1. Plan Your Design Before You Start.
Transplanting fish into a new tank is taxing enough without uprooting the plants too. Figure out where you want everything to go before you begin. The chances are that the plants are wrapped in damp newspaper, so you have time to move them without stressing them too much. Lay down towels on the floor around the tank.
2. Rinse the Gravel and Place It in the Tank.
Place the gravel in a clean bucket, and add water to rinse it. You may need to repeat this once or twice to remove any dust. If you have an under-gravel filter, place it in the empty tank before adding the gravel. You should plan on adding 1-1.5 lbs. per gallon of water. That should give you a 2-3-inch layer of substrate to anchor the plants properly.
3. Partially Fill the Tank.
Next, fill your aquarium one-third to halfway with water. You’ll find it helpful to pour room temperature water onto an upside-down saucer or small plate to avoid moving the gravel. Taking this approach will help minimize how much water ends up on the floor instead of in the tank. The temperature is vital to avoid shocking your new plants.
4. Add Fertilizer to the Water.
Put fertilizer into the water as per the directions on the bottle. This step is crucial to the health of your plants. There are no nutrients currently present in the water. That comes later after you add the fish, and the nitrogen cycle has run its course. That process takes time, depending on the aquarium size, setup, and the number of fish.
5. Gently Rinse the Plants With Lukewarm Water.
Carefully unwrap the newspaper from each plant as you get ready to put them in the gravel. Rinse each one with lukewarm water, taking care to include the leaves. You might find a few stowaways, e.g., snails, on them. Discard them in the trash.
6. Place the Plants in the Gravel as per Your Plan.
Here’s the fun part. Put the plants into the gravel according to the layout that you did earlier. Begin by digging out a hole, begin careful not to go all the way down to the bottom. Mound the substrate around the stem to anchor it in place.
7. Add Any Tank Décor After Rinsing Off Each Piece.
Make sure to remove any tags when you rinse off your tank décor before placing them into the aquarium. You may find it helpful to use your tank décor to weigh down larger plants that might float to the top.
8. Fill Up the Aquarium.
You can now fill up the rest of the tank using the saucer tip if needed. Don’t be alarmed if the water appears cloudy. Things will settle down with time. If you have a heater or outside filter, turn them on to create a welcoming environment for your plants.
9. Put on the Hood Light.
Most plants will need at least 12 hours of light a day. The UV light supplies the energy that they need to undergo photosynthesis and grow. There are a few plants that prefer low-light conditions. We suggest that you stick with the average needs of the species that you have chosen.
10. Give the Plants Time to Adjust to Their New Digs.
This step involves waiting. Plants need time to adjust and start their root networks. For some species, it’s the first time that they’ve been fully submerged. Everything that they’ve endured up to this point is stressful. That’s one reason that we suggest delaying the addition of fish.
11. Monitor the Condition of the Plants.
In the meantime, keep an eye on your plants. They may seem like they’re wilting and not doing well. Once they’ve adapted to their conditions, they’ll bounce back. Make sure to keep adding fertilizer as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
12. Add Your Fish — Slowly.
Taking your time to fill up your tank is a smart move for your plants, fish, and the water chemistry. It can take up to 6 weeks for the aquarium to go through a complete run of the nitrogen cycle, as it takes time for the bacteria to get on the job. Waiting will also prevent a spike in ammonia levels, which are toxic to any organism.
13. Check the pH and Ammonia Levels Regularly.
We strongly urge you to monitor the water quality often, especially when you start adding fish. The pH and ammonia levels will likely fluctuate for these first few weeks. That’s another reason that we recommend so-called beginner plants that can tolerate these conditions.
14. Set Up a Water-Changing Schedule.
An aquarium is a closed environment. Therefore, it behooves you to take over Nature’s role and help maintain the water quality. That means weekly water changes of 10% of the tank’s total volume once a week. It’s a smart way to prevent the buildup of toxins that can create an unhealthy environment.