How to assemble a Visually Stunning Planted Tank For beginners

Starting from a raw water tank to a fully planted and working aquarium has several steps.

Preparing a planted tank at home might not be as easy as it sounds, but it also doesn’t take a rocket scientist either. Just a little hard work and determination is all you need. People who do not possess the required know-how and information will surely run into problems here and there unless they follow one important rule in this niche. If you are unsure, ask. This community is full of resources and loaded with knowledgeable experts that have made it their business to understand all things planted and aquascape. So to avoid what was supposed to be a fun hobby that quickly turned into a dreadful nightmare, do not be afraid to give a shout out to a forum or message board.

Starting from a raw water tank to a fully planted and working aquarium, there are several important aspects which need to be focused on, and careful attention is needed. As we may have gathered, planted tanks can be very complex, or they can be easy and fun. We have scaled down the details and provided a topical view of the most effective tips and tricks, which can be implemented in your planted aquarium to prepare a visually stunning planted tank on your own while keeping a few things in mind. So, if you are looking to create a remarkable planted tank, this should help point you in the right direction.

Some of us may not have the time nor the patience to set up and maintain a planted tank at home, but if you are in the market and looking to start one, observing your budget for the venture is a pretty good place to start and then proceed according to budgeting parameters. For people who are focused on beauty and essence rather than fish species, they are advised to get a recommendation from the nearest aquatic store and select the plants which are easier to maintain and grow. Furthermore, use of necessary substrates and nutrients is also required in order to ensure a healthy living environment for both plants and fish. Perhaps we should start off by looking at a couple of things to consider before actually getting in there and planting.

Avoid These 4 Visual Disasters at All Costs

One More Fail and I’ll Break it…I Swear!!!
When first getting into aquascaping, becoming frustrated with your scape is easy. Heck, I’ve ruined tanks after spending hours trying to get a design right, only to have some part of it fall through. If you are quick to ignite, throw your frustrations away. You will see tons of scapes that are simply breathtaking, and your first couple may not come out as visually stunning, but then again, that’s what all of this research is for. Keep a calm, clear mind and take time to plan your tank.

Could you Be Any More Predictable and Boring
You know when you find that perfect pattern, design, or even plant for this matter and just get completely carried away; using it everywhere it can possibly fit? Yeah, let’s not do that in aquascaping because you will quickly lose the interests due to a lack of visual stimulation. It is best to avoid using only one type of plant species, as your scene will look very bleak and bland.

Bigger is not Always Better
Yes, sometimes those aquatic plants with the large leaves look great, but that doesn’t mean it will be for your tank. Using larger leaves in your scape will take away from the over depth of the scene, causing your tank to look very short and cluttered in some cases. Thin, finer leaves, increase the depth, which makes your scape look huge, so avoid using too many large-leaved plants.

A Tank so Ugly, K.I.S.S. Could Not Help It
Now that you are paying attention. We are not talking about the rock band KISS. In the planted tank world, there exists countless plant species and livestock, and as tempting as it is, to turn your tank into ‘Noah’s Ark,’ it is best to limit your species, as mixing too many types can most certainly turn onlookers away. Keep It Simple Stupid, and utilize your space wisely, and do not bog it down with unneeded clutter.

Focused on Dead Center…I Think Not!!!
As mentioned in 4-Rule approach to aquascaping, symmetry is terrible and should be avoided in every aquascape. A structured aquascape comes off as too neat and structured, which is not the point of scaping. Setting the focal point to be slightly off-centered is ideal and the general goal for most aquascapers.

Scape Shape Is Great to Create
Looking to make a mountain, slope, or other visually stunning aquascapes? Well, you will not be doing that by using high plants all the way across your scape. The “Hedge” look is not in and actually works against your scape. If you are looking to create a mountainous convexing shape, then the use of edged rock hardscape will help get you there. Refraining from putting your mountain in the center, as mentioned just a few short lines ago; you can go for different types of mountain looks, depending on tank size, preferred style, and available hardscape. Another popular shape is a triangular setup, which can resemble an island. It is typically very clean, well groomed, and follows an off-centered gradient that can be quite attractive if pulled off correctly.


Care and maintenance of plants
In order to give aquatic plants the best environment to survive and grow, we must take care of their nutritional and food requirements by providing them with optimal water chemistry and the proper dosing and feeding to effectively make the uptake run smoothly. Starting with the first steps to make your tank attractive, talk has swarmed the use of fine quality potting soil. This will not only last longer in your aquarium but will also provide better growth and nutritional benefits to the plants. Some aquatic plants tend to grow better in low lighting whereas other must be provided with an adequate lighting source. Though not all aquatic plants are hard to grow, some of them require routine attention and care like regular EI dosing.

