A Simple Do-It-Yourself Guide To Creating Your Own Planted Aquarium

Planted Aquarium

Emma Downey

Emma Downey
Gardening Expert

Updated on 12/4/2022

It's beautiful to see luminous fish swimming about in aquariums, fluttering their tiny fins and producing even smaller bubbles. But are you interested in taking the game of your fish tank to the next level? Make your aquarium with live plants! Aquatic plants provide the basis of the stunning flora seen in planted aquariums, essentially underwater gardens. They create an environment that is an exact reproduction of its natural counterpart by simulating natural features such as coral reefs, freshwater rainforests, tropical seas, wetlands, riverbeds, and more inside a glass tank and aquascaping ideas with artificial plants.

To build distinctive landscapes, you may customize them using elements such as fish, sand and gravel, driftwood, and lighting. When you make a home aquarium with plants, you can express your creative side. Additionally, it is an excellent method for bringing part of the outdoors into your home. Experimenting with a planted tank may take various forms, and there are many different types to choose from. You may share the cost if you want something simple, or you could attempt the iwagumi style if you want something with a little more Zen. To perfect the procedure, follow our detailed tutorial step by step. Additionally, make sure you steer clear of the typical blunders that may be made with planted aquariums by reading this article.

Are you prepared to start your own planted aquarium? Continue reading to find out more about it!

What Is A Planted Aquarium And How Does It Work?

What Is a Planted Aquarium?

Simple, plants + aquarium. But you have kept plants in your aquarium in the past; if this is the case, what makes a planted aquarium so unique? On the other hand, plant-filled aquariums are more like small water gardens. It creates an atmosphere eerily similar to that of the natural world and contains real plants that have been artfully placed. In most cases, it has not been filtered and is not boiled. Additionally, it takes less maintenance than a traditional tank would. Because most planted aquariums do not include fish, taking care of one does not need much effort.

However, planted aquariums have their own particular set of prerequisites. You will be required to cultivate certain kinds of water plants. These plants will need a substrate that is rich in nutrients as well as consistent fertilization. Also, let's not overlook that we need to prune and trim the tree. On the other hand, your living room will be transformed into a stunning gallery of green artwork as a consequence. And if you give your planted aquarium the attention and care it deserves, it will flourish, but it will also provide you with a sense of immense satisfaction and pride.

Different Types And Designs Of Planted Aquariums

The practice of creating an aquatic landscape, also known as aquascaping, is considered an underwater art. The process includes arranging your plants, sand & gravel, pebbles, and other ornamental elements in an artistic manner. But before you begin building one, you need to get familiar with the many approaches you might use. Like the aquariums in the Dutch style, some are perfect for those who are just starting. Some, particularly those designed in a Japanese or naturalistic manner, may need more knowledge than others. Planting an aquarium is usually a fun and exciting endeavor. You can enjoy yourself with your family and friends, which can be done in various ways. You may even be more creative and construct natural scenery like mountains, jungles, deserts, and waterfalls inside your tank. This is another option. If you're looking for some ideas for your own planted aquarium, look at these various types.

Aquascaping In The Netherlands

Dutch Aquascaping

Aquariums designed in the Dutch style are often overgrown with plants. The Dutch tradition of flower arranging served as a source of inspiration for these products, which explains how they got their name. To pull off this look perfectly, construct a vibrant aquatic garden with plants that vary in form, leaf size, texture, and color. In addition, you may add extra depth by completing terraces and rows. The Dutch tank has what seems to be a green carpet covering its floor. In addition, you won't find any decorations like pebbles or wood in them everywhere. 

A word of warning: you'll need a lot of room for an aquarium in the Dutch style. When you are making one, you must make it a huge tank.

