There is nothing more naturally beautiful than a planted fish tank. Aquatic plants can absorb nutrients from the water column and/or roots. Some aquatic plants are thought to be heavier root feeders than others, such as Cryptocoryne (Crypt), Vallisneria (Val) and Echinodorus (Sword) species. Aquarists who grow these species, or have a lot of root-feeding plants, may wish to add fertilizer to their substrate to supplement their growth.
There are manufactured “root tabs” available for aquatic plants and some aquarium hobbyists make their own clay fertilizer balls containing manufactured fertilizers. There is a little-known natural option, however, which offers inadvertent benefits to the aquarium environment.
The aquatic plant fertilizer balls we make ourselves require only two ingredients. They supply more than 60 chelated macro and micro nutrients to the plants and inadvertently to the aquatic pets cohabiting with them (such as fish, shrimp and snails). As a bonus, they also control algae!
Calcium Montmorillonite Clay is used to both mold and supplement with its complete array of bio-available minerals and trace elements. It is present in many waterways, where it provides nutrients to plants and aquatic animals. Fish, shrimp and other aquatic pets benefit from its presence in the water column through mineral supplementation and healing. It has been the secret of champion breeders for many years. For more about the benefits of Calcium Montmorillonite Clay in aquariums and ponds, read Benefits of Montmorillonite Clay for Pond and Aquarium Fish.
The Calcium Montmorillonite Clay is complimented by mixed powdered seaweed, which immediately begins to supplement plants before decomposition because it doesn’t have the cellulose binding issues of terrestrial plants. Seaweed has been used as a premium organic fertilizer by gardeners and farmers since the 1800’s. Using a mix of species in each color group is recommended for best results, as one species may contain more of any given component than another species.
- Ulva is especially rich in nitrogen.
- Some red seaweed species have very high calcium carbonate content, so much so that farmers in France have used it to replace Lime supplements entirely.
- Brown seaweed, namely Kelp, doesn’t offer as much nitrogen and phosphorus as other color groups, but excels in potash content.
This combination of natural, slow-release fertilizers provides everything root feeders need to flourish. Calcium, magnesium, iron, molybdenum, manganese, zinc, boron, sulfur, phosphorus, and nitrogen are just the beginning of what these two natural fertilizers have to offer. Natural fertilizers provide complete nutrition, as opposed to a few extracted components like manufactured aquatic plant supplements. This is important when you consider that we don’t know precisely what each plant species requires for optimum growth.
The below “infographic” provides easy, do-it-yourself instructions for homemade natural fertilizer balls/tabs for your aquarium plants. You can mold them into any size or shape you wish, including balls, tablets or sticks. They do have to be buried quickly or they’ll dissolve in the water, so make your holes in the substrate first. You can bake them for a few minutes to make them harder if you wish. They’re also good for your garden or potted plants.
Please note: It’s important to use the highest (human-grade) form of both Calcium Montmorillonite Clay and Seaweed to avoid deficiencies, impurities or contamination.
??? Have you ever made your own fertilizers for aquarium plants? Please share your experience in the comments below.
Walstad, Diana. Ecology of the Planted Aquarium
Cooksley, Valerie G. RN. Seaweed: Nature’s Secret to Balancing Your Metabolism, Fighting Disease, and Revitalizing Body and Soul. 2007.
Chapman, V. J. Seaweeds and their uses. 1980.
✔ You may also be interested in reading:
5 Easy, Low-Light Aquarium Plants Even I Can’t Kill
Double the Power of Seaweed by Mixing Species (Infographic)
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