Planted Tank Setup – Complete Guide for Beginners

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Ah, the joy of having an aquarium. Watching the fish swim by, with their fins flapping, is pure bliss. But if you want to elevate your aquarium game to the next level, consider setting up a planted tank.

What is a Planted Tank?

A planted tank is an underwater garden, with live plants providing a natural habitat for your fish. These plants not only enhance the beauty of your aquarium but also provide many benefits. They oxygenate the water, remove toxins, and create a natural environment for your fish to thrive.

History of Planted Tanks

Believe it or not, the first known planted tank was set up in 1920 by a German aquarist named Ludwig Strohl. It wasn’t until the 1980s, however, that planted tanks started gaining popularity in the United States. Nowadays, planted tanks have become a popular trend among aquarium enthusiasts.

Setting up a Planted Tank

When it comes to setting up a planted tank, there are a few things to consider such as the size and shape of the tank, the substrate, types of plants, light requirements of these plants, filtration,  and water flow.

Tank Size and Shape

When it comes to tank size, it’s essential to find the right balance. A smaller tank may be easier to maintain, but it can be limiting when it comes to the type and number of fish you can keep. On the other hand, a larger tank can accommodate a more extensive range of fish and plants but can be more challenging to set up and maintain.

Substrate Types

The substrate is the material at the bottom of your tank that provides a foundation for your plants to root. The type of substrate you choose depends on the plants you want to grow. Some popular substrate options include gravel, sand, and soil.

Lighting Requirements

aquarium plants light

Lighting is one of the most critical factors when it comes to plant growth. Plants require light to undergo photosynthesis, which is the process that enables them to produce food. The amount of light you need will depend on the type of plants you have in your tank. A good rule of thumb is to have 2-3 watts of light per gallon of water. LED lights are energy-efficient and are an excellent option for a planted tank.

Filtration and Circulation

A good filtration system will keep your tank clean and healthy. It’s essential to choose a filter that is appropriate for the size of your tank and the number of fish you have. In addition, it’s crucial to have proper circulation in your tank to ensure that the water is moving and doesn’t become stagnant. A circulation pump is an excellent way to achieve this.

Choosing Plants for Your Tank

Choosing the right plants for your tank is crucial for the success of your planted tank. Consider the size of your tank and the type of fish you have when selecting your plants. Some popular plant options include java fern, anubias, and amazon sword.

Plant Care

Once you set up the tank, you will have to care for the plants. This means you have to provide the plants with nutrients, CO2, good water parameters, and regular trimming. Keeping a balance in the tank is also important to avoid algae growth.

Nutrient Requirements

Just like any other plant, aquatic plants require nutrients to grow. It’s essential to provide your plants with the right nutrients to ensure their healthy growth. Nutrient-rich substrates and fertilizers can provide plants with the necessary nutrients.

CO2 Supplementation

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a vital element for plant growth. If your plants aren’t getting enough CO2, they won’t thrive. You can supplement CO2 in your tank by adding CO2 tablets, liquid CO2, or a CO2 injection system.

Water Quality and Temperature

Water quality and temperature are essential for the health of your plants. Most aquatic plants prefer slightly acidic water with a pH between 6.5-7.5. It’s also crucial to maintain a stable temperature, as temperature fluctuations can be harmful to your plants.

To ensure a stable temperature, get a high-quality heater that suits the volume of your tank.

Algae Control

Algae can be a major problem in a planted tank. To control algae growth, ensure that you’re not overfeeding your fish, avoid overexposure to direct sunlight, and ensure that you have the right balance of nutrients in your tank. You can also add algae-eating fish, like Siamese algae eaters or Otocinclus catfish, to your tank to help keep the algae under control.


Aquascaping is the art of arranging elements in your aquarium to create a beautiful and natural-looking landscape. There are a few key principles to keep in mind when aquascaping, such as the rule of thirds, which involves dividing your tank into three equal parts and placing your plants and hardscape elements accordingly.

You can also experiment with different textures and colors to create depth and contrast.

Creating a Layout for Your Tank

When creating a layout for your tank, it’s important to keep in mind the type of plants you have and their specific needs. You can create different levels by using rocks, driftwood, or other hardscape elements. Play around with different arrangements and find the perfect layout for your tank.

Adding Hardscape Elements

Hardscape elements like rocks and driftwood can add texture and contrast to your tank. They can also provide hiding places for your fish and create a natural environment. It’s important to choose hardscape elements that are safe for your aquarium and won’t affect the water quality.

Fish and Invertebrates

Choosing the right fish and invertebrates for your planted tank is crucial. Some species can be harmful to your plants or may require different water conditions than your plants do. Make sure to do your research and choose fish that are compatible with the plants you have in your tank. Some popular options include tetras, guppies, and shrimp.

Feeding and Care

It’s important to feed your fish a well-balanced diet and not overfeed them, as this can lead to excess nutrients and algae growth in your tank. Ensure that you’re regularly cleaning your tank, change the water, and maintaining the proper temperature and water quality.


As with any aquarium, problems can and will arise. Common problems include algae growth, fish diseases, and water quality issues. To deal with these issues, ensure that you’re regularly monitoring your tank and its inhabitants. When problems do arise, act quickly to find a solution.


In conclusion, a planted tank can be a beautiful and natural addition to your home. It requires some effort and maintenance, but the benefits are well worth it. With a little research and some trial and error, you can create an underwater oasis that both you and your fish will love.

So what are you waiting for? Dive into the world of planted tanks and watch your aquarium thrive!

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.

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