Iwagumi Aquascaping

Iwagumi Aquascaping

Iwagumi, a Japanese-style aquarium, is now one of the most common types of aquascaping. "rock formation" may also be written as “iwagumi.” In this particular design, the primary visual emphasis is generated by using several pebbles that are not even. You may combine them with some low-growing plants to create a carpet effect. The essence of this design lies in its uncomplicated appearance. When it is done correctly, it has the appearance of an underwater hillside, with the plants standing in for the trees found along the ridge. Iwagumi aquariums, with their calming appearance, may also give off the impression of being in a Zen garden. You may put them in your house or workplace to help relieve the tension that builds up after a long day.

Jungle Aquascaping

Jungle Aquascaping

It's possible that creating an aquascape in the form of a jungle is the least complicated thing to do. They provide a picture of a wild habitat that is densely populated and disorderly. Therefore, there is no need for you to bring your shears or scissors. Grow luxuriant and different varieties of aquatic plants in your tank so that it may adequately reflect the desired aesthetic. You may get a more natural appearance by combining them with pebbles, stones, and driftwood

A helpful hint is not to prune the plants too often and instead let them develop naturally. When it comes to the design of your aquarium's setting, it is themed after a jungle, which gives you a great deal of creative leeway. However, before planting your aquarium, you need to ensure that the light levels are properly balanced.

Nature Aquascaping

Nature Aquascaping

Nature aquariums can imitate natural environments, but they also manage to capture their ambiance. The emphasis is placed mainly on aquatic life, particularly plants and fish. Aquariums designed in the natural style seem more like a product of nature due to their unfinished and uneven appearance. You can fashion features like hills, mountains, islands, riverbeds, and valleys in your aquarium. The plants and hardscape elements have been organized in such a way as to seem as natural as is humanly feasible. This is an adaptable approach to aquascaping. To design an environment that is calm and in harmony with its surroundings, you may experiment with various ways of arranging natural items such as stones, mosses, logs, and sand.

Biotope Aquascaping

Biotope Aquascaping

The biotope or biome style of aquascaping is the most natural of the three. Its purpose is to simulate natural environments as closely as possible. That indicates that to create a biotope aquarium, you are only permitted to mix the fish, plants, and hardscaping materials found in their native environments. Research should be your first step in developing an appropriate style. Find varieties of flora and animals that complement one another and have the exact requirements for water conditions, temperature, and even the hardscape. Biotopes are not always designed to be appealing to the visual senses of humans. And instead, they are created intent that the people who live there would value them. Despite this, there are a lot of innovative approaches you may take to addressing issues. For your biotope aquarium, you may, for example, make copies of the New Guinea River, southern African swamps, Amazon streams, Thai forest creaks, and other similar environments.

Saltwater Aquascaping

Saltwater Aquascaping

Rocky environments provide stunning displays in saltwater aquariums. However, the cost of these options is the highest. You will need certain types of fish, corals, and live rocks to set up an aquarium. Saltwater aquariums need a little more attention than freshwater aquariums do when it comes to maintenance. You will be responsible for doing routine checks on the temperature and salinity of the water. Additionally, lighting is an essential factor, and it is beneficial to the coral invertebrates that live in the aquarium. However, the outcomes more than justify the effort that was put in. Imagine magnificent underwater ecosystems within your aquarium, complete with a wide variety of fish, corals, and other marine life. Is there anyone who wouldn't want to make their version of it?

Taiwanese Aquascaping

Taiwanese Aquascaping

The Taiwanese aquascaping style may provide a vibrant feeling of life because it emphasizes the utilization of many plant species, steep terraces, and optical illusions to give the appearance of greater depth. However, the use of figurines is the primary distinguishing characteristic of this style. This makes the scene seem more lifelike, contributing to the overall feeling of “life.”

Walstad Aquascaping

Walstad Aquascaping

This form of aquascaping requires the least amount of upkeep and may be done on a minimal budget. You will have to construct an ecosystem in which the community meets the requirements of the various plant and animal species. This method may also be used for the creation of miniature aquascapes. When growing plants, you should do it in potting soil that does not include any extra chemicals. Reduce the number of fish you keep to cut down on the amount of garbage produced. You need to give your aquarium some time to achieve the right balance so that it can grow. And your aquarium in the Walstad design is now complete. Eliminating filtration and water replacement is the goal. After everything is finished, you will be able to take pleasure in the sight of your gorgeous aquarium. However, you must not forget that it is your responsibility to provide food for the fish and water for the tank.

