8 Common Planted Aquarium Mistakes Beginners Make

Planted Aquariums for Beginners

Are you new to planted aquarium keeping?

If you’re experiencing issues with keeping a good balance in your planted aquarium, or your algae is thriving, but your plants aren’t, read this article.

As experts in the industry for years now, we understand that it can be quite frustrating when your planted aquarium experience doesn’t go as planned. We’ve personally experienced these frustrations ourselves when we first set up our tanks. To help, we’ll list out some of the most common mistakes that planted aquarium beginners make.

Check out our complete guide to planted aquariums here for more info.

1. Not Performing Enough Water Changes

Are you experiencing algae issues in your planted aquarium? Algae can often become a problem in the early stages of your tank.

A major spike in algae growth may be due to not enough water changes being performed in the tank. I personally recommend doing a bare minimum of one 30% water change per week. Try doing two to three water changes to keep algae growth down. Often in smaller aquariums under 7 gallons a 80% water change is possible in a very short period of time. If local water quality is a known problem or if algae is a persistent issue, reverse osmosis water you can either make yourself or get from a local store. Be sure and use a product like Mineralize to prepare RO water before use.

2. Overstocking the Tank

Another common mistake is overstocking the planted tank with too many fish. There’s a couple reasons why this is not a good idea.

1.) Overstocking the tank may put too much stress on the fish, and 2.) it may also cause too much nitrogenous and organic waste to build up in the tank.

3. Using Too Much Substrate

Sometimes planted aquarium beginners will use too much substrate in their tank. For the best, most professional look, try a little less than 1.5” substrate along the front of the glass. I recommend using a natural, larger grained sand. Use Andisol or Plant substrates for the base coat or the slope in the rear portion of the substrate such as those by Mr Aqua or Up Aqua.

To get a better idea of how this should look, take a look at some other beautiful planted aquarium setups for inspiration and try to emulate what those aquarists have done. Some the images show the bleeding and slope of the soils. Try to also utilize hardscape and lots of plants.

Remember cleaning planted substrates is different than with a typical freshwater aquariums. See more info here on how to maintain and siphon aquascaped aquarium substrates and soils.

4. Not Using Enough Plants During Setup

Some planted aquarium beginners don’t use enough plants in their tank. This may be a surprise to you, but the truth is that sometimes it takes a long time for a sparsely planted aquarium’s plants to grow and fill out.

Algae has a tendency to grow in a beginner tank. Indeed, algae will thrive from the lack of competition from your plants and will take up much of their nutrients and light. Left unchecked, the algae in your tank may grow out of control.

In summary, try to cover as much of your tank as you can with plants. I recommend leaving about 3/4″ to 1 1/2” between each of your plants, depending on the variety. When planting, use tissue cultures such as those from Tropica.

5. Using Too Much Fertilizer

Let me start out by clarifying that plants do need nutrition, and commonly this is provided to them via a fertilizer. However, fertilizer should be used sparingly if you are already using an enriched substrate.

Typically, when setting up a new planted tank, wait several weeks prior to adding any fertilizer. This is to keep algae at bay. Add fertilizer whenever you start seeing yellow leaves or tiny holes.

6. Planting Stems Too Far Apart & Not Trimming Frequently Enough

Another common error that planted aquarium beginners have is planting stems too far apart. As we’ve already discussed, it’s important to plant your aquatic plants densely.

The other part of this is making sure that you have trimmed your aquatic plants enough. If you don’t trim them, your stem plants won’t develop branches. When you trim, your stem plants usually will grow two buds right beneath where you made the cut. Ensure you let these buds grow, and then trim their ends frequently.

When you follow these steps, (along with planting densely from the beginning as mentioned previously), you will end up with a much bushier and healthier look in your planted aquarium. Done correctly, your beginner planted aquarium tank will look professional!

7. Using an Incorrectly Sized Aquarium Filter

If you have a high-tech planted aquarium that is rich in nutrients, you don’t want to use the wrong aquarium filter size. In fact, a small filter can prevent the growth of your tank, expose your livestock to danger, and promote algae problems.

You should invest in an oversized aquarium filter. The additional volume of filtration media in your aquarium will provide more space for good bacteria to thrive. Also, the water filtration will ensure that your tank water will be well oxygenated and have good flow throughout.

8. Trusting Anything You Read on the Internet

Perhaps an obvious tip is to not believe everything you read on aquarium keeping forums. To be clear, there are many expert aquascapers out there with plenty of good advice. However, please keep in mind that there are many different techniques for achieving the same level of success. Not all of these will work on your unique planted setup.

As a result, because there are many different opinions and conflicting tips and tricks on forums, it can quickly become confusing to planted aquarium beginners who simply want a clear answer to their questions.

To avoid this potential problem, my advice is to follow one expert aquarist’s tips and follow them exactly. This way, you can follow that one person’s advice instead of reading through a forum and getting random tips and tricks that may not relate to each other.

For more professional expertise on how to care for a planted aquarium, please contact the SevenPorts team at (626) 333-5372.