Think About Why You Want Aquarium Plants
Your first step in choosing live plants for your aquarium is to spend a moment thinking about why you want aquarium plants in the first place.
Live plants can provide a variety of helpful benefits, but you still need to consider how you want to use them and why.
Here are the benefits live plants can provide in your aquarium:
- Convert carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen for your fish.
- Live plants use nitrates and other chemical waste products, helping remove them from the water column so they don’t harm your fish.
- Saturates your tank water with oxygen which helps aerate the tank.
- You achieve a natural look.
- Provide shelter and security for fish and break up sightlines which can be beneficial for territorial fish.
- Can be used to conceal aquarium fixtures to improve aesthetics.
In addition to these benefits, aquarium plants help improve and maintain the quality of your tank water.
High water quality is essential for the health and wellness of your fish. When water quality is low, your fish become stressed and that makes them more susceptible to illness.
When thinking about why you want aquarium plants in your tank, the reasons listed above are important to consider.
The benefits of live plants are obvious, however, so you’ll want to spend a little more time thinking about the details – how you want your tank to look when you add the plants.
Live plants come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.
Depending on the size and shape you choose, you can use aquarium plants to create a lush carpet along the bottom of your tank or a living backdrop to your aquarium.
The Different Types Of Aquarium Plants
Now that you have a better understanding of the role aquarium plants play in your tank environment, you’re ready to start thinking about which plants you want to use.
Aquarium plants can be divided into three different categories based on their placement in the tank:
- Foreground plants
- Mid-ground plants
- Background plants
Foreground plants are the plants you place at the front of the tank – they are generally shorter and grow fairly slowly.
Some foreground plants are called carpet plants because they tend to spread outward rather than upward, covering the bottom of the tank with a green carpet-like layer.
Mid-ground plants are taller than foreground plants and can be used along the sides of your tank and in the middle.
They can add to the aesthetics of your tank without taking away too much valuable swimming space.
Background plants are the larger plants you use in the back of your aquarium – they can create a natural backdrop for your tank as well as a place for your fish to hide.
What’s In Your Tank?
Something else you should think about when considering what kind of aquarium plants to get is the substrate in your tank.
Again, live plants require certain nutrients in order to thrive. And while they’ll absorb some nutrients from the water column, most of their nutrition will be absorbed through the roots – this is where your substrate comes into play.
Substrate is simply the material that lines the bottom of your tank and it is where you will root your plants.
Sand and gravel substrates are fine for fish-only tanks but a planted tank will require a complete substrate that provides nutrients.
If your tank is already set up, you’ll need to take your substrate into account when choosing which live plants you want to add and how many of them.
If you’re using a complete substrate like CaribSea Eco-Complete or ADA aqua soil, you have plenty of options – these substrates are designed specifically for planted tanks.
If you have sand or gravel substrate, you may still be able to add live plants, but you’ll need to fertilize them occasionally to make sure they get the nutrients they need.
Another type of substrate you may be using is Seachem Flourite.
This substrate is high in iron but lacking in other nutrients – it is also very dense and porous and not an ideal choice for plants with delicate roots.
If you have soil substrate, most plants are likely to do well but you should keep in mind that it may cloud the water in your tank if you disturb it to root your plants.
Aquarium Plants And Lighting
Light’s a key source of energy for your aquarium plants – it allows them to complete the process of photosynthesis through which they convert carbon dioxide into energy.
There are many different options for aquarium lighting but not all of them are ideal for live plants.
Your plants will need about 8 hours of full-spectrum light per day – full-spectrum light mimics natural sunlight and it is the best for photosynthesis.
Be careful about using natural light, however, (such as placing your tank next to a window) because too much light could contribute to algae growth.
The best type of lighting for a planted tank is LED aquarium lighting. LED lighting is highly efficient in terms of energy consumption and the bulbs last a long time.
These fixtures also do not produce heat like some fixtures (such as VHO or metal halide) so you don’t have to worry about overheating your tank. They’re also much cheaper to run.