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Old 02-18-2018, 10:33 PM   #1
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New to live plants...please help

Hello,

I am getting back into the hobby of freshwater again and this time want to do a planted tank.

I am getting ready to set up the tank and want to plan now. Please tell me what type of substrate is best for a good variety of plants and fish and how to go about setting this up.

Also, what are good plants and how do I determine how to put them in? Can they be mixed with fake decorations easily?

Are there fish to stay away from with a planted tank?

Thanks for any help and any advice you can give.
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Old 02-19-2018, 10:29 PM   #2
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I use eco-complete substrate and have had great results with it. There are other good ones out there, too, such as plain gravel with root tabs (if you have root-feeding plants.)

You don't say what kind of lights you have, but beginning with easy low to medium light plants is a good idea: anubias, java fern, and dwarf sagittaria are all good choices.

Yes, you can mix fake and real plants.

Generally stay away from large cichlids and plants: most will uproot them. (There are exceptions, of course)

You'll eventually want to fertilize your plants, though it's not necessary at first. There are a lot of good fertilizers on the market: I've been happy with Aquarium Co-Op's "Easy Green." Very easy to use, and my plants do well.

One suggestion I can make that should help: there are a lot of planted tank videos on YouTube. Spend some time searching there - you'll find it helpful.
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Old 02-21-2018, 12:01 AM   #3
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Thank you for the advice and help. Can you tell me how gravel with root tabs work exactly? How deep of a bed do I need? Does that work as well as the other substrates? What size gravel is best? I have heard about a soil tank with gravel on top. Is that better than just plain gravel or is it just a matter of preference? What type of soil is used?

I have done some research and this is what I am looking at now. I am looking for opinions and advice if possible. These are the plants I am interested in:

Anubias
Amazon sword
Water wisteria
Java fern
Dwarf lily
Anacharis
Dwarf sagittaria

Thanks for your help and thoughts.
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Old 02-21-2018, 02:51 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by BackInUtah View Post
Thank you for the advice and help. Can you tell me how gravel with root tabs work exactly?

Regular ol' gravel or sand is inert, with poor nutrient storing abilities, so we usually suppliant the substrate with what is known as "root tabs". Basically, they are dry fertilizer in a slow release/stable configuration that we place near plants like swords/crypts/apongetons/crinum/lily's etc etc to give them nutrients. These plants are very good as uptaking nutrients via their roots.
How deep of a bed do I need?

Anything from 1"-3" start off with 1" up front, and gradually increase the depth as you move towards the back of the tank.

Does that work as well as the other substrates?

In my opinion, planted tank substrates (excluding ADA aqua soil or similar substrates) are a bit of am overpriced gimmick. They grow plants just fine, no issues there, but for the price you can invest in better lighting, CO2, fertilizers etc. and use plain sand or gravel with terrific results. Plus, plain substrates are easy to keep clean and come in every colour/texture you want. Check out black diamond brand blasting sand and pool filter sand

What size gravel is best?

Any size works, but generally large "pea" gravel is too big. Stick to less than 1/4" diameter.

I have heard about a soil tank with gravel on top. Is that better than just plain gravel or is it just a matter of preference? What type of soil is used?

Yes and no. Soil or "dirted" tanks can grow plants very very well, but they can turn into a very very big headache as well. New soil released ammonia and can stain the water, plus everything turns into a huge mess when you break the gravel or sand cap. Eventually, you are going to have to fertilize anyway as the dirt can only supply nutrients for so long.
Any soil made with organic material only is generally used. The most popular being Miracle Grow Organic Choice Potting Mix. There are steps in preparing it, make sure to follow a few of them to limit chances of a disaster if you go this route.

Soil is capped with whatever material suites you, sand or gravel usually


I have done some research and this is what I am looking at now. I am looking for opinions and advice if possible. These are the plants I am interested in:

Anubias
Amazon sword
Water wisteria
Java fern
Dwarf lily
Anacharis
Dwarf sagittaria

Any of these plants will do well in low-medium light, with or without a planted tank substrate. Just invest in some good fertilizers and you should be fine. Swords, lily and sagitteria will like root tabs, anubias, wisteria, java fern and anacharis will like water column fertilizers like Thrive or aquarium Co'ops all in one mix.

