumped into by adults or explored by curious pets and young kids.
Find a place for your aquarium near an outlet and water source.
1. Prepare the aquarium stand or counter space by installing the stand and cleaning the surface. 2. Rinse your aquarium and all accessories. To reduce cloudy water, first wash the tank, substrate and hardscape with water. Next, install the aquarium background if desired. 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. If you’re using inert substrate, and cryptocoryne, sword, or other plants that rely on their roots for food, then insert root tab fertilizers into ground. This article will explain how and what plants need root tabs. 4. Place the equipment and hardscape in the aquarium. The heater and filter are not turned on at this step but are merely positioned in the tank so that you can use the plants and decorations to hide them. Your “skeleton”, or framework for your planted tank design is made up of rocks and driftwood. Take your time and arrange the pieces as you need.
Before you add any water, spend time moving around the hardscape and plotting out where the plants will go.
1. Add about 6 inches (15 cm) to the tank with dechlorinated waters. This lower water level will help support the plant leaves during planting so they don’t bend or break. 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. The taller plants should be placed in the background to not obscure the smaller plants at 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. A heater may require you to wait up to 30 minutes before it can adjust to the temperature of the water. 4. Use low levels of fertilizer and light at first to prevent algae growth. The plants will not grow as fast as they are used to the new environment. For the first 5-6 hours, set the timer. Slowly increase the amount of lighting and Easy Green fertilizer each week as you start to see plant growth.
Don’t feel pressured to replicate the aquascapes professionals have created online. Use your creativity and design your planted aquarium in a way that is most pleasing to you.
If some of your plants’ leaves start melting, do not throw away the plants. Most likely, they are producing new, smaller leaves which will adapt to living under water. If your plants still haven’t been doing well after three to four weeks, you can read our article about plant nutrient deficiencies.