Planted Aquariums – Making them last!

Maintaining a planted aquarium would require care and attention that can be fueled by your passion to keep it going and a solid understanding on the different components and aspects that we need to be aware to use them wisely. We’ve a tank running from November’2019 and I shall share some details that I learned purely by my experience of curating them. I shall also put in some details of products tried and found to work well. Instead of making this a long format post, let’s make it short and simple.

For planted aquariums, if we take care of the below aspects, we’d find it lasting and healthy.

  • Ample light – It’s very important that the aqua plants get enough light to live on. A very important aspect that might be unfamiliar with newbies would be on the amount of light to be used in the aquarium. Having the right balance of light exposure is paramount. Based on my research online and watching several videos of aquarium curation, 8 hours of consistent light is the golden number that seems to strike the balance. If we go below 8 hours, the plants wouldn’t have sufficient light for their photosynthetic activities and they won’t stay longer. On the other hand, if we put in excess light beyond 8 hours, that’d lead to excess algae growth which eventually can deteriorate the quality of the tank. Hence, the balance of 8 hours is very important in my experience handling them. I use a Wifi plug timed with Amazon Alexa for lighting up from 5 PM to 1 AM so that we can avoid the hassle of switching on and off on a timely basis.
  • Water Quality / Dechlorination – This is something very obvious. Aquascaped plants and fauna would require good quality water to flourish. If you are lucky to be in a village area with good water quality, especially from a well, then there is no need to go for any dechlorination or denitration activities. On the other hand, if you’re living in a city and getting municipal water lines, there’s a good chance that there’s good chlorine content in the water and unless it’s not your permanent place of stay, it’s a complicated process to have sort of a dechlorination set up ( a mini plant). For most of us, this might be impractical. The best solution is to use commonly available dechlorinating chemicals in the market. The ratio of usage would be specified in the pack and depending on the volume of the tank, it can be used. These chemicals remove chlorines and chloramines and can also aid detoxifying ammonium. (Product I’ve tried – SERA Chlor-ex)
  • Carbon dioxide Supply – If you’ve aquatic plants, having a robust supply of carbon dioxide is as important as ensuring good water quality. For good plant growth, carbon dioxide is an essential component.  Carbon dioxide in its purest form is a gas, but like oxygen, it can be readily dissolved in water. Just like how a tree or grass in the garden would do, aquatic plants would require dissolved carbon dioxide to photosynthesize. There’re several ways to provide dissolved carbon dioxide to the aquairum. For larger tanks, this is done with a CO2 cylinder and a slow diffuser (something like this).  Using a C02 cylinder can turn out to be expensive. So, if you have a smaller tank like mine, an alternative cost-effective solution would be to use CO2 tablets. The quantity to be used would be in the packaging. For my smaller tank, I generally pop in half a tablet per week. Similar quantities could be tried and you can see the results. I try not to put in excess tablets as it’s important to note that Co2 can cause pH level swings in the tank. We need to note that carbon dioxide, when dissolved in water, is pushing the pH towards the acidic side. Excess built up of CO2 added to the tank can cause the pH level to drop rapidly and can cause damage to the aquatic elements in the tank.
  • Plant Nutrient Supply – This is another important aspect. Regardless of our assurance on good quality water and ample carbon dioxide supply in the tank, essentials nutrients and liquid fertilizing are required for ensuring good growth of aquatic plants. They’ve all the necessary minerals and trace elements. I’ve tried certain products from SERA (Florena) that seem to work well in my experience of using them.
  • Food for fish – Food fish is normally available in variants of granules or flakes. Depending on the fish types you have, the type of food can be selected. I have a small tank with some Neon Tetras and Half Moon Bettas and I feed them granules and it happens to work well for them. It’s very important to take care of not feeding the fishes excessively. Not only is it harmful to the fish but at the same time, it can lead to some excess debris in the tank that could lead to other detrimental growths that we don’t need in the tank.
  • Snails in the tank – Snails, again like other things are to be used in a balance. Snails can be a good inhabitant in an aquarium as they are natural vacuum cleaners and can be used as effective tank cleaners. They are potential algae eaters and can free the tank from uneaten food, dead plant matter, and other debris. But they can spread rapidly as well and kind of do the opposite effect and it might be difficult to control them and can end up as straight-up pests. Hence, they’re to be monitored closely and a balance has to be struck.
  • Taking control of Algae growth – Every planted aquarium hobbyist or enthusiast would have to face algae menace in their tanks at some point or the other. When I started up, I didn’t have any clue on certain growths at some portions of the tank and it took some research to understand that they’re basically different types of algae. If you search on it, there’re different types of algae like brown algae, white algae, etc. I would recommend to google the type of growth you notice and you’ll find Youtube videos on effective methods of removing them. When I clean the tank, I closely examine the wooden portions and plant stems for any algae growth and I try my best to scrape them off. Trust me, algae, if not brought in control, can completely jeopardize your planted tank dreams.
  • Setting a routine and order in cleaning & maintaining – We need to spare half an hour every week to clean, curate and maintain the tank. I recommend around 25-40% water change every week with proper dechlorination and other treatments. CO2 charging need to be done regularly once in a week in a consistent manner. While cleaning, take extra care to scrape any algae growth from wooden or rocky elements in the fish tank.

Below, I’m sharing the details of the products that I’ve tried. This is sort of like a kit or suite of items that I use regularly on a weekly basis. Hope I could help with some information and basic guideline on curating a healthy tank. Happy Aquascaping!

Some resources of interest that have inspired me with aquascaping are linked below:
MD Fish Tanks (I had sent a personal message to MD thanking him for his videos)
Aquarium Co-Op
Planted Aquarium Tutorial by Botanical Woman.