All planted tanks require regular upkeep, so here are some general guidelines for keeping your planted aquarium healthy and beautiful!
When to Trim
First, if you notice that as your plants grow, the supplements you are adding seem not to be enough anymore, that’s because they’re not! Trimming is important because it keeps the amount of plant matter in the tank consistent with the amount of nutrients you are dosing.
It is also important because it exposes new tissue and stimulates the plant to grow. Some stem plants actually branch out twice from the point they are last trimmed, and this can help create a bushier look in the aquarium. More than anything else, trimming improves and maintains the aesthetic of the tank.
How to trim
If you have mostly stem plants, trimming is actually quite easy, you’ll just cut through the plants to create the shape that you want, and that’s that! You can re-plant them directly into the substrate and they’ll grow if you want! You’ll want to make sure that you get out ALL of those little plant and leaf bits so that you don’t have an explosion of leftover organics after every time you trim. Pair trimming with a water change to help get rid of all of these trim “leftovers”.
If you have rhizome plants you can either cut the rhizome with sharp scissors, or if it’s an established plant you can cut the stem and re-root it for more plants!
Shaping the tank
This is really up to personal preference, and how you’ve set up your tank. As a general rule, sloping shapes and breaking the tank up into thirds is a great starting place. You want a fluid shape – think of how the plants would grow in nature.
Maintenance & Water Changes
Water changes are a very important part of aquarium maintenance, and every tank requires water changes on a regular schedule in order to look nice and maintain the health of the fish and plants.
Why Water Change?
Water changes remove water that contains high concentrations of dissolved waste and contaminants and replace it with fresh new water that doesn’t contain these contaminants.
How Much to Change
While large water changes have a dramatic impact on water chemistry and tank appearance, smaller partial water changes tend to be much better for the aquarium. Seachem recommends changing no more than 35% of the tank at a time except in cases of extreme emergency (e.g. a toxic chemical has accidentally been added to the tank).
Leftover food, fish waste, and most rotting organic matter will fall to the bottom of the aquarium and will often sink into the substrate. In planted aquaria, the roots of the plants will tend to prevent deep gravel siphoning, but a wide siphon head can still be used to pick up loose detritus from among the plants.
Filters need regular cleaning in order to function properly. Mechanical media (sponges, pads, filter floss, etc) should be cleaned once a week or as needed to maintain proper flow, while bio-media (Matrix™) should be given a quick rinse once per month to prevent the buildup of detritus.
Preparing new water
Ideally, planted aquariums use RO/DI water that is prepared using mineral supplements like Equilibrium™ and buffers like Alkaline Buffer™ and Acid Buffer™. Seachem® recommends to mix these into the new water first before adding the water to your tank.
If you’re mixing up 5 gallon buckets, Seachem® recommends these supplements per 5 gallon bucket
1/4 tsp Alkaline Buffer™
1/8 tsp Acid Buffer™
3/4 tsp Equilibrium™
This will attain a pH of 7.0, an alkalinity (KH) of 1 meq/L (2.8 dKH), and a GH of 1 meq/L (3 dGH)
New aquariums are often unstable, and unstable aquariums often run into problems. With a bit of forethought and patience though, most new aquarium problems can be avoided!
Clouding is very common in new aquariums, and is almost always due to a buildup of organics or a sudden change in water parameters. Seachem® recommends to use Clarity® to immediately clear the aquarium while you work to solve the underlying cause. Keep your water changes to 30% of the tank or less, ensure you are not overfeeding, and use a filter media like Purigen® to reduce the amount of organic waste in the tank.
Detritus & Mulm
Like clouding, a buildup of detritus in the bottom of the tank is usually due to an excess of organic waste in the tank. Detritus can be removed using a siphon during water changes, and the use of beneficial bacteria supplements like Pristine® can slow the buildup of this kind of waste. It will also be important to ensure that the tank is not overpopulated and the fish are not being overfed.
Fish stress can lead to disease and even behavioral issues like aggression in the tank. The primary cause of fish stress is improper water parameters, but fish can also be stressed by sudden changes in water chemistry and temperature as well as bullying, poor diet, and improper housing.
To prevent stress, ensure that the water parameters of the tank are within the preferred range of the fish and that these water parameters are not rapidly changing. Research the needs of the fish in terms of food, housing, and tank-mates to ensure it is the right choice for your aquarium.