top of page

Nurturing Aquatic Plants in the Past: Unveiling My Journey with Traditional Methods


Embarking on a journey before the advent of today's technology, I recall the challenges we faced in growing aquatic plants without the convenience of aquasoils or affordable plant food. Our knowledge was limited to using ordinary aquarium gravel, forcing us to get creative with our approaches. Through countless experiments and failures, we managed to cultivate breathtaking plants despite the constraints we encountered.

Tips on how we got from this (top) to this (bottom)

Feeding Aquatic Plants: My Experiences

To provide essential nutrients through the water column, we relied on liquid garden plant fertilizers. Adhering to the recommended types and dosages, we cautiously started with only one-third of the suggested amount. If we noticed no signs of algae or other issues, we gradually increased the dosage. In case our efforts yielded disappointing results, we would switch to different brands, with a preference for those rich in kelp content. Sadly, some of the best brands we relied on are no longer available. However, our unwavering commitment to using liquid fertilizers stemmed from the belief that they provided a comprehensive blend of essential elements in a single dose.

Substrate Enrichment: My Exploration

Our journey into substrate enrichment involved a myriad of trials. We delved into spot feeding with plant food tablets, and experimented with unconventional options like rabbit droppings, chicken droppings, compost/clay balls, and more. After multiple attempts, I discovered that single rabbit droppings or clay/compost balls worked best for me, as other alternatives proved too potent and often resulted in root burns—particularly chicken droppings.

When it came to the bottom substrate beneath the inert aquarium gravel, I ventured into using potting soil, composts, garden gravel/sand, and even cat litter. My most successful mix consisted of pure original bentonite cat litter (unscented), garden sand, and a small portion of potting soil. Maintaining a depth of no more than 2 to 3cm, I topped it off with 12 to 16cm of aquarium gravel. While some enthusiasts achieved better results with compost instead of potting soil, I encountered significant setbacks when I attempted to incorporate it into my setup.

Through countless trials and errors, my fellow enthusiasts and I discovered a couple of tricks that significantly aided our endeavours. First, we decided to boil the potting soil and garden sand in a pressure cooker, believing it would eliminate fungi and algae thus curbing the sudden pollution that can be caused by soil. This simple step prevented overnight disasters that would pollute our systems. Additionally, we learned the hard way that it was crucial to mix the cat litter in a separate bucket before introducing it into the aquarium. The reaction with water released an astonishing amount of heat, resulting in an unfortunate incident where I destroyed the bottom of one of my aquariums.

Balancing the "Table": Lessons Learned

Early on, I struggled to grasp the importance of balance in creating a stable "table" for my planted aquarium. This "table" represented the three crucial components: food, CO2, and lighting. My initial approach placed excessive emphasis on food, neglecting the other two pillars.

As a result, my "table" constantly toppled over, leaving me frustrated. However, as I invested in better lighting—increasing both the intensity and quantity—I began witnessing gradual improvements in my results. Still, something was missing to achieve greatness.

It was at this point that I decided to venture into the world of DIY CO2 supplementation. I experimented with a Sodastream bottle and was pleasantly surprised by the significant improvement it brought to my plants. Suddenly, the fruits of my labour blossomed with greater vitality and beauty.

Lessons and Advice: A Personal Reflection

Reflecting on my journey, I offer the following advice to those who prefer to embrace traditional methods or face budget constraints:

1. Begin with water column feeding using tried and tested aquarium products readily available on the market.

2. Enhance your lighting system within the limits of your budget. Even simple additions such as 10W LED spotlights can make a noticeable difference.

3. If you encounter issues with algae, increase the number of plants in your aquarium and dramatically reduce the lighting duration until the algae growth is under control. Then increase it gradually to find that sweet spot

4. Aspiring to incorporate a DIY CO2 system? Here it is imperative to exercise caution when handling liquid-based mixtures. Even a slight contamination can spell disaster for your beloved aquatic ecosystem. Sadly, I witnessed numerous well-established planted aquariums crashing due to DIY CO2 liquid contamination, so vigilance is paramount. I would rather venture towards “Sodastream” bottles


Remember, cultivating aquatic plants is a hobby that knows no boundaries. While rules may be absent, I share these insights and suggestions from my personal experiences and those of fellow enthusiasts. By embracing traditional methods and leveraging the knowledge accumulated from past practices, it is indeed possible to nurture stunning aquatic plants, even without subsoil or CO2 supplementation.

NEXT: Growing Stunning Aquatic Plants in inert aquarium gravel Without Subsoil or CO2

182 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page