#StepByStep A Guide for Setting Up a Basic Planted Aquarium. Step by Step . Begin planting. Cut stem plants into smaller pieces. Do not be concerned about whether or not it has roots, as stem plants will develop root systems very quickly. It is recommended to cover your tank with as many plants as you can. Plants will absorb excess nutrients and speed up the cycling process. A good set of tweezers is handy to keep the plants anchored in the substrate.