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When Starting a new Planted Tank

By: Steve Hampton
One of the problems facing someone starting their first planted tank is choosing plant species and gauging plant growth speeds. This is especially true for high light high tech planted tanks. For example, will the plants fill in the spaces the way you'd like and at the same rate? For a couple of years I continually beat myself up over not getting the design right and being unsatisfied with the aquascape a few months after planting. I would try each time I'd start a new tank to get the design just right. Without question there are people that can get a mental picture of how they wish their planted tank to look and set out from the beginning and achieve their desired look right away. That degree of talent escapes me. I have since accepted this limitation and learned to work with, not against, this shortcoming.

Now I plant a tank knowing that the look of the tank will be as fluid as the water contained within it. Certainly I try to start with a loose plan but I'm also starting with the realization that my aquascape will evolve and change to suit me over the first 6-8 months. Here is an example of a 75G planted tank about 6 months after my initial planting;

Healthy and algae free, but not the "feel" and look I wanted or desired. It also had plants poorly located and at this point the "look" of this aquascape was going to be impossible to maintain that particular look...another key point when dealing with high light high tech planted tanks...can you sustain the aquascape? After replacing some species, removing others, and adding one or two more I arrived at close to what I wanted. This aquascape was about 6 months after the first photo above. This tank was able to be maintained with this same basic look for another 18 months...only a personal illness allowed this tank to overgrow and lose the "look". Which brings up the final point. High light high tech planted tanks do not wait...they grow at high speed and will quickly overgrow and become an unruly mess within a few weeks without maintenance. During this tanks peak period I would prune and fluff the plants 2-3 times per week to maintain the "look".

One should always aspire to do their best, but that must be tempered with the patience to allow the process to develop at its own'll be a much more satisfied hobbyist when you don't place too much pressure to produce the perfect aquascape immediately. I post this in hopes that someone reading this can learn from my earlier mistakes and not feel disappointed if the "look" isn't always just the way you want it immediately.

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