Freshwater aquarium plants are a beautiful addition to your home and provide several benefits for your fish. Living plants will remove nitrates from the water, improving the quality of the water and reducing algae growth. They also boost the oxygen levels in the tank and provide fish with fun places to hide. Growing freshwater plants in your aquarium is a fun and easy hobby that will delight both you and your fish.
EditChoosing the Right Plants
- Select common, easy to grow freshwater plants. Freshwater plants have different lighting requirements and can sometimes be difficult to maintain. Luckily, there are some easy options for beginners that will create the look you want in your aquarium. Look for plants that are labeled as Echinoderms, Lilaeopsis, Anarchies, or Anubis.
- Good options for tall plants include Amazon Sword and Java Fern. Amazon Sword grows quickly and easily, providing great cover for your wiring and filter system if it’s visible from behind your tank. Java Fern has long leaves and provides good protection for fish.
- For medium-sized plants, great choices include Anubias Nana and Dwarf Sagittaria. Anubias Nana has curved stems with rounded leaves. Dwarf Sagittaria has long green leaves with curved blades and grows well around hard tank decorations like stone figurines.
- Use mosses to decorate along the bottom and front of the tank. Easy to grow freshwater mosses include Java Moss, Willow Moss, and Water Wisteria. Moss is a low-growing plant, so you can put it in the front of your tank without obscuring other plants. It also helps keep your tank clean. Moss grows quickly, so you will see fast results with this plant.
- Moss grows best with medium to bright light.
- Mosses are often edible for fish. You will still need to feed your fish, however. Not all fish will eat the moss.
- Another great option for the bottom and forefront of your tank is a plant called dwarf baby tears. This lush, leafy plant grows quickly like moss but it has a more shrub-like appearance. This plant grows best in bright light.
- Purchase full grown plants if you want a finished look right away. Full grown plants are more expensive, but they are the easiest way to get the look you want immediately. Choose plants that have started to bud and have white roots.
- Inspect the plants to make sure that they are free of snails, shrimp, and algae.
- You can buy aquarium plants at a local pet shop or aquarium store. You can also find them online.
- Research the seller before you make a purchase to ensure that they have a reputation for clean, healthy plants.
- Grow your plants from cuttings if you want a less expensive option. While it will take longer for your final look to develop, cuttings are more economical. To grow them, you will need to acquire cuttings from an existing plant, which are sold through most aquarium stores and online. Locate the lowest stem node on your cutting, then remove the leaves below it. Plant the stem in the substrate so that it will take root.
- You may also be able to acquire a cutting from someone you know who owns an aquarium.
- Create visual interest by using various sized plants. Layering your plants will make your tank more attractive. Background plants should be larger, while medium-sized plants can be placed in the middle of the aquarium or along the sides. You can decorate the front of your aquarium with a carpeting plant, like moss or dwarf baby tears.
- Plants range from small plants up to plants that fill the tank.
- Add figurines, rocks, and driftwood for a more interesting look. They will also provide a great place to tie down plants that do not need to be buried.
EditSetting Up Your Aquarium
- Purchase and install lighting to support plant growth. Just like other plants, your aquarium plants will need light to stay alive. Light is needed for plants to undergo photosynthesis, which gives them their energy and nutrients. Check the light needs of your individual plants, as they can vary from plant to plant. Full-spectrum fluorescent and LED tank lights are both great options. Plants can also get some light from nearby windows.
- Some plants require a lot of extra light, so do your research before you make a selection.
- It’s recommended that when you start out, stick to less than 2.5 fluorescent watts per gallon unless you put a carbon dioxide system in place.
- Quarantine and treat new plants before adding them to your tank. New plants may already harbor pests like snails or shrimp that can threaten the health of your aquarium. Snails and shrimp can breed quickly and fill your tank, unless you have fish that feed on them. Additionally, they can introduce bacteria or diseases to the water. A quarantine will allow you to spot pests before they get in your tank. You can also treat your plants with a bleach solution.
- To treat with bleach, mix 1 part bleach into 19 parts water. Dip your plants for 2 to 3 minutes, depending on how sensitive your plants are. Thoroughly rinse the plants in fresh water before placing them in dechlorinated water.
- To prevent snail infestations, dip your plants into saltwater after purchase. Mix of aquarium or kosher salt into of water. Dip the plants for 15-20 seconds, keeping the roots above water. Be sure to rinse them off with clean fresh water before placing them in the tank.
- After a week of quarantine, place them in the aquarium.
- Add a plant-friendly substrate to the tank and cover it with gravel. Your substrate is the material you use to cover the bottom of the tank. When you’re growing plants, you need a nutrient-rich substrate, which can initially be a bit more expensive. The substrates that are good for planting also tend to cloud the water when they’re disturbed, but you can stop this by applying a thin layer of gravel over it.
