Your aquarium isn’t complete without plants. They add beauty and complete the most important tasks to set up a healthy ecosystem inside your aquarium.

Plants need fertilizers to have good growth and health. Also, you need to avoid algae by providing everything to the plants so that they won’t rot, die off, or face any deficiency.

Thankfully, fertilizers will work wonders for you and help you to make a beautiful aquascape. Adding planted tank fertilizer is not an issue, but understanding the details can be complicated. Here, we will discuss a lot of science, so read carefully, or you may get confused.

Don’t get scared! We will present every piece of information very clearly so that you get the best outcome with minimum effort.

Planted Tank Fertilizer

Effective planted tank fertilizer dosing

Some types of fertilizing techniques can mislead you, whereas some methods will work exceptionally well for certain types of aquariums. Nevertheless, there are two popular fertilizer dosing methods which suit perfectly almost all planted tank systems.

They are the Ada lean dosing method and the Estimative index method. Don’t worry; we will go through both processes in the following section.

Pro Tip: Use a dosing pump to automate your dosing!

ADA lean dosing method

Introduced by the renowned Aqua Design Amano, ADA lean dosing is a popular process in which you have to provide a small amount of nutrients to the planted tank’s water column. In other words, you are not going to add a lot of fertilizer to your aquarium; instead, you should add just enough nutrients for the plants not to suffer or produce rotting organic materials.


But, how is your beautiful aquascape gonna survive with less nutrients? Well, in the lean style, you must add a rich substrate to cover up the deficiency. However, this fertilizing system provides an adequate amount of potassium and iron on the water column and a small quantity of NO3/PO4.

In some cases, you will find 0 ppm of NO3 in the water column if you test your water using a test kit. So, your plants will abstract nitrogen from the ammonia of the rich soil that you have provided as a substrate. As a result, you have to change the soil after a few months to keep the plants healthy.

Though this process helps your plants grow slowly and you need to change soil from time to time, you can easily maintain your planted aquarium as the lean process causes fewer algae inside your beautiful tank. As a lot of nitrogen triggers algae growth, you will get rid of this issue with a little nitrogen in the lean method.

In addition to that, you need to have a regular dosing routine, and you can’t allow any lacking in maintaining this routine. Otherwise, it will harm your carefully planted exotic plant’s beauty and lifespan. Also, cleaning, trimming, and water changing should be done regularly.

Let’s see the ideal weekly dosing amount (approx.) of liquid fertilizer to the water column.

Substance nameAmount(Up to)
NO30.7 Ppm
PO40.6 Ppm
K25 PPm
Fe0.06 Ppm

ADA style of dosing is easier for beginners as it’s a slow process resulting in a stable aquarium condition. It is also very tough for the new aquarist to cope up with the frequently changing environment.

This effective dosing style also increases the longevity of your plants. Robust plants like anubias and java fern that have easy growth are suitable for this technique as they need minimal maintenance.

Apart from the slow growth rate, this dosing system increases the overall cost because you need to add rich soil to the tank at a regular interval, which is very expensive.

Suitable tank for ADA lean method

  1. If you adorn your aquarium with lots of hardscape objects and there are limited plants in it, you can use the lean fertilizing process.
  2. A tank which is maintained property and water changing is done regularly.
  3. An aquarium with many red plants like Rotala rotundifolia as red plants colored up well in such an environment.
  4. If your planted tank’s plants enjoy a less NO3 filled environment, then Ada lean process will work for you

Advantages of lean style

  1. You don’t need to trim the plants frequently, which saves a lot of your valuable time
  2. If you can’t manage enough time to take care of your beautiful planted tank, your tank is not gonna look ugly with plenty of algae
  3. You can get extremely wonderful reds in your tank, which will make the tank look gorgeous.

Disadvantages of lean Dosing Process

  1. Your tank has slow growth and you have to be patient.
  2. You can’t skip a single fertilizing day
  3. Your planted aquarium may face nutrient deficiency or, more specifically, nitrate deficiency.

Estimative index method

This Innovative dosing technique is completely opposite to the ADA lean method. Here, you have to provide more nutrients than the demand of the plants. The process is also called the EI method.

You can provide both micro and macronutrients in abundance without considering the algae growth inside your tank. But, your tank must have plenty of plants to consume these nutrients from the water column. Also, the planted tank must consist of heavy lighting.

However, the tank should undergo a fifty percent water change every week to normalize the water column nutrients. It will prepare the tank to take the next week’s dose.

EI theory follows the rule that attacking is the best defense to tackle the algae issue with high nutrients. I mean, if there are a huge amount of plants inside your aquarium, then all the excess nutrients will be consumed by the plants. As a result, you won’t find algae inside your tank.

But, you have to inject around 30 ppm of  CO2 and maintain heavy lighting fixtures to ensure that your lovely plants can intake these nutrients without any issue. You can check the CO2 level using a drop checker kit to have a clear idea about your tank’s CO2 saturation level so that you can increase or decrease the CO2 injection quantity.

The good thing about this method is that it will free you from the hassle of substrate changing. As you are going to provide enough nutrients on the water column from above, the plants won’t need to depend on the soil for nutrients. Also, floating plants or plants that haven’t been rooted in the ground will enjoy this system.

