Get Started Essentials

If you're interested in delving into the world of planted aquariums but unsure of how to begin, you're not alone. Many enthusiasts find joy in cultivating aquatic gardens as it offers a serene and fulfilling experience. Bringing a slice of nature indoors can be truly rewarding. If this resonates with you, continue reading to discover what you'll need to embark on your journey into the realm of low-tech planted tanks.


1. Tank

To begin your venture into the world of planted aquariums, the first essential item you'll need is an actual aquarium. This is the container that will house and showcase your aquatic masterpiece. Consider opting for a high-quality tank like the Lyphard rimless aquariums, which offer superior glass walls that provide crystal-clear visibility into the tank. These tanks come in a variety of dimensions, ensuring you'll find the perfect fit for your specific requirements.

2. Filter

In a planted aquarium, the filter serves a crucial role in maintaining both the visual and chemical cleanliness of the water. It ensures a continuous flow of water, passing through the filtration media inside the filter. There are several types of filters available, including hang-on-back filters, sponge filters, and canister filters, each offering its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

To delve deeper into the topic and gain a comprehensive understanding of aquarium filters and the various types of filtration, I recommend checking out the resource titled "Beginner's Guide to Aquarium Filters and Types of Filtration." It will provide valuable insights and guidance on choosing the right filter for your planted aquarium.

3. LED Lighting

In order for plants to thrive in a planted aquarium, it is essential to provide them with high-quality LED lighting. Light is crucial for plants as it enables them to undergo photosynthesis. Additionally, a well-designed lighting setup can enhance the colors within the aquarium, creating a visually stunning display.

To ensure optimal growth, it is recommended to keep the lights on for approximately 8 hours a day, starting at the same time consistently. This helps establish a routine for the plants, as they, like us, benefit from a regular schedule.

For more detailed information on lighting requirements in a planted aquarium, Here suggest reading the resource titled "Lighting Requirements for a Planted Aquarium." It will provide further insights and guidance on choosing and maintaining the appropriate lighting setup for your aquatic plants.

4. Substrate

When it comes to substrate choices for planted tanks, aquarium soil is highly recommended. It is particularly beneficial for plants that primarily absorb nutrients through their roots. One advantage of using aquarium soil is its ability to naturally lower the pH and soften the water, creating more favorable conditions for certain fish and shrimp species.

Alternatively, there are cosmetic substrates available, such as sand and gravel. While these substrates don't directly provide nutrients to plants (unless supplemented with root tabs or fertilizers), they are visually appealing compared to soil. Combining aquarium soil with sand or gravel can offer the best of both worlds in terms of aesthetics and plant growth.

For further insights into the different types of substrates for planted aquariums, including soil, gravel, and sand, I recommend reading the resource titled "Planted Aquarium Substrate: Soil, Gravel, and Sand." It will provide a more comprehensive understanding of substrate options and their impact on aquatic plant cultivation.

5. Hardscape

Aquascapers often refer to the hardscape as the key element used to design their aquascape, typically consisting of driftwood and rocks or stones. Although not essential, the hardscape plays a crucial role in creating a visually appealing and well-structured work of art within the aquarium. It provides an opportunity for artistic expression and enhances the overall aesthetic of the aquascape.

6. Plants

In the current aquatics market, there is a wide variety of aquatic plant species available, each with its own specific planting and care requirements. For beginners starting their first tank, it is recommended to choose plants that are considered "easy" to care for. These plants typically do well in an aquarium without the need for high lighting or CO2 supplementation.

Some recommended plants for beginners include moss, anubias, bucephalandra, ferns, and echinodorus. These plants are known for their adaptability and resilience in a variety of tank conditions. Another option to consider is tissue culture plants, which offer a clean and hassle-free start. Tissue culture plants are guaranteed to be free of algae, pests, and pesticides.

If you choose not to use tissue culture plants, it is important to perform a bleach dip on your plants before adding them to your aquarium. This process helps remove any potential algae, pests, or pathogens, ensuring a healthier environment for your aquatic plants.

