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Starting a Planted Tank

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I currently have a 10 gallon tank with fake plants and blue gravel....
I am looking to do an big upgrade to a 45 - 65 gallon tank with live plants. I have no idea where to begin with live plants and need help. When it comes to regular plants, I have a brown thumb so need easy. I will have a gravel bottom as I have heard that sand is hard to work with. Should I have something under the gravel?

I currently have Cory Cats and Platy in my tank, and I think I would like to add Guppy's. I keep the water at about 80 degrees, I am not looking to breed but want a place for fry to hide and let nature do it's thing.
I want to aquarium to look natural.
Since I have not purchased my new tank yet I have no idea of lighting or filters etc....
I can use any advise and help to make sure I get the right plants and in the right ratios.....

Thank you!

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I think maybe the best way to give you advice on this subject is to give you a variety of resources. This is a big topic, and there’s a lot to learn! Most of the learning you will do is probably going to be on the fly, as you experience things. There is no replacement for experience, especially with aquaria. 

Here is a playlist from the co-op about planted aquarium basics.

Here is a playlist from @Bentley Pascoe about substrate, probably more than you need to know, but it’s fantastic information and can help you make an educated decision about what to put in your aquarium. 

Here is one more relevant video from the co-op that I think is important.

Planted tanks are a fantastic learning experience and it provides me with so many hours of enjoyment, I wish you so much success on this journey! I know the amount of information can be a bit overwhelming, but don’t let that intimidate you. The forum is here to help, and there are tons of free resources that the creators of the community work hard to provide for us. 

Happy planting!

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I will add that a 40 breeder has a nice footprint for a planted tank and I would avoid tall tanks. 

Sand is actually quite easy to work with, just make sure to get pool filter sand. Cory cats would appreciate a sandy bottom too.

Also, sand is actually quite good for planting. 

Cheap lights will grow plants just like an expensive one. Think about them in terms of features. Want a cool app to control colors and mimic sunrise/ sunset? Or just want an on/off cycle? Once you decide, then you can price them out. There are many to choose from.

Edited by Mmiller2001
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I have sand in all my tanks.

I think why most people say that sand is more hard to work with is because its harder to clean. You have to hover the gravel vac right above the sand, the debris always stays ontop of the sand.

Substrates like eco complete, seachem flourite substrate, fluval stratum all work great with plants. 

I have had great success with the following plants:

  • Swords
  • Anubias
  • Hygrophillia Compact
  • Buceaphalandria
  • Java Fern
  • Cryptacornes

The Underlined = heavy root feeders, isnsert root tabs for optimal growth 

The Bold = Rhizome Plants, best to propergate on hardscape, do not need root tabs

Heres a video of other great beginner plants:




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Welcome @Cdbaby123, I’m not a natural plant keeper either, but through experimentation and lots of advice I manage to grow plants more or less successfully. 

This channel is my absolute favorite for beginners. She has a ton of good advice. 

You might want to think about doing something like this tank she featured in the above video. 


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If you are just beginning with plants I would stick with either gravel, or aquarium soil, plants tend to grow better in those than sand. You can add a layer of laterite underneath to help but definitely add root tabs, especially if you are using gravel. Root tabs are important for root feeders like Amazon sword plants, and Cryptocoryne which are some of the easier plants to grow. The root tabs provide the extra iron, and potassium they need.

The Fluval Plant 3.0 LED Light on the Aquarium Co-Op web site is a great light for starters and there are some posts with advice on program settings for it on this forum.


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