How do I set up my planted aquarium?

The following is information on setting up a nano planted tank. In this instance, it is an Eheim Aquastyle 9 gallon. Before getting started, give some thought to placement of the tank in the space. Keeping it out of direct sunlight should be a consideration when selecting placement. Sunlight may be helpful to growing plants, but it introduces a variable that is harder to control later if you decide that the outside light is not helping matters. 

In the case of the Eheim Aquastyle, we mount the filter and light first but this can also be done later. This tank come equipped with a high output LED pod that is the correct color temperature for aquatic plants. If you desire more light, a second pod can be added to the existing light bar without purchasing a whole new lighting system. The filter is a simple mechanical/biological combination. The flow is adequate without being overpowering. 

First,  ADA Bacter 100 is added.

Bacter 100  is sprinkled onto the bottom of the aquarium until a light, but even,  coverage is achieved. You will likely have leftover Bacter 100 when you are done which can be used later to eradicate cyanobacteria should you have an outbreak. Bacter 100 contains more than 100 different kinds of micro organisms in a dormant state. It works to improve the overall conditions in the substrate and the aquarium water. 

Secondly, ADA Power Sand is now placed over the Bacter 100 layer. Power Sand  is a substrate additive  with an abundance  minerals and nutrients. It works with the bacteria that grows in  the substrate, and features a charcoal powder that acts as a food for  bacteria  and creates a  living  substrate. This is especially appropriate for Echinodorus or Cryptocoryne as they are major  absorbers of  nutrients from their roots. Power Sand Special is intended for use as a base substrate material and is placed directly onto the glass  of the tank, on top of Bacter 100 or combined with Bacter 100.

Laying in the Power Sand needs only to be done in a manner which gives you no more than 1" of coverage. Often times the aquascaper will leave a 1" perimeter around the aquarium free of Power Sand, This is done so that you do not see it under the main substrate once the tank is complete. 

You are now ready to begin laying down your main substrate. In this case ADA Amazonia Power was used. Powder is much smaller in grain size which helps  in holding down small ground cover plants. Please note that ADA substrates are designed to release ammonia as an aid in cycling new filter media. Because of this, livestock should not be added for at least two- three weeks. During this time perform  a large 50% - 70% water change weekly. In some cases a smaller, more frequent water change works even better, such as 30% twice a week.

Pour in an even layer about 1" thick throughout the aquarium. You are now ready to design your hardscape (rock, driftwood etc)

Once your design is finalized, you can now take more substrate and add it to the tank. You may want to bring the substrate up higher in one area over another or partially bury a section of rock or wood. In other words, create a three dimensional space. When you are done, you will want about 2.5" to 3" of coverage throughout. Some areas can have slightly more, and some less depending on the overall design. Do not rush through this part of the set-up. Taking the night to sleep on it will go a long way later when you wish you would have done things differently. It is much easier to make slight changes without water in your aquarium.

You now have a finished aquarium as far as initial set-up and design is concerned. You will want to take a slow approach to filling the tank with water as to not disrupt the design elements you have completed. Pouring the water in too fast will flush the substrate from the rock, make a very cloudy tank, and ruin your experience. Most aquascapers will tell you there is an advantage to filling the tank only half way to less than halfway and then planting. This way, you are not working in as  much water which can can messy. Again, remember that when you are ready to fill the tank all the way, doing so the wrong way can uproot the plants you have just worked so hard to arrange. A  slow and light fill will really help. In future posts we will cover planting a new tank.