How to Set Up a Beginner Planted Aquarium
If you want to increase your aquarium maintenance skills, add live aquatic plants. 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 first form a shopping list of necessary materials. A rimless, low iron glass aquarium is not necessary if you’re new to planting aquariums. A
regular glass tank
The rim from your local pet shop works perfectly and serves a purpose to buffer against any unevenness between aquarium and 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.
While an aquarium lid may seem like an unnecessary expense, we highly recommend getting one because it minimizes heat loss and the amount of electricity the heater uses. 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. You can buy a background from the local pet store, spray the back panel of the tank with Plasti Dip rubber coating, or even tape posterboard to the aquarium. Black backgrounds are our favorite as they make the plants stand out and hide algae better.
A heater and thermometer are usually necessary if you plan to keep tropical fish. Find out how to select the right size heater for your setup.
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. The Finnex Stingray light is our personal favorite because of its solid performance and great value for low to medium light plants, but for more choices, read our article on how to pick the best planted aquarium light for your specific needs. An lighttimer can also be very helpful in ensuring that your plants receive consistent light each day and to prevent 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. For more information, find out how to pick the best substrate for your planted tank.
Tweezers may be used for adding root tabs or planting aquarium plants.
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. You can look online for inspiration or pick whatever looks good 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.
Finally, let’s talk about buying the live 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. You don’t want to be disappointed if your new plants aren’t covered by enough substrate. Here are some useful tips for choosing the right plant:
If you are new to planting tanks, it is a good idea to start with beginner plants. They are more resilient and will forgive us for our mistakes. It is a good idea to buy many different plants to test out, as some species may do well in your particular water conditions. If you can, save up and purchase lots of plants. 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. Avoid high-traffic areas, where the tank might be bumped into or explored by curious pets.
Find a place for your aquarium near an outlet and water source.
1. Installing the aquarium stand or counter-space, and then 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. To remove pest snails or duckweed from live plants, some people quarantine them. 3. Place the tank on the stand and add the substrate. Planted tanks usually require at least 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm) of substrate. 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. Put the equipment and hardscape into the aquarium. Use the decorations and plants to hide the heater and filter. 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.
Before you add any water, spend time moving around the hardscape and plotting out where the plants will go.
1. Fill the tank half with dechlorinated tap water. The lowered water level supports the plant leaves when you plant them. This will ensure that they don’t break or bend too much. When filling the aquarium, pour the water through a colander or onto a plastic bag or bowl to avoid disturbing your aquascape design. 2. Plant the flowers. A blog article that explains the various techniques for each type of flower is available. Place the taller plants in the background so they won’t hide the shorter plants in the front. Consider where the aquarium lighting will be located so that the lower light plants are placed in the shadows, edges or under the lights. Finally, don’t move the plants once you have planted them because each time you relocate them, the plant requires an adjustment period before it can get well-rooted and start growing quickly again. 3. Fill the remaining tank with water, then add the lid and light. Check that everything is operating properly. If you are using a heater, you may need to wait 30 minutes for it to acclimate to the water temperature before turning it on. 4. Use low levels of fertilizer and light at first to prevent algae growth. The plants will not grow as fast as they are used to the new environment. Therefore, program the timer for only 5-6 hours per day at first. As you begin to notice plant growth, gradually increase the lighting and Easy Green fertilizer.
Don’t feel like you have to copy the professional aquascapes you see online. You can use your imagination to design your own planted aquarium.
Don’t throw out your plants if some of their leaves are starting to melt. Most likely they are growing new, smaller leaves that will be more accustomed to living underwater in your local tap water, as described in this article. 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.