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The Ultimate Aquatic Plant Guide

You’ve Planted Some Basic Aquatic Plants, Now What?

After learning the basics of planting and growing aquatic plants and managing to keep one or two alive and happy, it’s time to up your game and learn more about expanding your watery garden. Of course, it’s a lot easier to simply select some synthetic plants and other ornaments and install them into the tank, but it simply doesn’t come close to the real thing. An aquatic garden that is alive and growing can transform any aquarium from being quite lovely to look at to being utterly spectacular. And, in addition to enhancing your home as a stunning part of its décor, an aquarium full of plants is also a better environment for your fish. It is a lot closer to their natural habitat and also gives them a healthy and natural source of nutrients.

A Lush Aquarium Full of Aquatic Plants

Yes, this is possible! Many hobbyists will advise against keeping plants and instead say to focus on fish. Some think keeping plants is difficult and should be avoided, but this simply isn’t true. While it can be tricky to keep both plants and fish happy, it’s certainly not rocket science. After all, they happily co-exist in nature and have been doing so for centuries. In this guide, you will find simple steps that will help you imitate nature and create a healthy environment for your aquatic plants. From selecting substrate to picking out plants, with these instructions you’ll be on your way to wow your visitors with a beautiful aquarium in no time.


The Basics

First, you’ll need an aquarium that is large enough to have space for both plants and fish. Then you’ll need to pick out the right substrate, gravel, and plants and also equip the aquarium with everything needed to cultivate a good environment, like heaters, filters and lights.

Substrates and Gravel

Buy enough substrate to put a layer of around four to six inches down at the bottom of the aquarium. Make sure it isn’t too fine because your plants’ roots will struggle to get enough nutrition. Some hobbyists suggest putting down a thin layer of fine aquarium gravel on top to keep the plants nicely in place, which is usually a good idea. If you’re uncertain though, go for a product like EcoComplete, which is usually available in pet shops. This will help you get the right consistency of sand and helps plants get enough nutrients to grow without completely relying on fish waste.

Planted Tank

Picking Out Plants

Just like an ordinary garden, there are a wide range of plants to choose from for an aquatic garden. Bear in mind that, just like ordinary plants, some are easier to grow than others. It’s a good bet to start with hardy plants that grow quickly. Make sure you pick a good variety of plants that include foreground, middle-ground, and background plants. Foreground plants only grow between one and three inches high, such as carpet moss, for example. Middle-ground plants can be a bit taller than three inches, but the background plants should be the tallest. When shopping for plants, make sure you get plant species with similar needs in terms of lighting and water chemistry. Lastly, don’t buy too many – you still want to leave some room for the fish!

Getting Everything Together

Part of setting up the tank involves purchasing equipment like heaters, filters, and lights. The heater has to be rated for the size of the tank and should be adjustable so that the right temperature range can be set. When choosing a tank filter, the simplest option is a hang-on filter. It’s important to follow the instructions when setting it up. The most important piece of equipment for an aquatic garden is the lighting. Because they are photosynthetic, aquatic plants need between eight and 12 hours of light every day to provide energy and promote growth. Compact fluorescent lights in the appropriate size for the tank are the most economical option. A general rule of thumb is to use around 1.5-3 watts for every four liters of water. After getting it all together, it’s time to assemble everything.

Aquarium scape

Preparing the Tank

The substrate has to be rinsed well until the water runs clear. The bottom of the tank should be lined with the rinsed substrate, and the optional layer of thin aquatic gravel should be added on top. Once this is completed, it’s time to fill the aquarium with lukewarm water. To remove any traces of chlorine, use a water conditioner. The next step is to set up the tank heater, water filter, and lights. Make sure everything is working well.

Time to Plant!

As soon as the aquarium is prepared, it’s time to add the plants. Begin by planting foreground plants and make sure the roots are buried in the substrate along the front of the tank. Next, add the middle-ground plants behind the foreground plants around the sides of the aquarium. Finally, plant the background plants along the back wall of the aquarium. If you have any ornaments or décor items, add them in the middle of the tank. Don’t forget to leave some open space for the fish to swim, but don’t be tempted to add the fish to the aquarium just yet.

First Establish the Nitrogen Cycle

Don’t worry, this sounds more technical than what it is. After your tank is planted, it is crucial to let it run for around two to three weeks before any fish are introduced. This is usually all that’s needed to establish the nitrogen cycle, which is something that has to be done before fish are added. Only once this is done should you begin to acclimate your fish to the aquarium. If the environment is suitable, fish love a planted aquarium. The plants produce oxygen, consume carbon dioxide, and prevent algae from growing. If it all goes well, you’ll have a beautiful aquarium with happy fish.

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