Planted Aquarium Page

Latest News

2009-07-18 Bought some more fish five female golden gouramis, three cat fish, two algae eaters and two flying foxes. One gourami got hurt after getting stuck in the plumbing so I also had to change this to prevent this from happening again. One of the original three gouramis died. The vals were pretty thick so I thinned this out a bit and added some more other plants.

I really wish I could get some Siamese Algae eaters. I may also have to get the CO2 going again.

2009-01-05 Unbelievable but the tank is still going, it still has the same three female golden gouramis.

2005-11-08 Added a pic of my tank. It is still early days but starting to look like something. It is populated by three female golden gouramis. I am also experimenting with sodium biphosphate to lower the pH. I have had no adverse effects so far.

2005-06-16 I started rebuilding the tank.

2005-03-17: The tank is a disaster right now, I need to rebuild the whole thing. At the moment I have some guppies in the tank.

2003-03-14: The tank is doing quite well considering the effort I put in. I have 3 White Cloud Tetras left. Some time ago I bought some Dwarfed Gouramis they had a disease and killed all the other fish.

2001-10-21: The tank is doing quite well. I have added nine White Cloud Tetras. I have got rid of almost all algae with the help of Carbon Dioxide. My plants did show signs of deficiency due to the explosive growth as a result of the Carbon Dioxide. So I added a modified version of PMDD (one without iron) every few days. I also placed a piece of red clay (for iron) in the substrate by the affected plants. Then tank has been without CO2 for two weeks and the hair algae has returned so I'll be once again putting the tank on CO2 Ideally the tank should not run with it, as it adds a lot of extra maintenance. (Trimming, fertilizing and making CO2 brew). On a recent trip to the Vaal River I saw a lot of the very hair algae I have in my tanks.

2001-03-03: I have moved again. I still have a problem with thread algae. I am reducing the pH of the tank from about 7.6 to below 7 so that the algae can be deprived of its alkaline advantage.

2001-01-05: The tank is doing much better. One of the fry has survived and is doing well. I have bought a new female Gourami. I still have a problem with thread algae. The male Gourami loves it and uses a lot of the stuff to build his nest. The nest is very strong and is about a week or two old. The fish have spawned but I have not seen any fry yet.

2000-12-03: Setback: The tank turned into a Val jungle. I removed all Val plants, upsetting the substrate. I obtained 3 Dwarf Gouramis, they spawned but the 2 females died of a fungal infection. The male is still recovering. I doubt any fry has survived.

2000-11-18: The plants are doing great. I have developed a problem with green thread algae.

2000-11-11: My tank is starting to do nicely now. Its two weeks into cycling and I have had no algae blooms yet. At the moment it is still fish less. I intend to stock it with Dwarf Gouramis’.

I was using the phosphate limited approach and I achieved marginal success. I am now doing the low tech natural approach. I have recently read Diana Walstad's book the Ecology of the Planted Aquarium (also available at Amazon.com) describing this technique. I would recommend this book to anybody interested in a planted aquarium.

How I started this damn hobby

My dad bought a 3-foot tank. He soon lost interest and I felt sorry for the fish. I soon realized that this is not as easy as it looks, why could I not reproduce what I saw it the books? Why don’t these books tell me anything?

What is the problem?

Well the problem is that most books are quite bad they teach you stuff like what to buy and they list lots of fish, but they don’t teach the basics.

There are 3 general approaches that seem to work as far as planted aquariums go.

  1. High tech, high cost approach. See Dupla for more details.
  2. The Phosphate limited approach which I would call medium tech. See PMDD for more details.
  3. The low tech, natural aquarium approach. See Natural Aquariums site also Dan Q's guides.

I will summarise the differences

  Low Tech Sub-High Tech High Tech
Cost Cheap Medium to high Very high
Maintenance Little Moderate High
Plant diversity Lowest Moderate Highest
Filters Mainly for circulation Biological Biological
Fertilisers From fish food Daily drops Yes
CO2 No Yes Automatically regulated
Water Changes 25% every 6 months 25% every 2 weeks 25% every 2 weeks
Plant Growth Slow Good Excellent
Lighting Cool White Fluorescent or
Sun light
Aquarium specific High intensity
Algae Control Iron, plants natural defensives Phosphate, Algae eating fish prob Phosphate
Substrate Garden/Potting soil Gravel Gravel with Clay/Laterite additives

Other tips


My setup

Dimentions: 121 * 43.5 * 38 cm, 200liters (or 47.6 * 17.1 * 15", 52.6 US Gallons)
Lighting: 2 * 40 fluorescent tubes (1 Flora-gro and 1 cool white)
Filtering: Homemade filter tank.
Substrate: 30mm potting soil with 30mm fine gravel on top of that
Temperature: 25ºC to 30ºC in the summer
Hardness: 3º KH and 6ºGH
pH: 7.5
Ammonia: undetectable
Iron: Fe+++ & Fe++ undetectable
Nitrate: 1mg/l
Phosphate: 0.1mg/l

I took some photos but alas the quality is not up to scratch. I also have to buy a scanner!



Scientific name Common name or description
Anubias sp Pygmy low broad leafs
Bacopa monnieria Baby's Tears
Cabomba aquatica Fanwort
Ceratophyllum submersum Hornwort
Vallisneria Val
Previous plants:  
Ceratopteris thalictroides Indian Fern
Echindorus Cordifolius Amazon Sword
Egeria densa Argentine Anacharis (waterweed)
Hemigraphis exotica or
Labelia Cardinalis
possibly not aquatic
Hygrophila polysperma Water Star
Lemna minor Duckweed
Nymphaea maculata African Tiger Lotus
Echinodorus amazonicus Amazon Sword plant
Microsorium pteropus Java Fern
Anubias afzellis red stems
Cardamine lyrata water lilly looking

Pet Shops

The best pet shops I’ve found so far is Exotic Aquarius in Boxburg North and Pet Masters also in Boxburg North. Pic a Pet is about the best in the Vaal Triangle also Pet City is worth mentioning.


The best site is The Krib it has a huge content with no advertisements or other irritations.
Check out Hoa G. Nguyen's nice low tech site
The South African supplier of aquatic plants: Amatikulu Aquarium Plants