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A Beginner’s Guide to Freshwater Planted Aquariums

Guide to Freshwater Planted Tanks San Diego, CA

Freshwater planted aquariums differ greatly from small aquariums with decorations. They can be slightly more involved to get started but are beautiful and well worth the small added effort when finished. Some tanks have large rocks or driftwood in the center and there are various substrates that can be used. The common equipment needed for these types of tanks includes LED lighting, a heater, a filtration system, and planted tank soil.

The most common size for beginners is between 10 and 20 gallons. While a freshwater planted aquarium can survive in a smaller tank, it’s harder to keep up with a tank smaller than 10 gallons, as you can’t easily regulate the temperature and water quality. Small tanks have limited space and require heaters for the unbalanced water temperature changes.

There are different substrates to choose from. The first thing to do is decide if you want an inert or active substrate. Inert substrates don’t contain nutrients for the plants but last forever. However, they need more nutrients to be added on an ongoing basis. Active substrates have many nutrients for plants and are the most popular among plant enthusiasts by far. Fluorite is a mix of clay and volcanic soil. It’s an inert substrate, so a few root tabs should be placed in it. A very popular mix of active substrates is ADA Amazonia and Amazonia II substrates with ADA Power Sand placed under it:


Also, there is Fluval Stratum, which is a bit more neutral.

Lighting is a big factor when considering which plants to get. For a freshwater planted aquarium, the rule of thumb is 2 to 3 watts per gallon. Metal-halide is good but requires too much heat and power consumption. T5 (not low-output T8s) bulbs are still used, but LED lighting is the overall best for planted aquariums due to its low wattage and high power. These lights are very bright but produce very little heat. The lighting that’s best for you depends on the size of your tank. Remember that no two tanks are alike. Some plants may be fine with lights for 10 hours a day, while other plants may require more. Find the light cycle that works for your tank. It’s usually between 10 and 12 hours. If you notice algae growth, use the lighting for a shorter time.

Normally you should wait about two weeks before adding fish to a freshwater heavily planted aquarium so the tank can cycle, which is when good bacteria and organisms grow. Having the plants in the tank before cycling can make the process go faster. Remember—the more plants the better to keep algae at bay. You can add a few fish once the ammonia levels are low. Choosing easy-to-manage plants such as java moss, water wisteria, and anubias is a good idea for beginners. Some simple plant care includes maintaining stable temperatures, doing small water changes, and trimming the plants occasionally.

All the freshwater aquarium supplies you need to maintain your planted aquarium can be found at Aquatic Warehouse. If you have any questions about the specific supplies you need to get, stop by our store in Kearny Mesa or give us a call at 858-467-9297 to speak with one of our aquarium experts.

Contact Information

  • Address: 5466 Complex Street Suite 204
    San Diego, CA 92123
  • Phone: (858) 467-9297
  • Email: sales@aquaticwarehouse.com
  • Working Days/Hours: Mon - Fri / 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
    Saturday / 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
    Sunday / 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM


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