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. A rimless, low iron glass aquarium is not necessary if you’re new to planting aquariums. A
regular glass tank
from your local pet store works just fine, and the rim actually serves a purpose to help buffer against any unevenness between the aquarium and the 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. 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.
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.
An aquarium background can be optional, but is a great addition. It hides the power cables from view and prevents airline tubing from being seen. Plasti Dip rubber coating can also be used to cover the tank’s back. Or, you can tape posterboard directly 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 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. Therefore, we recommend that beginners start with inert substrates that contain no nutrients, such as aquarium gravel or coarse sand. Learn how to choose the right substrate for your plant tank.
Tweezers can be used to plant aquarium plants and add root tabs to 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. You can also find other useful tank supplies here:
– Dechlorinator for removing chlorine and other toxic substances from the water. – Easy Green all-in one fertilizer to nourish your plants. – Water test kit to determine the amount of fertilizer you need. – Algae scrubber to clean aquarium walls.
Let’s now talk about purchasing the living aquarium plants. Because you should wait until everything is in place before buying them, we have saved them for the last part of our checklist. For example, it would be unfortunate if you got your new plants and then realized that you don’t have enough substrate to cover 2-3 inches of the tank bottom. These are some tips to help you make the right choice when selecting your plants.
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. – 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. 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. 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. You may also want to quarantine your live plants to get rid of pest snails and duckweed. 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. This article will explain how and what plants need root tabs. 4. Add the equipment and hardscape to the aquarium. You can then use decorations and plants to cover them. The rocks and driftwood form the “skeleton” or framework of your planted tank design, so take your time and rearrange the pieces as much as needed in this step.
Spend some time moving around the hardscape, and planning where the plants will go.
1. Fill the tank partially with dechlorinated water. By adding approximately 6 inches (15 cm) of water, the lowered water level helps to support the plant leaves while you are planting them so that they do not bend too much and break. When filling the aquarium, pour the water through a colander or onto a plastic bag or bowl to avoid disturbing your aquascape design. 2. Place the plants. There is a blog article that details the different methods for each type. To make sure that the taller plants don’t overshadow the shorter ones in front, place them in the background. Consider where the aquarium lighting will be located so that the lower light plants are placed in the shadows, edges or under the lights. Don’t move your plants after you’ve planted them. Each time you move them, it takes a while for the plant to get adjusted and grow again. 3. Fill the rest of the tank, and add the lid and light. Turn on the equipment and make sure everything is working properly. You may need to wait for the heater to adjust to the water temperature before you turn 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. Therefore, program the timer for only 5-6 hours per day at first. Slowly increase the amount of lighting and Easy Green fertilizer each week as you start to see plant growth.
Don’t feel like you have to copy the professional aquascapes you see online. Your creativity is your best tool to create a planted aquarium that you love.
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. 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.