Live plants in an aquarium – selection and maintenance


There is no doubt that live plants look more attractive in an aquarium than artificial plants. Most of the aquarists are in favor of live plants not only because of their beauty and décor but because of many other advantages that they endow to the fish. Some of the well-known reasons are

Create a natural water ecosystem- Live plants create a natural or close to natural water ecosystem in the tank. It makes the freshwater aquarium look aesthetically sound.

Natural cleaners- Live plants remove ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, and phosphate from the water naturally. The water cleans, making it perfect for the fish.

Produce oxygen- Oxygen is essential for every live creature in the water. It is one of the best advantages of live plants, which are not possible with their plastic counterparts.

Provide shade and safety- Under stress, fish look forward to spots to hide for safety purposes. Plants provide such spots to the fish. They also provide protection from intense light as well as safety from aggressive fish and highly eager mating partners.

Provide breeding spots- Live plants also provide an excellent place to play and breed. The leaves of live plants are the ideal spots for the deposit and fertilization of eggs.

With so many advantages, live plants have gained enough popularity and recognition among the hobbyists. They have become the most favorable option to explore. However, at the same time, if you are not aware of their maintenance, keeping the live plants could become problematic.

Therefore, here we are with some simple yet important points that you should keep in mind while having live plants in your tank. Keep reading to find them.

Essentialities of freshwater aquarium plants 

If you are planning to switch from plastic to live plants in your aquarium, you need to have three basic things in the tank to keep your plants healthy. In their presence, not only the plants remain content, but they also endow several benefits to the fish. These three basic requirements are the following-

  1. Sufficient lighting– Light is one of the essential necessities of the plants. You have to provide artificial light inside the tank that will generate the same effect as the sunlight. It will help in photosynthesis, and the plants will be able to make their food. The deeper is your tank, the stronger lighting system you have to provide.
  2. Good substrate– Plants require proper substrate for the right growth and development. Substrate anchor the roots, support them, and a fertile area for the plant’s growth. Although there are different types of substrates, generally fine gravel or sand are preferred by the aquarists for live plants in a freshwater aquarium. Loam soil or pond mud is strictly not allowed, as they are good breeding spots for harmful bacteria. Sterilize the substrate before adding them to your tank.
  3. Nutrients- Nutrients act as a catalyst for the growth and development of the plants. A nutrient-rich substrate always favors growth. When you are introducing live plants, make sure to supplement essential nutrients in the substrate that can be easily found in the pet stores. Well-established freshwater aquariums should also be supplemented with extra plant nutrients from time to time.

Live plants for your aquarium

Many aquarists desire to have live plants in their aquarium but baffle with the choice of plants. It happens mostly with the newbie due to a lack of knowledge and experience. Although using plastic plants is a good alternative, with time, their colors fade, and the plastic gets covered with algae. If such is your case, you can always have the option to remove the plastic plants, clean them thoroughly, and put them back in the tank.

However, another alternative is switching from plastic plants to live plants and having your own real planted aquarium.

From where you should get the aquarium plants?

There are different types of aquarium plants that are readily available in pet stores. These plants vary in size, color, growth pattern, and much more. While some plants can grow only underwater, some are amphibious in nature and can grow outside as well. No matter which plant you are selecting, make sure you are purchasing them only from a reliable pet store. Plants from such stores are free from parasites and other harmful microbes and bacteria that may contaminate the water.

How many plants should you have in your aquarium?

There is no thumb rule indicating the number of plants you can have in your aquarium. It solely depends upon your choice and preferences. Just make sure that your purpose of introducing live plants is fulfilled, and you can maintain them.

Another thing to bear in mind is your live plants should provide enough hiding places for the fish. They must create a natural environment wherein fish feel comfortable to swim and spawn or breed.

Selecting live plants 

There are varieties of aquatic plants that can be used in an aquarium. These plants vary in size, color, and growth pattern, giving beautiful coordination of live plants in the tank. You should be aware that although there are different types of plants, you cannot combine each one of them randomly because each plant has specific needs of light, pH, and temperature for survival. Furthermore, some plants have no place in an aquarium because fish will eat them.

Based on their constitution, the aquarium plants are divided into the following categories-

Mosses– Mosses not only look beautiful in an aquarium, but they also provide good hiding spots for the juvenile fish and shrimps. They fix on the stones, wood, or gravel with a fishing line. Some most common mosses for aquariums are-

  • Cladophora aegagrophila (Ball moss)
  • Versicularia Dubyana (Java Moss)
  • Vesicularia Montagnei (Christmas Moss)
  • Taxiphyllum sp. Flame (Flame moss)
  • Riccia fluitans

Rootless plants– You have to fix the rootless plants on the stones or wood with a fishing line.

Rooted plants or bulbs– Such plants generally have broad leaves and faster growth. They give attractive contrasting colors to the tank and intensify its beauty.

Floating plants– This is another beautiful category of aquarium plants that floats in the water. The bottom of the plants remains in the water while the leaves grow on the water’s surface. Juvenile fish love floating plants and playing all around them. Limnobium laevigatum and Salvinia natans are some common floating plants.

Based on their size and the place they will occupy in the tank, aquarium plants are also divided into the following categories-

Foreground plants– Plants that are shorter in height or have creeping habit are generally grown in the front part of the tank. Some foreground plants also form a carpet, giving an exotic look to the tank. Some common foreground plants are the following-

  • Hemianthus glomeratus aka Hemianthus Micranthemoides, Baby Tears, or Pearl grass
  • Pigmy Chain Sword or Echinodorus tenellus
  • Hygrophila pinnatifida
  • Glossostigma elatinoides
  • Cryptocoryne wendtii red
  • Cryptocoryne parva
  • Anubias nana

Middle ground plants– Growing such plants in the middle give a beautiful look to the entire tank. They are medium height plants and are more commonly called mid-ground plants. These are:

  • Rotala macrandra Japan
  • Hygrophila Araguaia
  • Vallisneria asiatica
  • Anubias barteri
  • Rotala Indica
  • Rotala Rotundifolia
  • Staurogyne repens

Background plants– Taller Plants can be grown at the backmost part of the tank and are called background plants. Some popular background plants are-

  • Vallisneria gigantean
  • Cabomba caroliniana
  • Egeria densa
  • Bacopa caroliniana
  • Ammania gracilis
  • Pogostemon Erectus
  • Limnophila sessiliflora
  • Proserpinaca palustris Cuba.

So now that you know the different types of aquarium plants and the benefits they endow, it’s time to switch from plastic plants to live plants and give a complete makeover to your tank.

Aquarium Plants

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