how to setup planted aquarium

Easy and simple Guide on how to Set up Planted Aquarium for beginners:

Have you ever thought of having a planted aquarium?

Having a planted aquarium at your home always has a nice feel to it. Live plants in your aquarium do not only make your aquarium look beautiful and attractive but it also makes it more comfortable and enjoyable for your fishes. Plants provide suitable space for hiding and playing to the fish. Moreover, the planted tank has a cool and soothing effect on the surrounding environment.

Although, for beginners setting up a planted tank could be burdensome and expensive, so, they tend to use artificial decorations. However, these artificial tanks can’t beat the perks of a live planted tank.

That’s why here we are to help you out in developing your own planted aquarium for your pet.

That is easy, reliable and affordable. This article covers everything including different types of a planted tank, its maintenance and required plants and fishes.

Types of planted aquarium setup

Planted tank better is known as aquascaping has many different setups. Here are few widely used aquascaping ideas we are about to share with you.

Let’s get started.

Natural aquascaping

This type of aquascaping revolves around the Centre mostly. Adding rocks and driftwood toward the middle of the tank. This idea was first introduced by the famous aquarist, Takashi Amano. His idea got famous due to the use of crustacean.

The main concept is the use of carpeting plants including moss, dwarf hairgrass and Marsilea minuta. Mimicking the natural habitat of your fish is the aim of this aquascaping.

Natural aquascaping focus on giving a “U” shape to the whole design pointing the roots of the plants toward the Centre of the tank. This design is well known as the concave setting.


  • It is close to natural habitat.
  • It uses the golden ratio so the user has the opportunity to implement a wide range of hardscape and plant life.
  • It gives a wider appearance and more space to your fish.


  • It provides little hiding space toward the periphery.
  • Cleaning is a mess after all.

Dutch Aquascaping

This is the oldest aquascaping style and is still popular among the aquarists. Originated from holland and won hearts all across the world in no time.

This style basically focuses on the use of different varieties of plants, contrasting them through their arrangements and colors. Dutch aquascaping implements a rich disparity using delicate color and texture maintain a high density of plants.

This aquascaping includes every aspect of wildlife including carpeting plants, branching plants, and rocks

There is a basic rule having more than 70% of different aspects of plants. Despite using so many different types of plants and other decorations there is always a single point of focus to maintain organization and simplicity.


  • Provides huge support to the growth and maintenance of your fish.
  • Uses a wide variety of plants so you have many options to choose from.


  • Requires lots and lots of space.
  • Sometimes it can really turn into a mess and becomes difficult for the fish to find the food.
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Steps toward setup

Now coming toward the main thing that is how to set all this up?

So now the wait is over. Let’s dive in.

Selecting the design

Firstly, start by selecting the type of planted aquarium that you want. Determining the variety of plants, you want, the fish you want to keep and other decorations you want to put in your planted aquarium. Moreover, determine the number you wish to keep.

When you are done with the research you might get the idea regarding the size of the tank and other equipment that you need. Get an appropriate filtration system, heater and water pump.

Keep this in mind that in case of planted tank lighting and carbon dioxide are inevitable. Get all the stuff you need and get started with building your planted aquarium.

Tank preparation

After getting the required stuff you need to prepare it for your fish. First of all, clean it well. Newly-made aquariums have harmful chemicals all over the surface of the glass.

These chemicals can prove toxic to your fish as well as harmful to your plants. Avoid using any harmful detergents or chemicals to clean your tank.

Some vinegar and a clean piece of cloth will do the trick.  Vinegar is a natural cleaner for fish tanks.

Location of the tank

When setting up a planted aquarium then there are certain things of considerable importance.

Direct sunlight should be particularly avoided. In planted tanks, algae growth is a major factor towards its downfall. If the tank is placed at a spot where it faces the sun then you are definitely in trouble because the algae are soon going to out beat your plants.

Moreover, a higher temperature can also cause the same problem.

Thus, select a cooler place and out of the range of sun as well.

Selecting and placing the substrate

Why selecting a substrate for a planted aquarium is difficult?

Well, the answer is that the survival of plants is a must. Gravel substrate is out of choice for planted aquarium. There are two main options available.

  • Inert substrate
  • Active substrate

Inert substrate

Inert substrate (ex= fluorite) is the one that is free of any nutrient. They lack the necessary minerals and vitamins required for plant growth. In case of this substrate, you need to add the fertilizers on your own.

There are certain benefits when it comes to using the inert substrate.

Firstly, they are cost-friendly. they last longer and they don’t encourage algae growth. Furthermore, the inert substrate is easy to manage. But inert substrate demands quite a work of adding the required nutrient and balancing the quantity suitable for plants.

Active substrate

As the name implies active substrate is the one having all the nutrients mixed in already. For those who want tremendous plant growth in a short time then the active substrate is the best choice.

