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Generally speaking you will need 2-3.5 watts per gallon for enough light for your plants. So if you have a twenty gallon tank, you would need forty watts of lighting over it, minimum. I personally recommend between two and a half to three watts per gallon. You can grow almost anything with those wattages. Once you have made the initial investment, the plant growth and beautiful aquarium will be a worthwhile investment. The exception here is Anubias (beautiful plants), Java Ferns, Cryptocornes, Saggitaria, Vallisneria. They will do well with any amount of lighting and actually prefer some shading if placed in a two to four watt tank. Anubias and Java Ferns have Rhizomes, with roots dangling from the Rhizome so the best way to grow them is to attach them to rocks or driftwood by tying them with cotton thread, until they can wrap their roots around the rock or driftwood.

Carbon Dioxide:

All plants need carbon to do well. There are a couple of ways for them to get that. One is the traditional CO2 gas tanks, an investment of around two hundred dollars. I recommend that you go the CO2 tank route if you are really serious. Once the initial investment is made the CO2 will cost only a few dollars and last for a long time before a refill is needed depending on the size of your CO2 tank. (For more info on this, email me at the address below.) Then there are the yeast and sugar devices that provide CO2 by mixing the solution in a container and producing CO2 as the end result. (50-100 dollars unless you make your own) The other is to provide liquid carbon. Seachem makes an excellent carbon dioxide liquid called Seachem Excel, it lasts a long time, Marc Weiss makes a liquid carbon that is called Natural Aquarium Vital, it lasts a longtime, is good to 2.5 watts per gallon, and is very inexpensive. You can find them on the site under CO2 supplies. I recommend making the initial investment in the CO2 gas tank system. It is very inexpensive to fill once you have them and can last many months depending on the size of the tank.


This is the easy one. It is a matter of personal preference to choose the right fertilizer for your plants. You wouldn't grow houseplants without it, and aquatic plants need it as well. Follow the directions on the bottle. You can kill your plants if you use more than the recommended dosage because you think more will bring faster growth. Also, do not use fertilizers with phosphates or Nitrates. (check the label) These cause algae blooms. When you are ready you can get more detailed information about fertilizing your plants depending on your setup. Phosphate levels should be .3 MG/L, nitrates should be 3 MG/L to 6 MG/L.

Water Conditions:

Not a tough one, but a few words of caution. You must use only cold water when filling your tank, and make sure that it is de-chlorinated with the proper de-chlorinator available through your aquatic specialist. Warm it to between 76 and 78 degrees with your aquarium heater. Do not use warm water if you have a water softener! Softening salts will kill your plants! Also make sure you use a filter that provides water movement, below the surface, healthier for both plants and fish. Also, you must change at least twenty-five to thirty percent and up to fifty percent of your water weekly!

Pruning and planting:

When you cut stem plants cut them above the node with a sharp knife or better a scissors. Remove the leaves to the depth that the stem will be in the gravel. For Rhizome plants, (Anubias, Bolbitus, Java Ferns) cut the rhizome in half or so that you leave a rhizome piece with at least three leaves. It will then grow into a new plant. For Valisneria and swords, do not cover the root tops with gravel, only the root strands should be under the gravel. For Cryptocoryne, bury the root completely. For Aponogeton, leave the bulb above the gravel. Remove all dead or weak growth leaves as this gives the plant more energy to grow into a beautiful specimen.

Thought you couldn't grow live plants in your aquarium? It's easy if you follow the steps above. And you will be rewarded with a beautiful underwater garden for years to come. The facts are that live plants make for healthier fish; they destroy germs, provide oxygen, and make your fish happier with hiding places and natural conditions. If you have any other questions or would like to order plants visit our site at: or call us at 507-331-5801.

All plants are marked with a letter and then number, these can be viewed by entering them in the Dennerle database found here: enter the letter and number in the first box; (DENNERLE plant code: (e.g. A 04)) and all of the info and photo of that plant will come up.

Useful links:
Algae problems: Algae Problems
Aquascaping: How to aquascape your aquarium:
Tropica: Great Information and plant database:
Aquarium Plant Adjustment: Why are my plants leaves bad?

If you need specific information on how to set up a planted tank or plant selections, email the author at

Aquatic Scapes
P.O. Box 1115
Faribault, MN 55021
Telephone: 507-331-5801
Fax: 507-384-3146

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