Planted Aquarium for Beginners

by Apr 2, 202027 comments

Here on this page, I will walk you through setting up your first planted aquarium for beginners. Starting up a planted aquarium can be difficult for a beginner with all the conflicting information and “one size fits all” advice on the internet. Or, the beginner hobbyist happened to visit a local LFS (Local Fish Stores) and has been misinformed to buy this or that which are not essential, compatible, or too expensive for the planted aquarium he/she had in mind as a beginner. Like me, many new hobbyists who want to progress to a planted aquarium naturally started from keeping a fish-only tank. Others were blown away upon seeing a planted aquarium for the first time and decided this is my new passion but has never cared for an aquarium in his/her entire life.

As you progress on this website, you will find that the topics get more advance. And to tell you honestly, most of these topics are the boring ones. But these boring topics will arm you with the essential insights for successfully keeping a planted aquarium at your very own home. It will help you think outside the box, investigate in the right direction, formulate theories, test, and apply. It is not a set-and-forget system and then as your excitement wanes because your planted tank becomes engulf by algae and all sorts of problems because you didn’t even care to know the basics, you quit and decided this hobby is not for you. You need to continuously nurture and maintain it. Don’t worry. I don’t even know even a quarter or an eight of what I know now when I started. And we are still continuously learning. We will get you there and will guide you every step of the way.

Table of Contents

Benefits of a Planted Aquarium
Inhabitants' Benefits
Beginner's Dilemma
Planning and Essentials
Closing Remarks
My Beginner's Planted Aquarium

My Beginner’s Planted Aquarium

Where should we start?

Where should we start?

Benefits of a Planted Aquarium

Let’s start with the benefits of a planted aquarium to you, your family members, and your freshwater fish, snails, shrimps, etc. Keeping an aquarium at home, most especially a planted aquarium, can:

Reduce Stress

Simply looking at the fish and the plants gently swaying with the current have a soothing and relaxing effect, just like when you are nature-tripping on one of your vacations. Just thinking about your aquarium, the feeling of fulfillment you can do this, maintaining it to be always stable, fishes are spawning, and plants are thriving is enough to calm you down.

Lower Blood Pressure and Improves Heart Rate

When you are not stressed and calm because of a planted aquarium’s nature-like effects, your blood pressure and heart rate improve.

Improve Your Quality of Sleep

A planted aquarium near your bed can also help you sleep better. A planted aquarium helps you forget about those negative thoughts that have been burdening you throughout the day, allowing you to fall asleep easier every night.

Planted Aquariums in the Bedroom – Aquascaped by Ian Garrido – Philippines

Reduce Anxiety and Feeling of Pain

Ever wonder why some doctors’ clinics, most especially a dentist’s clinic, have aquariums in their waiting room? It is not just simply for decoration. Looking at the aquarium helps to reduce fear and anxiety. It helps the patient feel less pain and even requires no pain medication after completing the dental work. Keeping an aquarium at home is very effective for a family member that has an anxiety disorder. It helps them to keep calm, divert their attention, and forget about whatever is burdening them.

Be a Therapy for Hyperactive Children

I have a son diagnosed with ADHD, and getting him near the aquarium helps him calm down and focus.

Boost Your Productivity

Again, when you are not stressed, it will improve your productivity. That is why some offices employ nature aquarium to calm and relax their employees. I was a work from home employee for more than 2 years, and my aquarium helps me tremendously during those very stressful times.

Benefits of a Planted Aquarium

Shrimp and Buce

Inhabitants' Benefits

Aside from the medical benefits, a planted aquarium provides to the hobbyist or owner. Live aquarium plants are more aesthetically pleasing in our eyes than the plastic plants and unnatural ceramic decors we currently have. Live aquarium plants benefit the aquarium by oxygenating the water during lights on and enhancing water quality. They act as a natural filtration by using excess nutrients produced by fish waste, uneaten food, and decaying organic debris. They help prevent algae growth, to some extent, by denying the algae of those nutrients. Fishes and their fry feels safe by providing them with natural refuges (and even food) and encourage many types of fish to spawn.

