How to Setup a Low-Tech Planted Aquarium:

Many aquarists also like adding plants to their freshwater fish aquariums. Plants provide a natural look to the aquariums & there are tons of photos of natural planted aquariums which inspire new aquarists to add live plants to their freshwater fish aquariums.

In this tutorial I will share my experience of building a cheap planted aquarium suitable for tropical species. Tissue culture plants have been planted in aquariums, then I have trimmed them because they grew very tall and then I have used the stem plants to set up another low budget Angelfish planted aquarium. You can have a look at it: How to setup an inexpensive Angelfish planted aquarium using free plants

I am keeping tropical fish in this aquarium & their numbers are increased now due to breeding. My tank seems like a planted forest & in this video I have shared my expertise of setting up a planted aquarium for keeping fish healthy. Live plants can clean the water & fish can eat them, & allow fries & stressed fish to hide in the leaves.

I have used 3 bags of AquaEarth aquarium soil for this project along with 3 bags of gravel because live plants need substrate to cover their roots. Also, fish are messy & they dig the gravels & uproot plants which is a big problem because you might see your plants floating in the tank. But gravels help in fixing the plants. Fish wastes act as fertilizers for the plants, which help them in growing well. I have chosen background, foreground & midground plant species for low price & they need low maintenance too but add real beauty to the tank.


Create an Inexpensive Planted Tank
Create an Inexpensive Planted Tank


Tank Plants best suitable for low-tech tropical planted tank:

  • Bacopa Monnieri or Moneywort
  • Rotala Rotundifolia
  • Staurogyne Repens
  • Alternanthera Reineckii
  • Glossostigma Elatinoides
  • Java Fern
  • Water Wisteria
  • And More

 

Tropical Fish best suitable for low-tech tropical planted tank:

  • Platy
  • Molly
  • Endler Guppy
  • Assorted Guppy
  • Cardinal Tetra
  • Clown Loach
  • Rasbora
  • White Cloud Minnow
  • Swordtail
  • And More

If you want to create a tropical planted aquarium for a low price then my advice is to introduce live plants that do not require high maintenance. They can help in filtration of the water, adding oxygen & providing hiding spots for the babies. But your tank still needs a filter for wiping out pollutants & trapping fish waste. I am using an internal canister filter for this job, & a sponge filter is used at the filter intake so that small fish like shrimps or babies are not trapped inside the filter intake. If you have many live plants in an aquarium then babies can live in the same aquarium with adults.

 

Benefits of Low-Tech Tropical Planted Aquariums:

Live plants provide natural color which beautifies the tank. They are safe for the inhabitants & they absorb fish waste & they encourage fish to breed.

If your tank only has substrate then your fish will less quickly breed because plants can provide a natural environment which is best suitable for the fish when they are breeding in the wild. Fish can lay eggs on plants leaves & can hide their eggs too in the plants. Also fries can use plants as cover because adult fish eat the young.

When the nitrogen cycle completes then the only toxic compound left will be nitrates. But the good news is that nitrates are not that toxic to aquarium inhabitants as compared to ammonia & nitrites. The bad news is if there are lots of nitrates in the tank then it is still toxic for the life of the aquarium inhabitants. However, you can wipe out nitrates from the aquarium with frequent partial water changes or introduce live plants to the aquarium which can absorb nitrates. Nitrates can help fertilize the plants & there is no need for extra fertilizers. Still, you need to do partial water changes but not very frequently because fresh water contains lots of minerals that can keep your fish & plants healthy.

Live plants make the tank look natural. Artificial plants can add beauty, but aquariums look more natural with live plants.

Fish need hiding places & they hide in the plants, rest on the leaves & eat them. Stressed fish can find some relief when they are hiding. Also fries can hide from adult fish in plants, & you can keep fries & adults in one tank if there are an abundance of plants.

