How to Fertilize your Plantted Tank in an EASY Way
We’re big proponents of getting live aquatic plants because of their natural beauty and ability to purify water, but a common question we get is, “Do I need to fertilize my aquarium plants?” From our experience, most people have to fertilize because fish waste does not provide the proper amounts of nitrate, potassium, phosphate, and other trace minerals that plants require to flourish. The water quality of your tap water is another factor. Your tap water might contain heavy metals and high levels of nitrate. This can make it unsafe to drink but could be great for growing plants. In contrast, the tap water at our fish store near Seattle, Washington is so soft and stripped of nutrients that it is almost like RODI (reverse osmosis de-ionized) water – which is perfect for raising discus fish but insufficient for plants.
Different tap water and lighting choices, as well as tank setups, make it difficult for aquarium companies to offer the same fertilizers. For someone who is just starting with planted aquariums, this can make it difficult to navigate the many options available. We created an easy-to-use Easy Green fertilizer to help everyone. Our Easy Fertilizer line only consists of four, beginner-friendly products that are geared towards planted tank setups with low to medium lighting and no CO2 (carbon dioxide) injection. Our customers enjoy great success with Aquarium Co-Op fertilizers. They have all the necessary nutrients to support aquatic plants. A small percentage of users already have so many nutrients in their water that they don’t need as much help from fertilizers. Also, some hobbyists may want to set up high light planted tanks with pressurized CO2 that have specialized nutrient requirements to meet their objectives. To show you how easy the Aquarium Co-Op fertilizers are to use, let’s get started with a quick guide and figure out which of our fertilizers are right for you.
1. Easy Green
If you only get one fertilizer, Easy Green is the one you want. This all-in-one liquid fertilizer provides the correct ratios of macronutrients and micronutrients that plants need so that you don’t have to figure it out yourself. Like all of our fertilizers, Easy Green is completely safe to use with fish, shrimp, snails, and other invertebrates. We offer Easy Green in two sizes. Easy Green comes with a pump head or dropper cap that makes it easy to dose. The recommended starting dose is found on the product page.
Since everyone’s setup and plant stocking density are different, we suggest you test the water each week at first to really dial in the fertilizer dosage. Rather than test for every single nutrient, the easiest way is to use a 60-second test strip and figure out how many pumps or drops of Easy Green it takes to reach 25-50 ppm nitrate. As long as the nitrate comes predominantly from the fertilizer and not from fish waste, then your plants will thrive. If you have 75 ppm nitrate or more, don’t stop fertilizing because fish waste is missing a lot of key elements like potassium. You can use our water change chart to slowly lower the nitrate level to 25 ppm, then you can dose Easy Green as needed. Read the entire article for more information about nitrates and correct dosing of plants.
2. Easy Root Tabs
Easy Green is a fertilizer liquid that is absorbed by plants through the water column. But heavy root feeders, such as cryptocoryne, sword, and bulb plants, prefer to be fed from the ground. (Heavy root feeders still take some nutrients from the water column, so providing both liquid and ground fertilizers gives you the best growth.) Many hobbyists like using nutrient-rich substrates such as organic dirt or expensive aquarium soil, but be aware that they can come with side effects like lowering the pH or leaching ammonia into the water (which is toxic to fish). If you are using a cheap, inert substrate like regular aquarium gravel or if your aquarium soil has run out of nutrients over time, just add Easy Root Tabs to fertilize the ground.
Easy Root Tabs have a mix mineralized topsoil, high quality red clay and essential nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates. Use your fingers or tweezers to insert a capsule into the substrate as deep as you can. Make a grid pattern that spans every 4-6 inches. Place the root tabs under the plants if the heavy root feeders aren’t evenly distributed in the tank. A small crypt might only require one root tab while a large Aponogeton may need seven. Liquid fertilization can be used to test the water for the appropriate amount of fertilizer. However, substrate fertilization requires that you regularly monitor the heavy root feeders for signs of nutritional deficiencies or melting. See the article on root tabs for more details.
3. Simple Iron
If you are trying red plants but not getting the bright scarlet hues you see on the internet, it is likely that you need high lighting. You may also want to add CO2 injection. Next, consider adding iron supplements. Easy Iron has its own bottle. This is because Easy Green’s formula already contains iron. Easy Green could also contain too much iron. This could lead to problems such as hair and skin algae.
Plants use iron to make chlorophyll. This is especially important for high-light plants and fast-growing plants. If you notice that the leaves of your plants have become yellowed or pale due to a lack in chlorophyll, but the veins remain dark-colored, then it is time to try Easy Iron. To learn about specific dosing guidelines, read our article on iron supplements.
4. Easy Carbon
Fun fact: Liquid carbon products sold by aquarium companies, such as API CO2 booster or Seachem Flourish Excel, are not fertilizers. Instead they serve as poor substitutes to CO2 gas systems in planted tank CO2 gas systems. Instead, these products usually contain glutaraldehyde, which is a fish- and invertebrate-safe algaecide commonly used to inhibit algae growth. Our liquid carbon version is called Easycarbon. It can be used to treat small amounts of algae or for the whole aquarium to reduce algae growth over time. A pipette can be used to spot treat black beard algae or other difficult-to-remove alga.
Dosing Easy Carbon might not be enough if the whole tank is infested. The algae will grow back quicker than you can kill it. In those cases, we recommend focusing on balancing the lighting, fertilizer, and CO2 (if used) in the system to grow healthy plants that outcompete the algae. Although liquid carbon can be used to treat the symptoms of an imbalanced tank, it will not address the root cause of the problem. Remember that liquid carbon can cause more sensitive plants to be affected such as anacharis, vallisneria and Marimo, so it is worth limiting the amount you use. See the article on liquid carbon for more information.
Aquarium Co-Op’s goal is to make fertilization easy for people who are new to keeping plants alive or have difficulty keeping them alive. Easy Green is required by most hobbyists. If they have already rooted their plants, Easy Root Tabs are needed. Easy Iron is a good option for high-light tanks that have red plants. And if you have algae problems, try Easy Carbon. Check out the full Easy Fertilizer line to boost the growth of your planted aquarium.