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The Complete Planted Aquarium Guide

Planted Aquarium

Aquarium planted for beginners.

This time we will address the issue of home planted aquariums. Since who has not tried to have some plants in their aquarium without any success? Well, here, we will learn how to create our planted freshwater aquarium step by step.

On the subject, when plants photosynthesize, they consume CO2. For this reason, when planting our aquarium, the CO2 levels decrease in hours of light due to photosynthesis activity. This means that the plants will have a low rate of nutrients in a low-tech tank and will grow slowly. There are plants that can survive on fish waste and spoiled food. The disadvantage is also seen in that the proportions of some elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium can vary, also affecting the growth of plants and reducing the list of plants that can survive in our aquarium, but these nutrients can be provided in periodic cycles and solve it.

The equipment for a planted aquarium.

The first thing we need is to know the equipment we need, and this is the same one we use in a conventional aquarium, in case we want to maintain a small ecosystem.

  • The Urn (the container).
  • Filtering device.
  • Illumination.
  • Substrate (medium in which our plants will develop).
  • Thermometer (optional).
  • The plants.

Then you will also need tools to change the water. If we already had an aquarium, we should have most of the implements on the list. Now some experts also recommend having the kit to perform water analysis and co2 injection for High Tech aquariums, etc. However, this already depends on the time, effort, and money we want to spend planting aquariums.

Basically, there are two main categories of planted aquariums, the “Low Tech” and “Hig Tech,” which are respectively low and high technology.

The aquarium planted “Low Tech.”

They are those that, in principle, do not have active CO2 injection and therefore do not require CO2 injection accessories, that is, an aquarium planted without CO2. They use low levels of light, and plant growth is also slower.

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The aquarium planted “High Tech.”

They have active CO2 injection, use high levels of light, and plant growth is also faster than in low tech aquariums.

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The substrate for planted aquarium.

After so much theory, we went into practice. The substrate is where our plants will take root (curl); as a general rule, we use fine gravel or sand in our aquariums since we started, gravel larger than 5mm will cause problems for rooting since they will not be able to be grasped and if it is very fine As the sand will compact or leave anaerobic zones, the ideal size is 2 to 4mm, and the depth or thickness of the substrate for the aquarium should be at least 5 cm.

There are good quality commercial substrates that you can use since they bring all the nutrients that the plants will need; now the issue is that after a while, the nutrients will run out, and you will have to add fertilizers to the aquarium. As an alternative, you can use soil as a substrate component, but this carries the risk of inserting bacteria and parasites into the aquarium or the release of large amounts of ammonia that affect both fish and plants since we do not know the components of this soil.

Aquarium water conditions.

As with any type of aquarium, we start with a properly cycled and established tank. With ammonia and nitrite levels of 0 ppm and nitrates at 30 ppm maximum, around 20 ppm is recommended. We must keep the PH stable in relation to the types of fish and plants that we want to have. We must also control the hardness of the water; this is, in short, the number of dissolved salts in the tank (carbonate, chloride, sulfate, among others); salts are important because they provide calcium, potassium, magnesium, and other trace elements for plants and fish. All these values ​​must be kept as stable as possible since a variation above or below can cause stress in the fish.

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How long to cycle the planted aquarium?

As mentioned above, about 10 or 15 days, that is, 2 or 3 weeks, will be enough for the environment to be suitable for fish and plants. If we do it in less time, we could introduce the fish to an environment that is still toxic, which would be completely counterproductive.

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The lighting of the planted aquarium.

It is important for the photosynthesis of plants; there is a lot of information circulating, but you don’t need large teams to be successful in this section. By taking into account the average emission in lumens and the spectrum of the emitted color, and the intensity of PAR (photosynthetically emitted radiation), we have to start.

As for the lumens, in a few words, it is the amount of light that a bulb can emit to illuminate a space adequately. X, currently LED’sLED’s are used to illuminate aquariums, manufacturers usually indicate how many lumens the lamp to buy emits. If it does not say so, we go to the general rule that the more watts, the more lumens, but this is sometimes not the case thanks to new technologies. Therefore we go to the new general rule, which is to look at the lamp online.

The emitted color and the intensity of PAR. Most low and medium lighting plants will do well with almost any rated plant lamp.

As the tank we are talking about is a Low Tech, we must be careful not to overdo the lighting. Exposing the aquarium to more light than necessary, instead of encouraging the growth of your plants, will encourage the growth of algae. A bright lamp does not mean that it has the light spectra that plants require; luckily, most aquarium lamps cover the spectra in the red and blue areas that the plant requires. It usually brings a graphic in the box, which helps us know the lamp’s spectra in question.

The periods of light in the planted aquarium.

At first, 6 hours a day for 10 or 15 days is recommended, then it can be increased to 8 hours a day, with 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness. This is to prevent premature algae growth and encourage plant growth.

The hours of light do not need to be continuous, and they can be done in blocks of at least 3 hours. It is for the plants in those 3 hours to prepare themselves and begin the photosynthesis process.

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What types of plants for my aquarium?

This depends on the type of fish you have or intend to enter the aquarium; large fish, active ones, or those that dig can limit the options to plants that cannot be uprooted—for example,  Anubias, Bolbitis, Java ferns, moss, to name a few.

For beginners, Anubias are recommended for their little care, the Amazon sword.

Location of aquarium plants.

When it comes to locating the plants, we must do so by dividing the aquarium into three parts, front, middle, and rear. We will place the plants as when as a child they took photos of the group in the living room, that is, tall plants in the background, in the middle the medium plants (obviously), and right in front the lower plants.

It is recommended to plant the aquarium in a leafy way, leaving as little as possible uncovered (proportionally leaving less than 15% uncovered). In this way, any excess ammonia is consumed; after the plants are established and growing, some of the plants can be eliminated.

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When to prune the aquarium?

According to Takashi Amano, an expert in the field, pruning should be done only when the plants come to the surface of the aquarium. Care must also be taken with pruning or replanting because doing too much would cause a sudden change in the amount of plant biomass and can encourage algae growth.

When and how to fertilize the aquarium?

The consumption of the substrate nutrients is gradual. Therefore we must be observing the growth rate of the plants and their color, some change in these factors can indicate that the nutrients are being depleted, and that is when we must check and start the dosage of the fertilizer in weekly cycles with one-week breaks. Although this is recommended, there are fertilizers that are applied daily, so we must read the label and consult the seller.

With all this information, we can already make a planted aquarium for beginners and not die trying.

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