Low tech planted aquariums need low maintenance & plants can propagate easily. You don’t need extra fertilizers & these plants grow well when fully submerged in the presence of tank lights. You can cut the stems of the plants & replant them which reproduces these plants from cuttings.

Live plants add oxygen to the water which allows fish to breathe it. High levels of oxygen can help in keeping fish healthy. 

 

How to set up a cheap tropical planted aquarium:

Setting up an inexpensive tropical fish tank is easy because you need to add cheap plants & fish. Your fish numbers will increase due to breeding & if your plants are overgrown then cut down the stems & use these cuttings for propagation. In several months, your aquarium will contain lots of fish & your tank will be full of mature plants. I have introduced baby plants to my aquarium & introduced a few fish species but now my aquarium has too many fish & it seems full of plants.

In below video I will show you how to setup a low-tech tropical planted tank:


How to Make a Cheap Tropical Planted Aquarium


Planted Aquarium Substrate and Rocks:


Tank Substrate & Rock
Tank Substrate & Rock

I have used 3 bags of AquaEarth in the bottom layer. I have topped it with 3 bags of aquarium gravels because they are required to cover the roots of the plants which avoid plants from floating in the tank. Then I have placed 3 pieces of Seiryu Rock in the center of the aquarium to provide a natural look.

Aquascaping:

Adding some water is important before introducing live plants. Plants have their own requirements but for this tutorial I am using low budget & low maintenance plants that only need artificial lights & fish waste are enough for fertilizing them. They provide a natural look to the overall tank. They keep water clean & can help in cleaning water. Also, a filter is required for collecting dead leaves of plants & fish waste, & for aerating the tank. Check out the list of plants that I am growing in my aquarium:

  • Rotala Rotundifolia
  • Bacopa Monnieri or Moneywort
  • Alternanthera Reineckii
  • Staurogyne Repens
  • Water Wisteria
  • Java Fern
  • Glossostigma Elatinoides

 

Rotala Rotundifolia:


Rotala Rotundifolia
Baby Rotala Rotundifolia

This plant can produce red leaves, they are bushy & very easy to keep in aquariums. It is a hardy plant which does not need high maintenance. Fish waste is enough to fertilize this plant & use artificial lights for photosynthesis of the plant. I am keeping it in the mid-background of the tank. I am keeping this plant on the left & right side of the aquarium.

 

Bacopa Monnieri:


Bacopa Monnieri
Baby Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa Monnieri is a bright green color plant. It is durable & hardy so needs low maintenance. No need for extra fertilizers if you have fish in the tank. They need tank lights for photosynthesis. It is a beautiful plant & I am keeping it in the mid-background of the tank. I am keeping Bacopa Monnieri on the left & right side of the aquarium.

 

Alternanthera Reineckii:


Alternanthera Reineckii
Baby Alternanthera Reineckii

Alternanthera Reineckii is a purple plant that changes the overall appearance of the tank with its bright purple coloration. It is a compact plant & grows slowly in water. The requirements for this plant are very simple because it can absorb fertilizers from water & this food can help the plant grow well. For photosynthesis of plants, artificial light is required. Plants release oxygen in the presence of light & carbon dioxide when it's dark. I am keeping Alternanthera Reineckii in the middle of the tank. This plant is used on the left & right side of the tank.

 

Staurogyne Repens:


Staurogyne Repens
Baby Staurogyne Repens

Staurogyne Repens offers green coloration, & they are compact & need simple care. They are hardy & don’t need additional fertilizers if you are keeping fish in an aquarium. It provides a greenish color to the aquarium & I am keeping this plant in the foreground to enhance the overall appearance of my tank. I am keeping Staurogyne Repens on the left & right side of the aquarium.

 

Water Wisteria:


Water Wisteria
Little Water Wisteria

Water Wisteria is a beginner’s plant because it grows very easily. I am keeping it in the aquarium background. It grows fast in aquariums & has beautiful greenish leaves. No fertilizers are required if you have fish in water. It can help absorb toxic byproducts of ammonia. Tank light is enough for its growth.