My Planted Aquarium Jungle

Beginner's Dilemma

Most beginner hobbyists don’t want to mess with expensive aquarium lighting, injecting CO2 and other additives due to budget constraints. Even if you are well off, I don’t recommend buying the most expensive equipment and the largest aquarium you can afford to start with. It is crucial to get the hang of setting up your first planted aquarium and maintaining it to make it stable. As much as possible, I will not use very complex and technical terminologies here about the science of a planted aquarium, not yet, or will use layman’s terms. We are not after the most beautiful, expensive, technical, physics-laden, competition-headlining aquascape here in this article. Instead, we give the best, natural-looking environment for your plants and fishes, which is the primary goal.

Planning

Planted aquariums require less work to maintain but need more work to set up for the first time. Most importantly, we need to consider the tank’s ideal location at our home to avoid stressing the fish and avoiding disasters and accidents.

Here are the main topics that will be discussing more in-depth in upcoming articles:

Location of the Tank

Planted aquariums require less work to maintain but needs more work to set up for the first time. So we need to plan for it properly. Most importantly, we need to consider the ideal location of the tank at our home. So in this article, I will walk you through all the considerations on deciding where to place an aquarium at your home.

Furniture Stands Aquascaped Tanks by Ayong Go Philippines

All About Tanks

In this 3-parts series of articles, we will be discussing how to determine your tank dimensions, choose between rimless or braced tanks, the right materials in building your aquarium, and inspecting your aquarium tank before purchasing.

Custom Stand and Cabinet Aquascaped by Fritz Rabaya Philippines

Aquascaping Designs

In this 9-parts series of articles, we will be discussing the many different styles of Aquascaping and their core elements that set them apart from each other.

Hybrid Style Aquascaped by Les Paul Villanueva Philippines

Tank Cycling

In this 4-parts series of articles, we will be discussing the Nitrogen Cycle in our Planted Aquarium and how it will help us in knowing the importance of Tank Cycling for our Faunas and Floras.

Water Parameters

In this 7-parts series of articles, we will be discussing the essential water parameters for our planted aquarium, why do you need to know them, their effects, and how to test them.

Water Sources

This article will discuss the different safe water sources that you can use with your planted aquarium. 

From deep-well (spring water), municipal tap water, purified, distilled, Reverse Osmosis (RO), Deionize water (DI), to combinations, we will cover these water sources in-depth. 

All About Filtration and Filter Medias

In this article, we will be discussing the different filtration methods, the different filter media for each filtration method, ideal water turn-over rates, and we will help you decide what the best filter for your planted aquarium is.

Internal Filter Aquascaped by Melchin Origenes Tapan

Types of Filters

In this article, we will be discussing the different types of filters that you can use with your planted aquarium, what to look for/consider in a filter, functions, etc.

Using Sponge Filter by Aldrin Solano Gacos Philippines

Planted Aquarium Lighting

In this section, we will be discussing one of the essential needs of your plants to grow, and that is the lighting.

We will outline what we need to consider in choosing your planted aquarium lighting and the importance of adjusting the intensity of your lighting.

All About CO2 Injection

In this section, we will be discussing all about CO2 Injection in our planted aquarium.

We will discuss why the need to inject CO2, and in some situations, you don’t need to inject CO2. We will also compare DIY CO2 injection versus injecting CO2 via a pressurized tank and its pros and cons.

Planted Aquarium Substrate

This section will discuss the many different substrates that we can consider in our planted aquarium.

What is the best substrate for your plants, and the differences between inert and active substrates will be discussed thoroughly.

Aquascaping Tools

In this article, we will outline the functions of essential Aquascaping tools for your successful planted aquarium. 

