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New to Stem plants- Pogotstemon stellatus octopus. Any advice for a plant beginner!

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Hello, I'm new to planted tanks. I've mostly used fake/decorative plants because my main tank has cichlid which turn up everything and I just have floating plants.  I recenlty got 2 smaller tanks w/ guppies so taking a stab at stem plants. 

I have gravel substrate. I just got my pogostemon stellatus octopus from ACO (still in the planter) sitting on the substrate. Also have water wisteria that is doing well by floating to get roots started then planting into the gravel. 

1) Should I remove the roots from the planter and the foamy stuff or put the whole thing into my substrate? Not sure if it will damage the roots by separating from the foam or if the roots will just grow through. 

2) I have some root tabs on the way and already use easy green for my floating plants. Is it overkill to do both? 

3) Any other tips for a beginner?



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Hello! I would remove the plant from the pot and let it float for a few weeks like your water wisteria. This will help the plant adapt to your tank as it will have better access to light and CO2 while floating. Once you see growth and some more root development, which may take a few weeks, then you could move it to the substrate.

If you only have floating plants right now I would just do water column fertilizer. Once you plant your stems in the substrate you can put some root tabs in the substrate near where you plant the stems. In my experience using both root tabs and water column fertilizer is better for plant growth. The root tabs may help them develop strong roots and lets you use less water column fertilizer (which can help prevent algae). So I don't think both is overkill, Just don't overdo it. Though the tabs are in your substrate, some of the fertilizer slowly dissolves into the water column too. So go sparingly on the tabs and perhaps you will need to reduce water column ferts one you add tabs.

The other tips I have for a beginner with a new tank is add as many plants as you can from the beginning, particularly fast growing ones (wisteria and pogostemon are both fast growing). Also try to keep your tank clean with manual removal of waste (remove decaying plant matter, excess fish food, siphoning surface of substrate etc) and regular water changes (I do 25% a week). Finally you want enough light for your plants where you see growth but not so much light that you see a bunch of algae. I would start out with your light at a lower intensity if it is adjustable, for around 8 hours a day. 

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The foam stuff has a few names but the most common is rock wool. You could put the whole pot, rock wool and all, in the tank and let it grow like that; the ACO Easy Planter is designed to be used that way. Normally, I wouldn't recommend that for stems, but depending on the coarseness and sharpness of your gravel substrate, it might be the better option. My original substrate was a rough, coarse gravel that cut up my stem plant stems; for a long time I thought I was just bad at planting plants, then used much finer gravel and sand and realized how much easier it could be. So you've got options.

There's a YouTube channel, Fish Shop Matt, who just put out a "how to prepare and plant plants". Rock wool removal starts at about the 4:30 mark, but the whole thing is worth a watch:


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