If you wonder how to anchor aquatic plants, your search ends here!
One of the most frustrating parts of aquascaping is watching your plants floating up to the surface again and again. Getting aquatic plants is not enough until you don’t know how to place them properly in the tank. Therefore, it is essential to learn how to anchor aquatic plants in an aquarium without damaging them.
Once you learn the art of anchoring the aquatic plants to the tank, you can say goodbye to the annoyance once and for all. Even though the process seems easy but most of the aquascapers fail here. Either they end up anchoring in the wrong way or damaging their delicate aquatic plants.
Apart from proper anchoring, another thing that needs consideration in aquascaping is using the anchoring tools (threads and wires) mindfully. Efforts should be made to make the thread or wires as less visible as possible so that they don’t diminish the entire look of the tank.
Keeping your plants in their position is a task, and once you excel in it, watching your fish swimming in the planted tank becomes a treat to the eyes. Before we move further and learn the art of anchoring the aquarium plants, let’s know why they come up floating to the surface.
Why my plants are floating up the surface?
Unlike planting in the soil, placing aquatic plants on the aquarium substrate is not a cakewalk. They often come up to the surface, and it is mainly because of these reasons:
- Aquatic plants take time to form a strong root system
- Some aquatic plants grow on wood or rocks; therefore need time to attach.
- As you open aquarium gears such as aquarium filter and air pump, plants float up with the water current
- Some fish swim aggressively, disturbing the freshly placed plants, and inhibiting them from anchoring to the substrate properly
- Some fish love to dig, making it difficult to upkeep the plants in the tank.
- Some fish are bottom feeders, preventing the plant to establish into the substrate.
Now that you know the possible reasons, let’s delve into the different ways you can anchor different aquatic plants safely.
How to Anchor Aquatic Plants in an Aquarium
Due to the presence of large air cavities in their parenchyma, most of the aquatic plants float until you don’t anchor them. At the same time, perfect anchoring is a must because aquatic plants need time to develop strong root systems. Besides, there are species that thrive well on tank rocks or woods, but again they need proper anchoring.
So, here are the most effective ways to anchor aquatic plants in the aquarium-
- Using a thick layer of substrate
Some aquarium plants exhibit dense rooting systems, while others have fragile and weak root systems. Once you know how your plants form roots, you can decide how to anchor them properly and safely into the substrate.
A generous layer of substrate alone can help anchor and secure most of the aquarium plants into the tank, preventing them from floating upwards. Most planted aquariums should have at least a 3-inch thick layer of substrate. It will suffice the needs of most of the stem aquatic plants.
Here are the different types of aquarium substrate that you can use-
- Soil– Specially formulated to prevent it from mixing with the tank’s water.
- Sand– Most natural substrate for fish, available in grain size with coarse and fine texture.
- Gravel– Pea-sized size of pebbles, measuring between 2mm to 5mm.
- Pebbles– The largest type of substrate, mostly river rock.
- Water-changing substrate– Special substrates such as aragonite, peat, and vermiculite.
Usually, it is recommended to add a layer of aquarium sand (1 inch thick) after adding 3 inches of substrate. It ensures plants stay well-anchored and rooted at the bottom and the roots stay safe and secured. If the roots get crushed due to any reason, your precious plant may die.
Pro Tip: If you are buying aquarium plants from the shop or online store, try to get the ones with a well-developed root system. Such plants get easily anchored to a generous layer of substrate because their root system is already strong. You can see them well-settled and flourishing in your tank within a few days.
However, it won’t work if the plants have delicate and short roots or if you are using seedlings.
- Using crevices of hardscapes
If you are into aquascaping and have used many aquarium decor items, their nooks and crannies can be used to anchor most of the aquarium plants.
Aquarium decor, such as driftwood, rocks, wood, etc., gives plenty of options to tie and secure the aquatic plants safely. Over time, they attach themselves to these hardscapes and properly establish themselves in the tank.
Some of the best options to explore here are:
- Cracks of textured rocks
- Crevices of driftwood
If this method seems feasible, you can use a fishing line to secure your plants. Since the fishing line is extremely thin yet strong, it will do all the needful. Firstly, it will go unnoticed; secondly, the plants will anchor safely enough onto them. After a few days, you will notice that the plants have grabbed the hardscape (wood or driftwood) and wrapped their roots to adhere to it.
This method is most convenient for non-rooting aquarium plants like Java Fern, Bucephalandra, Water Lettuce, Amazon Frogbit, Duckweed, Java Moss, etc. Since such plants seldom develop roots long enough to stay rooted into the substrate, anchoring in this way will ensure fruitful results.
- Using weights to keep plants stay at their place
Sometimes, despite having a strong root system, some aquatic plants deny staying intact in the substrate. Different external factors contribute to uprooting like-
- Strong filter output that drags plants from the bottom
- Bottom-dwelling fish that disturb plant’s strength
- Substrate-digging fish that dig up plants too out from the substrate.
It is when using weighted objects, such as decor items, rocks, pebbles, etc., that can help. Once you have layered a 1-inch thick layer of sand, go for any of these weights to secure your plants properly inside the substrate and prevent them from floating up to the surface.
The weights will also prevent the bottom diggers from nipping the bottom of plants’ stems, thus preventing them from dying.
Pro Tip: If you want to adopt this method, ensure the weighted object is not too heavy, as it may crush the roots and damage the stems of the plants. Therefore, when you select the object, make sure that it is light in weight but heavy or voluminous enough to keep the plant properly secured.
