How to Fertilize a 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, which 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. It can be confusing to get started in planted aquariums. This is why we created the Easy Green fertilizer. Our Easy Fertilizer collection only contains four products. These are intended to be used in planted tanks that have 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. Only a small number of customers have enough nutrients in their waters that they don’t require 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. We will show you how easy Aquarium Co-Op fertilizers is to use.
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 dosing. (See the product page for the dosage instructions we recommend starting with.)
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. It is better to test for each nutrient one at a time. Instead of trying to test for them all, you can use a 60-second test strip to figure how many pumps or drops it takes to get to 25-50 ppm. 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. For more information on nitrate and proper dosing for plants, read the full article.
2. Easy Root Tabs
While Easy Green is a liquid fertilizer absorbed by plants from the water column, heavy root feeders – such as sword plants, cryptocoryne plants, and bulb plants – prefer feeding from the ground. The best fertilizer for heavy root feeders is both liquid and solid. 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). You can use Easy Root tabs to fertilize if your aquarium soil is old and inert.
Easy Root Tabs are a combination of high-quality red and mineralized clays, as well as a mixture of topsoil and high-quality red soil. They also contain essential nutrients like nitrates, phosphates, potassium, and iron. Place a capsule in the substrate as far as you can using your fingers or with a tweezer in a grid-like pattern at every 4 to 6 inches. If the heavy root feeders are not evenly spread out in the tank, then place the root tabs directly under the plants. A small crypt might only need one root tab; a huge Aponogeton could 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 to determine if they are displaying any signs of nutritional deficiencies or melting. See the article on root tabs for more details.
3. Simple Iron
If you are dabbling in red plants but aren’t getting the vivid scarlet hues that you see online, most likely you need to provide high lighting, perhaps add CO2 injection, and then consider adding an iron supplement. Easy Iron, the only individual nutrient that comes in its own bottle, is because Easy Green has already been enriched with iron. Easy Green may also have an excess of iron which could cause algae problems like hair algae.
Iron is an important element in plants that is used to produce chlorophyll. This is particularly important for high-growing plants. Easy Iron is recommended if your plants’ newest leaves appear yellowish or pale from lack of chlorophyll. But the veins in the leaves are still dark-colored. Learn more about iron supplements and the dosing guidelines.
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 version of liquid carbon is called Easy Carbon, and if you have a little algae, it is good for treating the entire aquarium to help minimize algae over time. For spot treatment of black beard algae and other hard to remove algae, you can use a pipette.
Dosing Easy Carbon will not help if there is a lot of algae in the tank. The algae will grow back much faster than you can kill them. To grow healthy plants, we recommend that you adjust the lighting, fertilizer and CO2 in these cases. While liquid carbon can help with the symptoms of an unbalanced tank, it won’t solve the root 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 has one goal: to make plant fertilization simple. This is because we want people to be able to care for plants and help those who are struggling. Easy Green is a must for most hobbyists. Easy Root Tabs will be needed if the plants have been rooted. Easy Iron is an option for those who have high light tanks and plants that are red. Easy Carbon is a good option for algae problems. You can find the entire Easy Fertilizer range to increase the growth of your tank.