It can be difficult for a beginner to know how to incorporate plants into their setup with the amount of conflicting information out there, but a professional aquascaper breaks it down and makes it easy for anyone to start a planted tank.

Many new hobbyists transition from keeping freshwater fish to a planted aquarium. This is often inspired by the fantastic planted aquarium images available, as well as the aim of keeping live plants that look more impressive than plastic plants and keep the aquarium healthier. Indeed, live plants benefit the aquarium by providing more natural refuges (and even food) for fish and fry, oxygenating the water by day, absorbing excess nutrients, and/or releasing allelochemical defenses that may, to some extent, control algae.

When most beginners attempt to keep plants, two approaches and outcomes are common. In the first approach, the budding planted aquarium keeper proceeds directly to the local fish store (LFS), purchases a few appealing varieties, and plants them in their current substrate. A few months later, the aquarist is often left with spindly, yellowing, or wilting plants commonly plagued with algae. Replacing these becomes expensive and irritating, and often the hobbyist returns to hardscape items and artificial plants.

The other is the ambitious aquarist who researches planted aquariums online or through other means and is inundated with conflicting advice and complex terminology relating to the requirements of their desired species.

The second approach often yields more success, as experienced aquarists will recommend hardier plants and easier, low-tech ways to maintain them, but the influx of baffling information can make some wary or hesitant to learn more, preventing their development as an underwater gardener and aquascaper.

However, before you start gardening, it is essential to understand your tank’s limits and the effect of its physical and chemical parameters, lighting, and livestock on a given plant species and aquascape.