 

Glossostigma Elatinoides:


Glossostigma Elatinoides
Baby Glossostigma Elatinoides

Glossostigma Elatinoides is a slow growing & a small creeping live plant. Like other tropical plants I have added, this plant also absorbs fish waste as fertilizers & needs artificial lights for photosynthesis. It can keep your tank water clean. Aquarium lights are enough for the growth of this plant. During the day or in the presence of light, plants release oxygen while at night or in the dark, they release carbon dioxide. I am using this plant in the foreground & center of the aquarium. It originates in New Zealand & Australia. Takashi Amona imported Glossostigma Elatinoides to Japan in the late 1980s.

 

Planted Aquarium Filter:


Planted Aquarium Filter
Planted Aquarium Filter

I am using a cheap internal filter for cleaning the aquarium. The main part of the filter is biological filtration & plants can make this job easier. I am using filters to trap fish waste, & breakdown ammonia into nitrites & nitrates. Plants can absorb the byproducts of ammonia & clean the tank. I have too many plants that can provide better filtration. Filters are also used for water circulation & oxygenation.

I am using a canister filter which has a sponge filter on the inlet to avoid sucking small fish.

 

Fish:

After 3 months of running the aquarium, my plants are mature & they are growing well in the aquarium & my tank is cycled so now it is time to add fish to my aquarium.

 

Molly, Platy & Swordtail:


Molly, Platy and Swordtail
Molly, Platy and Swordtail

I am adding tropical fish such as Molly, Platy & Swordtail. They are livebearers which mean they don’t lay eggs & give birth to babies. They are hardy which means they can survive in harsh conditions. They are cheap & need low maintenance. They are living healthy in my planted tank. Molly, Platy & Swordtail are small fish so they need a small tank. You can keep them with other fish because they are peaceful.

 

Clown Loach:


Clown Loach
Clown Loach

I have added a couple of Clown Loaches because they are very social & peaceful mates. They can survive in the community aquariums with other fish. They like their mates, & enjoy in the clean & beautiful aquarium. They are hardy & cheap. They are smaller in size so you can keep them in small aquariums.

 

Endler Guppy:


Endler Guppy
Endler Guppy

Endler Guppy is a little & extremely colorful fish. They like living in the community aquarium. They live peacefully with mates. They offer multiple colors & are a great addition to the planted aquarium. They like plants in the aquarium. They are hardy & due to their small size; they are able to survive in small tanks.

 

White Cloud Mountain Minnow:


White Cloud Mountain Minnow
White Cloud Mountain Minnow

White Cloud Mountain Minnow are also called Poor Man Tetra & Eggs Scatterers. It is a hard fish that aquarists keep in fresh cold water. They can survive in small tanks due to their small size. They don’t need a tank heater because they are cold water fish.

 

Molly & Dalmation Molly Fish:


Molly and Dalmation Molly Fish
Molly and Dalmation Molly Fish

I have added multiple white & Dalmation Mollies. Dalmation Molly is a hybrid color variation of sailfin molly. They are hardy & don’t need high maintenance. They are popular because their care level is easy. Many beginners start with Mollies. They are available for a low price & you can breed them in aquariums.

 

Tropical Fish:


Tropical Fish
Tropical Fish

Guppy, Cardinal Tetra & Red Rasbora are tropical fish that I have introduced to my tank. Tropical fish means fish that live in aquatic tropical environments worldwide. They are pretty hardy & can live happily in aquariums. Many aquarists keep tropical fish in tanks. Tropical fish can breed in captivity.

 

Trimming Plants:


Trimming Plants
Trimming Plants

Rotala & Bacopa are growing very tall so they need trimming. You can use these cuttings for propagation. I have replanted these cuttings in my low budget Planted Angelfish aquarium. They are very hardy & have higher chances of regrowing from cuttings.   

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