Aquarium setup and building
Starting with the initial setup, beginners usually prefer building low-tech tanks as they are easier to maintain and handle. Along with routine maintenance and dosing, your tank must also be chemical and detergent free to keep your plants and fish safe from bacterial infections, algal blooms, and other inclement “tank weather.” . At first, spread the substrate evenly.

We find that using lego sheets like this: LEGO X-Large Gray Baseplate is an incredibly easy way to make partitions in your aquascape. This will help prevent soil from settling over time which will lead any hill you make to collapse. This is also a great way to incorporate sand in your aquascape if you're feeling adventurous.

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Before you add any rocks or aquatic wood, do not forget to wash and clean them properly ensuring each of them is free of contaminants and add them with care so that the glass walls are not damaged. For fish that need a hiding place for breeding and laying eggs, we advise aquarium owners to plan their decoration by keeping this factor in mind and create nooks for fish to hang out in.

Placing decorative rocks and wood
When dealing with woods whether it be natural wood or driftwood, aquatic woods should be soaked in a container of water prior to introduction so they can properly acclimate and align itself with the aquarium parameters. In addition, boil your wood removing any unwanted impurities to the water so you can also yield a cleaner more purified look. At this point, you have started placing your wood piece in your tank and setting the arrangement.

The best wood for aquascaping are the following:

Malaysian Driftwood - Dark wood that will release tannins.

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Redmoor - Has a reddish color and all kinds of twisted knots. Great as a centerpiece or for a jungle look

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Manzanita - Come from small trees and has small thin branches

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One critical and commonly overlooked aspect is the end product. So many times, aquarist will build for initial beauty, but what the scape grows and comes to life, the original inspiration of the piece is gone, and the ending scape is not what you hoped it would be. Find a relevant place to tie certain species down accordingly by cotton or fishing line could make things easier and help keep everything in place as plants start to take roots or grab onto surfaces.

There is no need to go overboard with buying a ton of plant species! This is a common aquascaping mistake. It is much better to focus on 3-5 types of plants or mosses than to have a bunch of plants that you try to find places for. By keeping a consistent theme, it helps create a visually stunning piece. Once you feel more comfortable and have done a few aquascapes, try adding more varieties.

HC moss, Monte Carlo, and dwarf hairgrass are excellent starter ideas for carpeting. Just make sure you're using CO2 with these!

Rocks are another great way to expand your aquascape. Here are some great rocks that look beautiful in a planted tank. These are typically pretty easy to find.

Dragonscale stone - Grey stone with marking indents all around.

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Kei stone - Reddish color that mimics a rocky cliff

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Ohko stone - Brownish green rock that breaks apart easily and has many holes.

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Seiryu stone - Dark rock often used by Takashi Amano for minimalist aquascapes.

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Rocks can be stacked or glued together to create a visually stunning look. It is also possible to use thread to tie moss to rocks easily. Make sure when attaching moss to rocks or driftwood that you use plenty. Often times you will have died off when you first put new plants in a tank especially when the tank is not established. If you only attach small pieces of moss it is very likely it will not survive. Remember the key to success, in the beginning, is to plant heavily.

Extra care and nutrition
We have discussed some of the best tips and tricks to enhance the natural beauty of your planted tank from a basic and introductory standpoint. There are more in-depth articles that break down everything you need to know about the planted tank and aquascaping community. From plant selection to wood preparations, understanding different aspects to planted aquariums is important, and some methods as explained above can help you get started and well on your way to properly completing your aquarium designing procedure.

Plants such as Crypt wendtii, Echinodorus spp and Vallisneria spp are amongst the most recommended species for home aquariums. As they are very easy to place and maintain, there are some important aspects to be focused on to ensure better health and growth. Beginners mostly find it painful to clean the planted tank regularly. This can greatly damage the environment of the aquarium making it difficult for both plants and fish to survive, not to mention spark algae outbreaks that you may not be able to recover from.

Ensure regular cleaning

In order to clean your planted tank effectively, water changing will be one of the most touched down topic; however, it is important to keep your equipment clean too. Every couple of months, remove powerhead, filter, and make sure any pumps or tubing is algae free.

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Are you ready to plant?

As we all want our planted tanks to come out attractive and elegant, this is not always the case and can require a few do-overs, but following some small care and maintenance tips will definitely help produce good results. As we have discussed how to prepare your own visually stunning planted tank, it is wise also to do some digging and look into some more information in order to determine what type of tank is for you. The internet is full of help planted tank articles that can help point you in the right direction, not to mention the extremely helpful community of genuine folk. For aesthetic design, keep in mind that each plant features its own characteristics and it is advised beginners do research for the type of plant species and their requirements in order to maintain and develop your planted tank properly.

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Along with care and maintenance, placing relevant aquarium accessories such as a trusty CO2 diffuser, ample lighting source, and adequate water filtration mechanism are needed for successful high tech tanks, but not required to produce stunning results. Good luck and if you need a hand gives a big shout to our planted tank community and someone will probably chime in with a good answer.

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