Aquarium Plant Fertilization: A Complete Guide to Achieving Thriving Aquatic Plants

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Video aquarium plant fertilization

Aquatic plants add natural beauty to aquariums and contribute to water purification. However, many aquarium owners wonder if fertilizing their plants is necessary. In our experience, fertilization is often required because fish waste alone doesn’t provide plants with sufficient nutrients to flourish. Additionally, the quality of your tap water plays a crucial role. For instance, well water may contain elevated nitrate levels and heavy metals, which can promote plant growth. Conversely, the tap water at our fish store near Seattle, Washington is stripped of nutrients and similar to RODI water, making it ideal for raising discus fish but less so for plants.

Considering the diverse nature of tap water, lighting choices, plant selection, and tank setups, some aquarium companies offer numerous fertilizers to cater to every scenario. However, this extensive range can be overwhelming for newcomers to planted aquariums. To simplify matters, we have created the Easy Fertilizer line, consisting of four beginner-friendly products that are ideal for planted tank setups with low to medium lighting and no CO2 injection. Our customers have achieved great success with our Aquarium Co-Op fertilizers because they contain the optimal nutrient concentrations for most aquatic plants. While some users may already have an abundance of nutrients in their water and require less assistance from fertilizers, others may have specific needs for high-light planted tanks with pressurized CO2.

Let’s dive into a comprehensive guide that will help you determine which of our fertilizers are right for your aquarium.

1. Easy Green: The All-in-One Liquid Fertilizer

Easy Green

If you choose only one fertilizer, Easy Green should be your go-to option. This all-in-one liquid fertilizer provides the perfect balance of macronutrients and micronutrients, eliminating the need for complex calculations. Easy Green is entirely safe for fish, shrimp, snails, and other invertebrates. Unlike other fertilizers that require precise measurements, Easy Green is available in two convenient sizes with a pump head or dropper cap for effortless dosing. Please refer to the product page for our recommended dosage instructions.

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To find the ideal dosage for your aquarium, we recommend testing the water weekly. Using a 60-second test strip, determine the quantity of Easy Green required to reach 25-50 ppm nitrate. It is crucial to ensure that most of the nitrate comes from the fertilizer, rather than fish waste. By following this approach, your plants will thrive. Should your nitrate levels exceed 75 ppm, continue fertilizing to compensate for missing key elements like potassium. Consult our water change flow chart to gradually lower nitrate levels to 25 ppm or lower. For further information on nitrate and proper dosing, please read our comprehensive article.

2. Easy Root Tabs: The Substrate Fertilizer

Easy Root Tabs

While Easy Green caters to plants absorbing nutrients from the water column, heavy root feeders have a preference for feeding from the substrate. Examples of heavy root feeders include sword plants, cryptocoryne plants, and bulb plants. Providing both liquid and substrate fertilizers ensures the best growth. Some hobbyists opt for nutrient-rich substrates like organic dirt or expensive aquarium soil, but it’s important to note that they can have side effects such as pH reduction or ammonia leaching (toxic to fish). If you’re using an inert substrate like regular aquarium gravel or your aquarium soil has depleted its nutrients over time, consider adding Easy Root Tabs to fertilize the substrate.

Easy Root Tabs consist of mineralized topsoil, high-quality red clay, and essential nutrients like nitrate, phosphate, potassium, and iron. Insert a capsule as deep as possible in the substrate using your fingers or tweezers in a grid pattern, spacing them every 4-6 inches. If your heavy root feeders are not evenly distributed in the tank, place the root tabs directly under the plants. For instance, a small crypt may require one root tab, while a giant Aponogeton plant may need up to seven. Unlike liquid fertilization, substrate fertilization necessitates regular observation of the heavy root feeders to detect signs of nutrient deficiencies or melting. For detailed information on using root tabs, please refer to our article.

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3. Easy Iron: Enhancing Red Plant Vibrancy

Easy Iron

If you’re interested in red plants but are disappointed with the lack of vivid scarlet hues in your aquarium, there are a few steps you can take. Firstly, ensure your tank has high lighting and consider adding CO2 injection. Additionally, consider supplementing with Easy Iron. Easy Iron is a stand-alone nutrient bottle because our Easy Green formula is already rich in iron. Bear in mind that excessive iron in Easy Green could lead to algae problems, such as hair algae.

Iron is crucial for plants to produce chlorophyll, which is particularly important for fast-growing or high light plants. If you notice that the newest leaves on your plants appear yellow or pale, indicating a lack of chlorophyll, while the leaf veins remain dark-colored, it’s time to dose some Easy Iron. For detailed dosing guidelines, please consult our iron supplements article.

4. Easy Carbon: Combating Algae Growth

Easy Carbon

Contrary to popular belief, liquid carbon products such as Seachem Flourish Excel or API CO2 Booster are not fertilizers and are inadequate substitutes for CO2 gas systems in planted tanks. Instead, these products typically contain glutaraldehyde, a fish- and invertebrate-safe algaecide used to prevent algae growth. Our liquid carbon alternative, Easy Carbon, treats the entire aquarium and helps minimize algae growth over time. Additionally, you can use a pipette for spot treatment of stubborn algae like black beard algae.

However, if your aquarium is heavily infested with algae, dosing Easy Carbon alone may not improve the situation. In those cases, we recommend focusing on achieving a balance between lighting, fertilizer, and CO2 (if used) to foster healthy plant growth that outcompetes algae. Liquid carbon serves as a useful aid in treating the symptoms of an unbalanced tank but won’t address the underlying problem. It’s worth noting that more delicate plants like mosses, vallisneria, anacharis, and Marimo moss balls can be negatively affected by liquid carbon, so consider treating them with reduced amounts. For more details, we invite you to read our article on liquid carbon.

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At Aquarium Co-Op, our aim is to simplify plant fertilization for both beginners and those struggling to maintain healthy plants. For most hobbyists, Easy Green is essential, along with Easy Root Tabs for aquariums with rooted plants. If you have a high-light tank with red plants, Easy Iron can help enhance their color. Lastly, for algae problems, consider Easy Carbon. Explore our full Easy Fertilizer line to maximize the growth of your planted aquarium.

To learn more about our products, visit the Ames Farm Center.