Well-balanced planted aquariums can be awe inspiring, and only through studying nature's example can one achieve a successful planted aquarium. The pfertz™ aquarium fertilizer system is designed to emulate nature's proven balance of nutrients, a balance that is essential to optimal plant growth. All plants, whether terrestrial or aquatic, rely on photosynthesis to grow and reproduce. Photosynthesis is the process which plants use to convert light energy into chemical energy that plants can utilize. But photosynthesis doesn’t just use light; there are other components that plants must have in order to complete the photosynthesis process. These components primarily consist of nutrients and CO2.

The nutrients necessary for healthy plant growth are commonly known as macronutrients (NPK) and micronutrients (iron, manganese, etc.). NPK is a common abbreviation for nitrogen (n), phosphorus (p) and potassium (k). These elements are known as the macronutrient group because plants need them in large, or ‘macro’, amounts. Micronutrients consist of a long list of elements which plants only need in minute or ‘micro’ amounts. CO2 (carbon dioxide) is a chemical compound that is vital to all plant life on earth. Just as humans breathe in oxygen, plants take in CO2. This is true of ALL plant life, whether terrestrial or aquatic. Without CO2, plant life does not exist.

As with most things in life, balance and stability are key to growing healthy plants. The nutrient and CO2 requirements that plants have is directly related to the amount of light they are exposed to. If a plant is shaded, it will require less CO2 and nutrients to be healthy. Conversely, if a plant is exposed to higher light, its need for CO2 & nutrients will increase.

Wild plants have it easy – they are able to absorb CO2 and nutrients as needed. Since these components are usually in plentiful supply, plant growth is not limited by them. Most indigenous plants are ideally suited to the locally-available light and nutrient supply, but many species can adapt to higher or lower light levels. This is particularly true of aquatic plants. Aquatic plants, especially those which are regularly found in the planted aquarium hobby, are extremely adaptable. Most species can be grown with low or high levels of light and the plants will adapt to their surroundings. However, as the amount of light increases, the need for CO2 and nutrients also increases. Low-tech, low-light tanks do very well without additional CO2 and little fertilization, as the lack of light decreases plant demand for them. Conversely, high-tech, high-light aquariums will need CO2 injection and higher levels of nutrients to sustain the increased growth that is stimulated by the intense light.

The pfertz aquarium fertilizer system is extremely flexible, and can accommodate any level of light you may want to put on your tank. Whether you’re doing a low-light Java Fern & moss tank or an HQI-laden hygro farm, we’ve got you covered. If you have any questions about dosing your tank, feel free to email us at and we’ll help you determine what your plants will need!

Lightly planted vs. heavily planted tanks

Just as many things in life, planted aquariums leave much to interpretation. One person's version of heavily-planted may be what another considers to be light. Since the pfertz™ system does leave a bit to interpretation, it is only fair to give visual references to what is considered by pfertz to be 'lightly' or 'heavily' planted. Below are some pictures to help you decide whether your tank would fall under the heavy or light categories of dosing. If you have questions about whether your tank falls into the heavy category, light category, or somewhere in between. Email pictures to and we will be glad to help you out.

Lightly planted

While the tank to the left looks like it has a lot of plant mass, a portion of the species in the aquascape (such as the anubias in the left foreground) are not heavy feeders. In addition to slower-growing plants there is a lot of hardscape (rock, wood, etc.) in the tank, thus reducing the net biomass of the tank.

Aquascape & Photography: Roy Deki

Although there are a large number of plants in this iwagumi-style aquascape, the actual plant biomass is relatively small. Most iwagumi-style aquascapes have low nutrient requirements, making the light-dosing regimen of pfertz™ the best match.

Aquascape & Photography: Roy Deki

Another example of a low-biomass aquascape, the aquascape to the left has a lot of visual presence without having a large biomass.

Aquascape: Mike Talley
Photography: Bryan LaFollette

Heavily planted

The aquascape to the left is a great example of a heavily planted tank. Comprised of many fast-growing stem plants and significant ground cover, this tank will require the daily pfertz™ regimen to keep all of the plants happy.

Aquascape & Photography: Dan Pelligrini

This aquascape is densly packed from front to back. The shear volume of plant mass in this tank requires a greater volume of nutrients to maintain healthy, vigorous growth. The pfertz™ daily regimen is a great match for the needs of this aquascape.

Aquascape: Mike Talley
Photography: Bryan LaFollette

Many stem plants are fast-growing and need a steady supply of nutrients to maintain their growth rate and health. This aquascape has a great number of stem plants, as well as fast-growing ground-cover, necessitating the richer nutrient levels of the daily pfertz™ regimen.

Aquascape & Photography: Roy Deki