From tweezers, curved scissors, quality, and how they can help you with successful planting and trimming maintenance will be discussed in detail.

Other Planted Aquarium Tools and Equipment

Here in this section, we will be discussing other essential tools and equipment which are vital for the success of your planted aquarium.

Hardscapes

This article will discuss all about hardscapes that you can use in your planted aquarium, how to set up, how to build, how to plant in them, and other tips and tricks for them to last submerged for a very long time.

Hardscape by Christian Pontiano Philippines

Nutrients, Fertilizers and Dosing

In this article, we will discuss all about fertilizers for your plants, what do we need to consider in choosing forms, what are the essential nutrients for your plants, dosing regime, dosing amounts, how to balance it with your light and CO2.

Plants Selection

This article will discuss the many different kinds of plants that you can grow in our planted aquarium. From rosettes, stem, tubers, epiphytes to floating plants are all discussed in-depth.

Fish Selection

This article will discuss the many fish species suitable in our planted aquariums, fish stocking, feeding, do’s and don’ts, etc.

Choosing our fish to complement our planted aquarium will make for a vibrant display.

Planted Aquarium Maintenance

Keeping in with your maintenance is vital to the success of keeping a planted aquarium, most especially in the first few weeks to months, where you haven’t achieved the balance yet. You will not be able to keep that balance if you are skipping with your maintenance as well.

So in this article, we will discuss in-depth the tasks (tedious, sometimes) to properly maintain your planted aquariums and provide additional tips when maintaining different styles of aquascapes, different kinds of filters, how many percent of tank volume to water change, trimming plants, siphoning your substrate, doing water parameters tests, etc.

Algae Management

In this article, we will be discussing algae management and how to eradicate them.

What causes them to thrive, the many different kinds and forms of algae, how to avoid them, and balance your water parameters, lights, CO2, and fertilizers for them not to come back anymore.

Finding the Balance of Your Planted Aquarium

Finally, when all is said and done, we will help you find the balance in your planted aquarium so you can enjoy it, with minimal to no visible algae, with less human intervention (just weekly water change of 25 %), and some occasional plant trimmings.

Planning and Essentials

Closing Remarks

I hope you enjoyed this article and if ever you have additional questions or want to share your experiences with planted aquariums, please leave a comment below. Next, we will be discussing how to determine the ideal location for your planted aquarium.

27 Comments

  1. Aly

    This is really good timing to become “immersed” in a new hobby like keeping a beautiful aquarium at home. I have always enjoyed looking at other aquariums and think it would be a nice addition to my home as well. I have a good location in mind, but I also have a cat who would be able to access that area. What do you recommend to allow the kitty to look at the aquarium without the cat being able to have access to the fish inside the tank?

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      My aquarium is open at the top and outdoors and we have lots of stray cats visiting our home day by day and I didn’t experienced any problems with them. Fish getting killed are the least of my worries with these cats, some cats are exceptions though. Its instinctual for them to hunt but they should have a means to hunt. The stray cats simply don’t have the means to stay on top of my tank for very long. Or they may fall to the water, or give up. There are aquariums with top hood (some have included lighting already, but not enough to grow aquatic plants) as well so you can have peace of mind. You might have to DIY to replace the default light into one that can grow aquatic plants. In a local forum here, I’ve never heard of cats trying to catch fish on their aquariums.

      Reply
  2. Sheddy Ovb

    It will be out of place if I don’t thank you enough for such a concise article. 

     Planted aquarium indeed has so many benefits to family members, freshwater fish, snails, shrimps and others but the part I love most is the fact that it does help reduce anxiety and stress. But the cost is always a major challenge, so what’s the average cost of a Planted Aquarium?

