Before reading this, look at this first. You may know this but plants need light, nutrients, and co2 in order to survive. The food for the plant are the nutrients. Plant nutrients are chemicals or elements that you see in a periodic table. It’s not as complicated as you think with planted aquariums. Some elements include potassium, nitrate, phosphate, or iron. Now, the question is, how do you feed the nutrients to the plants? Don’t think it’s as easy as feeding them with a spoon like a baby. You have to feed them the right amount.
Before I introduce ways to feed your plants, I have to give you a quick lesson. There are two types of nutrients, micros and macros. Macros are nutrients that are feed in bigger amounts than micros. These are like energy foods we eat such as coffee, 5 hour energy, etc. The macro nutrients you need are potassium nitrate and potassium phosphate. Potassium nitrate can come from fish waste but that doesn’t mean you start feeding more food because fish poop also has ammonia. The macros are the minerals for the plant to grow and stay healthy. These are like vitamins we eat to stay healthy. There are many you can give to your plants but some include iron, calcium, copper, and magnesium.
There are different ways to give your plants the proper nutrients. Some include:
Adding water to your aquarium
After a water change or if your water level drops, you add tap water to refill the water. That tap water has minerals. Not every mineral is in the water but some of it or most of it is in their. It depends where you live because every city or county has different water with different amounts of minerals in it. This should give enough minerals for easy plants to stay alive. This method isn’t very productive in aquariums with high plant mass or hard plants because the minerals get used up fast. The macro nutrients will come from fish waste. This isn’t a very productive strategy.
Liquid fertilizers are products you see that say they help plants grow. Not all of them are trustworthy but Seachem Flourish is a pretty good product. Most of the product is water but it also has the proper amount of micro and macro nutrients. These are usually dosed from once a week to every day depending on the instructions it says. The bad news is the bottle can usually run out in 2 months to a year. This means you have to keep on buying it which raises the price of this method. This is good for low tech aquariums but not really for the higher tech aquariums since nutrient levels aren’t high enough for hard plants unless you dose extra(raises price).
EI dosing, or estimative index, is pretty complicated but probably one of the best strategies to use. I’ll tell you the basics of it but learn more about it on my EI dosing article. This method consists of buying the powdered version of the nutrients like potassium nitrate, iron, and potassium phosphate. You either add the powder straight into the aquarium or add the powder to a bottle of distilled water, mix it up and dissolve it, and dose it into the aquarium. The powder is dosed in very little amounts in grams and milligrams every week. It’s also probably the best dosing strategy to use since you can customize how much you dose, good for low and high tech, affordable, and lasts very long. People who live outside the U.S beware that some of these powders (potassium nitrate is also gunpowder) are not allowed in their country. Make sure you check your laws. Places you can buy this powder is aquariumfertilizer.com, greenleafaquariums.com, or aquarium forums such as plantedtank. Few or barely any LFS (local fish store) sell these powders since this method is relatively pretty new. Make sure you read my other post about EI dosing before buying this.