Some people mistakenly think that setting up an aquarium is as easy as pouring water into a bowl, then throwing some fish in. This could not be farther from the truth! One, often overlooked, aspect of aquariums is aquascaping—the underwater version of landscaping.
Just as you would want to have every tree, bush, and blade of grass looking precisely as you want, think of aquascaping as the same practice for your underwater environment. This includes the plants, substrate, rocks, and any other decorations that make up the tank’s decor.
Various styles of aquascaping have cropped up including the Dutch style of plants with contrasting leaf styles, the Iwagumi style of always following the golden ratio, and as far as jungle styles where constructed disarray is the goal.
Let’s take a closer look at aquascaping basics – fertilizing methods.
Choosing a Fertilizer for Your Aquascape
Fish need oxygen to live and plants need carbon dioxide to live. Since each one exhales the gas that the other one needs, it is an obvious match!
But fish have other needs, such as food, and plants have other needs, such as fertilizer. Choosing a fertilizer for the plants in your tank is one of the most important decisions you can make.
Most plants that you purchase from aquarium supply stores will come with some sort of information in regards to their food requirements.
If the information that comes with the plants is lacking, consider researching the plants online. Properly fed plants will appear like plants you find in the wild.
Under fertilized plants may exhibit brown or yellowing leaves, appear wilted, or look partially transparent.
Liquid Style Fertilizers
Some fertilizers are available in liquid forms. Just as you would imagine, they can be added to water the same way you would add food coloring to a clear beverage. The liquid fertilizers increase the amounts of nutrients in the tank, greatly benefiting the plant life therein.
Most liquid fertilizers will contain iron, a necessary element when it comes to growing healthy plants, while being free of phosphates, nitrates, and any other harmful chemicals. Those chemicals are known to increase algae growth, which can be an issue in maintaining a healthy environment inside your tank. Schedule a time to add the liquid fertilizer, typically once a week, to insure beautiful, vibrant plants.
If you decide on liquid fertilizers, look for types that contain iron (as mentioned earlier) as well as potassium, zinc, manganese, and cobalt. My personal suggestion would be Seachem Flourish Excel.
Soil…in a Fish Tank?
Another popular fertilizer option is aquarium soil. Similar to how normal soil feeds plants at their roots, aquarium soil provides vital nutrients at the root layer of your aquarium’s plants. Nutrients are typically held in a clay base and released slowly over time.
Some brands of aquarium soil will have enough nutrients that they can be placed in an aquarium and “forgotten,” since it will be years before they will need to be replaced. These types of soils are sometimes nurtured in volcanic areas for the vast amounts of nutrients that these environments inject into the soil.
One such aquarium soil is CaribSea Eco-Complete. This substrate is rich with nutrients such as iron, sulfur, calcium and many others that your plants require. No chemicals are being used in the composition of the soil thus you do not have to worry about any contamination.
Take Two and Call Me in the Morning
One more fertilizer option is a tablet. Fertilizer tablets are like vitamins for your aquarium. Essential elements are packed into pill forms then pressed into the tank’s substrate to serve as time-release nutrient factories. Fertilizer tablets fall in between the short-term maintenance cycle of the liquid fertilizer and the longer-term aquarium soil solution.
Most tablets will provide around a month’s worth of nutrition. Much like other options, they should all be free of nitrates, phosphates and other algae inducing chemicals. The fertilizer tablets are pushed into the tank’s substrate delivering power-packed minerals and nutrients directly to the plants’ roots.
Some of the recommended fertilizer tablets are:
And the Winner is…
Before you finally decide on what fertilizer to use, take into account all the variables of your tank. How many fish do you have? How many plants do you have? Do you plan on adding either in the immediate future?
Research the types of fish you have to better understand what type and how many plants to get. Research those plants to see what type of fertilizer makes the most sense for your aquarium. Having the right fertilizer will enhance the fish and plants in your aquarium.