How To Set Up An Aquarium With Live Plants

Plant your aquarium now! Putting in a bucket of water, some plants, some sand, and other accessories in your tank is just the beginning. For a planted aquarium to succeed, the environment must be prepared appropriately. But there is no need to be concerned, and putting one together is not quite as difficult as it may seem. And the end product of all of your effort, sweat, and tears will be something in your tank that resembles a raw piece of nature. If you give this simple instructional guide a step-by-step go-through, you will soon be well on your way to creating a magnificent planted aquarium.

Step 1: Determine The Type Of Aquarium Tank You Want To Use

Step 1 – Choose the Aquarium Tank Style

To begin with, you need to choose an aquascaping design that is appropriate for your yard's layout and size. Start with something simple but visually attractive, like a Dutch-style aquarium, if this is your first time keeping fish. Alternately, you can attempt the more complex (and challenging) iwagumi or biotope styles. Doing just a little bit of research may go a long way. Make a list of the plant and animal species that you wish to preserve and the exact conditions that they need. In addition to this, check whether the aesthetic you've picked is suitable for them.

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Easy to clean8.8
Easy to clean
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For beginners7.6
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Noise level
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Suction power
Value for money6.4
Value for money

The Second Step Is To Determine How Big The Aquarium Should Be

Step 2 – Get the Aquarium Size Right

After you have decided on a design, you should have a good sense of the dimensions of the tank that will be required to create your ideal aquarium. Steer wary of tanks that are too tiny. You may believe they are simple to clean, but sometimes they seem just as disorganized as a teenager's room. If you are starting, it is recommended that you have a 15 to 20 gallons tank. That ought to be large enough to house your underwater garden while yet being modest sufficient for you to manage it easily.

In The Next Step, We Will Set Up The Aquarium

It's time to clean out the fish tank. Whether you have just purchased a brand new tank or are giving an old one a new lease of life, it will need some careful cleaning. Vinegar and a soft cloth may be used to clean the surface thoroughly. Because chemicals and detergents might be harmful to your plants, you should avoid using them.

Add The Planted Aquarium Substrate As Well As The Soil In The Fourth Step

Step 4 – Add Planted Aquarium Substrate and Soil

AquaNatural Diamond Black Premium Gravel and Substrate
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Easy to clean5
Easy to clean
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Value for money

Your plants will not be able to live without nutrition. You may begin adding the substrate layers to your aquarium now that everything has been thoroughly cleaned and polished. In addition to this, they will provide a foundation for the plant roots to grasp onto. However, you will need to exercise extreme caution since, if not managed properly, the substrate will cause the whole tank to become cloudy.

Planted Aquarium Sand

As a foreground substrate, you should use both coarse sand and fine gravel. They will give the front of your layout an organic appearance when used together. In addition, they will provide a nice contrast to the green plants, which will help your aquarium to seem more attractive to the eye. Sand and gravel are generally innocuous materials, which indicates that they will not be able to provide your plants with any nutrients. Because of this, you will need to place a substrate rich in nutrients below it.

The Soil And Substrate Of A Planted Aquarium

UP AQUA Sand for Aquatic Plants
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Active substrates such as Fluorite, EcoComplete, Aquasoil, and Akadama are beneficial for the growth of live plants. You can find them at pet shops in your area or online. However, before you add the substrates to your tank, you must first rinse them in clean water until the water comes out clean. If you do not clean it, the water in your tank will get quite hazy.

Tip: When you get to the front of the tank, put down just a skinny layer of substrate and then gradually build it up as you travel towards the rear. Cover the top with pebbles of varying sizes to prevent the substrate from being diluted with the water.