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hi Sheddy,

      Thank you and I am glad that you like this article. The cost in setting up a planted aquarium depends mainly on the size of your tank and what type of aquascaping style you have in mind. For example, in my 35 gallons, I was able to set up for around 100$ give and take and that includes:
      A. Aquarium – euro braced – inexpensive compared to others types
      B. Over head filter – cheap
      C. Aquasoil 8 kg – costly that is why I just used 8 kg and did an island style scape with pebbles around it
      D. Medium Size pebbles around 15 kg – cheap
      E. Plants – undemanding – cheap
      F. Filter Medias – cheap

      I saved on fishes because I already have them from my 15 gallon community tank. I DIY-ed my lighting from my spare 5050 LEDs strips and LED Driver lying around. I sourced stones from a nearby excavation site.

      There are many ways to be able to save but if you want to start a Walstad Tank, which we will cover on future articles, you can setup a planted tank for well under 100$s in the same 35 gallon tank.

      Reply
  3. Michel

    I love the idea of having a planted aquarium inside the house, I just don’t want the fish that normally go with it, as the last lot I had were so expensive and they ended up dying on me. I still don’t know the reason. You have given some great ideas to get the aquarium set up.

    Having a tank full of plants however would be more fun, almost like growing indoor plants. Does one need the fish to eat the algae, or can you have the plants without the fish?

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      If you don’t mind me asking what is the fish you kept before? Planted aquarium has so many benefits to the fishes and I doubt that you will be disappointed when its time you try a planted one. As for your question, yes you can keep a planted aquarium without fishes. Or you can just put shrimps and snails only. That’s totally up to you.

      Reply
  4. Michel

    I love the idea of having a planted aquarium inside the house, I just don’t want the fish that normally go with it, as the last lot I had were so expensive and they ended up dying on me. I still don’t know the reason. You have given some great ideas to get the aquarium set up.

    Having a tank full of plants however would be more fun, almost like growing indoor plants. Does one need the fish to eat the algae, or can you have the plants without the fish?

    Reply
  5. Rick

    I always love the sound of water running back into a tank or pond, it is so relaxing. We have had several small tanks however always wanted to expand to a larger tank but didn’t know much about it until I came across your article. Thanks

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hello Rick,

      Thank you so much! I hope in some way or two I was able to help you in your decision to go with a planted aquarium.

      Reply
  6. Changingworldnews

    Wow wow. This is very educative positive. I see many people endulging in aquarium farming in their homes, but little dud I know that it has such a great benefits. Planted aquarium has such a tremendous health benefits: reduce stress,  reduce anxiety, improve quality of sleep ang lower blood pressure and improves heart rate etc. These are so fascinating and makes me eager to get one in my house. Thanks for sharing. 

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Thank you so much that you find the article very educational. Yes, there are lots of benefits to the faunas (fish, snail, shrimps, etc.) and even to the owners and the hobbyist. Please watch out for more articles coming soon.

      Reply
  7. Changingworldnews

    Wow wow. This is very educative positive. I see many people endulging in aquarium farming in their homes, but little dud I know that it has such a great benefits. Planted aquarium has such a tremendous health benefits: reduce stress,  reduce anxiety, improve quality of sleep ang lower blood pressure and improves heart rate etc. These are so fascinating and makes me eager to get one in my house. Thanks for sharing. 

    Reply
  8. ibrahim

    this is awesome, it reflects getting close to nature right inside your home, i love the concept and the site navigations, good job

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Thank you so much! Ibrahim! Please watch out for more articles coming soon.

      Reply
  9. Donny

    Looks like this is one or the most expensive plant one can ever take care of, but the benefits seem to out weigh the costs. Precious plant, I think I will enjoy having to taken care one of my own. The benefits of the aquarium even seem too good to be true and will help keep a lot of people from worsening conditions of high blood pressure. Will recommend this to my friend who has these blood pressure. It might be of great help, all thanks to you.

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hi Donny,

      Thanks for taking interest on my article! But believe me, the plants you see there are so cheap but its very rewarding to grow them. Please watch out for more articles coming soon. 