To learn more about the benefits and procedure of bleach dipping aquarium plants, refer to our article "How to Bleach Dip Aquarium Plants."

Now, Cycle Your Tank!

Before introducing any live fish or shrimp into your planted aquarium, it's important to understand and maintain the three key factors that contribute to a thriving planted tank: lighting, CO2, and nutrient balance in the water column.

Achieving the right balance of lighting is crucial for the health and growth of your aquatic plants. Ensure that your aquarium receives the appropriate intensity and duration of light to support photosynthesis. This will help your plants thrive and prevent issues such as algae overgrowth.

CO2 supplementation is another essential aspect to consider. While not always necessary in low-tech setups, providing adequate carbon dioxide to your plants can significantly enhance their growth and overall health. There are various methods available to introduce CO2 into your aquarium, such as using a CO2 injection system or utilizing natural carbon sources.

Maintaining a proper nutrient balance in the water column is vital for the well-being of your plants. Essential nutrients, including macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) and micronutrients (iron, magnesium, etc.), should be provided in appropriate amounts. This can be achieved through the use of liquid fertilizers or substrate additives specifically formulated for planted aquariums.

Furthermore, before introducing fish or shrimp, it is crucial to cycle your planted aquarium. This process involves establishing beneficial bacteria that convert toxic ammonia into less harmful nitrates. Proper cycling ensures a stable and safe environment for aquatic creatures to thrive.

To learn more about how to effectively cycle a planted aquarium, refer to our comprehensive guide, "How to Cycle a Planted Aquarium."

Also, Keep Up with Water Changes!

Performing regular water changes is indeed crucial for maintaining a healthy and balanced aquarium. By replacing a portion of the old water with fresh water, you help dilute and remove accumulated nitrates and other waste products. This helps keep the water parameters stable and within a safe range for your fish and shrimp.

To learn more about the importance of water changes and how to perform them effectively, you can refer to our informative guide, "How to Do Water Changes (& Why It's Important!)."

Additionally, incorporating a substantial number of aquatic plants in your aquarium can significantly aid in nitrate removal. Plants have the ability to absorb nitrates as a nutrient source, helping to naturally reduce their levels in the water. By maintaining a well-planted tank with thriving vegetation, you can create a more self-sustaining ecosystem where nitrates are continuously utilized by the plants.


1. Keep it simple

If you're new to the world of planted aquariums, it's advisable to start with simpler plant species and more straightforward hardscape layouts. Iwagumi-style setups are an excellent choice for beginners as they provide a valuable learning experience in aquascaping fundamentals, such as understanding lighting requirements and water parameters. These setups are known for their minimalist and elegant aesthetic, often featuring just one or two plant species.

  • To receive helpful tips on setting up and maintaining your first low-tech planted tank, you can click here

2. Patience is key

It can be tempting to tinker with your aquarium right after setting it up, but it's crucial to give it time for beneficial bacteria to establish and plants to acclimate. If this is your first tank, exercise patience and allow a couple of weeks for the aquarium to stabilize before making major changes. Water quality is paramount for plant health, so ensure your tap water meets the necessary parameters and use a water conditioner before adding it to the tank.

In North America, many areas have high pH levels, which can pose challenges for keeping plants. If you're struggling with plant growth, consider using filtered drinking water as an alternative. Additionally, if your home uses a salt-based water softener, avoid using tap water from that source in your aquarium. Following these guidelines will help create a favorable environment for your plants to thrive.

3. Dispose of your aquarium plants and livestock wisely

It's essential to be mindful of the potential ecological impact when introducing non-indigenous plants or livestock to your local environment. Even small organisms can disrupt the delicate balance of ecosystems, causing significant consequences. As nature enthusiasts, it is our responsibility to protect and preserve the environment for future generations. When disposing of aquarium plants or livestock, it is crucial to do so in a responsible manner.

Instead of discarding plants by throwing them in the garbage or flushing them down the toilet, consider propagating them and starting another aquascape. This way, you can continue to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of these plants while minimizing any potential negative effects on the environment. By practicing responsible disposal methods, we can contribute to the overall well-being of our ecosystems.

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