How to prepare a planted tank for the College life

How to prepare a planted tank for the College life

Building your own planted tank might require extensive planning and efforts, following some of the best tips and tricks can surely help you complete the procedure without any pain.

Even if you are not aware of the basics of building a planted tank, learning a few simple aspects such as maintenance of CO2 level, light adjustment, and proper cleanliness can prove to be extremely helpful.

In times where students who have left their homes for higher studies, either leave their setup behind, left to miss their own planted tank or bring it with them, of which this article contains common practices to consider when looking to build one of your own.

Therefore, if you are excited and motivated enough to build your own attractive and fully functional planted tank when you have left your beloved 'baby' home, following the steps explained below will help you in bringing back those feelings of loneliness.

Factors to consider before you think of building a new planted tank

Most students will probably want to move their fish along with them to the university, setting it up in their corner of the dorm, but there are some aspects which need to be focused before you make your final decision.

Make sure you are informed about university rules and regulations to avoid any future regrets. Some universities usually allow certain types of animals and pets to be kept in dorms. Moreover, if you are sharing your room, you should ask your roommate in advance to check whether your planted tank ventures would be considered disturbing or not.

Learning about the room size and environment in advance can also be helpful in case if you are planning to bring or build a bigger or more complicated planted tank. In the event, you are not able to figure things out, leaving your fish behind, along with your precious aquascape could be the best option and perhaps providing instructions to love ones for maintenance to make sure they are being treated with care and properly taken care of.

Students who have planned to move their fish with them to experience the college life too, there are some other important points which must be considered. In order to make your planted tank healthy and safe for fish to survive, a healthy water supply is necessary. The lifespan of fish depends upon water conditions for which you must avail information from your dorm in advance. As now it is your duty to ensure the survival conditions. You must also be aware of the dangers of using regular tap water and the conditions it can provoke and how to avoid future regrets. You can also ask for filtered water from your LFS, use your own filtering system for water, or use store-bought treatments to ensure the health of plants and fish in your aquarium.

Starting with your personal Planted Tank

Now that you are aware of a couple of aspects and requirements of building a planted tank, there are some other important points to be focused on when building a planted tank at college. Not only will you need to make sure the selected aquatic plants are healthy, fish are cared for, and proper tank maintenance is met, you will also have to be wary of any outside factors when presenting new elements to your tank. Although maintaining a densely planted tank is difficult, especially while in school, it can, however, provide an escape and sense of tranquility while cultivating a beautiful aquascape oasis or just routine trimmings for your planted tank.

After you have obtained a tank, a starting point we recommend is for you to research and select a suitable substrate that will be able to help keep your plants healthy and happy. A high-quality substrate that has high mineral contents can ensure a healthy living environment for your plants. After you have found your desired substrate, rinse it properly before you put the substrate into the aquarium.

During this point, if you plan to develop and grow a beautiful scene through aquascaping, then planning hardscapes and plants will be a vital step that should not be overlooked during the setup process. Backtracking to add stones, driftwood, and other hardscapes can prove to be difficult down the road.

In the end, fill the aquarium with dechlorinated and filtered water. Taking note certain parameters such as pH and Hardness (kH) can prove to be great guiders when setting up water conditions. Of course, there are other parameters in water chemistry to consider when wanting to build a tank. Areas having a hard and acidic water supply can reduce the lifespan of your fish for which some preventive measures can be taken to reduce the hardness and create a sustainable environment for your biocommunity. Using reverse osmosis, a procedure that can take tap water and filter out harmful chemicals and heavy metals that are normally found in tap water, thus it helps to maintain ideal pH levels and increases your chances of creating the perfect planted tank for your college dorm.

Choosing Fish species best suitable for your planted tank

After you are done with the initial setup, choosing the appropriate plants is the next step. Some plants naturally create a carpet effect which can add to the overall designed scene and can also ensure a healthy environment for your plants and fish. Common natural species such as Cuba, Glosso, and Dwarf Hairgrass are ideal for students who are planning to build their own planted tanks, with Java moss proving to be the easiest to grow, cultivate, and maintain. Conditions such as light, temperature and CO2 levels must be kept at the recommended levels in order to ensure the survival of both fish and plants.

Once you are done with planting, the next step is to make sure you have installed a sufficient lighting system. A Standard fluorescent lamp is reported to damage plant growth causing plants to stagnate and eventually die, which is why using strip T5 lights or an LED setup can be beneficial. After your lighting source is properly established, you will then want to make sure your diffusers, injectors, filters, and other water and tank maintenance equipment is in working conditions.

Now you can wait for your aquatic plants to grow and trim them routinely to achieve the desired visual effects, or let them go wild and see where it takes you. Waiting at least for 2 to 3 weeks is advised before you insert fish in order to make sure the tank is properly cycled and the initial natural nitrogen cycle has been allowed to finish. This will help to enhance your tank's health and lifespan.

Maintenance and care

Once your planted tank is fully operational and you have created the perfect aquascape based on your research and drawn planted inspiration, you are advised to monitor water levels, chemical parameters, plant growth regularly, and sustain required CO2 levels. You will also have to take care of plant trimmings. If you decide to carpet your tank with moss, more specifically, the expert level riccia fluitans, which needs to be groomed almost weekly. In case you are not able to provide an optimal CO2 supply, trimming can be prolonged for up to one month at the cost of plant health. Even though you may have confined areas, there are DIY CO2 methods that can help provide proper CO2 levels in small setups.

Furthermore, we also recommend students to follow proper EI dosing schedules for better productivity and beauty of their planted tank. Routine water changes and proper maintenance with solid cleaning, trimming, and grooming technique, having a planted tank at college can actually become more of a relief than a chore, especially once you have it completely set up and running. Regular care of your planted tank can help create a smooth carpet growth along with a healthy environment for the fish and other plants to thrive.


Building your own planted tank is absolutely a great idea if you are really missing your aquarium from back home. College students have been finding and creating some of the finest and most beautiful planted tanks, and the hobby has been steadily growing in popularity. To help college students build the aquarium of their dreams, we have lightly discussed some of the best methods and practices which can be followed to simplify the whole procedure. Moreover, you need to keep in mind the aspects which need to be sorted out before making a planted tank in order to avoid any future problems. We hope this article will surely bring our readers best support and guidance while building their own planted fish tank.