Your Cart is Empty

Beware of Tank Peak

July 17, 2023 2 min read

Beware of Tank Peak

Above: a tank at peak. When tanks reach their 'instagram moment', it unfortunately also signals that (a) trimming and/or (b) replanting is soon due.

In reality, planted tanks are crop-fields, not perennial forests. They look best when they fill the tank. But this peak also marks the 'point of harvest'.

If we do not remove excess growth, overcrowding leads to poor health, algae issues and a frustrating 'boom-bust' cycle.

overcrowded hair grass

Above: When left to become overcrowded, Dwarf Hair Grass (Eleocharis Parvula) succumbs to algae.

Similar to most carpeting plants, Eleocharis cannot be infinitely 'flat-trimmed'. It can be be given a haircut a few times, but haircuts cannot solve the inevitable overcrowding over time.

The 2Hr Carpet Terracing method involves regularly creating terraces for new growth to colonise (below). By regularly creating space for new growth, the carpet can indeed be maintained 'indefinitely', with one important factor: as the nutrients in substrate depletes naturally over time, we would rejuvenate it regularly with APT Jazz.


Below: Java Fern takes over-crowding well, but there is a limit. In the tank below, the thick clump of Java Fern has created a blockage of water flow, and alot of self-shading. It is coming close to a tipping point- where old growth deteriorates and becomes enveloped with algae. The picture shows it at its peak- a dangerous point!

Below: When an overcrowded tank is neglected, the accumulation of deteriorating old growth and organic waste often leads to a sudden tipping point- a crash.

This can be avoided by trimming plants regularly, and making space for new leaves. For a tank that has crashed in this way, unfortunately the fastest recovery is through a reset, with new plants.

Aquatic plants are not perennial. While we love naturalistic scapes too, it is important to remember that aquatic plants are more like herbs or crops, not hardwood trees in an eternal forest.

Aquatic plants readily sacrifice their older stems and roots over time. For hobbyists, this means regularly replanting the healthy tops of stem plants, and removing old stems and roots.


  • When a tank looks picture perfect, it is almost always near its tipping point. Prepare to trim, make space for new growth, and/or replant healthy tops. Aquatic plants are not 'perennial' like hardwood trees.

  • Better nutrition allows you to trim more times before having to replant.

  • Regularly clean your filter. Mature tanks often suffer from reduced water flow. This is invisible, but impactful. As plants do not move, they depend on good flow to bring oxygen and essential nutrients to them. Better nutrition cannot compensate for reduced / poor flow!