Planted Tank Equipment and Supplies for Beginners


Part One: The Essential Shopping List for the Planted Tank Enthusiast

Welcome to the first article in a new ‘how-to series’ called “Planted Tanks and Aquascaping for Beginners”.


This new series is geared toward those new to the hobby of planted tanks and in the art of aquascaping. As I guide you through this new series you will learn fundamentals like selecting the proper equipment (today’s article) and advanced techniques like installing a pressurized CO2 system. At the end of every article I will present you with a “TL;DR”, which stands for “Too Long; Didn’t Read”. If you’re in a rush or just looking for the rundown then go ahead and skip to the end and check it out.



Planted Tank Equipment and Supplies:


The Tank

The Tank is the canvas where all the magic happens. There is no right or wrong type of tank so take a look at these and go with the one that fits your artistic style. Now let’s take a look at the different types available.

Traditional Tanks

  • Pros: inexpensive, reliable
  • Cons: unattractive
  • Recommended Brands: Aqueon, Tetra, Petco, Petsmart

Rimless Tanks

  • Pros: attractive and minimalistic
  • Cons: expensive
  • Recommended Brands: JBJ, GLA

BowFront/Halfmoon Tanks

  • Pros: unique design
  • Cons: unique design
  • Recommended Brands: Aqueon, Fluval


  • Pros: Inexpensive
  • Cons: difficult to maintain
  • Recommended Brands: Generic

Designer Tanks

  • Pros: Unique and attractive
  • Cons: Expensive
  • Recommended Brands: Fluval



The Filters

If the Tank is the canvas for your planted tank masterpiece then the filter is the stable foundation you are designing on. (Almost) every tank needs a filter. Filters work very hard to keep your water clear by breaking down the detritus (waste) that your fish leave behind. For more information explaining how Filters work see this article. Let’s examine the types of aquarium filters available.

Canister Filter

  • Pros: Ideal for Planted Tanks, excellent waterflow, large volume for beneficial bacteria
  • Cons: Expensive, large footprint
  • Recommended Brands: Eheim, SunSun, Fluval

Hang on Back Filter or Internal Filter

  • Pros: Inexpensive
  • Cons: Unattractive, might not provide adequate filtration for large tanks
  • Recommended Brands: Marineland, Fluval, Aqueon

Undergravel Filter

  • Pros: Hidden, inexpensive
  • Cons: Replacement media hard to find, might not provide adequate filtration for large tanks
  • Recommended Brands: Penn Plax, Lee’s


The Heaters

Keeping your planted tank warm is essential in maintaining a healthy and natural ecosystem. Both plants and fish alike enjoy warm temperatures so let’s look at our options.

Submersible Heater

  • Pros: Good for beginners, reliable when you choose the right one, inexpensive
  • Cons: Unattractive
  • Recommended Brands: ViaAqua, Aquatop, Eheim

Inline Heater

  • Pros: Minimalistic look being placed outside the tank
  • Cons: Canister Filter required
  • Recommended Brands: Hydor

Slim Heaters

  • Pros: Good for small tanks
  • Cons: Unreliable
  • Recommended Brands: Hydor


The Lighting

Ah, one of the Essential Components of the Planted Tank, lighting is a beast all its own. It is perhaps the most difficult to master in the art of planted tanks, and for good reason; we are trying to emulate The Sun which plants have adapted to for thousands of years. Let’s jump in but if you want more information on lighting check out Lighting for Dummies – Cracking the lighting code for your Planted Tank and Aquascape.


  • Pros: Designed to Maximize Plant growth
  •  Cons: Expensive
  • Recommended Brands: Finnex Planted+, Finnex Ray 2


  • Pros: High output, overdrive plant growth
  •  Cons: Short lifespan, uncommon
  • Recommended Brands: Aquatic Life, AquaSun


  • Pros: Inexpensive, wide variety
  • Cons: Doesn’t penetrate water deeply enough to reach the substrate
  • Recommended Brands: All Glass Aquarium


  • Pros: Inexpensive, wide variety, proven to work
  • Cons: DIY
  • Recommended Brands: Generic


  • Pros: None
  • Cons: poor light penetration results in poor plant growth (avoid)
  • Recommended Brands: NONE


The Substrate

The ability to choose a correct substrate is a valuable tool to have when building a planted tank. Gone are the days of throwing multicolored gravel into your tank with some fake plants. We are growing plants! We need something rich in nutrients that the plants can feed off of.


  • Pros: Nutrient rich, stimulate excellent plant growth, easy to find
  • Cons: Requires intermediate knowledge, can be messy
  • Recommended Brands: Miracle Grow Organic Potting Soil

Nutrient Rich Soil Substitute

  • Pros: Easy, clean and designed to maximize plant growth
  • Cons: None
  • Recommended Brands: Eco-Complete, Flourite


  • Pros: Attractive, easy to find
  • Cons: No nutrients added
  • Recommended Brands: Aqua Terra, Generic


  • Pros: Attractive, easy to find
  • Cons: No nutrients added
  • Recommended Brands: Generic



Tank, filter, heating, lighting, substrate that’s all you NEED to start growing your plants. In our next article we will examine all of the things which will enhance growth and ease of maintenance in your planted tank. (Part Two) The Unessential shopping list for the planted tank enthusiast.




Tank – choose whatever appeals to your style

Filter – choose a filter that fits your budget

Heater – inline vs submersible. I recommend a canister filter + inline heater for minimal hardware in your tank

Lighting – choose the lighting that will grow the plants you want

Substrate – pick anything that is nutrient rich

Hi I'm Ryan, the owner of Aquathusiast. I've been keeping fish and aquatic plants for several years now. Along the way I've learned a lot. My goal is to take that knowledge and experience and help you, my readers, create the best aquariums and aquascapes possible. Drop us a line at or join us in the forums for a free aquarium consultation.
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