Guide to Starting a Planted Fish Tank

Getting bored of your average fish tank? Thinking of starting a planted tank? An ordinary fish tank is an easy task, but when you are planning on setting up a planted fish tank, there are a few things that you should take into consideration. A few wrongs here in there could cost you time and money.
 If however, the fish tank is set up and taken care of properly, you can expect to get an ideal “piece of furniture. Pay attention, we will explain how to set up a planted fish tank. 

Choose the Best Planted Aquarium Substrate

Now here’s something that you can’t leave for the end. As a matter of fact, you must think about this from the start. Your only option is to opt for a substrate that has high quality. After all, this material will serve as a foundation for all the plants that will be grown in your aquarium. This is definitely not the element that you want to save money on. Plants can get the necessary nutrients from the gravel/substrate. If possible, look for substrate rich in iron and with a nice texture. I recommend checking out FishTankSetups and their list and tips on choosing the best substrate for planted tanks.

Once you find the right substrate, simply add it to the fish tank. It’s a smart idea to use aqua-soil as a substrate because such substrate provides iron and other important nutrients for the plants.   
What some people do is use organic potting soil and layer gravel on top. If you’re on a tight budget this is a great option, however once your substrate is set you can’t touch it.  You can even use sand to cover your soil. The overall depth of the substrate should be no more than three inches. According to some experts, people should use between 1 to 2 pounds of the substrate for every gallon of water.

Water for Your Planted Tank

When the substrate is added and arranged, it is time to fill the fish tank with de-chlorinated water. Feel free to use a special additive for de-chlorination with ordinary water. However, if the tap water in your area is too hard or a little bit impure, you should know that you can use distilled water too. Fish tank stores have special reverse-osmosis water for this purpose. Another good advice at this stage is to put a relatively small dish on top of the gravel bed and start adding the water on the plate without affecting the gravel. The best practice is to leave the water up to two inches under the fish tank’s rim so you can get enough space for the rest of the items that are typically found in planted fish tanks like decorative rocks for example.
Inspect the pH and hardness

It is highly recommended to check the water’s pH value and hardness. Every manufacturer has different directions, so read them and stick to them. You can easily modify the pH level to somewhere between 6.5 and 7.5 with the help of a water conditioner.

Planted Aquarium Filter and Heater

Once again, read the directions carefully. Use an adequate filtration system and a heater. Most people advise the use of an external filter that can be hanged. A planted fish tank should not include an under-gravel filtration system. The temperature of the water inside the tank should be between 72 and 82 degrees.

Lighting for Planted Tanks

The ordinary fish tank kits you can buy in fish tank stores are usually equipped with inadequate lighting for planted fish tanks. Obviously, plants need a lot more light in order to thrive. Even though there are no strict rules about this, some experts say that you should use between 2 and 3 watts per one gallon. We are talking about fluorescent (full-spectrum) lighting. In other words, a 50-gallon fish tank needs at least 100 watts. Opt for compact fluorescent lighting if possible.

Read this article that goes more in-depth on aquarium lighting. 

Best Plants for Beginners

You don’t have to be an expert in this field to have a great planted fish tank. Talk to the employees at your local fish store and ask them for advice. Look for hardy plants that require low lighting just in case you are a complete beginner in this field. It’s better to select a few different plant varieties that come in different sizes. Generally speaking, there are a few different types of plants used for this purpose – rosettes, stem plants, floating plants, bulbs, and rhizome plants.
If you are still not sure what you should do, plant the short plants in the frontal part of the fish tank and gradually increase the height as you go to the back of the fish tank. Feel free to add a few shorter or higher plants in different places. 

Start Planting

In order to succeed, you will have to spend some time reading about the specific plant varieties you have selected before you actually plant them. The best option is to let the stem plants root in the substrate. That’s why you should clip these plants to driftwood or rock. There are also special weights used for this. Rhizomes should be planted very deep. Their roots should not be visible. On the other hand, rosette plants have a complex root system that must be covered. However, it’s good to leave some parts of the roots visible. You can plant tubers and bulbs in a way that leaves half of the bulb under the substrate and the other half above it. Finally, don’t forget that you can use plant weights on different plants in order to support their growth. 

Maintaining Your Plants

It will take a few weeks for the plants to become strong and after that, you will need to deliver a certain amount of nutrients regularly if you want to keep them strong. The good news is that there is a wide range of supplements in the market. Remember that carbon is the basic and most important requirement.