In this article, I’ll talk about things to know before starting a planted aquarium at home. So you’re wanting to make the switch from fake to live aquarium plants and you’ve already done a bunch of research on lighting, substrate, etc. I’m gonna let you know the five things I wish I knew about planted tanks that most beginner tutorials never cover.
Today I’m not gonna talk about basic level 1 knowledge like putting your lights on a timer but more like level 2 stuff that you don’t figure out until way later.
So I really like the natural look of my aquariums which I initially try to imitate using fake plants core. However, I decided to try live plants because everyone was going on and on about how great it improves the water quality and you know me I’ll try anything that saves me time.
Things To Know Before Starting A Planted Aquarium
1. Newly planted tanks get algae
The first thing I learned is that planted tanks don’t necessarily save time. At least at first with my fake two-core aquarium I never turned on the lights unless I was standing directly in front of the tank because you know my parents told me not to waste electricity. That also meant I never had to deal with algae growth.
The fact is new-planted tanks get algae and that’s normal. So in the beginning stages as your plants are getting settled you’ll have to spend the time removing algae regularly. Scraping down the walls and keeping on top of your water changes to reduce excess nutrients.
One time I let my newly planted betta tank go for two weeks without a water change and when I came back from vacation I hit a massive brown algae explosion.
2. Don’t fertilize new tanks
Don’t fertilize water tanks as soon as you get your new plants because they’re still kind of getting used to the new water parameters or substrate they’re in. They’re not gonna grow a lot at first. Once they’ve gotten settled in and a little more rooted then slowly start adding your root tabs and water column fertilizers. Maybe a quarter or half-strength at first and then gradually increase it to a balanced amount. Excess nutrients in those early days will lead to more algae.
You often hear people say that you should use fast-growing plants in your newly planted aquarium so they can suck up the excess nutrients very quickly and starve out the algae. But that is actually not the case because fast-growing plants die fast.
3. Fast-growing plants die fast
Fast-growing plants will also die quickly whereas slow-growing plants will die more slowly. So as you’re learning how to grow plants underwater slow-growing plants are a little more forgiving.
They will give you some time to react to those yellowing leaves you see and adjust accordingly.
Usually, they’ll recover and bounce back whereas fast-growing plants will just die and then you’re out of money.
Also, check out How To Choose An Aquarium Heater to get a complete guide on Aquarium heaters.
4. Dead plants = Lessons learned
With regards to money, the next to keep in mind is plants will die on you even the beginner ones that are supposedly bulletproof. I have personally killed Java Fern, Anubias, Vallisneria, and even a floating plant.
I mean some of these things are practically invasive if you hear other people talk. Yet I’ve managed to massacre them all for one reason or another.
Part of me was like that I just flushed 40 dollars down the toilet but the advice I heard was to consider this a learning experience.
In a workshop, you might spend $40 on a workshop to learn about planted tanks right. So this is just the hands-on real-world version of it.
5. Get your plants from locals!
Finally, one of the most important things to know before you start a planted aquarium is to get your plants from local fish auctions or hobbyists that live near you.
Plants sold that way are generally much cheaper. You don’t have to pay for shipping or possibly have them damaged while getting transported. They’ve usually already been acclimated to living in water parameters similar to yours.
Sometimes Java Fern just doesn’t like your water. But you know what your fellow fish keepers living in the same area know what plants do work. So follow their recommendations and ask for a few clippings from their tanks.
I’ve definitely seen the amazing impact live plants have on reducing my nitrate levels in aquariums. With the help of these tips, my plant-keeping journey has been a lot more successful. I hope these points will help you in setting up a nice and beautiful planted aquarium at your home.
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