How to Fertilize your Plantted Tank in an EASY Way
We’re big proponents of getting live aquatic plants because of their natural beauty and ability to purify water, but a common question we get is, “Do I need to fertilize my aquarium plants?” From our experience, most people have to fertilize because fish waste does not provide the proper amounts of nitrate, potassium, phosphate, and other trace minerals that plants require to flourish. Another big factor is your local tap water. If you live on well water, your water may contain lots of heavy metals and high nitrate levels, which is not great for drinking but might be really good at growing plants. In contrast, the tap water at our fish store near Seattle, Washington is so soft and stripped of nutrients that it is almost like RODI (reverse osmosis de-ionized) water – which is perfect for raising discus fish but insufficient for plants.
Aquarium companies release many types of fertilizers to cater to every case because everyone has different tap water, lighting, stocking and tank setups. It can be confusing to get started in planted aquariums. This is why we created the Easy Green fertilizer. Our Easy Fertilizer line only consists of four, beginner-friendly products that are geared towards planted tank setups with low to medium lighting and no CO2 (carbon dioxide) injection. Because they have the right nutrients for aquatic plants, most of our customers are happy with Aquarium Co-Op fertilizers. Only a small number of customers have enough nutrients in their waters that they don’t require fertilizers. Also, some hobbyists may want to set up high light planted tanks with pressurized CO2 that have specialized nutrient requirements to meet their objectives. Let’s take a look at how simple the Aquarium Co-Op fertilizers can be to use.
1. Easy Green
Easy Green will be your only choice for fertilizer. This all-in-one liquid fertilizer provides the correct ratios of macronutrients and micronutrients that plants need so that you don’t have to figure it out yourself. Like all of our fertilizers, Easy Green is completely safe to use with fish, shrimp, snails, and other invertebrates. While other fertilizers require you to measure out certain milliliters or capfuls, we offer two sizes of Easy Green with an easy-to-use pump head or dropper cap for quick dosing. For the recommended dosage instructions, please refer to the product page.
Since everyone’s setup and plant stocking density are different, we suggest you test the water each week at first to really dial in the fertilizer dosage. Rather than test for every single nutrient, the easiest way is to use a 60-second test strip and figure out how many pumps or drops of Easy Green it takes to reach 25-50 ppm nitrate. As long as the nitrate comes predominantly from the fertilizer and not from fish waste, then your plants will thrive. If you have 75 ppm nitrate or more, don’t stop fertilizing because fish waste is missing a lot of key elements like potassium. Our water change flow chart will gradually reduce the nitrate to 25ppm or less. Then, you can apply Easy Green as necessary. Read the entire article for more information about nitrates and correct dosing of plants.
2. Easy Root Tabs
Easy Green is a liquid fertilizer that plants absorb from the water column. However, heavy root feeders like sword plants, cryptocoryne and bulb plants prefer to feed from the ground. Heavy root feeders still need some nutrients from the water columns, so you should provide both liquid and ground fertilizers for the best growth. Many hobbyists like using nutrient-rich substrates such as organic dirt or expensive aquarium soil, but be aware that they can come with side effects like lowering the pH or leaching ammonia into the water (which is toxic to fish). To fertilize your ground, you can add Easy root tabs if you’re using an inert substrate such as regular aquarium gravel.
Easy Root Tabs are a combination of high-quality red and mineralized clays, as well as a mixture of topsoil and mineralized topsoil. They also contain essential nutrients like nitrates, phosphates, potassium, and iron. Insert a capsule as deep as possible in the substrate using your fingers or tweezers in a grid pattern spanning every 4-6 inches. Place the root tabs under the plants if the heavy root feeders aren’t evenly distributed in the tank. A small crypt might only require one root tab while a large Aponogeton may need seven. We can use liquid fertilization to determine when to add more. But, for substrate fertilization we need to keep an eye on the heavy root feeders so that they don’t melt away or show other signs of nutrient deficiency. For more information, see the article Root tabs.
3. Simple Iron
If you’re trying to grow red plants, but don’t see the vibrant scarlet colors you see online, you might need to increase lighting and add CO2 injection. Then, consider adding an iron supplement. Easy Iron has its own bottle. This is because Easy Green’s formula already contains iron. Easy Green may also have an excess of iron which could cause algae problems like hair algae.
Plants use iron to make chlorophyll. This is especially important for high-light plants and fast-growing plants. Easy Iron can be used to treat yellowing or pallor in the new leaves of plants that have not received enough chlorophyll. However, the veins may still appear dark-colored. Our article on iron supplements provides more details about the recommended dosage.
4. Easy Carbon
Fun fact: The liquid carbon products that aquarium companies sell – such as API CO2 Booster or Seachem Flourish Excel – are not fertilizers. They serve as poor replacements for CO2 gas systems within planted tanks. Instead, these products usually contain glutaraldehyde, which is a fish- and invertebrate-safe algaecide commonly used to inhibit algae growth. Our version of liquid carbon is called Easy Carbon, and if you have a little algae, it is good for treating the entire aquarium to help minimize algae over time. You can also use a pipette for spot treatment of black beard algae and other hard-to-remove algae.
Dosing Easy Carbon will not help if there is a lot of algae in the tank. The algae will grow back much faster than you can kill them. In those cases, we recommend focusing on balancing the lighting, fertilizer, and CO2 (if used) in the system to grow healthy plants that outcompete the algae. While liquid carbon can help with the symptoms of an unbalanced tank, it won’t solve the root problem. Finally, don’t forget that liquid carbon can negatively affect more sensitive plants like mosses, vallisneria, anacharis, and Marimo moss balls so consider treating them a reduced amount. See the article on liquid carbon for more information.
Aquarium Co-Op’s goal is to make fertilization easy for people who are new to keeping plants alive or have difficulty keeping them alive. Easy Green is the most important product for hobbyists. Easy Root Tabs can be purchased if they already have roots. Easy Iron can be helpful for tanks that are high in light and have red plants. And if you have algae problems, try Easy Carbon. For more information on Easy Fertilizer, visit the complete line.