Setting Up an Aquarium With Live Plants


Plants can add a special touch to an aquarium, creating a more natural and visually appealing environment. They also help provide balance in the aquarium by offering natural filtration of waste products, oxygenating the water, and helping reduce excessive algae growth. Because plants are living things, they have certain requirements to grow well. Setting up an aquarium with plants is relatively easy and can usually be done in an afternoon. While smaller aquariums can have a few plants, larger plantings that simulate an underwater environment, such as a river bed, are best done in aquariums over 30 gallons.

Step 1

Position the aquarium where it will stay. Aquariums are heavy and difficult to move, once established. Ensure the aquarium is away from excessive cold or heat sources, such as heating vents or windows, and is near a power outlet for the lighting and filtration equipment.

Step 2

Install the filtration equipment. Add the substrate, This is the material that rooted plants will grow in is available already prepared from the pet store. Add a layer of gravel on top of the substrate.

Step 3

Add the water, carefully, so as not to disturb the substrate or gravel. If using tap water, allow it to rest for 24 hours to reduce the chlorine in the water or use a dechlorinator, available at any pet supply center. Turn the filter on and ensure it is working properly. Allow the filter to clear the water before adding the plants.

Step 4

Select the types of plants you want to grow from floating, rooted or substrate-type plants. Understand the growing habits of each plant to determine if they will do well in the type and size of aquarium being set up.

Step 5

Ensure the lighting in the aquarium is adequate for the plants being added. Different plants have different light requirements.

Step 6

Create a simple diagram of your aquarium that will act as a layout of the landscape within it. This will assist in placing plants in the aquarium when the time comes.

Step 7

Pot rooted plants in small pots with peat moss as an alternative to direct planting in gravel. Many plants already come potted. This allows them to be easily planted or moved later without disturbing the environment too badly.

Step 8

Plant rooted plants by creating a hole in the gravel in the aquarium. Insert a plant into the hole and cover the pot with gravel. Repeat this step for the remaining rooted plants.

Step 9

Tie mosses and other substrate plants to wood or rocks using cotton thread. The thread will eventually be covered by the moss as it grows, concealing it. Place the moss and substrate into the aquarium and position it.

Step 10

Add any floating plants to the aquarium as a final touch. Install the lighting and cover for the aquarium.

Things You'll Need

  • Filtration equipment
  • Lighting and cover
  • Gravel
  • Substrate such as wood or rock
  • Small plant pots
  • Peat moss
  • Cotton thread
  • Dechlorinator


  • Natural Aquariums: Setting up a Planted Aquarium
  • Aquarium Home Care: Secret of Freshwater Aquatic Plants
Keywords: aquarium plants, set up aquarium, aquatic plants aquarium

About this Author

Located in Jacksonville, Fla, Frank Whittemore has been a writer and content strategist for over 15 years, providing corporate communications services to Fortune 500 companies. Whittemore writes on topics that stem from his fascination with nature, the environment, science, medicine and technology.