I was looking at this archived image of one of my initial planted set ups. I thought it would be great to share the mistakes I made in my first attempts, with fellow aquarists, especially the ones who are new into this amazing world of planted aquascapes!
1. Choosing the plants: In those initial attempts, I have done a major mistake by picking up plants almost randomly, sometimes depending on the availability and off course by their look. I have never considered their compatibility with each other or their requirements. Choose the plants wisely. Know them before you plant them (or even before you get them). Identify the plants and know their requirements, habitats and nature.
2. Examining the specimens thoroughly: Examine all the specimens you get, very VERY carefully. Algae, snails and other pests and infections can travel smoothly to your tank, using these plants as carrier. Algae and snails are easy to find. Remove the Algae-infected leaves and pick snails with your fingers. But finding snail eggs are difficult, and off course much important, too. A tiny leaf covered by snail eggs can set hundreds snails loose in your tank. And most of the snails are vegetarian and have huge appetites. I'd suggest keep the newly sourced plants (must if the source is unknown or not so reliable) in a quarantine tank for few days and watch them closely, before you introduce them to your main tank.
3. Choosing the fishes: Choosing the right fish for a planted tank is also very important. Avoid compulsive plant-eaters and root-diggers, like gold fishes, Koi carps, Gouramis, African lake Cichlids. Also DO NOT keep large fishes, as the turbulance created by their body movements (also consider the filter flow rate that you need to have if you want to keep a large fish) will tear apart the delicate plants.