How to Use Root Tabs to Fertilize Aquarium Plants
Are your aquatic plants not growing properly? 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. We need to provide nutrient-rich substrates or ground-based fertilizers for plants that are “root feeders”.
What Are Root Tabs?
Root tabs contain either capsules or dissolvable tablets that can be used as plant fertilizer. Aquarium Co-Op recommends our Easy Root Tabs. They are made with red clay and mineralized top soil, which contain 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. Because we use real soil in our root tabs, it is safe for animals if nutrients are released into the water column. 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 will be of great benefit to cryptocoryne plants (or the crypts), sword and bulb plants, as well as carpeting and carpeting plants. Although moneywort and bacopa stem plants can take fertilizer from the ground or water, they prefer to use the former. Root tabs are not necessary for plants that don’t require substrate, such as anubias and floating plants or java fern.
How to Use Root Tabs
Root tabs can be water soluble. It is crucial to insert root tabs into substrates as quickly and as 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. You should not remove the fertilizer capsule from the substrate, as it may dissolve in the water column.
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. Root tabs should be placed underneath or close to the roots of your plants. 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. Air bubbles will escape through the hole, and your root tab will stay grounded.
How often should you add more root tabs?
Even if you use a nutrient rich substrate, nutrients can be used up quickly so it is important to replenish them regularly. For healthy growth, we suggest adding root tabs every other month. This is especially true if the substrate you use is inert like aquarium gravel, sand or sand. Also, remember that as plants grow bigger, they will require more root tabs. A baby Amazon sword that is newly planted may only need 1 root tab every six weeks, but three months later, that same plant may need six tabs per month to sustain it.
To determine whether or not your plants have consumed all the available fertilizer in the substrate, look closely for signs of nutrient deficiencies. You may notice a decrease in growth, yellowing, browning, or melting of leaves, even though the plant had been growing well. The full article is linked below. Enjoy your aquarium, and good luck!