How to Create a Planted Aquarium

Tips on how to create the perfect planted aquarium.



Anyone can build an aquarium by throwing water, gravel, artificial plants, and decorations inside a transparent empty tank. However, setting up a planted tank requires effort and determination. You should be extra cautious during the whole process. Starting a planted aquarium may seem a bit tricky for beginners, but don’t worry, our practical, straightforward guide will help you create an ideal planted aquarium without any problems. Stay tuned.

Step 1: Plan Thoroughly 

Planning is an essential part of the process, and you can’t craft a perfect aquarium without proper planning.

First you need to decide the type of fish, plants, filter, and other things you want to place inside the tank to make it attractive, well-functioning and live. You must determine the aquarium’s size so that you can get other necessary things according to this measurement.

You should also be careful about the compatibility of different types of products that you are going to put together. You have to ensure that you are going to provide a suitable living environment for every plant and fish.

You can sketch your proposed fish tank on paper. This will help minimize the arrangement related hassle. Remember, making a plan may take time initially, but it will save a lot of your valuable time in the next phases of aquarium construction.

Step 2: Prepare and Position the Aquarium

The first and foremost thing that to do after purchasing a fish tank is to wash the whole tank with water, vinegar, and cloth. Cleaning is necessary as the new tank can contain harmful chemicals on the aquarium’s surface which can negatively impact the health of the fish and plants.

When cleaning the tank, stay away from using detergents as these are not safe for the fish tank. Instead, use some of the standard disinfection solutions for sterilizing purposes. Make sure that the tank is appropriately dried.

After disinfecting the aquarium, you need to place it in a suitable position. You just can’t place it anywhere in the house. While placing the tank, you must ensure that it suits your room decoration well and increase the surroundings’ aesthetics. Also, make sure that there is a current outlet close to the tank as you will need electricity to run the filtration pump and other devices.

Place the aquarium on top of any cabinet, table, or aquarium holding stand. Ensure that it doesn’t get any sunlight because it can raise the water temperature and grow hair algae, which can imbalance the tank’s eco-system. Also, ensure that the aquarium is placed in a cool spot where there is no chance of any temperature rise. For instance- don’t put it in your kitchen or near any appliance that generates heat.

Step 3: Add the Substrate Properly

Substrate stays at the bottom of the tank. Apart from keeping the aquarium’s inhabitants healthy, it also increases the aquarium aesthetic appeal. I would recommend you add oil-based substrate primarily as organic soil doesn’t contain any added Nitrate. It will efficiently balance the combination of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphate that it contains. You can also add stuff like Laterite, Vermiculite, etc. to enrich the substrate’s quality. After adding soil, break big clumps of soil (if any) and take out any wood chips (if any) with your hands and be conscious about the amount of soil you will put in. Make sure that you have maintained 1.5-3 inches of soil in every area of the tank.

Remember, if you provide too much soil, it will create anaerobic areas inside the substrate resulting in killing plant roots; pour enough soil where you are going to add heavy plants and things like that. The front of the transparent tank can be used to make sure that you have put an appropriate amount of soil. Now, wet the soil with some water to make it more compact and sturdier. After that, add some hardscape objects like lava rock, bog woods etc. while put in some soil again and wet them for the second time.

Finally, it’s time to provide some top-layer substrate. At this point, introduce some beach sand and add them pretty much the same way you added the organic soil. Don’t forget to wet it down again.

Step 4: Attach Necessary Equipment

In this phase, you have to ensure that your aquarium gets a healthy environment when you have finished the aquarium building process. To make the water fresh and clean, you must add a filtration system. You should also add a lighting system. Furthermore, if your surrounding atmosphere gets too cold during winter or you live in a place where it’s cold almost every month of the year, you must use a heater to maintain the water temperature. Also, you can add a carbon dioxide injection system to boost the growth of the plant.

Step 5: Pour Water Gradually and Regulate the pH

Place a dish or plate in the tank and let the water slowly come inside the tank through the plate to minimize any substrate disruption. You have to maintain a sustainable pH range for both plants and fishes to live peacefully. Some experts recommend that keeping the pH rate between 6.5 and 7 is suitable for fishes and plants. Depending on your water source, you can use a water conditioner to maintain the pH rate.  Test the pH and adjust it (if needed) in a fortnight.

Step 6: Put in Aquatic Plants and Fish    

Now, it’s time to add some plants. You should add Anubias nana, Pygmy chain sword, and Crypt wendtii at the foreground, Cryptocoryne, Java fern at the middle part of the tank, and Water wisteria, Amazon sword, and hornwort at the background of the tank.

Within 1-2 days, the tank water may become dirty. Don’t worry! This is very common, just change the water and everything will be fine.

Before adding fish, you need to know about cycling. Cycling is a necessary process in which beneficial bacteria and organisms can develop. To begin and check the cycling process, you need an ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate test kit and the source of ammonia to begin the process. You can use liquid ammonium chloride as an ammonia source. Add enough ammonium solution to bring the concentration to about six ppm. Wait for a couple of days, and you will witness nitrite in the tank. After 10-14 days, NO2 will disappear. However, in this cycle completion process, keep the water changing process ongoing to help prevent algae.

Once the Ammonia and nitrite are undetectable on the test kit, you can start adding fish to the tank. Adorn the planted aquarium with your favourite fish; but keep in mind the fish compatibility. Congratulations! You have successfully configured your gorgeous aquarium.

 Enjoy Your Planted Aquarium!

The aquarium is one of the finest additions to your home aesthetics. It expresses your taste while increasing the overall beauty of your home.  The great thing about a homemade aquarium is that you can plan and craft it according to your own taste, budget, and design preferences.

You’re now ready to create your planted aquarium. Please let us know if you face any issues during the process. We’ll support you in every possible way.

Anne Thynne: Guest Editor