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Converting a Fish-Only Aquarium to a Planted Aquarium

Q. I would like to change my aquarium from a fish-only setup to a planted aquarium. Do I want to take any particular steps so I can develop vegetation?
Jasper Kolbe
Dassel, MN

A. There isn’t a lot that one has to do to give you the chance to develop aquatic vegetation in an aquarium. The key issues that might be totally different from a fish-only aquarium are lighting and vitamins. You will most likely want to add extra mild however not essentially extra vitamins. Optionally, you possibly can add carbon dioxide.

A primary concern is lighting. Usually, fish-only aquariums are arrange with sufficient lighting for viewing: roughly about a watt or so of fluorescent lighting per gallon. Aquatic vegetation want extra mild — about twice that quantity — with high-quality specular reflectors. With plain white plastic reflectors, 2½ to three watts per gallon works higher.

The subsequent concern is vitamins. When protecting solely fish in an aquarium, we normally strive to preserve the nitrates and phosphates at a minimal to keep away from algae development. Some people even put phosphate removers of their aquarium filters. In a well-planted aquarium, you don’t want to take away the nitrates and phosphates; the aquatic vegetation want these vitamins and can soak up them. You can simply preserve ranges of nitrates and phosphates at 10 ppm and 1 ppm, respectively, with none worry that this can induce any algae blooms — if the aquarium has a lot of aquatic vegetation. If you place just one or two vegetation, or a few strands of Elodea within the aquarium, you’ll most likely find yourself dropping in each instructions, having sufficient nitrates and phosphate to feed algae however not sufficient to feed the vegetation. So, utilizing a lot of aquatic vegetation is vital.

Fish meals could be an ample supply of plant vitamins if there’s minimal lighting, however you probably have 2 or extra watts per gallon otherwise you add carbon dioxide, the vegetation will begin to develop quicker and expend vitamins faster. In that case, you will have to complement by including nitrates and phosphate. If you retain the aquarium clear of algae when it seems, you possibly can preserve comparatively excessive ranges of nitrates and phosphates, and have little or no algae to take care of — a lot lower than in a fish-only aquarium.

Some aquarists determine that extra mild is best, which is true solely up to a level. Once you add greater than about 2 watts per gallon, algae could be tougher to management, until you add CO2. Carbon dioxide is a vital nutrient for vegetation. Terrestrial vegetation get CO2 from the air; aquatic vegetation have to accept the quantity of carbon dioxide dissolved within the water. Some CO2 naturally dissolves from the air into the water, and that’s ample, until you strive to use greater than 2 watts of sunshine per gallon (you probably have stronger lighting, the aquatic vegetation will photosynthesize extra, depleting extra vitamins, together with the small quantity of carbon dioxide that’s out there from the ambiance).

Carbon dioxide could be added utilizing commercially out there yeast fermentation techniques or by utilizing compressed carbon dioxide.  However, added CO2 shouldn’t be important in case you preserve lighting at my suggestion.

On the opposite hand, aquatic vegetation will profit from added carbon dioxide even when your aquarium doesn’t have an intense degree of lighting. Also, added CO2 doesn’t spur algae development.

You don’t want any particular substrate, so long as you might have sand or gravel that may maintain rooted vegetation. Aquatic vegetation can get vitamins instantly from the water column; nevertheless, aquatic vegetation can feed from their roots, so vegetation with roots will benefit from vitamins within the substrate.

Regular giant water modifications are a good thought for fish-only and planted aquariums to take away the natural compounds that may construct up over time. So, there’s no cause to keep away from including vegetation to your aquarium.

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