How to Use Root Tabs to Fertilize Aquarium Plants
Is your live aquatic plant not growing or losing leaves, even though you’re giving it plenty of light and liquid fertilizer? While most aquarium plants can absorb nutrients from both water and substrate (e.g. gravel, sand or aquatic soil), some species prefer one over the other. If your plant is a root feeder, it will need to be given a nutrient rich substrate or ground-based fertilizers known as root tabs.
What Are Root Tabs?
Root tabs are dissolvable tablets or capsules that contain plant fertilizer. At Aquarium Co-Op, we recommend our Easy Root Tabs that are made with mineralized top soil and red clay containing essential plant nutrients, such as:
– Magnesium – Nitrate – Phosphate – Potassium – Manganese – Zinc – Molybdenum – Iron
Easy Root Tabs come in green fertilizer capsules that are safe for fish even if they dissolve in the water.
Are root tabs safe for fish, shrimp, and snails? Yes, our brand of root tabs is safe for all animals. Our root tabs are safe for all animals because they contain actual soil that is non-toxic. Some people try to save money by making their own DIY root tabs or using fertilizers meant for houseplants and vegetables, but those terrestrial products can cause dangerous ammonia spikes in the water that may kill your fish and invertebrates.
Which Aquarium Plants Need Root Tabs?
Root tabs are a great way to get root tabs for cryptocoryne (or crypt) plants. They feed off the substrate like sword plants, bulb plants and carpeting plants. Stem plants like bacopa and moneywort can absorb fertilizer from the water or ground, but they seem to prefer the former. Plants that do not require substrate for growth – like mosses and floating plants, anubias or javafern – tend to not need root tabs as often.
How to Use Root Tabs
Because root tabs are water soluble, the key is to insert them into the substrate as quickly and deeply as possible. It’s okay if Easy Root Tabs accidentally pop out or get unearthed by your fish because they won’t harm the water quality, but ultimately, we want the root feeders to have access to more nutrients in the ground. Use your fingers or a planting tweezer to push the entire root tab down to the substrate. The fertilizer must not be removed from the capsule as it can dissolve in water.
Plunge root tab as far as you can into the substrate.
How many roottabs should you place? You need to place one tab every 5-6 inches (12-15cm) in a grid, so they cover the substrate. If your fish tank is very densely planted, you may need to add root tabs every 4 inches (10 cm) or closer. The root tabs should be placed directly beneath or near your plants’ roots. To keep larger plants, like Amazon swords, well-fed, you may need several root tabs that are placed in a circular circle around their base.
How do I get the root tabs to stop floating? There is air inside the root tab capsule that causes it to float. Make a hole at one end of the capsule with a pushpin to make it sink. Once it is underwater, squeeze the root tab. Your root tab will remain grounded and air bubbles will escape through this hole.
How Often Do You Need to Add More Root Tabs?
Even if your substrate is rich in nutrients, nutrients tend to get depleted over time. Therefore, it is essential that you replenish the nutrients regularly. 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. You should also keep in mind that plants get bigger and will need more root tabs. Although a baby Amazon sword might only need one root tab every six months when it’s new, it may require six tabs three months later to keep it healthy.
Look out for signs that your plants may have not consumed enough fertilizer. These symptoms can include lack of growth, yellowing and browning, or melting leaves (after the plant was growing well previously). You can read the entire article linked below for more information about providing adequate plant nutrients. Have fun with your tank and be sure to enjoy the outdoors every day.