What is Absolutely Needed
For A Planted Freshwater Aquarium
(besides the livestock & plants)

The 16 products you definitely need,
and the 3 you might need

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).

what is absolutely needed for a planted freshwater aquarium (besides the livestock & plants)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.

Further Reading:
- Filtration Overview

what is absolutely needed for a planted freshwater aquarium (besides the livestock & plants)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.

what is absolutely needed for a planted freshwater aquarium (besides the livestock & plants)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.

Further Reading:
- Test Kit Overview

whatYou 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.

Further Reading:
- Cleaning Basics 101: Five Pro Cleaning Tips
- Top 10 Aquarium Maintenance Hacks

what is absolutely needed for a planted freshwater aquarium (besides the livestock & plants)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.

what is absolutely needed for a planted freshwater aquarium (besides the livestock & plants)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.

what is absolutely needed for a planted freshwater aquarium (besides the livestock & plants)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.

Water Flow
what is absolutely needed for a planted freshwater aquarium (besides the livestock & plants)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.

Further Reading:
- Pump Overview

CO2 is necessary for photosynthesis and plant growth. When you put lots of plants in a small tank the plants can absorb all the available CO2 and have limited growth. Because of this planted aquariums need a source of CO2. The best option is a complete CO2 system. We carry a number of Complete Ista CO2 Systems. A simpler solution is Seachem Flourish Excel, a liquid alternative to CO2 that can work on any tank.

Further Reading:
- CO2 System Overview

Temperature Control
Tropical planted freshwater aquariums should maintain a temperature of around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (though some plants may better off with temps closer to 76 degrees). If your aquarium temperature is dropping below 76 degrees at any time you will need a heater. All the heaters we carry have aquarium size ratings. Keep in mind the rating assumes you only need to raise the temperature by 10 degrees. We recommend Hydor Theo Heaters. You will need a thermometer to know your tank temperature.

If your aquarium is in a very warm room you may need a Chiller. If your aquarium is an a room that gets up to 80 degrees, the heat created by the aquarium and pump may push the temperature above 82 degrees, which is the absolute threshold for tropical fish.

Further Reading:
- Heater Overview
- Chiller Overview

GF/CI Outlet
Your home may have GF/CI outlets, but if they don’t you might want to have one installed for your aquarium equipment.

Fish Food
This really depends on the type of fish you purchase. Ask at the aquarium store about the best food for the fish you purchase.

If you travel and no one is at home to take care of your fish, you might consider an automatic fish feeder.

Fish Net
You will always want to use a fish net to move fish you purchase at the aquarium store.

1. Aquarium (& stand)
2. GF/CI outlet or adapter
3. RO water with a remineralizer or dechlorinator
4. Thermometer
5. Power filter or canister filter
6. Plant light
7. Heater
8. Test kits
9. Fertilizer
10. CO2
11. Hardscape (rocks, wood and decorations)
12. Substrate
13. Gravel vac
14. Algae magnet
15. Fish food
16. Fish net

Your planted aquarium might need these products:
1. If your tank gets below 76 degrees you will need a heater. If you tank gets above 82 you need a chiller.
2. Fish feeder