Aquarium Rocks That Have Been Planted

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Throwing pebbles about in a haphazard way is not acceptable. Create the structure with great care. You may make the pebbles into a natural setting, or you can arrange them in an iwagumi aquascape in an asymmetrical fashion.

A helpful hint for creating natural landscapes is to avoid mixing and matching different types of rocks. In a given area of the natural world, you will only ever find one specific kind of rock.

Aquarium With A Background Planted With Plants

Your planted aquarium could benefit from a little bit of personality with the addition of a background. You can select a backdrop with the appearance of stone or wood, and they adhere smoothly to glass and provide a convincing impression of being genuine. You can also use matte films or photo backdrops. The setting of a set is entirely optional; you are free to keep your tank's visibility at a full 360 degrees.

Step 5 – Add Nutrients And Fertilizers

Step 5 – Add Nutrients and Fertilizers

For their growth and development, aquatic plants need certain nutrients. Even if they may get some from the substrate, you will probably still need to fertilize them every once in a while. However, be careful not to fertilize too much since this might encourage algae development. Before fertilizing, it is essential to search for signals such as slower growth, discolored leaves, and other similar symptoms.

Step Six: Stock Your Planted Aquarium With The Appropriate Plants

Step 6 – Add the Right Plants for Planted Aquariums

An aquarium that has plants in it is a kind of living artwork. In addition, you will need to select the appropriate aquarium plants to create your one-of-a-kind artwork. In the front, begin with small, low-growing plants such as baby tears, mosses, or miniature anubias. Then, fill up the front, the middle ground, and the backdrop with showy plants such as Amazon swords, giant anubias, tiger lilies, stem plants, and Vallisneria in increasing order. Before you start planting, it's a good idea to sketch out what you want the final aquarium to look like. Thanks to this, you won't have to put in the time and effort that novices often use to rearrange.

Step 7: Embellish With Some Fish

You are free to skip this stage if you so want since fish are only used as an accent in planted aquariums. If this is not the case, you should choose fish species that suit the look and feel of the tank as a whole. Keep in mind that the real stars of your aquarium are plants. Therefore, you shouldn't pack too many fish into your aquarium.

A helpful hint is to make sure that you wait at least a couple of weeks before introducing fish to your planted tank once it has been established.

Step 8: Install Lighting And Decorative Elements

Step 8 – Add Lighting and Décor

A successful planted aquarium must have good lighting. You have the option of going with halogen lamps or LEDs. Your plants may need a low amount of light, a medium amount of light, or a high amount of light, depending on the kind of aquarium you have.

Planted Aquarium Décor

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Aquarium Decorations Fish-Tank Accessories Plants
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Easy to clean8.6
Easy to clean
Value for money8.6
Value for money
Suction power7.8
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You may use driftwood, fake corals, pebbles, figurines, and other items to embellish your planted aquarium. Decor should not be overdone since planted aquariums are best in their natural state.

Step 9: Take Proper Care Of Your Planted Aquarium In The Following Ways

It will take some time for your planted aquarium to reach the appropriate equilibrium level. In the meanwhile, you should devote some effort to maintaining it. Your tank should be cleaned once a week, water should be replaced weekly, and nutrients should be dosed consistently. Do not leave your aquarium in areas of direct sunlight either, since this might encourage the formation of algae. Ensure your aquarium is not near any draughty windows or heating or cooling vents.

Avoiding Common Errors In Planted Aquariums

Setting up a live aquarium with plants is challenging for those who have never done it. You have selected the right aquatic plants, fertilized them at the right time, and maintained the aquarium consistently. But your aquarium doesn't resemble how it should. Don't become discouraged or give up too quickly. Perhaps you're falling victim to one of the following common errors.

1. Failing To Perform Frequent Water Changes

1. Not Changing the Water Regularly

You can't simply put up your aquarium and walk away from it, even if it merely has plants to keep it alive. You have to maintain it.

