Set Up An Awesome Planted Tank With This In-Depth Guide

For beginners, setting up a planted tank can be extremely challenging. Anyone can build a simple 10-gallon aquarium using gravel and cheap decorations; however, the same cannot be said for planted tanks. There are many requirements specific to plant tanks, some of which can be tricky to meet.

That being said, planted tanks are stunning if they are designed correctly. Seeing an aquarium filled with lush green plants is a delightful experience. It is almost like you have a piece of the Amazon River inside your living room. Here we will describe how to set up a planted tank. We will discuss the essential steps and equipment.

What You Must Know

If you do not provide adequate light and nutrients to your plants, they will die, and your planted tank will not look as beautiful as you would like.

Top Nutrients

  • Nitrogen

In addition to forming protein, amino acids, and DNA, this macronutrient also helps transport nutrients throughout the body. A lack of nitrogen can result in stunted growth.

  • Potassium

It’s a nutrient that helps plants produce fruit and seeds by breaking down carbohydrates.

  • Calcium

In specific amounts, this nutrient is required to prevent stress. Having too high calcium levels can interfere with phosphorus levels and cause various health problems.

  • Phosphorus

Energy is stored and transported in the body using this nutrient. An essential nutrient for plants is phosphorus – deficiencies may lead to stunted growth.

  • Iron

Among its many functions, this nutrient is essential to photosynthesis and helps synthesize chlorophyll. Plants that are iron deficient may suffer yellowing of the leaves, stress, and eventually death.

  • Zinc

Leaf formation depends on this nutrient, which is an enzyme activator. There are dangers in excessive zinc consumption, while deficiencies lead to the “little leaf syndrome.”

  • Copper

The nutrient also functions as an enzyme activator. Excessive copper can inhibit root growth.

Chlorine, boron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are other essential nutrients for the health and maintenance of any planted tank.


  • LED Lighting

Every aquarium must have a light source. Proper lighting and spectrum are essential components of a successful freshwater planted aquarium. Nowadays, LEDs are the best freshwater planted lights due to their high functionality and flexibility.

  • Substrate

Many people find choosing a substrate challenging. Experts recommend ADA Aqua Soil (if you want something high in nutrients) or Eco-Complete (no nutrients, but very high quality).

  • Heater

Tanks must be equipped with a heater.

  • Filtration System

Your setup will dictate the type of filter you require. For tanks larger than 40 gallons, a canister filter is likely to be the best choice. For smaller installations, a hang-on-back unit is usually suitable.

  • Carbon Dioxide Supplements

CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) is an essential component of plant life, as you are probably aware. CO2 supplements can increase plant growth since they are a component of photosynthesis.

Choosing Your Substrate

Plant substrates are not only helpful in rooting your plants, but they also supply them with the necessary nutrients to grow. The following are some of the most popular substrates for planted tanks:

  • Eco-Complete

One of the highest quality substrates available for planted tanks is this substrate. This product provides more than 25 essential nutrients for your plants, as well as live beneficial bacteria to help start the nitrogen cycle in your aquarium. It is available in several different colors and contains all the nutrients your plants need to grow.

  • Aqua Soil

Natural-looking substrates like this are popular for planted tanks because of their appearance. You may choose to use aqua soil as the only substrate in your tank, or you may combine it with sand to achieve biological filtration. This substrate is available in a variety of colors and will provide long-term nourishment for the plants.

  • Gravel

To provide your plants with nutrients, you need to utilize some type of fertilizer if you intend to use gravel as the substrate in your planted tank. It is ideal to use small gravels for planted tanks as they allow root growth – with this kind of substrate, you can use root tabs to fertilize individual plants easily.

Setting Up The Tank

While you have the freedom to arrange your planted tank however you wish, there are specific easy ways to set it up that are correct and improper.

  1. You should install the aquarium cabinet or stand at the desired location; ensure it is not placed near drafty doors and windows or heating vents, or air conditioning units.
  2. Ensure that your aquarium is level when you place it on the cabinet or stand – if the stand is not stable, your tank could tip over when it is filled with water.
  3. Ensure to thoroughly rinse your chosen substrate until the water runs clear – refer to the instructions on the package as some substrates may not need to be rinsed.
  4. You should line the bottom of your aquarium with a thick layer of substrate – at least several inches should be sufficient to accommodate most aquarium plants’ roots.
  5. The water in your aquarium should be dechlorinated, and then your aquarium filtration system and aquarium heater should be installed and turned on.
  6. Use an aquarium water test kit to determine the pH level of your aquarium.
  7. You should install your lighting system and ensure that it provides enough light for your plants – a heavily planted tank will require between 3 and 5 watts of light per gallon.
  8. Put your aquarium plants into the substrate and bury the roots deeply to ensure their stability and nutrition.
  9. Put taller plants in the back and sides of your aquarium, while shorter ones are placed in front – this will create a natural look and permit your fish to swim freely in the center.
  10. Add additional decorative elements such as rocks and driftwood to your tank to enhance its appearance.
  11. Allow your aquarium to run for two to three weeks so that the nitrogen cycle is established – your plants will assist in this process.
  12. Test the water again for ammonia levels. If null, your aquarium is ready for fish.
  13. Acclimatize your fish slowly to the aquarium to avoid shocking them with water’s chemistry or temperature changes.

The planted tank is now complete. One final point. Having introduced the fish to the aquarium, all you need to do is maintain it. By testing your tank’s water chemistry regularly, you will be able to keep an eye on ammonia levels, which is vital for the healthy growth of your live plants and beneficial bacteria. You should be able to successfully maintain your planted tank with the correct nutrition and lighting.

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