Small Tank Plant Secrets

By: Jim S.

Standard Aquarium

Planted Aquarium

Overstocking or overfeeding the aquarium should be avoided. As in a standard aquarium, not overstocking or overfeeding is important. Being mindful of this will help to prevent algae problems; as in many other aspects of the aquarium hobby, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The addition of fertilizers will only encourage algae growth. The regular addition of fertilizer is required to meet the nutritional requirements of the plants.
Monitoring the pH level is important. It is also important to monitor KH and, to lesser degree, phosphates.
Medications should be used as directed when appropriate. Extra care is called for when using medications as some contain substances that are harmful to plants. In particular, copper based medications should be avoided. Algaecides (which typically have adverse effects on higher plants as well) and snail-killing concoctions (which usually contain copper) should also not be used.
Excessive algae growth can be remedied through a combination of water changes and light reduction. Algaecides may also be used. Excessive algae growth is best remedied through repeated, large water changes, greater attention to the amount of fertilizer being used and addressing any overabundance of phosphates. Reducing the light is generally a losing proposition as it detracts from the higher plants’ ability to out-compete the algae for nutrients. As stated previously, algaecides should not be used.
Compatibility relates to the fishes’ compatibility with each other. Compatibility also relates to the fishes’ compatibility with the plants. Some fish are herbivorous and will view a planted aquarium as little more than a salad bar. Others dig in the gravel; uprooting plants and disturbing substrate additives in the process.
A new tank should be cycled using a small number of  inexpensive, hardy fish. This process, which typically takes 4–6 weeks to occur, involves the establishment a population of nitrifying bacteria. A new tank should be heavily planted from the outset. 1–2 weeks should be allowed for the plants to become better established followed by the addition of the first fish.

Bibliography/Further Reading
Aquarium Plants, Gerhard Brünner, TFH Publications, 1973
Aquarium Plants, Niels Jacobson, Blandford Press, 1979
Aquarium Plants, Barry James, Salamander Books Ltd., 1986
Nature Aquarium World, Takashi Amano, TFH Publications, 1994
The Optimum Aquarium, Kaspar Horst & Horst E. Kipper, AD aquadocumenta Verlag GmbH, 1986
Sunken Gardens, Karen A. Randall, Aquarium Fish Magazine, September 1997– Water Plants in the Aquarium, Ines Scheurmann, Gräfe and Unzer Gmbh, 1987
The 10-Gallon Plant Tank, Dan Resler, Aquarium Fish Magazine, May 1995

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