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Plants need three things to grow, light, CO2 and food.
Correct lighting is of paramount importance, proper lighting enables plants to process the CO2 fish excrete. The deeper the tank, the stronger the light requirements and need for good reflectors, with an average height aquarium, 18-24" there needs to be somewhere in the region of 2-3 watts per gallon.
CO2 is the most important plant nutrient and can be introduced in various ways, products such as liquid carbon can be used successfully and probably the cheapest and most convenient method, depending on how delicate your plant species are, your budget will determine as to which if any method you wish to adopt and your local aquatic store will advise as to what products are available.
It must be remembered plants reverse the photosynthesis process when lights are off, taking in the oxygen and releasing CO2, there fore ensuring pumps and aeration is extremely important, do not be tempted to turn a noisy pump off when lights are out!
A high-quality plant fertiliser is a vital component, we can not rely purely on fish waste which basically provides the nitrates or phosphates that are primarily introduced via the feed, plants require many micro nutrients, iron, potassium etc, with out these nutrients plants will go into starvation and will start releasing ammonia.
GH and PH
GH is not critical in the water parameters needed for good plant growth, pH is far more relevant and a pH that is too high will be detrimental to the plants well being, some plants such as elodea, Vallisneria will take a higher alkaline than plants such as cryptocoryne, amazon swords and similar,
The substratum is where the plants develop their roots and take in nutrients. Sand or gravel of a fine to medium grade is best as if too fine, the substratum will pack down too hard and not allow the nutrients or water to flow to the roots and if too course the plants will be unable to root successfully, causing rotting due to the crown being exposed to fish waste and the plant will not anchor successfully.