Rooting, anchoring and pruning live aquarium plants

Rooting, anchoring and pruning live aquarium plants

Live plants endow immense benefits when planted in the aquarium. They add to the beauty of the tank and, at the same time, provide oxygen for the fish. But as they say, good things don’t come easy; live plants also require special care and maintenance for proper growth and development. Although there are aquarium plants that are easy to maintain, some eventually die when not looked after properly.

It takes a fair amount of time and effort to get a lushly planted aquarium. Right from choosing the right kind of plants and substrate to deciding how and where to plant them is a real issue. The plants easily get disturbed in the tank due to a number of factors like-

  • Fast movements of fish
  • Fish’s habit of uprooting the plants
  • Strong water currents
  • Dead and decaying roots

Therefore, here we are with some simple tricks that could help the new aquarists to have live aquarium plants. In this article, we will talk about rooting, anchoring, and pruning and propagating the plants in an aquarium. Also, we will provide a brief detail about the different types of aquarium plants you could have.

Types of aquarium plants 

If we start categorizing the aquarium plants, there will be different sections like floating plants or bottom dwellers, background plants or mid-ground plants, rooted plants or rhizomatous, etc. When you visit the pet shop, you will see that these plants are sold in different ways. These are:

  • Potted plants– Some of the most popular aquarium plants like Amazon sword and crypts are sold in small pots.
  • Rhizomatous plants– You will get typical rhizome, also called as the rootstalk or subterranean stem of rhizomatous plants like anubias, java fern, etc.
  • Stem plants– Two or three stems are included in the stock when you buy a stem plant or moss.

These plants are treated in different ways when it comes to planting them in the tank. Some need proper rooting, and some require additional anchoring to grow and develop. The easiest are the potted plants that only need planting in the place where you need and the roots anchor tightly into the substrate. Floating plants keep on floating on the upper water surface, and the moss balls roll at the bottom.

However, the real thing comes up when you have to deal with stem plants. They require a proper anchoring and some kind of framework to retain their place in the tank.

How to anchor the live plants?

In general, aquarium plants are lighter than water. No matter whether they are floating type or not, they will come at the surface when not anchored properly. If you think about giving them weight, the substrate will frustrate you. It is when a proper anchoring that will neither pollute the water nor alter water’s chemistry becomes important.

There are different ways with which one can provide support to the roots and stem of the aquarium plants. These are:

  1. Using a framework under the substrate– It works well when you want to have a heavily planted tank. Take a framework, preferably a plastic embroidery mesh and place it at the bottom of the tank, under the substrate. The benefit of using something like a plastic embroidery mesh is the flow of water will not be obstructed, and the plant will remain on their site.

Take the mesh and place it at the bottom of the tank. With the help of a fishing line or cotton thread, tie the bundles of roots to the mesh. Once tied properly, place the substrate all over the mesh and secure it.

  1. Using small plastic pieces– Small pieces of plastic embroidery mesh or even a plastic Tupperware lid can do the needful here. Take the lid and poke a few holes with the help of a needle. These holes will provide an anchor and facilitate the movement of water. Now take a fishing line or cotton thread and pass it from the holes one after the other and anchor the plants that way.

As soon the plants get rooted, place the lid wherever you want. Cover it up with the substrate and let the plant grow fiercely now.

  1. Pack the plant’s base with pebbles– If you are working with a rooted plant, do not put many efforts. Just pack some heavy pebbles around the base of the plant. It will prevent their heavy movement due to fish or strong current and keep the roots in one place.
  2. Wrap the plant around the driftwood– Free-floating plants never settle down. They keep on floating wherever they find the passage. To provide them a proper direction, string the plant under a large piece of driftwood or wraps one or two folds around it. The wood will hold the center down, and the rest of your plant can hover.
  3. Keep them potted– If you have purchased a potted plant and it has come in a small pot, plant the entire thing in the substrate. You can also use a clay pot. Although you will end up having a permanent plastic pot in the tank, the plants will not be able to move.
  4. Use plastic anchors– You can find plastic anchors in the plant stores that are easily bendable. All that you have to do is wrapping it around the plants, and the plastic anchor will hold it properly.
  5. Attach plants to a movable object in the tank– These objects could be rocks, pieces of driftwood, or any stable décor item that you are using. If you are using rocks or pebbles, always buy them from a reliable store and clean them thoroughly before introducing them in the tank. Never go for any random rock from the river or pond. It can alter the water chemistry entirely and could pose a danger to the fish.