- Use rubber bands for tying with driftwood
Another way of anchoring aquarium plants is using rubber bands or zip ties to secure the plant with driftwood. This method works wonders if you have driftwood in your aquarium rather than rocks or if you want to anchor the plants around the driftwood to create a certain aquascape.
Some aquarium plants that can be anchored using this method onto driftwood are Java Fern, Anubias, Christmas Moss, Java Moss, African Water Fern, Dwarf Baby Tears, etc.
Pro tip: If you think that the rubber band will look awkward and make the entire look of the tank a bit off, use a fishing line instead. If your plants are mature with strong and developed roots, just drape them around the driftwood, and your plant is all set beautifully into the tank.
- Using rocks for anchoring
Even if you are not much into aquascaping, you must still have placed a few aquarium rocks to give it a natural and aesthetic look. If yes, you can use them to secure your plants similarly; you anchor them to the driftwood. Over time, the plants will adhere to the rocks and attach firmly.
Rocks are usually heavy than driftwood, and whether you have tall plants like Asian Ambulia or plants with large leaves Amazon Sword, this method will work wonders. It won’t allow plants to float up even when the fish swim through them or pull at the leaves.
Once you get the seedling of tall plants, secure them properly to the aquarium rocks with the help of thread, rubber bands, or zip ties. If you think rubber bands or zip ties will reduce the aesthetics, keep your worries aside, as once these plants catch their growth, the large leaves will conceal bands or zip ties, making them unnoticeable.
Also, once you see that the plant has developed roots strong enough to hold itself, just bury the rocks in the gravel.
All you need to acknowledge is to tie the plants gently and not more than half an inch above the roots. If you end up damaging the roots, the plant will eventually die.
- Use adhesive (fish-safe only)
Another feasible method to anchor aquarium plants is using fish-safe or aquarium-safe adhesives in the tank. However, utilize them only when using fishing lines, threads, rubber bands, or zip ties methods is not working. It is mainly because, irrespective of them being aquarium-safe, they still have certain chemicals, and as an aquarist, it is your responsibility to minimize the use of unnecessary chemicals as much as possible.
You can find aquarium-safe glue at any pet store and use them to secure your plants to the driftwood or adhere to the rocks. Make sure the glue is 100% safe and is used by aquarists.
- Use ceramic plant anchors
Ceramic plant anchors work really well when you have bottom feeders like loaches. These fish usually lives at the bottom of the tank and feeds by scavenging. If you have anchored the plant with weight, loaches can easily push them away while hunting food. They disturb the roots and the bottom of the stem, making plants susceptible to damage.
It is when the role of ceramic plant anchors comes to play. They look like small hollow cylinders where you can stick the plant’s roots along with a small section of the stem and place them inside the substrate.
If you have a seedling or plant whose root system hasn’t developed yet, take a small piece of sponge to provide support to the plant, allowing them to stay inside the cylinder. Once done, bury it into the substrate.
As you have secured the plant/seedling properly, bottom feeders or bottom dwellers will not be able to push the roots, and thus the plant will develop its root system easily.
- Using Nursery Pots
Most of the aquarium plants have a shallow root system. It means the roots don’t go too deep into the substrate. In such cases, you can place the aquarium plants directly into the tank along with their nursery pots.
Usually, aquarium plants come in nursery pots made of plastic. If you don’t like the idea of using plastic pots in the tank, just transfer them into fish-safe terracotta pots. It will give a more natural and aesthetic look to the tank.
Fish-safe terracotta pots mean they are not painted, glazed, or dyed, as these chemicals can leach into the water, making it unsafe for fish and plant health. Terracotta pots could be a great addition to any tank as they are versatile and give a natural look to the tank.
Introducing plants into the tank directly with nursery pots or terracotta pots has many benefits:
- They will not allow the plants to float up to the surface due to weight.
- This method will prevent plants from getting damaged by the bottom-dwelling and bottom-feeding fish.
- Using lightweight pebbles in the pot will protect the plant from plant-eating fish.
However, once your small plant catches up with growth and starts getting bigger, you need to transfer it to bigger pots to allow proper growth.
This method is the best for beginners as it takes experience to use fishing lines or zip ties.
- Using plastic mesh
If you have carpet plants in your aquarium, plastic mesh is going to be your best friend. Aquarium-safe plastic mesh is made up of thin nylon threads. You can place the mesh below a thin layer of substrate. It alone will be enough to provide proper anchoring to the carpet aquarium plants.
The roots will grab the mesh and grow profusely, creating stronger roots and developing a sturdier carpet. However, you need to make efforts to keep the mesh in place because bottom feeders would love to disturb them.
You can secure the nylon mesh by putting the weight at all its corners firmly enough that it won’t come up. Bottom feeders may still disturb this setting, so you must closely monitor them. However, once the roots of carpet plants adhere to the nylon mesh and the carpet gets sturdy, bottom feeders won’t be able to disturb it.
So, in this way, depending upon the type of aquarium plant, you can anchor them and give them a lush-green aquatic jungle look. Still, a few things that need to ponder here are:
- Plants are secure even after you switch on the aquarium tools like the aquarium filter.
- Plants do not float up even when the water current is strong due to the air pump
- The movement of fish and the character of bottom dwellers do not uproot the plants.
Once your plants show a positive response after anchoring and not getting uprooted, you can sit back and relax. Congratulations! You have gained mastery in anchoring the aquatic plants.
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