How to Fertilize Your Planted Tank the 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. Your local tap water is another important factor. Well water can have high levels of heavy metals, high nitrates, and may not be safe to drink. However, it might be good 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.
Aquarium companies release many types of fertilizers to cater to every case because everyone has different tap water, lighting, stocking and tank setups. 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. Because they have the right nutrients for aquatic plants, most of our customers are happy with Aquarium Co-Op fertilizers. Only a small number of customers have enough nutrients in their waters that they don’t require fertilizers. Hobbyists might also want to install high-light planted tanks with pressurized carbon dioxide that meet specific nutrient needs to achieve their goals. 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
Easy Green will be your only choice for fertilizer. This liquid fertilizer is all-in-one and provides all the nutrients your plants require. Like all of our fertilizers, Easy Green is completely safe to use with fish, shrimp, snails, and other invertebrates. Easy Green is available in two sizes. We have a dropper cap or a pump head that you can use to quickly dose. This makes it easier than other fertilizers. 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. Instead of testing for every nutrient, it is easier to do a 60 second test strip to determine how many drops or pumps of Easy Green are needed to achieve 25-50ppm 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. Use our water change flow chart to gradually lower the nitrate to 25 ppm or lower and then dose Easy Green as appropriate. Read the entire article for more information about nitrates and correct dosing of plants.
2. Easy Root Tabs
Easy Green is a liquid fertilizer that plants absorb from the water column. However, heavy root feeders like sword plants, cryptocoryne and bulb plants prefer to feed from the ground. You can get the best growth by using both liquid fertilizers and ground fertilizers, as heavy root feeders still require some nutrients from water column. 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. With liquid fertilization, we can test the water to see when to dose more, but for substrate fertilization, you have to regularly observe the heavy root feeders to see if they are melting away or showing other signs of nutrient deficiencies. 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, the only individual nutrient that comes in its own separate container, is because Easy Green’s formula is already rich in iron. Plus, if Easy Green contains too much iron, it could potentially lead to algae problems, such as hair 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. For more information on specific dosage guidelines, see our article about iron supplements.
4. Carbon easy
Fun fact: The liquid carbon products that aquarium companies sell – such as API CO2 Booster or Seachem Flourish Excel – are not fertilizers. They serve as poor replacements for CO2 gas systems within planted tanks. 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 difficult to remove algae, you can use a pipette.
Dosing Easy Carbon might not be enough if the whole tank is infested. The algae will grow back quicker than you can kill it. We recommend that you balance the lighting, fertilizer, as well as CO2 levels in your tank to ensure healthy plants. 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. You can read more about liquid carbon in the article.
Our goal at Aquarium Co-Op is to make plant fertilization as uncomplicated as possible because we want to help people who have never kept plants or are struggling to keep them alive. Easy Green is the most important product for hobbyists. Easy Root Tabs can be purchased if they already have roots. For high light tanks with red plants, Easy Iron can help. Easy Carbon is also available for algae problems. To boost your aquarium’s growth, check out the entire Easy Fertilizer line.