Over six months ago I decided to try live plants in the fish tanks. Initially I had no idea there was special substrate for a planted aquarium, and my first choice was to try small size gravel.
In the beginning when you explore information thru the internet, there are many websites explaining about easy plants for novice planted aquarium keepers. In my case and initially with a gravel substrate, the amazon sword plant did always good especially when fertilizer tablets were used, but never to the point of exploiting in growth. Staurogyne Repens is a carpet plant that did ok, it never colonized a big area and few of them died, obviously because gravel was not the best substrate for it.(still I got some little plants that did not die). I tried hairgrass and for a while it managed to survive, but didn’t do it. Glossostigma Elatinoides was more delicate and it died fast.
Liquid carbon, substrate tablets, and liquid fertilizer was used as well as T5 lights, and the plants were just dying or barely surviving. I increased the light time to the point where the 29 gallon aquarium had a critic algae bloom(some fish even died) and at that point it was clear something was wrong. The conclusion in my mind was to try a good, and rich nutrient soil
First I placed the three planted aquariums inside a room where they can get natural light from the windows.(not direct sunlight tough, but at least the light spectrum gets in) Secondly I run with a timer T-8 aquarium lights for 7 hours. You can increase or decrease the time if you want to, or use more powerful lights like LED or T-5 , but always watch for algae, because that is a sign of too much light. Depending on your natural light conditions you can go from 0.5 watts per gallon of water to 1 watt per gallon in your lighting system.
“Most important thing is the soil”. That is the phrase I heard in many youtube videos referring to a planted tank. My choice was to get flourite from seachem. So to use the less amount I planted some plants in glass containers, adding a fertilizer tablet in the substrate with each of them. I use liquid carbon every day too, and weekly doses of liquid fertilizers when a water change is done.
Well patience is a virtue says the adage. Now I’m waiting, but everything seems to be doing just fine.
On a final note. If you spend money taking care and time in a planted aquarium is because you worry about your plants, so don’t add just any type of fish(especially barbs, big tetras, and most cichlids). If you like those fish you can have them in tanks with no plants. Some fish are soil diggers, and the substrate for plants is clay base in many cases, so any big violent disturbance will make your water cloudy and messy for up to 2 or 3 days. Some other plant soils like eco complete from caribsea are made of volcanic rock, but that soil is very light in weight, and any soil digger fish like many cichlids will unroot easily your plants, at worst make of your plants a delicious salad.
Some websites tell you barbs are ok, they are not, they eat your plants, I’ve seen it.(ask my gold barbs)
My personal choices for a planted aquarium are espei rasboras, ember tetra, cardinal tetra, rummy nose tetra, black neon tetra, glowlight tetra, pristella tetra, and black phantom tetra and white cloud minows. Seems like the tetra family shines in this spot.
You can even try a planted nano tank as I’m doing too. In a 5 gallon I got six dwarf strawberry rasboras(they look like chili rasboras tough), and when the cherry and black carbon shrimps multiply I will add some of them there too.