Beginners Guide on Growing Aquatic Plants in Aquarium

Beginners Guide on Growing Aquatic Plants in Aquarium

Growing plants underwater may seem a bit strange, but it is not rocket science. In fact, it is as fun as growing plants in soil.

We all are accustomed to growing plants in our gardens as we have seen our parents and grandparents doing it. However, when it comes to growing them in water, it appears a little daunting.

If you are finding growing aquatic plants difficult, it is mainly because of a lack of knowledge that is discouraging you from growing them. So, if you are thinking about aqua scaping and planning to introduce a few live plants in your aquarium, this guide is going to help a lot.

Aquatic plants offer a lot of benefits. Apart from increasing the aesthetics of the tank, it is also advantageous to the fish in different ways. While some aquatic plants offer shelter to the fish, others give them space for spawning. Moreover, they also serve as food for some fish. It is the reason why fish becomes happier and healthier in a planted aquarium.

However, having complete knowledge is a prerequisite. Here are a few things that you need to ponder upon:

  1. Right plant selection
  2. Compatibility with fish
  3. How to grow a particular plant type in tank
  4. Substrate for different aquatic plants
  5. Plants’ requirements and upkeep

Once you get familiar with the basic know-how, it becomes easy to grow aquatic plants and create a lively planted tank. In this article, we are going to help aquarists learn how to grow aquatic plants in an aquarium and maintain them to get a lush-green look.

Aquatic Plants for Aquarium

When it comes to growing live aquatic plants, choosing the right species is the first step to a successful planted tank. Since there are different types of aquatic plants, you should know which ones are suitable for your tank and its inhabitants.

Below is a detailed description of different types of aquatic plants and how to grow them in the aquarium.

  1. Rhizome Plants

In rhizomatous plants, the stem and roots emerge from the rhizome and grow upwards and downwards, respectively. Their stem is usually thick and straight. The common rhizome plants used in aquariums are Anubias, Java Fern, Bolbits, etc.

How to grow rhizome plants in water

Method 1– Usually, rhizome plants do not need substrate to grow in water. If you have rocks or driftwood in the tank, place the plants anywhere between them and secure them with the help of a thread or glue. Over time, the roots will grow and wrap around the growing medium (rocks or driftwood). The wrapping will be so strong that it will become difficult to separate the two.

Method 2– Bury the plant in the substrate, leaving the rhizome out. If you cover the rhizome, too, it will become difficult for the plant to develop further. Also, the rhizome will rot.

Both these methods are good for growing rhizome plants in the aquarium. If you are picking one of them, make sure to add some liquid fertilizers in the water, as these plants absorb nutrients through leaves. Adding liquid fertilizers will ensure good growth of rhizome plants.

  1. Sword and Crypt Plants

Sword and Crypt plants are known to have a beautiful appearance, wherein the leaves grow in circular patterns from the base of the plant. The most popular sword plant is the Amazon sword. Apart from it, you can also find equally astonishing Brazilian Swords and Melon swords.

Among Crypts, there are a few popular varieties, such as Cryptocoryne wendtii, Cryptocoryne spiralis, Cryptocoryne parva, and many more that are loved by aquarists.

How to grow Swords and Crypts in water

The best way to plant these rosette plants is by burying their roots in the substrate. Make sure the bottom of the stem is uncovered, as it is the place from where the leaves will emerge.

Usually, sword plants grow tall (true to their name); therefore, planting them as a mid-ground or background plant is the best option. They grow profusely when provided with good nutrients in the substrate, as they are root feeders. Also, using root tabs will help.

In the case of crypts, letting them get accustomed to the new environment is very important. Crypts usually melt as soon as they are introduced into the water. However, they attain their poise over a few days and start growing. So, with crypts, you need to be a little patient and let it get used to its new ambiance to get its stature.

  1. Moss Plant

Mosses are one of the most common aquarium plants that you may have witnessed in many aquariums. They give a lush green appearance to the tank by spreading over the surface where they are grown.

Java Moss is the most common aquarium moss that you can find. Besides, there is Flame Moss, Christmas Moss, Weeping Moss, and Phoenix Moss, which are typically grown in aquariums. Usually, they are named based on their characteristic appearance.

How to grow Moss in an aquarium

Moss does not require the substrate to grow as they do not have roots. They can be glued or fixed with a thread to the driftwood, rocks, or any other hardscape that you have used in your tank. Here, you can use green thread as it will camouflage with the moss, and eventually, moss will grow over it, hiding the thread completely. Later, the thread will dissolve.

Mosses are undemanding aquarium plants and grow profusely under the right water conditions, giving a lush-green effect to the tank. The dense coverage of moss gives a typical natural appearance to an aquarium, making fish feel at home.

You can try different aquascapes with mosses and decide their planting likewise. For instance, you can grow them over driftwood to give a more natural look to your tank. You can also divide the moss into small pieces and place them in different nooks and corners of your tank over textured surfaces. Over time, they colonize, grow and take over the space naturally.