Active substrate saves you all the hustle of gathering all the individual nutrient or fertilizers and maintaining an appropriate amount of them.

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Although, an active substrate is convenient but it comes with a price, as it may lead to ammonia spike formation. And above all active substrate is quite expensive.

Placing the substrate

One step that requires patience and calmness is when you lay the substrate in the tank. As the substrate can make all the water cloudy and then it will be a mess to clean.

First, pre-rinse the substrate. Pre-rinsing is quite crucial for a planted aquarium. Take a 10-gallon bucket and add the substrate in. rinse it well until the water becomes clear.

The cloudy water can prove dangerous to your fish if you add the substrate as it is without rinsing. Although, it is quite a work but your fish is worth the effort.

Next, add at least 1.5-3-inch layer of substrate in the bottom. Some experts recommend placing a layer of gravel or sand on top to keep all this in place. That’s a good tip to avoid future hustle.

Now the most important part is adding water it the tank. Despite being cleaned once the substrate can still lead to cloudy water formation in your tank. The best way to prevent it is by slowly adding water in the tank.

Use a distraction in the form of a plate or something, now slowly start adding the water on the plate and then the water will slowly flow into the tank. This will prevent the mixing or stirring of water and there will be no cloudy water.

But patience is the key in this step.

Conditioning the tank

So, one of the important steps is pre-conditioning the tank. Conditioning is necessary as it removes any harmful chemical including nitrate, nitrite and chlorine from the aquarium.

Cycle the aquarium two weeks prior to adding the plants or fish in. cycling basically means building up a population of useful bacteria that destroy nitrogenous waste. If you add the fish without cycling the tank, then the nitrogenous waste will pile up leading to the death of your fish.

Placing the equipment

Next, start fixing the necessary equipment for your tank that may include the following.


As it is necessary for plant growth, but avoid using light at light as it may irritate your fish and stress them out.

  • Water filter
  • Water heater

Now your tank is ready for plants and fishes.

Adding the plants

Basically, setting up a planted aquarium is not as hard as it may seem but the important and hard are the previous steps that we have done. Now after cycling the tank properly and setting up the equipment carefully start fixing the plants according to your will.

As long as your water parameters are stable you are good to go. Just remember not to overcrowd the aquarium. The choice of the plants is yours but later in this article, we will provide you with a list of plants that are good for your planted aquarium.

Adding the fish in planted aquarium

Adding the fish in the aquarium is rather a difficult and important step so do it with care. Before adding the fish carefully check all the water parameters necessary for your fish based on the fish type.

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The nitrate, nitrite and ammonia should be 0ppm in concentration. pH should be monitored and water temperature should be regulated beforehand.

Once you achieve the ideal parameters carefully add your fish in the water.

Recommended plants

Now that you know how to set up a planted aquarium its time to pick up some plants. So here goes a complete list of plants suitable for your planted tank.

  • Micro sword
  • Java fern
  • Anubis nana
  • Cryptocoryne
  • Dwarf aquarium lily
  • Java moss
  • Crypt wendtii
  • Marsilea minuta
  • Hornwort
  • Water wisteria
  • African water fern.

That concluded the list of plants that can prove an option for your aquarium. Although, there is still a whole universe of plants out there but the choice is yours.

Recommended fish for planted tanks

There are certain fish that can not survive in planted aquariums. So before setting up a planted tank, you must be well aware of the fish that can survive well in plants. There is a list of fishes that enjoy the greenery around them.

  • Bettas
  • Tetras
  • Gouramis
  • Dwarf algae eaters
  • Angelfish
  • Rasboras
  • Zebra danio
  • Catfish
  • Discus

Maintenance and care

After setting up the aquarium the next important thing is maintaining it. For beginners, it can become great trouble if algae growth occurs. Algae will utilize the essential nutrients and plants will eventually die.

How can one prevent algae growth?

To prevent algae from piling up then algae eaters are the absolute solution. Algae eaters are the best biological control for outgrowing algae.

Dwarf algae eaters and shrimps are easily available and they can readily eat away all the algae from your tank.

Hair algae

 You might face an alga known as hair algae; it is similar to green algae but gives the hair-like appearance. It is annoying and harmful to your fish and can affect the growth of your plants.

To remove the hair algae, you can you an old toothbrush or your usual cleaning brush. These algae are mixed up between the plants so it might be a little difficult to remove.

Carbon dioxide supplement

One of the most essential components of a planted aquarium is CO2 supplements. As the plants require CO2 for their growth and survival. In order to provide the necessary amount of CO2 use its supplements.

CO2 tablets and CO2 diffusers are available in the market these days. These tablets or diffusers can full fill the needs, but you should be aware of algae growth as well.


Although, planted tanks are a bit of trouble but at the end, the soothing beauty of these tanks is worth the efforts. We recommend you all to try a planted aquarium for once and share your experience.

I hope this guide will help you get through it all.

For more information please Refer to our other articles

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