Yes, you need to have a heavy maintenance process to make your aquarium look sound because of heavy growth. You should trim the excess leaves and parts of the plants regularly.

Remember, if your aquarium doesn’t have plenty of plants, this EI method will surely make your tank look ugly by helping algae grow faster everywhere inside your tank.

Let’s see the weekly EI dosing amount (approx.) of nutrients to the water column.

Substance nameAmount(Up to)
NO320 – 30 Ppm
PO45 – 7 Ppm
K20 – 30 PPm
Fe0.5 – 1 Ppm

If you are a new hobbyist, I would recommend that you should avoid this EI method. If you have enough time to learn maintenance procedures and look after your aquascape, you can try this fast plant growing fertilizing style.

On the other hand, professionals mostly adopt this style as they know how to deal with every maintenance problem. This process is also perfect for you if you are going to participate in any aquascape challenge and want quick plants.

One sad thing about this mind-blowing process is that it will snatch the bright red color from your red plants and turn them orange. It is because of the massive amount of nitrate given on the water column.

Suitable Tank for EI method

  1. If your aquarium growth is slower and you want quick growth
  2. A tank with lots of plants will suit perfectly with this fertilizing method
  3. An aquarium that maintained properly
  4. Aquascapes having a lot of floating plants needs this method
  5. If you are preparing your tank for an upcoming Dutch Style competition, then this process is for you
  6. Tanks that have no or few red plants

Advantages of EI style

  1. You will have plenty of plants within a short period of time
  2. All your plants will have a sufficient amount of nutrients to grow to full potential
  3. Your plants won’t fade out if you could not manage time to provide fertilizer dose in predetermined time
  4. You don’t have to spend money on changing soil frequently as plants won’t depend on substrates for nutrients

Disadvantages of EI style

  1. Your red plants will become pale
  2. You need to trim plants frequently
  3. Lack of maintenance can result in a lot of algae
  4. If you breed fish inside your tank, then this style can cause problems to the breeding process

Which fertilizer will suit your planted tank

After reading the detailed discussion about the ADA lean and Estimative index method, you might be thinking that you will face a hard time managing the potassium, iron, nitrate, and so on. Also, you need to spend around 80-100 bucks to buy these elements to fertilize your adorable plants.

You will be glad to hear that both problems that I have just mentioned have a great solution. All you need to do is to get the affordable 2Hr Aquarist’s fertilizing liquid and enjoy your plants’ growth.

To help you get rid of these issues, 2Hr Aquarist has introduced 3 different types of fertilizing supplements to provide your aquarium’s plants with everything they want considering whatever method you follow. They are –

  • APT Zero
  • APT Complete
  • APT Estimative Index

Let’s have a quick look at all these products and features so that you could decide which product is perfect for your aquascape.

1. APT Zero

APT Zero
Get 10% Discount From The Manufacturer

APT Zero comes with the right concentration of all the macro and micro components that support the Ada lean method. This is a beginner-friendly liquid that provides the plants with an accurate amount of fertilizer to grow.

As I have said earlier, the Ada lean process has slow growth, so don’t surprise if you witness steady growth by using APT zero. However, this supplement will increase the longevity of the plants. In addition to that, it is super suitable for tanks that are loaded with fish.

Dosing Amount

You can apply this fertilizer in your aquaria at a ratio of 5ml per 100L. You have to pour this APT Zero four times a week. Or, add 3ml per 100L every day.  

2. APT Complete

APT Complete
Get 10% Discount From The Manufacturer

If you want moderate plant growth with minimum algae into your aquascape, then try this amazing APT complete. Professional and award winning aquarists love this supplement because of its balanced approach.

This all-rounder liquid helps you grow plants that need high nutrients while preventing algae buildup. Thus, you will have a low maintenance tank with fast-growing colorful plants. Amazing, isn’t it?

Dosing Amount

You have to apply this supplement 3ml per 100L water every day or 5ml per 100L water 4 days every week. Yes, the dosing amount is identical to APT Zero.

3. APT Estimative Index

APT Estimative Index
Get 10% Discount From The Manufacturer

 This liquid fertilizer is designed to apply the famous Tom Barr’s nutrients dosing approach to your planted tank. If you are going to participate in any Dutch Style competition shortly and want super fast plant growth, you need to employ the EI method with this cost-effective APT estimative index.

I would like to remind you again that this process may increase the possibility of high algae. So, you must have plenty of plants inside your aquaria while maintaining these aquascapes strictly. No matter what, this product will never let your plants suffer from nutrients deficiency.

Dosing amount

Apply 5ml of APT Estimative index to 100L of water 3 days a week. However, you can also provide 2ml per 100L daily.

Let’s craft an elegant aquascape!

After getting so much information about aquaria, plants, and fertilizers, I believe you have appropriately understood the ADA lean dosing and EI method. Therefore, you should choose the most suitable 2Hr aquarist supplement for your tank to make it look neat and healthy.

You should consider your tank’s condition, plant density and need, livestock amount, and your requirements before buying or applying any of these 3 supplements into your planted tank.

Believe me, once you start using 2Hr aquarist fertilizer to your aquascape, you will feel the difference and solve many plants-related problems. Good luck!

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