  1. Aquarium Grass

Easy to propagate, aquarium grasses are true to their name. They grow fast and can take over the entire aquarium if not trimmed regularly. Vallisneria is the most popular aquarium grass or plant with a grass-like appearance. Other examples are the micro sword and dwarf sagittaria.

How to grow aquarium grass in water

Aquarium grasses are usually grown by burying the roots into the substrate, like swords and crypts. Let the base of the stem stays uncovered to develop leaves.

Usually, aquarium grasses are sold in pots wherein you can find multiple plants in a single pot. Remove the plantlets from the pot, separate them, and plant them a few centimetres apart.

  1. Stem Plants

As the name indicates, stem plants bear a single stem from which multiple leaves emerge. They grow straight and are popular in aqua scaping. Some popular stem aquarium plants are Rotala, Pogostemon, Water Wisteria, Ludwigia, Bacopa, and many more.

How to grow stem plants in water

Stem plants are usually deep-rooted plants; therefore, planting them around 2-3 inches deep is generally recommended. It is advised to plant them individually rather than in bunches to support good growth. Keep plants separated by a few centimeters to give them enough space to grow profusely.

Even though stem plants are easiest to grow in water, they botch frequently. Therefore, liquid fertilizers are recommended for their good growth.

Pro Tips:

  • Plant stem plants at least 2-3 nodes below the surface to help them anchor properly.
  • If the roots are not anchoring properly to the substrate and the plant is floating away, try to put some weights at the bottom. It will prevent the plant from drifting.
  • Once the plant adheres to the substrate, trim the tips to encourage branching.
  • In certain plant species the trimmed tips can be used for replanting.
  1. Bulb or Tuber Plants

Plants that grow from bulbs or tubers in water come under this category. Some popular bulb or tuber plants are tiger lotus, dwarf lily, banana plant, etc. They are very unusual aquarium plants but give an exotic appearance to the tank.

How to grow bulb or tuber plants in water

Rinse the tuber to get rid of rock wool and other debris. Now place the tuber or bulb in the substrate without burying it. If you cover them with substrate, the chances of rotting will increase.

Many times the bulbs start floating in the water. In such cases, wait for some time to let them sink completely. You can also tie them with driftwood or rock to keep them weighted down.

Supplementing with fertilizers delivers enough nutrients to the bulb or tuber plants that they absorb from water as well as substrate.

  1. Carpeting Plants

True to their name, carpeting plants give a carpet like appearance to the place where they are grown. The tiny leaves and intense growth allow plants to spread all over the space and appear nothing less than a lush green carpet. They are highly popular in aquascaping.

These plants don’t grow tall but spread horizontally or laterally along the surface. Their roots are weak and delicate. Some of the most popular carpet plants in aquarium use are Monte Carlo and dwarf baby tears.

How to grow carpeting plants in water

It is advised to plant the carpet plants along with their pot and rock wool due to their weak root system. If you remove the plant from the pots and try to separate it, the chances of roots getting damaged are very high.

So, plant them as such along with their pots, and once they get established, cut out the potted area. Plant them densely to get your carpet-like appearance faster. The more plants you plant, the faster your carpet will form.

If you don’t want to grow the carpet plant with pots and rock wool, use tweezers to remove the plant from the pot very gently. Now plant them deep enough into the substrate that most of the plant gets buried and only a few leaves poking out. It will ensure that roots will anchor and the plant won’t come out and float away with water.

Regarding their care, pour them with light, nutrients as well as carbon dioxide to attain profuse growth. Since these plants absorb nutrients from both water and through roots, you can use root tabs and liquid fertilizers.

  1. Floating plants

Floating on the water’s surface, these plants make the aquarium look extremely beautiful. The aquascapers widely use them to give varying looks to their tanks. Some floating plants popular in aquariums are frogbit, dwarf water lettuce, and duckweed.

How to grow floating plants in water

Planting floating plants is the easiest as you only need to gently place them on the water’s surface. They do not require substrate and grow in nutrient-rich water. Provide liquid fertilizers so that these plants absorb them and grow abundantly. Besides, floating plants also require lots of light.

Here are a few things that you need to remember while growing floating plants:

  • Keep the water current of the aquarium slow and calm.
  • Make sure the leaves don’t get too wet, or they’ll rot in water.
  • Do not plant too many floating plants, as they may take over the entire surface and prevent light and oxygen from entering the tank and reaching the other aquarium plants.
  • Do not plant floating plants too densely for the same reasons.

These are some common aquatic plants you can grow in your aquarium and have a lush-green tank. Before you start planning, check out the below points for a successful planted tank.

Tips for Planted Aquarium

There are eight major types of aquarium plants with their own ways of planting methodology. Make sure you know which plant you are buying and how to plant it in the tank. Here are the notes you need to take in advance for the best result:

  1. What plants to choose?

If you are a beginner and just planning to introduce a few live plants, we recommend you to go for low-tech aquarium plants such as Hyrgophila polysperma, Cyrptocoryne species, Java Fern, Staurogyne repens, floating plants, moss species, Vallesneria species, etc.