Thanks for your help and thoughts.
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Old 02-21-2018, 05:07 PM   #5
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Thank you very much for your help.

Are the two types of fertilizers (root tabs and water column) safe for fish? Is there a type of root tab that is good? How often do you need to fertilize?

Sorry. I am full of questions. Thank you for all your help.
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Old 02-21-2018, 05:28 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by BackInUtah View Post
Thank you very much for your help.

Are the two types of fertilizers (root tabs and water column) safe for fish? Is there a type of root tab that is good? How often do you need to fertilize?

Sorry. I am full of questions. Thank you for all your help.
All fertilizers on the market that are for aquarium plants are safe for fish as long as they are dosed in the amount directed on the container. A lot of people use the seachem root tabs and like them. I make my own using size 00 gel capsules and dynamite plant food. I just fill the gel capsules with the plant food pellets and bury them every few inches in my tank's substrate.

How often you fertilize depends on the fertilizer you are using as well as the method of fertilization you are using. For beginner plants, a standard all in one liquid fert like the ones listed above are usually dosed a few times a week. As you move into higher tech setups, it can be every day along with regular testing for different nutrient levels.
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Old 02-22-2018, 10:12 AM   #7
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Thank you all again for your help and advice. I think I am narrowing things down. A few more questions.

Where do you buy root tabs from? How about fertilizer for the water column? I have found them but am wondering if there is a better place to get them.

Coming from the saltwater world now I have learned patience with my tank and can wait to get it to look the way I want. How many plants will I need to purchase to get this tank fairly well planted. I don't need them all in immediately and can wait for growth and the ability to propogate if reasonable.

When I get plants what is the best way to ensure that no pests are introduced to my tank? I have seen many ways to do that. I am wondering what way is best and most healthy for the plants.

Lastly (for now), is there a good recommended place to buy live plants? Online? In stores? Where? What should I watch for when I buy them to have the most success of getting quality plants that have the best chance of survival?

Thanks again for all your help.
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Old 02-22-2018, 10:59 AM   #8
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I did purchase some plants in big box stores before, some at fish show. My best purchases though were right here on this forum. Watch for members offering their clippings and outgrows. Slow at the moment but I'm guessing this is a seasonal thing, mailing plants is easier when temps are warmer so availability should improve
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Old 02-22-2018, 11:27 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by BackInUtah View Post
Thank you all again for your help and advice. I think I am narrowing things down. A few more questions.

Where do you buy root tabs from? How about fertilizer for the water column? I have found them but am wondering if there is a better place to get them.

Amazon usually has all the commercially available fertilizers. Aquarium Coop is a good source, so I've been told. Any place really, they seem to be fairly close in price wherever you go.

For root tabs, go on amazon, pick up some size 00 gel capsules and some osmocote plus plant fertilizer, fill the capsules up with the granules of fertilizer and place as needed. Way more cost effective way of getting root tabs.


Coming from the saltwater world now I have learned patience with my tank and can wait to get it to look the way I want. How many plants will I need to purchase to get this tank fairly well planted. I don't need them all in immediately and can wait for growth and the ability to propogate if reasonable.

What size tank again? I would usually buy as much plants as possible, they help with cycling too.


When I get plants what is the best way to ensure that no pests are introduced to my tank? I have seen many ways to do that. I am wondering what way is best and most healthy for the plants.

Bleach dips, H202 dips, fenbendazole dips and a general rinse under tap water is what I use depending on where I get them. Tissue culture plants are the easiest, no pests or algae spores.

Lastly (for now), is there a good recommended place to buy live plants? Online? In stores? Where? What should I watch for when I buy them to have the most success of getting quality plants that have the best chance of survival?

Best source is tissue cultured plants, easy to ship, no pests and there is always a good verity to choose from. Other sources are forum members in the buy/sell/swap sections, or any LFS should an okay selection.

Thanks again for all your help.
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Old 02-22-2018, 04:40 PM   #10
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Thank you again for your help. So if I get tissue culture plants I don't need to dip them or anything?

I have a 75 gallon tall tank. It is about 3 feet wide and maybe 1 - 1.5 feet deep. Not sure exactly.
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