When we think of a fish tank, we often think of the clue that is in the name – fish! However it is becoming more and more popular in the hobby to turn a fish tank in to a planted fish tank where the key and focus of the tank are the plants rather than the fish. This doesn’t mean you just fill a tank full of the same plant and it is done, there is a fine art to aquascaping a planted fish tank and having fish in there is also just as essential.
A planted fish tank should be thought of as a work of art and optical illusion. Most hobbyists will aim to create such an illusion of turning what is almost a 2 dimensional landscape in to a 3 dimensional one. I know you are thinking you can’t get a 2 dimensional fish tank but if you put the same plants in a row at the back, the middle and the front then you would quickly appreciate what I mean. Although such levels should be built up, the trick to making a tank look realistic and a snap shot of mother nature is to mix up what is in each level.
It is quite common to build a pathway in to a planted tank and make this a winding pathway, this is a good way to break up the 2 dimensional look which we’re trying to avoid. Another method is to introduce levels within the tank so on one side of the pathway you might have a piece of rockwork or bogwood/Mopani wood which will give added depth too.
We have put together a range of plant profiles so you can see which plants are most suited to different areas of the aquarium, this isn’t to say this is set in stone though but if you put a load of background plants at the front of a tank then you will be blocking out everything behind it and it may look unnatural.
Some planted tanks can look unnatural anyway though and there is an argument to say that mother nature isn’t as uniform as top aquascapers make their tanks look however we have to consider what we are doing here, trying to replicate mother nature or create a work of art and I’m sure most aquascapers would say both but I’d be tempted to say it is more like a work of art.
When it comes to which fish to keep in a planted tank, as already mentioned, always advisable to keep some in order to ensure the tank is cycling constantly and correct levels and water parameters are kept however keeping the tank under-stocked is the key to success with a planted tank.
Many aquarists would also advise on using a CO2 kit to make sure the plants thrive and get all the nutrients they require to flourish, this is almost a necessity for a planted aquarium because to have a planted tank which will look like a full aquascape a lot of plants are needed. A standard 4 foot tank could easily eat up 100 plants if you are to do this properly. My advise would be that if it doesn’t look quite right then you will probably need more plants in it!
The substrate used should be a fertilised one, much like the JBL Manado Aquarium Substrate, this could be covered with a sand or different colour substrate based on personal preference, maybe just a path in a different colour sand. As well as this, the equipment list should definitely include some strong lighting, we are a fan of the TMC GroBeam Aquaray LED lights which come as a tile or strip of lights.
The key to your planted tank being a success is the fine balance between the pieces of equipment we have mentioned, doing the correct research in to the plants to use and above anything else, as with all areas of fish keeping, a good level of patience goes a long way!