      Reply
  10. Mo

    Thank you for sharing such an informative article and nice photos especially of the tetra fish! I’ve been breeding fish since I was 10 so have a lot of different experiences with different tanks, plants and fish. Although I’ve never moved onto salt water fish (started with fresh water and moved on to tropical) I do have a 2 metre tank with curved edges and lighting and I must agree that natural plants are much better than plastic even though plastic is easier to maintain.

    Reply
  11. Lemuel Sacop

    Hello Mo,

    It is really nice to met someone with a passion related to mine. I certainly would want to try breeding fish. In my tank, the mickey mouse platties has been breeding uncontrollably. But at least I was able to give some of them to my friends who wants them.

    Reply
  12. Steve

    Thanks for this beginner guide to setting up planted aquariums. What I think I found most intriguing were the potential health benefits! Lowering levels of stress is a huge benefit in these uncertain days. That alone could help some who struggle with anxiety get through social isolation until we can all move about freely again. Additionally, as someone who deals with adult ADHD, having something to help me focus would be really nice. Thanks for this!

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hi Steve thank you for sharing your experience with ADHD. My planted aquarium really helps my son to focus and divert his attention. He is even counting all the fishes, snails and shrimps. He also wants to feed the fish, of course, with my supervision.

      Reply
  13. Randy Baker

    I have really been enjoying the articles on your site. You do a good job of breaking down all the things to consider and steps to take to set up a planted aquarium. There seems to be a lot of planning and effort involved, but it looks like it is worth it. These aquariums look so much better than the ones with artificial plants. What size aquarium do you recommend for a complete beginner?

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hi Randy thank you for appreciating my efforts and find the articles informative and well-detailed. Indeed, planted aquariums have so many benefits to you and the fish and did I not say they look more aesthetically pleasing? If I can recommend you the size of the aquarium to start with, 10 gallons to 15 gallons long. Enjoy your aquascaping! Please watch out for more articles coming soon.

      Reply
  14. Arlene Cox

    Hi Lem, I’m so impressed with this article of you. I didn’t know that you are so passionate about this, but I’m glad you did. I had an aquarium before because of your cousin Maryanne. I thought she will look after but unfortunately I ended up looking after them. Unfortunately I’m not an expert and they all died hahahahaha. I wish you are so that you could teach me how to look after them. So proud of you lem. Love and miss you so much. Love, tita

    Reply
  15. Elmira Sacop

    Hi Lemuel, what an amazing site to visit everyday! Just by looking at the background of your site, it gives me the feeling of tranquility! I love looking to all different kind of Aquariums designs. I will definitely include to my plan, is to have my own Dutch and jungle style aquarium, not sure if I could manage it? I think just by working on it, like trimming the plants would be like a therapy for me. Thank you so much for sharing your passion to us. Surely, I can discover my own sense of Artistry in aquascaping. Keep safe and God Bless

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hi Mamita,

      Thank you for the appreciation about the website. Indeed, just by looking at the background brings you closer to nature. You can do it too, once a week water change only 25% and occasional trimming of the plants should be no problem, sans algae. But we will discuss algae management in the future articles coming soon.

      Reply
  16. Mathew

    Wanted to say what a great site and we have an aquarium and we had a couple of plants. And our oscar fish keeps on pulling it out and float to the top for us to put it back.
    The only way to make this happen I think is to get a bigger tank but would like to put them back into the tank. Afraid that the Oscar will pull it out again.
    But we would like to make our tank with the way yours looks and the so nice could not stop looking at it reminds me of our tank at home.
    Like you said that it makes you feel relaxed and make things better for the moment. Very informative in the way you think about the fish passion.

    Cheers,
    Mathew&Deloris

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Thank you Matthew for sharing your experience as well. Yes, as you notice we don’t recommend Oscar fish in a planted aquarium as they wreak havoc on plants. There are other medium to large fish that are safe with plants. Please watch out for more articles coming soon.

      Reply

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