How to Setup a Planted Aquarium - Live Plants for Beginners

Learning how to set up a planted fish tank is extremely easy. However, people often overcomplicate this simple process so that we will simplify it here. 

The first step in setting up a planted aquarium is to realize that it is the same as any other fish tank, except we have live plants in it and a couple of variables that need to be changed. So, we have to set up all the fish tank basics.

Get yourself an aquarium, fill it with water, get a filter, and cycle the tank; without all these, we have nothing. Now that we have thought past the idea of having a basic aquarium setup, you need to modify the aquarium to make it eligible to hold live plants.


Most aquarium plants don't like a lot of water movement. Since most hand-on-the-back filters sit on the aquarium's side or back, aquarium plants are likely to struggle with them.

We want as little water flow as possible. Thus, use a sponge filter.

Sponge filters don't promote too much water flow or surface agitation. Get the kind that sticks to the side of the glass, and the output of it points to the water surface because that way, the water surface moves a little bit. 

Aquarium Lighting

Get yourself a planted LED light. Spend $30 to $100 on a decent light because it is crucial for a planted tank. Ideally, you want a color spectrum between six and seven thousand Kelvin.


There are many substrate options, and that's where people get overwhelmed. However, you can grow plants in gravel, pure gravel, and even pure sand.

The problem with gravel and sand is that no nutrients can feed the tank. Do your research to find which plants can thrive in such substrate.

Nutrients in the substrate should be your most significant consideration. The soil will have more nutrients than sand.


So, get a tank and fill it with your substrate (soil). Attach a dual sponge filter to the side to prevent too much flow, and buy a good LED light. 

Start small with a 10-gallon aquarium and experiment. Another variable that complicates the process is that plants grow differently. There are tons of different plants in the hobby. You have to research individual plants.

When you get new plants, they are likely to die. Don't pull them away; leave them in, and only pull off the dead leaves. They'll probably come back—sometimes, it can take months. It's called plant melting.

Get plants from your local fish keepers. This way, the plants will be used in your local waterways and thus have a much higher chance of survival. 

Think about raising your aquarium plant light above the aquarium sump. This helps spread out the lighting, it's less intense, we see a lot of algae, and it replicates sunlight better. You can even buy the light with an extender. 

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