Low-tech aquatic plants are undemanding and easy to care for. Maintaining these plants is easy as there are no specific demands for light and nutrients. They get aquatinted with the new environment easily and flourish even under minor temperature and pH fluctuations.

Once you get enough experience with low-tech aquarium plants, you can go for high-tech aquarium plants such as Alternanthera reineckii, Dwarf Baby Tears, etc. These plants have high demands and die when they lack what they need specifically.

As a beginner, you may feel highly unmotivated seeing your aquarium plants die, right? So, always start with low-tech plants and gain experience before moving further with high-demanding plants.

  1. How to arrange aquatic plants in your aquarium?

Once you know the right ways to grow your plants, the next step is understating how to arrange them. It is always advised not to plant them too densely or too closely. In both cases, the plants may take up a lot of space, giving the fish and other tank inhabitants less area to swim and splash around.

Likewise, placing too many floating plants on the water’s surface will block the natural light from entering the tank, which is unhealthy for other plants and fish.

The best way to decide on their arrangement is by checking their growth rate and appearance. If the plants’ size is small, keep them in the foreground. Plants with medium and tall heights should be placed in the mid-ground and background, respectively.

This arrangement of plants in ascending order or layering will give a clean look to the tank. Also, in this way, all the plants will display properly.

  1. How to quarantine aquarium plants?

Quarantining your newly purchased aquarium plants is important unless they are tissue-cultured. It is because plants are coming from a different source, and there could be potential pests like snails and algae and harmful chemicals in them that can pollute your water and cause diseases in fish.

Before you quarantine the plants:

  • Sterilize them by dipping them in hydrogen peroxide, bleach, or soaking them in alum.
  • Quarantine them in a separate tank and keep them under observation for at least 2-3 weeks.
  • Once they seem healthy, transfer them into your aquarium.

Provide light and nutrients to the plant while in quarantine so that they grow healthily. Perform regular water changes as you do in your main tank. You can also add a water conditioner and stabilizer in the quarantine tank to bind pesticides and other residues.

Words of Caution

One common mistake most beginners make is keeping fewer plants but providing high nutrients in the water. Usually, it is advised to start with fewer plants so that you can gain experience along the way.

However, if there is a high nutrient supply over fewer plants, the chances of algae growth elevate. It happens in aquariums with stem plants, carpet plants, and mosses. So, understand how much nutrients you need to provide and what the plant’s requirement is.

So, this is all that you need to consider before starting a planted aquarium. When you start a new tank and add aquatic plants, there are different ways to aquascape. Take ideas online, gather the aquarium decor items, and be as creative as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What plants are right for my tank?

Choosing the right plant is the first step to a successful planted tank. Select some easy-to-grow plants if you are a beginner, such as Anubias, Echinodermis, Java Fern, Amazon Sword, etc. These plants grow quickly and are easy to maintain.

  1. What plants should I use for decorating the aquarium?

One of the easiest plants for aquarium decor is different types of mosses, as they give a natural look to the tank. Java Moss, Willow Moss, and Water Wisteria are some of the good options to start with. You can place them anywhere on the hard surface, such as driftwood or rocks. Provide medium to bright light for mosses to flourish.

  1. What type of plants should I purchase from the aquarium shop?

Irrespective of which plant species you buy, ensure they are clean, healthy, and in good physical shape. They should be free of snails and shrimp. There should be no traces of algae.

You can get small as well as big aquatic plants in the aquarium shops. While small plants are easy to plant, big plants will help you get a flourishing planted tank look immediately. If you want to create an aquascape instantly, purchase big, healthy plants with white roots.

  1. Should I remove the plants from the pots or keep them as such inside the tank?

It depends upon the plant type. In the case of carpet plants, it is advised to keep them as such along with the pots, and once they start growing and get anchored, remove the potted section. However, in other aquatic plant types, you can remove the plant from the pots, get rid of rock wool and other stuff and then plant them in the water.

  1. What is the process of removing the plant from the pots?

You can remove the aquatic plant from the pots in the following steps:

  1. Squeeze the pot and push the plant out along with the rock wool. If the roots can be seen coming out from the holes of the pot, trim them.
  2. Gently split the rock wool to remove the plant tangled inside it. Make sure the roots are not damaged.
  3. Sometimes the roots are so tangled with the rock wool that it becomes difficult to split. In such cases, take a fork or tweezers and remove the rock wool gently, piece by piece, without disturbing the roots.
  4. If there are fertilizer balls in the pots, remove them as well to prevent nutrient spikes in the aquarium.
  5. Wash off all the debris and plant in the quarantine tank.
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4 thoughts on “Beginners Guide on Growing Aquatic Plants in Aquarium

  1. Vaish says:

    Very nice details to start with. I am a novice in aquarium plants. How can I get the seeds or the plants for this? Also pls let me know if I can grow them without any fish in tank?


    Excellent, well described with explanation. I have learnt it the harder way by trial and error method. Keep it up 👍

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