How to Setup a Planted Aquarium Without Co2

A planted aquarium is a great way to add life and color to any room. But for beginners, the idea of running an aquarium without CO2 can be daunting. This article will provide you with helpful tips on how to setup a planted aquarium without co2.  

The first thing you need is live plants; this will help keep nitrates low in the water column by absorbing them as they are produced by fish waste and uneaten food particles. It is best to have at least 30% plants in the aquarium.

Planted Aquarium Without Co2

The next thing that you will need is live bacteria cultures, which can be obtained cheaply from your local fish store. The bacteria cultures will be used to convert the nitrate produced by your plants into harmless nitrogen gas. This can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 4 months, depending on how large an aquarium you have and how many fish are in it.

Reason to Setup a Planted Aquarium Without Co2

Now, if you are setting up your first aquarium, there are a lot of things to consider. Setting up an aquarium without Co2 can be done, but it takes more patience and time than using CO2 injection systems. If you have never had any experience with planted tanks, then the easiest way to start would be by adding some fish that will help cycle your tank faster. Some very beneficial fish in an aquarium during cycling are Danios, White Clouds, Zebra Danio’s, and any of the schooling tetra’s. It is recommended to purchase these fish only from a reliable dealer who keeps their plants outside the tanks with their own substrate. This will ensure they do not carry any diseases or parasites to a new tank.

Once you have cycled your tank, there are a few things that will help keep your plants healthy and happy for as long as possible to make the setup of an aquarium without Co2 worth it. One thing is to use a very good liquid fertilizer such as Flourish Comprehensive, Flourish Iron, Flourish Potassium, etc. These types of liquid fertilizers are very good for plants and will help them grow faster. The best way to administer the fertilizer is by using a drip system or something similar to what commercial growers use. This also helps keep the nutrient levels balanced in your tank to prevent algae from becoming a problem.

Materials You Needs

  • Hardscape (substrate, rocks, wood to build up the back of the tank)
  • Live Plants
  • 1 to 3 bags of substrate, gravel, or sand, depending on the depth of your tank. The difference should be 15cm total between the bottom of your tank and the top of your substrate.
  • A liquid fertilizer for planted aquariums such as Flourish Comprehensive, Flourish Iron, or Flourish Potassium.
  • A cheap timer to plug your lights into.
  • Optional: CO2 tank and regulator with a solenoid valve if you plan on injecting Co2 into the aquarium along with a drip system for liquid fertilizing.

6 Ways on How to Setup a Planted Aquarium Without Co2:

Way 1: Lighting.

In this situation, you will need to run your lights on a timer for about 10 to 12 hours a day. If you have low light plants, then the timer should be set for fewer hours. If you have plants that need higher lighting, then go for more hours.


Once your aquarium is cycled and fertilized, you can add your fish slowly and make sure to purchase hardy fish that will not be too difficult for you to catch if they jump out of the tank. Good beginner fish include:

  • Danios, White Clouds, Zebra Danio’s, and any of the schooling tetra’s.

Way 2: Co2 Injection System.

In this situation, you will need to set up a drip system for your fertilizing unless you are using an already existing Co2 injection system. If so, then just follow the instructions on the Co2 tank to get it started.

Co2 Injection System

If you have fish in this aquarium, they will also need to be added slowly and carefully so that you do not harm them during the cycling process.

Way 3: Drip System for Liquid Fertilizing.

If you are setting up an aquarium without Co2 but still want to fertilize it with nutrients for the live plants, this is the best way. Set up your timer for about 8 hours a day or more if your light demands it. You will also need a liquid fertilizer such as Flourish Comprehensive, Flourish Iron, or Flourish Potassium to add to your tank each day. It is best if you have a drip system set up already for this process but it can be administered by hand by adding 3ml of liquid fertilizer fertilizing and Co2 Injection.

Way 4: Water Change.

If you are running your light for 8 hours a day, it would be best to do about 30% water change once a week. This will keep the nutrient levels consistent in your tank and help your plants grow very fast.

Way 5: Algae.

Keep the water clean by doing regular water changes or adding your liquid fertilizer to your tank each day. This will help keep algae at bay, but you might get some algae around the filter intake, powerheads, decorations, etc. Just scrape it off with a razor blade once a week.

Way 6:  Fish.

If you are running your tank on just lighting, then go for about 5 to 6 fish that are hardy and not schooling. If you plan on adding Co2 injection to the tank along with a drip system of liquid fertilizers, then up the number of fish in your aquarium to 10 or more depending on the type of fish you choose.

Tips and Warnings


  • This is a good way to set up a planted aquarium if you do not want to add Co2 or add another tank for your Co2 Injection System.
  • If doing the water change method, clean your filter thoroughly each time by getting all of the debris out from inside of it. Cleaning the biological media monthly would be best.
  • If you add Flourish Comprehensive or Flourish Iron, add the supplement directly to your tank instead of on the substrate.
  • Keep a close eye on algae so that it does not get out of control, and use a razor blade to remove it from the decor.


  • If you have fish in your tank, then the fish will need to be added slowly over a period of time so that they are not harmed during the cycling process.
  • Make sure you have hardy fish in your aquarium if you plan on keeping it without Co2 or with just lighting.

Additional Tips:

If you want, make use of an existing CO2 tank and use it to fertilize your planted tank with flourish comprehensive, flourish potassium, or flourish iron.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Grow Aquarium Plants Without Co2?

There are two ways to make sure that your aquarium plants stay healthy and grow.

One is by adding co2 or carbon dioxide to the water, which will help your plants thrive and reproduce. The other way is by using a CO2 system that can be placed on top of the tank or inside it. This system has no chemical effect on the water but does not need co2 for its operation either.

Does Anubias Nana Need Co2?

Anubias Nana does not need CO2 to grow. It is a terrestrial planet that can survive without CO2, but it will do better with it.

If you have any more questions or queries related to this article, please comment below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

What Happens to Plants Without Co2?

Plants need carbon dioxide to grow. The plants get carbon dioxide from the air, which is why there are so many plants around us. When we take away too much of the CO2 in the air, it can lead to a problem called “coulombic stress.”

Can I Put Houseplants in My Aquarium?

Yes, it is possible to put houseplants in your aquarium. It can be good to start with an aquatic plant or two and slowly introduce more plants into the tank as they become acclimated.

However, you should know that this will require care and attention because not all plants are meant to live in the water. Some plants may die quickly, while others will grow rapidly. You should also be aware that most aquatic plants need carbon dioxide from the air above the water surface to survive, and if there is no such thing, then these plants won’t live very long in your aquarium.

Do Live Plants Help Keep Aquarium Clean?

Yes, live plants do help keep aquariums clean. However, not all types of plants are beneficial for the health of an aquarium. Some live plants can cause problems by causing algae to grow and blocking light from reaching the bottom of the tank.

It is important to choose appropriate live plants that will be compatible with your fish and other aquatic life in your tank and survive without any assistance from you or your family members.


One of the most popular ways to set up a planted aquarium is without CO2. This blog post will walk you through everything you need to know about setting up a planted aquarium without co2, including what you’ll need and how much it costs. If this sounds like something that would be helpful for your fish tank, keep reading!

You can check it out – How to plant carpet seeds in an established aquarium

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