11 Beginner Planted Aquarium Mistakes

A planted aquarium can just as easily be a source of enjoyment and relaxation as it can be a source of utter disappointment and despair. The latter can be especially true for beginners especially if you do not know the common pitfalls encountered when it comes to keeping a planted aquarium in the pink of health. All you have to do is avoid some of the common mistakes beginner planted aquarium hobbyists make. To help you do just that here are the 11 Beginner Planted Aquarium Mistakes that you should steer clear of at all costs.

planted aquarium

Wrong Quantity Of Fertilizer

We start off with one that is more common than you would expect. Fertilizers can be a complicated thing to figure out for someone who is new to planted tanks. Usually, people tend to take two routes. The first is to use too little or none of it. While there are a few hardy plants that do well with little to no fertilizers, such options are few and even these plants do better when you use fertilizers. Just like the fishes, aquatic plants need a lot of nutrients to thrive and not all of them are present in the water especially in the home aquarium. While this is a complicated topic, a good way of ensuring good results is by choosing hardy plants and getting fertilizers specifically meant for aquariums from reputed brands. These will usually come with the dosage and usage instructions and it is then just a matter of experimenting and finding out what works best for your setup. Start out with small quantities and slowly keep increasing the dosage until you get the right amount of growth and lushness.

Underpowered Filter

There is this misinformation that planted aquariums do not need filters and this isn’t true at all. Well-established planted aquariums are less taxing on the filtration system but they still need one. There are multiple reasons for this. Having a filter increases the overall volume of your aquarium system which is never a bad thing. It is also the best place to house beneficial bacteria that are still needed. It also prevents the formation of dead spots by keeping the water circulating. Diffusion of gases is just as important in a planted aquarium as it is in a non-planted one and a filter helps immensely with that as well. The only difference is perhaps in the frequency with which you will have to change the filter media. As the plants will use some of the waste materials produced in the tank as fertilizer, you can go longer between changing the filter media. On a similar note, partial water changes can also be done less frequently but it still needs to be done.

Wrong Substrate

A planted tank can end up being a costly endeavor and it is natural to look for ways to cut costs. While there is nothing wrong with such an approach and you can still create a stunning planted aquarium on a budget, it is very important not to skimp out on the substrate. This is in many ways the most important part of a planted aquarium and your success both in the long and short term will depend on your ability to choose the right substrate. There are plants that can grow on any substrate and even in the absence of a substrate but the majority of them need a good substrate to survive and thrive. Don’t go for anything cheap or for a DIY option from the soil in your backyard. Invest in a good substrate that will ensure that everything from the water chemistry to the aesthetics is just right. This can go a long way in ensuring you get off to a great start. Making an error here can be so detrimental that you might be forced to start from scratch. This can be challenging even for an experienced hobbyist.

Too Little Or Too Much Substrate

Once you have figured out the right type of substrate for your setup, the next step is to ensure that you use just the right amount of substrate. If it is spread out too sparsely, it won’t allow the plants to get their roots in properly. This will lead to stunted growth and even premature death of the plants. They can also get uprooted easily and even planting them for the first time can be a big hassle. Using too much substrate is also detrimental. It can suffocate the root system of the plants. It can lead to the formation of dead spots and the substrate can even get compacted under its own weight. Not to mention the fact that it won’t look aesthetically pleasing. The general rule of thumb is to ensure that the substrate is between 2 to 3 inches deep.

Improper Lighting

Lighting is another component of the planted aquarium hobby that can be quite complicated. To begin with, there are so many choices that it is quite possible to end up being confused and indecisive. There are a lot of technical details to get right here as well. In fact, lighting is in itself a vast subject that you can spend a lifetime perfecting. However, getting the basics right isn’t all that difficult and well within the realms of even a total novice. The trick is to start out with plants that aren’t too demanding. This way even a basic lighting setup will do the job and once you become well versed with the various technicalities such as the intensity and the spectrum of light, you can move on to the more demanding plants. While plants do grow faster under better lighting, too much lighting will actually promote the growth of algae as well which is the last thing you want in your aquarium.

