31 December, 2009

Planted Aquarium Basics

Introduction to beginner's Planted tank:
So you are the next one to enter the beautiful world of Planted tank. Here are some useful tips for you to begin your journey. 
Like any other tank the first and most important thing is a tank with good dimension. But this time the bigger is not always the better, because with bigger tank you have to invest on more wattage of light, more fertilizers to add, more substrate, more to spend on CO2(Carbon Di-Oxide) per month for planted tank and obviously to buy more aquatic plants initially. And contrary to fish only tank, where we should not add all the fishes at once, instead add them in a small group, here in planted tank, we must plant almost all the plants in the very first day to prevent algae growth
Guess you have noticed few terms, like fertilizers, substrate, algae, CO2(Carbon Di-Oxide), wattage of light and curious how those terms are related to planted tank. Let us discus:

The Tank
I will recommend a tank of dimension 2'-15"-15"(Length-Height-Breadth) for the beginner. The empty tank will be 18 US Gallon. It is a standard size aquarium, and easily available in the LFS(Local Fish Shop) at Kolkata or can be custom made. And the price of that size a tank with 6mm thick saint gobain glass will be approximately Rs. 800. For planted tank, open top tank will be the best choice, since it will help the evaporation process, and thus help keep the tank water temperature low. In this regard I want to mention that  do not keep the fishes those have a tendency to jump out of water, like fancy guppy, rummynose tetra, harlequin rasbora, clouded minnows, halfbeaks, wildcaught bettas and most of the chana varieties to name a few. Neon tetra, Cardinal Tetra, angels are good fish for open top planted aquariums
Now if you do not want to take the risk, you can still put a hood on, but remember keep a little gap between the tank top and the hood, Alternately, you can also put a net over the tank to keep the fishes inside the tank.
To make aquariums and hoods(both wooden and fibre made) for planted tanks at Kolkata you can contact Buroda,(contact no. 9836980720), he is a famous tankmaker guy here at Kolkata, and his tanks are even used by ADA, here.                       

Light for Planted Tank

Proper light is one of the most important factor in any type of gardening. In underwater plantation also, it is customary to have a good knowledge on the proper light needed for your aquarium. Less light, the plant will not grow and stay healthy, excess light, the tank will become an algae factory.
For a 18 US Gallon tank, that I am recommending for the beginners, the light required is 18*3=54watts on an average. The multiplier '3' is called the WPG(Watt per Gallon)WPG depends on the choice of plant, tank size and many other parameters. For our case, we stick to 3 WPG
Now for lights there are hell lot of options to chose from. But we will stick to  simpler cheaper solutions, normal 2' length T8 tubes of 18watts. T8 tubes are those we use in rooms, the thinner ones and PLLs of 36watts. We use either of the brands Philips, Osram and GE. We add one PLL and one T8, that will count 36+18=54watts. You do not need to be so accurate, while chosing lights, you can always plus minus 4-5watts from what you get by actual calculation. Now you may think why not 3 T8 tubes. Actually I always prefer Mixing of Lights, in terms of light types and also brand names. When you will start the journey into planted world you will learn how lumen, lux, kelvin rating, color temperature etc lots of parameters control proper plant growth. So mixing of lights will help you meet all  the necessary requirements of plants. At present all the parameters can not be reached by one single light. Even super costly ADA lights does not fit the bill.

Okay, now you bought the lights, fix them in the hood of the planted tank, if any, or place them vertically over the tank top, in any case use a aluminium sheet over the light as reflector to protect light diffusing outwards. Kitchen foil are an alternative, but you have to change it once in 4-6 months. You can also buy a light fixtures with reflectors separately for PLL and T8 those are available at Esras Street, Kolkata. A fixture will cost you around Rs. 350-500 at Kolkata. The brand Diamond has pretty good fixtures in various ranges.

Substrate for Planted Tank

For the cheapest solution use laterite, freely available at roadside, in Bengali it is called MORUM and we get it directly from nature. Google on 'Laterite' and you will understand.

If you have collected it as rock forms, break down it into smaller parts, you do not need it as laterite powder. You have to make two layers of substrate, the lower one will be of laterite, an inch thick is enough and the second layer will be made by 3-4mm river gravel or course sand. The second layer can be 2-3" thick.

CO2(Carbon Di Oxide) for Planted Tank

For good growth of plants you have to supply CO2 in a constant rate. You can either use DIY Yeast+Sugar method to produce CO2 or you can spend some money and buy a pressurized CO2 kit for the planted aquarium.

Pressurized CO2 kit is far better for planted aquarium. And no CO2 planted tank can never give you that much pleasure.

Fertilizers for Planted tank
After one week of plantation, you have to regularly feed your plants, that means to dose fertilizers. Arrange some lab grade KNO3,K2SO4 and KH2PO4. The method of making ferts(fertilizers) for planted tank is as follows:

Collect three 500ml bottles and make solutions of each of the chemicals. In a 500ml bottle you need to add one tablespoon of chemicals. Label the bottle with the chemical in it. Now put one cap each of KNO3 and K2SO4 every alternate day, and KH2PO4 twice in a week. These are macro nutrients, if you do regular water change, you do not need to worry about micro nutrients

Fish for Planted Tank

Smaller schooling fish is the best fish for planted tank. These includes tetras, rasboras, killifish, guppy, dwarf rainbowfish and lot more. At Kolkata the Sunday market Galiff street offers various fish ideal for planted tank. Alternately you can keep angel, danisoni or dwarf cichlids as well. Discus in planted tank looks awesome, but they are not for the beginners.  

Beginner's Plants for Planted Tank
You have to chose plants carefully according to light you are providing. For the above mentioned tank and light you have various options. Ludwigia Repens, hygrophila polysperma, hygrophila corymbosa, hygrophila difformis, HM(Hemianthus micranthemoides), najas indica, Rotala Rotundifolia, are good stem plants for beginners. Java moss, Flame moss, anubias nana, anubias barteri youcan tie on some rocks and put in the tank. The mosses do want cold water.
First try to grow aquatic plants, then think about how to decorate your underwater garden, that means aquascaping your planted tank.

For further Informations on Planted Tank Setup and Aquascaping Planted Tank continue reading on:

This article is for those who are just going to start their journey in the planted world.


  1. hi,
    should i use distilled water to make the soulution.?pls reply.anirbanchakrabarty@gmail.com

  2. hi avik,how are you.i make diffuser of different size,bubble counters and drop checkers for planted tanks.would you mind adding me to your html page and my contact name.buroda hs used my diffuser.you can talk to him.my intention is simple-keep the hobby alive and not getting buried in expensive bills.bye.take care

  3. its very interesting,pls join our aqua club.you are so much helpful.where do you live?and also where buroda live?i'm also a fish seller,but i have no time to create any blog.thank you.

  4. Wonderful article Avik. Very informative, thanks for sharing

  5. Avik am staying in Vizag but basically a bengali ...after my childhood again started this awesome hobby but this time i have started planted aquarium so i need some more info on few subjects like CO2 system,Canister filters etc if you dont mind can you plz gimme your mobile number. Mine is 09391779744, thanks a lot for sharing your experience n knowledge :)


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