How to Use Root Tabs to Fertilize Aquarium Plants
Are your aquatic plants not growing properly? Most aquarium plants can absorb nutrients from both the water and the substrate (e.g., gravel, sand, or aquatic soil), but some species prefer one method over the other. If your plant is a root feeder, it will need to be given a nutrient rich substrate or ground-based fertilizers known as root tabs.
What Are Root Tabs?
Root tabs can be either dissolvable capsules or tablets that contain fertilizer. Aquarium Co-Op recommends Easy Root Tabs. These tabs are made from mineralized top soil and red Clay that contain essential nutrients for plants, such as:
– Magnesium – Nitrate – Phosphate – Potassium – Manganese – Zinc – Molybdenum – Iron
Easy Root Tabs come in green fertilizer capsules that are safe for fish even if they dissolve in the water.
Are root tabs safe for fish, shrimp, and snails? Yes, our brand of root tabs is safe for all animals. Our root tabs are safe for all animals because they contain actual soil that is non-toxic. Some people try to save money by making their own DIY root tabs or using fertilizers meant for houseplants and vegetables, but those terrestrial products can cause dangerous ammonia spikes in the water that may kill your fish and invertebrates.
Which Aquarium Plants Need Root Tabs?
Root tabs will be of great benefit to cryptocoryne plants (or the crypts), sword and bulb plants, as well as carpeting and carpeting plants. Bacopa and moneywort, two types of stem plants, can either absorb fertilizer from water or the ground. However they seem to prefer the latter. Plants that don’t need substrate to grow – such as mosses, floating plants, anubias, and java fern – typically do not use root tabs as much.
How to Use Root Tabs
Because root tabs are water soluble, the key is to insert them into the substrate as quickly and deeply as possible. It’s okay if Easy Root Tabs accidentally pop out or get unearthed by your fish because they won’t harm the water quality, but ultimately, we want the root feeders to have access to more nutrients in the ground. You can push the entire root tab towards the substrate using a gardening tweezer or your fingers. (Do not remove the fertilizer from the capsule or else it will dissolve in the water column.)
Drop the root tab into the substrate as deep as you can, preferably under the roots of the plants.
How often should you add root tabs? Add one tab to every 5-6inches (12-15cm) and place them in a grid. If your fish tank is very densely planted, you may need to add root tabs every 4 inches (10 cm) or closer. Ideally, the root tabs should be inserted directly underneath or near the roots of your plants. For larger plants, such as Amazon swords, multiple root tabs might be needed to place in a circle around the base of their plant.
The root tabs float because of the air in the capsule. You can make the root tab sink by making a hole with a pushpin at one end. Then, squeeze it once it’s submerged. The hole will allow air bubbles to escape, but your root tab will not be affected.
How Often Should You Add More Root Tabs?
Even if you use a nutrient rich substrate, nutrients can be used up quickly so it is important to replenish them regularly. To maintain healthy growth, we recommend adding more root tabs about once a month to continually build the nutrient base in the ground, especially if you are using an inert substrate like aquarium gravel or sand that doesn’t contain any nutrients on its own. You should also keep in mind that plants get bigger and will need more root tabs. A baby Amazon sword that is newly planted may only need 1 root tab every six weeks, but three months later, that same plant may need six tabs per month to sustain it.
To determine whether or not your plants have consumed all the available fertilizer in the substrate, look closely for signs of nutrient deficiencies. You may notice a decrease in growth, yellowing, browning, or melting of leaves, even though the plant had been growing well. For more information on providing proper plant nutrients, read the full article linked below. Enjoy your aquarium, and good luck!