Too Many Plants

It is quite natural to want your aquarium to look like one of those breathtakingly beautiful planted tanks often showcased in local fish stores and by hobbyists on social media. However, these tanks often take a lot of time and expertise to get them looking that way and the same applies to your home aquarium. Many beginners often mistakenly assume that they can get a similarly lush aesthetic by planting a lot of plants in their tank. While this can work for a day or two, most of the plants will either die off very quickly or get uprooted. The ones that do take root will get cramped and die off as well. The aim should be to let the plants grow and become lush on their own and for that, you have to do the planting in such a way that there is enough room between the plants to let them grow both vertically and horizontally. Too many plants will also put a load on the entire system and that can upset the balance of the entire aquarium. Start out small and expand on your plant collection slowly as you become a more accomplished hobbyist.

Combining Incompatible Plants

Just like you can’t keep all the different types of fishes together, you can’t just combine any plant with any other plant. Visuals aren’t the only thing that you need to worry about. The plants you choose should have a similar range of requirements. A good place is to start with the lighting requirements. This should be followed by the fertilizer requirements and the rate of growth. This will allow you to get a clear picture of the values of the different water parameters that you will need to ensure in your aquarium. As a beginner, it is advisable to start off with plants that are hardy and easy to care for. They should be forgiving enough to tolerate the mistakes that you will inevitably end up making. As an added bonus, such plants are usually readily available and they tend to be quite inexpensive which means that even if they do not survive, you can easily replace them without burning a huge hole in your pocket.

Adding Incompatible Fish

Speaking about incompatibility, not all fishes do well with plants either. Herbivores like Silver Dollars should be avoided at all costs as they can reduce your plants to mere stumps in a matter of hours. Similarly, many fishes in the Cichlid family and goldfishes have a penchant for uprooting plants, and these should be avoided too. Fishes that require a lot of open spaces should also be sidestepped as a planted aquarium can feel too restrictive for them. The good news is that there are a lot of fish that do well in a planted setup from many different types of Tetras to catfishes. In fact, there are a multitude of options that are actually recommended for a planted aquarium. Another thing to keep in mind is to ensure that the fish can tolerate the same set of conditions that the plants require like water temperature and chemistry. Doing a little research before choosing the inhabitants of your planted setup will go long way in avoiding heartache and in ensuring a harmonious environment in the tank.

Spending Too Much Money

Just like with any hobby, it can often be wrongly assumed that spending a lot of money can substitute for effort and time and this can lead you down a rabbit hole that won’t give you any better results while degrading your finances at a breakneck speed. There is no dearth of options when it comes to throwing your money away on this side of the hobby. It can be very easy to spend loads of money on everything from the substrate and the filter to the lighting system and the plants. While going too cheap isn’t a good idea either, the prudent approach is to try and achieve the best results for as little money as possible. Before buying anything, check out multiple sources to get the best price and never spend more than what you have to. If two options meet the basic requirement, go for the more affordable of the two. In the end, it will be the time and effort that you devote that will make the difference, and as long as the components of your planted setup do the job, they should be good enough to get the results you have in mind.

Ignoring Upkeep And Maintenance

As with any hobby, it is important to keep putting in a sustained effort. Getting a planted setup going is just the first step. You have already accomplished a lot if your plants have taken root and have started to grow but there is still a long way to go. This is where you should not get complacent. Keep doing all the little things needed to ensure that the planted aquarium stays healthy and trouble-free. This includes regularly checking the water chemistry, pruning the plants, and doing partial water changes when required. Keep a constant eye out for any sign of trouble so you can tackle it and eliminate it before it becomes a debilitating problem for the tank. All of this might sound exhausting but the joy of seeing your planted aquarium growing and evolving each day should be motivation enough to keep at it. As the aquarium ages and matures, it will keep getting a lot less demanding which is why it is very important not to become lax at the very beginning.

Being Impatient

All of the above-mentioned mistakes can all be collectively summed up as being a result of expecting results too soon. There are no shortcuts and there are things that will take time such as the plants taking root and propagating where you have very little option other than letting things take their time. It is particularly important not to rush when you are a beginner as that will make you more prone to mistakes. Temper your expectations and accept the fact that it will be sometime before your planted aquarium will look the way you envisioned when you started out and that is fine. As long as you are willing to learn from your mistakes and do not look to take shortcuts, you will eventually get there. When you finally do, it will be worth it as there is nothing as satisfying as seeing a bare tank evolve into a lush and green haven.

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