You must keep changing the water, which is particularly important if your aquarium is brand new. It will also assist in eliminating difficulties caused by algae. As a general guideline, you should do a water change of at least 30 percent every week.

2. Not Making Many Plants During The Setup Phase

One further typical error made by inexperienced aquarists is being careless while planting the aquarium. Yes, your plants will expand and cover the whole tank over time as they mature. But in the meanwhile, algae will begin to develop and eventually take control of the situation. Make sure you put a lot of things in your new tank to prevent anything like that from occurring. One strategy that works well is to allow a space of around one centimeter between each plant.

3. Employing An Excessive Amount Of Substrate

3. Using Too Much Substrate

It's been stated before, and it's true: too much of anything is terrible. Even if a mineral-rich substrate of high quality is required, using too much of it might impact the chemical composition of the water. In addition, a substantial layer of substrate will give the impression that an inexperienced person was responsible for the construction of your tank. That is hardly something you would want to have in your aquarium?

A helpful hint is to start with a skinny substrate layer at the front of your tank and gradually build up the height as you travel backward.

4. Fertilizing Too Much

At specific points in their growth, your plants will need some nutrients. But overfeeding your plants can result in an outbreak of algae, so try to avoid doing so. Therefore, how much fertilizer should be applied? If the leaves on your plants begin to turn yellow, you may choose to provide them with some. If not, then you shouldn't.

5. Keeping An Unhealthy Amount Of Fish

5. Keeping Too Many Fish

Plant your aquarium with a few fish. Instead, they will contribute to the allure of the place. However, it is not a good idea to overload your aquarium. An excessive amount of fish can ruin the soup. To put it another way: They will affect the filtering system, which will result in waste building up. When stocking a planted aquarium, a general rule is to add no more than three fish at a time.

6. Setting Rocks And Driftwood In Their Positions Without Boiling Either Of Them

Your pebbles and wood must be boiled. It assists in the killing of fungal or algal spores, both of which can potentially destroy your aquarium and all of the hard work you have put into it. The next step is to put the Craft Rocks and driftwood in a kettle and pour boiling water over them. It should take more than an hour or two to clean them properly.

7. Not Enough Time Spent Pruning

6. Not Pruning Enough

In general, planted aquariums have a very crowded environment. Plants need space to breathe and light to grow. Trim them regularly. Pruning the plant regularly would help it flourish and make it seem bushier. Only watch out that you don't go too far with it. When you prune, you should also strive for a natural appearance. Keeping in mind that cultivating plants may also be highly soothing is important. If you insist, you may go ahead and prune your plants now.

8. Using A Small Aquarium

A giant aquarium almost always necessitates a higher level of upkeep. However, purchasing a modest aquarium to reduce the amount of maintenance required is a terrible idea. This is because the volume of water that a tank can store is directly proportional to its size. This indicates that the characteristics of the water, such as its temperature, pH level, and hardness, may vary in a concise amount of time. Your plants will not be able to adjust to the changes quickly, and as a result, they may perish. A tank that holds 20 gallons would be the best option for you.

Aquariums With Live Plants And Practicing Patience

Planted Aquariums and Patience

A little underwater garden It would be a shame to pass up the opportunity to prosper in your living room. You will be able to bring a bit of nature into your house with the aid of this. But keep in mind that it won't immediately begin to flourish when you plant it. You need to exercise patience with your tank. Please be patient as it develops into the work of art it is destined to become. Take note as the formerly minute leaflets expand, and the stems get taller. Appreciate their defects, something that Buddhist monks are all too familiar with. Give your planted aquarium all the care and attention you can muster while teaching you patience. It will finally identify the optimal equilibrium and then switch to auto-pilot mode.

We are interested in learning which of the several styles of planted aquariums you like the most. Also, please let us know if you have already begun working on your version. You are welcome to ask any questions you might have in the comment section that can be found below. We will be happy to assist you. Happy aquascaping!

Frequently Asked Questions