- Additives & Supplements
- Air Pumps & C02
- Controllers & Testing
- Food & Feeders
- Heaters & Chillers
- Protein Skimmers
- UV Sterilizers
You wish to have a freshwater planted aquarium. What do you need to be able to put fish and plants into the aquarium with a reasonable expectation they will survive and thrive? Here are the 16 essential products necessary to have a planted freshwater aquarium (along with three you might need).
With a quality filter you will need to do less work cleaning your tank. For tanks less than 40 gallons a simple hang-on power filter is perfect. For tanks over 40 gallons you really need a canister filter.
- Filtration Overview
Plants need ample light. In planted aquariums lighting is often the most expensive purchase. We recommend using LED lights because in the long run they will save you money as they are energy efficient (and you won’t have to change the bulbs). They also generate less heat than fluorescent lights. We recommend Kessil Tuna Sun Planted-Tank LED Lights for most situations. These lights are very bright and come in three sizes that can accommodate all sizes of aquariums (for tanks over 24" you will need multiple lights).
Consult the Freshwater Planted Tank Lighting Chart for recommendations for your particular size aquarium.
If the Kessil lights are too pricey, or you absolutely want a fixture instead of a pendant light, then you might consider the Fluval Fresh & Plant LED 3.0 Aquarium Light Fixtures.
You will want to run your aquarium lights for a consistent number of hours every day. Some lights come with controllers/timers for turning the light on and off. For lights without that capability you will need a light timer.
Testing is needed to insure that your water is safe for your fish and plants. When you first set up a tank you will want to test for ammonia, and nitrite. Before adding plants you will also want to test for KH, GH, pH, and nitrate. We recommend the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Freshwater Master Test Kit along with the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals GH & KH Test Kit. Combined they have all the needed test.
Once your tank is set up and running, testing for nitrate and GH will be the most important. Consult the Test Kit Overview for frequency of testing.
- Test Kit Overview
You will need to clean your aquarium to keep it healthy and attractive. For maintenance you will need a good gravel vac and algae magnet. The Python Gravel Vacs and the Flipper Magnet Cleaners are good choices. Make sure to look at the depth of your aquarium when choosing a gravel vac and thickness of your glass when choosing an algae magnet.
- Cleaning Basics 101: Five Pro Cleaning Tips
- Top 10 Aquarium Maintenance Hacks
Having a healthy aquarium starts with good water. Because of the many impurities in tap water, it is best to use reverse osmosis water with a remineralizer. To save money many aquarists will instead decide to use tap water and add a dechlorinator to remove toxic chlorine. If using reverse osmosis water you can purchase water from your local fish store or grocery store or make your own with an RO unit. You can then use Brightwell Aquatics Remineraliz to raise the GH and KH to the desired level. If using tap water you can treat it with Seachem Prime.
You will need to add a substrate and hardscape to your aquarium to give your fish places to hide and plants places to grow. In planted aquariums a traditional gravel substrate is not the best because you will want to replicate the dirt that water plants root in to. It is better to use a soil such as Seachem Flourite Black Gravel. This substrate contains nutrients that act as a plant fertilizer and better replicate a natural soil environment. Hardscape includes rocks, wood and decorations.
There are many natural decorations such as rock and driftwood that can be added. Because these materials are expensive to ship they are sometimes best purchased locally or collected from nature. These materials can also sometimes have heavy metals, humic acid or other undesirable compounds on them. Because of this many aquarists will choose to use artificial decorations such as the AquaTop Mangrove Roots & Wood Branch Décor.
If you look on our website you will notice that there are many additives on our site. In planted aquariums all additives are essentially fertilizers. Plants need fertilizer to grow new tissue. While you can add different types of fertilizers independently it is easiest for beginners to add a comprehensive fertilizer with all of the essential elements in one product. Seachem Flourish contains all the major fertilizer components water plants need.
- Additives Overview
Water movement is important in fish-only tanks to oxygenate the water and stir up the waste so the filter can remove it. As a general rule you will want to have enough water movement to turn over your aquarium’s total water volume at least 4 to 5 times per hour. Your canister filter or power filter should be large enough to accomplish the turning over of the water 4 to 5 times per hour. If your filter does not have enough flow, you can add a powerhead to the tank, but it's best to just purchase a filter that will have enough pumping capacity for your freshwater system.
- Pump Overview