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Aquarium Setup

The first planted aquarium. How to start?

The first planted aquarium. How to start?

Amazing underwater view, prolific aquatic plants, crystal clear water, healthy glistening wildlife.  When you first meet a planted aquarium, you immediately get the feeling of "I need one too". Then the moment of uncertainty comes. I wonder if I can create one like this? So many times, as we get into the "science" of aquascaping, the crowd of water parameters, carbon dioxide levels, and nutrients can make you uncertain.

But there is nothing to worry about; it is not nuclear science. After learning the basics, anyone can do it. The other uncertain factor may be the price because, like many other hobbies, there is no amount in the aquaristics that cannot be easily spent. In this article, we will look at how to keep costs under control. However, it is worth nothing at the outset that more expensive equipment is not accidentally more expensive. Their quality of materials is better and in the long run, they are more economical or more accurate, perhaps more flashy.

When buying any product at the first planted aquarium, many people consider that maybe it won't be the hobby I enjoy, and what if I pour money down the drain. Below, we go through the equipment needed at start-up and look for the optimal opportunities from the perspective of initial cautious uncertainty.




There are two types of glass: Optiwhite (ultra clear glass) or the normal or traditional (Float) version. Since Opti glass costs about twice as much as usual, it can be rational to choose the cheaper one because, for decades, only this glass existed and we were away with it.

For larger aquariums, it can be a serious cost reduction factor if the glass is made with a cross or longitudinal stiffener, as it is unnecessary to produce them from thick glass such as stiffeners. In exchange for the slightly disturbing sight of the stiffener, heavy thousands can be saved.


Filtering is the soul of the aquarium! Here, thoughtless saving can even cause eternal annoyance. If you don’t have to, don’t save on that. In planted aquariums, internal filters are used only in small (less than 40 liters) aquariums, but even in these, a hang on filter or an external filter are used more ofthen. However, if the performance and filter volume are optimal, it almost does not matter whether you choose a more branded or less reputable filter; each will perform the task. In the long run, it is worth considering the service option, parts supply, etc., because usually, this will make a cheaper filter more expensive ...


In the case of planted aquariums, it is a cardinal question to have adequate light intensity. You can choose a relatively inexpensive fluorescent (T5) lamp, which is disappearing from the market, but therefore is affordable, and the replacement of fluorescent lamps is not expensive either.

We can already find good value-for-money products among LED lamps, but be very careful; cheap LED lamps usually don’t know what they promise. If you are thinking of a LED lamp, we are confident to recommend only mid-range models.

Carbon dioxide system

Usually, systems explicitly designed for aquaristic purposes are long-lasting and reliable. However, if you want to reduce the price with similar tools of other industries, you get a less precise system, which can cause a lot of complications in the beginning. An overdose may also cause the death of our fish. So, we suggest not to save there. But the good news is that all CO2 bottles have the same quality of gas, so if you can get a bottle cheaper, you can save even more money.

Substrate, decor

To navigate through the maze of substrates, we have another post to help you. However, we can tell that clay soils are more expensive, but plants grow much better in them. Traditional gravel or basalt should only be considered if you are thinking of a large aquarium, and the price of the substrate would represent a significant item. The use of the substrate is optional; it can be replaced by placing root sticks

The decoration can be stone or some wood. Aquarium stones available in stores are more expensive than in stone stores, but they are guaranteed not to leak harmful substances. Lava stone is a good value for money because it is light due to its porous structure. In addition, this stone can be crushed relatively easily and sprayed under the substrate to do "substrate lifting" economically.

If possible, choose one type of stone and/or one type of wood for the aquarium. Here I would like to draw attention to the mistake that most novice aquaculturists make: they want to try everything and want a hilly, wooded-forested aquarium at the same time. The outcome of this will be incomprehensible chaos. Choose one style, and then the next makeover will have a different look. The exciting thing about this hobby is that we have the opportunity each time to create a new one.

Aquarium Plants 

For quick rich vegetation, plant many plants at the start. It is by no means a good saving to plant few plants, saying that they will reproduce. Unfortunately, this usually leads to severe algae growth. The more plants we plant, the greater the chances of success.

Plant selection is also essential. If possible, choose from plants that are easier to keep. Buy a variety to get to know as many plants as possible. You can see their growth rate, speed, regenerative powers etc. These will be very good experiences for our future, even for a more consciously designed aquarium.

Where to find information?

We recommend many useful posts on the Green Aqua blog to everyone as we have shared our best knowledge and many years of experience in it. If you have the opportunity to visit in person our 11th district store and showroom in Budapest/Hungary, here you can ask us in person for advice. Alternatively we offer consulting service. Please reach out in email if you're interested.

Finally, the most important aquaristic advice: be patient! Your attempt will be crowned by success sooner or later! ;)

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