How to Use Root Tabs to Fertilize Aquarium Plants
Is your live aquatic plant not growing or losing leaves, even though you’re giving it plenty of light and liquid fertilizer? Most aquarium plants can absorb nutrients from both the water and the substrate (e.g., gravel, sand, or aquatic soil), but some species prefer one method over the other. If your plant is a root feeder, it will need to be given a nutrient rich substrate or ground-based fertilizers known as root tabs.
What are Root Tabs?
Root tabs can be either dissolvable capsules or tablets that contain fertilizer. Aquarium Co-Op recommends Easy Root Tabs. These tabs are made from mineralized top soil and red Clay that contain essential nutrients for plants, such as:
– Magnesium – Nitrate – Phosphate – Potassium – Manganese – Zinc – Molybdenum – Iron
Easy Root Tabs come in green fertilizer capsules that are safe for fish even if they dissolve in the water.
Are root tabs safe for fish, shrimp, and snails? Yes, our brand of root tabs is safe for all animals. Our root tabs are safe for all animals because they contain actual soil that is non-toxic. Some people try to save money by making their own DIY root tabs or using fertilizers meant for houseplants and vegetables, but those terrestrial products can cause dangerous ammonia spikes in the water that may kill your fish and invertebrates.
What Aquarium Plants Require Root Tabs?
Cryptocoryne plants (or crypts), sword plants, bulb plants, carpeting plants, and plants that produce runners all tend to feed from the substrate and will greatly benefit from root tabs. Bacopa and moneywort, two types of stem plants, can either absorb fertilizer from water or the ground. However they seem to prefer the latter. Plants that do not require substrate for growth – like mosses and floating plants, anubias or javafern – tend to not need root tabs as often.
How to Use Root Tabs
Root tabs can be water soluble. It is crucial to insert root tabs into substrates as quickly and as deeply as possible. It’s okay if Easy Root Tabs accidentally pop out or get unearthed by your fish because they won’t harm the water quality, but ultimately, we want the root feeders to have access to more nutrients in the ground. Use your fingers or a planting tweezer to push the entire root tab down to the substrate. (Do not remove the fertilizer from the capsule or else it will dissolve in the water column.)
Plunge the root tab as deeply as possible into the substrate, preferably underneath the roots of plants.
How many root tabs should you use? Place one tab approximately every 5-6 inches (12-15 cm) in a grid so that they cover the entire substrate. If your fish tank is very densely planted, you may need to add root tabs every 4 inches (10 cm) or closer. Ideally, the root tabs should be inserted directly underneath or near the roots of your plants. To keep larger plants, like Amazon swords, well-fed, you may need several root tabs that are placed in a circular circle around their base.
How do I get the root tabs to stop floating? There is air inside the root tab capsule that causes it to float. You can make the root tab sink by making a hole with a pushpin at one end. Then, squeeze it once it’s submerged. Your root tab will remain grounded and air bubbles will escape through this hole.
How Often Should You Add More Root Tabs?
Even if you use a nutrient rich substrate, nutrients can be used up quickly so it is important to replenish them regularly. We recommend that you add more root tabs approximately once per month to maintain healthy growth. This is especially important if you’re using an inert substrate such as aquarium gravel or sand, which doesn’t contain any nutrients. You should also keep in mind that plants get bigger and will need more root tabs. While a baby Amazon sword may only require one root tab every six weeks when it is new, three months later, the same plant might need six tabs to maintain its health.
To determine whether or not your plants have consumed all the available fertilizer in the substrate, look closely for signs of nutrient deficiencies. These symptoms can include lack of growth, yellowing and browning, or melting leaves (after the plant was growing well previously). You can read the entire article linked below for more information about providing adequate plant nutrients. Good luck with your planted aquarium and enjoy nature daily.