How to Fertilize your 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. 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.
Different tap water and lighting choices, as well as tank setups, make it difficult for aquarium companies to offer the same fertilizers. 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. The Easy Fertilizer range consists only of four products, which are easy to use for beginners. They are designed for planted tanks with low to moderate lighting and no CO2 injection. With this goal in mind, the vast majority of our customers have great success with Aquarium Co-Op fertilizers because they contain all the right nutrient concentrations for most aquatic plants. A small percentage of users already have so many nutrients in their water that they don’t need as much help from 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. Let’s take a look at how simple the Aquarium Co-Op fertilizers can be to use.
1. Easy Green
Simple Green is the only fertilizer you need. 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 dose. (See the product page for the dosage instructions we recommend starting with.)
We recommend testing the water every week because everyone has a different setup. 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 drops or pumps 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. Our water change flow chart will gradually reduce the nitrate to 25ppm or less. Then, you can apply Easy Green as necessary. 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. Heavy root feeders still need some nutrients from the water columns, so you should provide both liquid and ground fertilizers for the best growth. 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 a substrate that is inert, such as regular aquarium dirt, or if the nutrients have run out.
Easy Root Tabs contain a mix of mineralized topsoil, high-quality red clay, and many essential nutrients (like nitrate, phosphate, potassium, and iron). You can insert the capsule as far as you want in the substrate with your fingers or tweezers. The grid pattern should be every 4-6 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 may only need one root tab, but a huge Aponogeton plant might need seven. We can use liquid fertilization to determine when to add more. But, for substrate fertilization we need to keep an eye on the heavy root feeders so that they don’t melt away or show other signs of nutrient deficiency. More information is available in the article on root tabs.
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. The reason why Easy Iron is the only individual nutrient with its own separate bottle is because the formula for Easy Green is already saturated with iron. Easy Green may also have an excess of iron which could cause algae problems like hair algae.
Plants use iron to make chlorophyll. This is especially important for high-light plants and fast-growing plants. Easy Iron can be used to treat yellowing or pallor in the new leaves of plants that have not received enough chlorophyll. However, the veins may still appear dark-colored. Our article on iron supplements provides more details about the recommended dosage.
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 liquid carbon version is called Easycarbon. It can be used to treat small amounts of algae or for the whole aquarium to reduce algae growth over time. For spot treatment of black beard algae and other difficult 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. We recommend that you balance the lighting, fertilizer, as well as CO2 levels in your tank to ensure healthy plants. Liquid carbon is a good aid for treating the symptoms of an unbalanced tank but will not solve the root of the problem. Finally, don’t forget that liquid carbon can negatively affect more sensitive plants like mosses, vallisneria, anacharis, and Marimo moss balls so consider treating them a reduced amount. For more details, see the article about liquid carbon.
Aquarium Co-Op’s goal is to make fertilization easy for people who are new to keeping plants alive or have difficulty keeping them alive. Most hobbyists need Easy Green, and then get Easy Root Tabs if they have rooted plants. Easy Iron is a good option for high-light tanks that have red plants. And if you have algae problems, try Easy Carbon. For more information on Easy Fertilizer, visit the complete line.