Balance and Plant Load

Posted by Dustin Wunderlich on

Finding balance in your planted aquarium can’t be overstated.  I believe this is vital to the success of your tank and also will make your life easier. It’s all about easy for me.  I keep so many tanks that if one was a huge pain, it would kill the hobby for me.   There is a reason I no longer keep a saltwater reef


I’d like to take a deeper dive into how a heavy plant load can both reduce algae but also run a happier, healthier tank.  In this video I talk about how there is a higher plant load- (Please excuse my attempt at rapping Outkast to include fishtank stuff- it’s just a faze)   


So the one 55 has a ton of plants in it,  it also gets a bunch more light as the back side of it isn’t covered like the 75.  The higher plant load allows for higher light without the a bunch of algae growth.  These are fast growing plants as well so that is worth mentioning. The Dwarf Sag and the Jungle Val are plants that take off pretty quickly under these kinds of conditions.  These fast growing plants multiplied very quickly as you all can see from the great plant growth.  This plant growth helps keep algae at bay as the larger, stronger plants take all of the excess sunlight.


I’d like to hit on just a few of these species as they are worth noting for your future or current tanks should you want to increase your plant load quickly if you are off balance, or just looking for a more stable tank.

Jungle val and dwarf sag are certainly plants that will reward you with a great bit of fast growth and are also very forgiving.  (I still think that one of the easiest tanks to pull of that looks sweet is nothing but jungle val in the back, dwarf sag in the front- that’s it!)

Water Wisteria is also one of the more insanely fast growers that I have ever encountered.  It is a massive sponge that soaks up Nitrates like no other.  If you want even fast growth, try floating if even more closely to the top of your tank so that part of it is up out of the water.  Wisteria grows bonkers when grown like this.    Also- Wisteria is a form of Hygrophila  which is generally a very fast growing species.  If you see it available in other varieties, I would recommend that you pick it up. I have a single piece of “Sunset Hygro” which is really awesome and a fast grower.


It takes them a while to really start to be the monster sponges that they can be, but Amazon swords are also great plants for taking up excess nitrate once rolling.


It is worth mentioning java moss as well. I consider java moss to be almost a form of algae however.  Once you put moss in your aquarium, it might never come out again. (This happened in my 125, unless maintained. it just looks messy and meanders all over your aquarium)    That said java moss could be used in refugiums or in small shrimp tanks and do fine job. The other types of mosses work equally well for this as well.


Duckweed is also a monster sponge of a plant, but you might have a hard time getting it back out.  Alternatively you might check out both salvinia and frog bit.  ( I am out of Frog bit, but have some Salvinia that is for you all only with your orders if you ask)

I would throw Hornwort in here as well, but I am actually mad at this plant right now. (John- you know what I am talking about)   It came into me looking like garbage, died off and is now coming back. It made a nice mess of my tank prior to getting it’s act together.  Regardless- it is rolling now and is a good sponge.


I would almost go as far to say that these plants listed above should be used even if you don’t intend on keeping them long term, just to get the tank established.  As many of you know, your good local stores should take healthy plants in on trade.    (Sally- stop trading that Crypt Usteriana;)

So with a few of these species mentioned. I think it is worth talking about what you DON’T SEE.  I have hammered on this recently but it;s worth repeating. The species you don’t see are working for you and need both time and an environment to grow. (And – not be killed off)   I am talking about your beneficial bio load in your filters, gravel and yes- that yummy layer of dirt.  Leave your filter pads dirty and if you are going to rinse them- do so in tank water.

Here is a video where I talk about these unseen species.

Remember folks, Ammonia (FISH POOP/Waste decaying plant mater) Which need lots of bacteria we can’t see to break it down…

Ammonia gets converted into Nitrite (which isn’t as bad but needs lots of bacteria colonies to convert it to Nitrate)

Nitrate- The last in the cycle that our heavily planted aquarium plants love and thrive in. (So we want way more plants than fish so this isn’t ever off)


Got it?  Any Questions or comments please leave them below.  I’d love to help out more with this topic


Tank on!



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