Likewise, always buy driftwood from the store and make sure it is free from tannins. Use cotton thread or fish line to tie one of its ends to the plants, and the other end to the driftwood or rock. Now position the plant in the tank at your desired place. Remove the loose ends of the thread to get a professional look.

Some important tips while anchoring the plants-

  • Always buy rocks from the store if you are using them for anchoring. If you are going for river rocks, apart from cleaning them thoroughly by boiling, test their sturdiness. Some river rocks dissolve with a passage of time in the water. If it does, the water chemistry will change, and this may affect your fish. Before boiling, put a few drops of white vinegar. If the vinegar bubbles, do not use the rock.
  • Try to use the fishing line always as they are reliable and do not change the water chemistry. Cotton threads, on the other hand, rot slowly and are likely to pollute the water. Materials like nylon also disintegrate, though slowly when kept in water for long. Therefore, always be on the safe side and use the fishing line.
  • Do not use lead fishing weights, metal twist-ties, and rocks with metallic wires in the tank for anchoring or any other purpose. While lead is toxic for the fish, metal rusts and pollutes the water.

How to prune and trim the live plants

The plants proliferate in no time when the water conditions and substrate of the tank are in their favor. There are plants that grow faster than others and require regular pruning. Your tank may get denser in no time. Therefore, regular trimming of the extra shoots becomes necessary.

Since there are different types of aquarium plants, some can be pruned from anywhere; other require some specifications. It largely depends upon the plant types and their growth pattern. Here are some general tips on how to prune the live aquarium plants.

Stem plants– Stem plants can grow abruptly when not rimmed at regular intervals. These are also those plants that need trimming more often than the other aquarium plants. Therefore, knowing the right ways to prune them is necessary.

Trim off the top two inches of the stem plant when or overgrows. Make sure the 50% of the plant length is retained. At the same time, you can also propagate the cut portion into the substrate, not deeper than an inch, and later relocate wherever required.

Potted Plants– Potted plants are generally slow growers. Different varieties of crypts and Amazon sword are some common potted plants that people use in their aquarium. They are not only easy to grow and maintain but also make the tank look beautiful.

For trimming a potted plant, pinch off a few leaves, preferably from the base of the roots. Perform the same with the dead and yellowing leaves to make the plant look fresh and healthy. If the plant is growing sideways with longer leaves, cut them alternately and allow only the young and small-sized leaves to grow. Cutting the leaves directly can out the plants in stress, so try to avoid it.

Mosses- For trimming or pruning the moss, you have to remove it out from the tank. Once you have removed, cut the moss to whatsoever length and width you want. When you replace, you have to provide a proper anchor to it, either with the help of a rock or driftwood. This way, the moss will remain in one place and keep on growing.

Rhizome– Rhizome plants like different types of ferns and anubais are the easiest to prune. The best thing is you can even propagate them while pruning. All that you need is splitting the rhizome at the base of the plant and make it short. You can root this pruned section at some other location to get a new plant altogether.

Final words– Although there are people who prefer artificial plants in their aquarium, the beauty a real plant can give is profound. You may face a few difficulties in the initial stages, and there could be chances that your plant dies. However, with practice, patience, and perseverance, you will eventually learn how to deal with live aquarium plants.

Always start with the easy maintenance plants and keep on adding more in your bunch with time. Décor your tank with the live plants to get a lively looking aquarium!


Aquarium Plants

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