- Seachem Flourite contains all of the necessary nutrients and comes in a variety of colors.
- Clays and laterite are good options for nutrients and can be less expensive. However, they often take more time to settle in the tank.
- Aqua Soil has good nutrients for plants but drops the pH of the water to 7. While this is optimal for plants, it can harm some fish. Check the pH requirements of your fish before choosing this substrate.
- Gravel alone will not nourish your plants.
- Anchor the plants that need to be in the substrate so they get nutrients. Some plants need to be rooted in the substrate in order to absorb needed nutrients. Place the roots of these plants just under the substrate, but don’t bury them deep because this can cover the rhizome of the plant, which is a thick green part above the roots. Covering the rhizome can cause the entire plant to die.
- Make sure that you do not anchor one plant on top of another.
- Tie the remaining plants to rocks or wood so that they can root. Some plants, like moss, Java Fern, or Anubias Nana prefer to root into rock or wood. The plants will then take root on the rock or wood. Wrap fishing line gently around the plant, then loop the line around the rock or wood. Tie the fishing line in place, then add the rock and plant to your tank.
- Driftwood and lava rock are great options for tying down plants.
- Add your fish after allowing a week for your tank to stabilize. Wait a week after establishing your plant garden before adding the fish. If you already own fish, you can leave them in a temporary aquarium. Otherwise, it’s best to wait until your tank is ready before acquiring your fish.
EditCaring for Your Plants
- Prune plants that outgrow the tank so that they won’t decompose. Most plants grow quickly, so pruning will be a necessity. If the plant outgrows the tank, the part of the plant outside the cage will die. Use sharp scissors to carefully cut away the excess plant.
- As an alternative, you could choose slow-growing plants.
- Clean your water weekly to maintain the health of your tank. Plants do not need water changes as frequently as fish do, but regular changes will keep your aquarium healthy. First scrape any algae from the sides of your tank. Use a siphon to remove 10 to 15% of your water, paying special attention to the gravel and area around your aquarium fixtures. Replace the water you removed with fresh, dechlorinated water.
- When using your siphon, don’t use it in the plant bed or you could accidentally kill your plants. Instead, keep it above the substrate.
- Shrimp and catfish both feed on algae, so they could make a good addition to your tank, depending on the other fish you’ve chosen.
- This is also called changing your water. Some people like to clean the entire tank every few months, but this can upset your tank’s ecosystem. It’s better to use filters and maintain a clean tank.
- Add fertilizer to speed up the growth and keep plants healthy. Your freshwater aquarium does not need fertilizer, especially if you have fish, which help fertilize the plants with their waste. However, fertilizer can help your plants grow better and can be worth the extra effort. There are several ways to fertilize your aquarium plants:
- You can add fluorite directly into the substrate, which provides iron and nutrients for the plants.
- Root tabs are placed near the roots of the plants that need to be anchored beneath the substrate. They will continually fertilize your plants for 2 to 3 months.
- If you prefer a liquid fertilizer, you can add it to your tank once or twice a week. Liquid fertilizer is great for plants that are not rooted in the substrate, such as those tied to rocks.
- A CO2 pump provides the plants with more CO2, which they absorb and convert to oxygen. If you have a high-light tank, it’s good to include more CO2 because light speeds up photosynthesis, meaning that your plants will convert CO2 to oxygen more quickly.
- Avoid letting plants that are not fully submerged dry out. If the plants dry out, they will die. To keep them healthy, store your plants in a bucket of fresh water. This is a great option if you are growing additional plants for your aquarium(s).
- You can store the plants in the bucket indefinitely if they have clean water and proper lighting. Plants that must be rooted in the substrate will need to be anchored if they are stored long-term. When storing your plants, clean your water weekly.
- Start small and add plants slowly.
- If you have an algae problem, you could add glass or ghost shrimp, which eat algae. These freshwater shrimp get along great with tetras and guppies.
- Choose plants that are compatible with your fish, as some fish will eat or destroy them.
- Do not dispose of aquarium plants in local waterways or down the toilet. Many of them are non-native and can interfere with native plants. Instead, dry out any excess plants and dispose of them in the trash.
- If you keep crayfish, be aware that they will uproot and eat water plants.
EditThings You’ll Need
- Substrate fit for plants – silt, sand, clay
- Gravel (optional)
- Filtration system
- Freshwater plants
- Full-spectrum light source
- Freshwater fish
- Dechlorinated water
- Aquarium salt or kosher salt
- Fish net
- Algae scraper
- Oxygenate Plants in a Pond
- Grow Plants With Grow Lights
- Set Up a Freshwater Aquarium
- Set up a Marine Reef Aquarium
- Make Your Fish Tank Look Professionally Designed
- Pick out the Right Decorations for Your Fish Tank
- Create Aquariums So Lizards and Fish Can Coexist
- Do a Water Change in a Freshwater Aquarium