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Fish Tank vs Planted Tank? 7 Differences

June 20, 2022 2 min read

Fish Tank vs Planted Tank? 7 Differences


Fish Tank Lighting

Planted Tank Lighting

  • ‘Brightness’ matters to see fish / colours.
  • Applicable measure: Lumens / Watt.
  • Stock lighting that came with the tank works, fishes will not complain about light quality.
  • Strength and colour spectrum critical for plant growth and coloration.
  • Relevant measure: Umols of PAR.
  • Much larger range of products to choose from, with large price variance - with very different outcomes. Potentially expensive. 

Fish Tank Dimensions

Planted Tank Dimensions

  • Dimensions fit size and number of livestock.
  • Dimensions must fit size /number of livestock, plants as well as hardscape.
  • Greatly increased scaling of costs & maintenance with tank size.
  • Cost of hardscape and light often cost much more than tank/filter systems. Newer aquarists always underestimate costs and buy overly large tanks with little budget leftover for proper equipment.
  • Certain tank dimensions are more suitable for certain aquascaping styles. Tank dimension must match lighting system so that sufficient light can hit substrate level.

Fish Tank Substrate

Planted Tank Substrate

  • Impact on water parameters important (eg. Alkalinity / Acidity). 
  • Capture point for floating debris.
  • Aesthetic value.
  • Impact on water parameters important to plants as well.
  • Horticulture considerations - ease of planting, nutritional content.
  • Aesthetic value in aquascaping; does it match the rocks and hardscape ?
  • Aquasoil/soil is commonly used rather than gravel/sand, and require specific knowledge to clean and maintain in the long term.

Fish Tank Filter

Planted tank Filter

  • Sufficient filtration capacity important to livestock health.
  • Sufficient filtration capacity important to livestock health, but may have a little leeway as plants absorb ammonia directly.
  • Filter is often the main source of water flow in a planted tank. Flow is critical as it provides carbon dioxide and oxygen for plants and circulate nutrients. Dead-spots and poor flow lead to algae issues, which is the number 1 pain of planted tank hobbyists.

Fish tank Maintenance

Planted tank Maintenance

  • Water changes, substrate vacuuming, servicing of filter.
  • Feeding of fish.
  • Plants require regular fertilisation.
  • Regular trimming and replanting required to prevent over-crowding.
  • Trimming and removal of old deteriorating growth to prevent algae issues.
  • Water changes, substrate cleaning, servicing of filter.
  • Checking and tuning of CO2 injection system if used.



  • pH, KH, GH, TDS impact livestock health.
  • Water quality impacts livestock.
  • pH, KH, GH, TDS impact livestock health and plants.
  • Balance between needs of livestock and needs of plants.
  • Water quality affects livestock health, plant health and algae.

Fish tank Aeration

Planted tank Aeration

  • Sufficient levels of oxygen matters to fish/ livestock.
  • Oxygen levels important for livestock, especially when CO2 levels are elevated.
  • Carbon dioxide matters a lot to plant growth as 40-50% of plant mass is composed of carbon.