Most aquarium owners would agree that a lushly planted aquarium is a lovely sight, and virtually all would want to grow some real plants in their own tanks. Many people, however, find this very difficult, with fish often attacking the leaves or the plants just dying away. While some aquatic plants are resilient and easily cultivated, the bulk has highly specialized conditions.
Benefits of Aquarium plants
In addition to ensuring that the water’s chemical equilibrium is maintained, plants also supply oxygen to the water, which makes it easier for fish to breathe. Additionally, they are able to inoculate the water in the new tanks with the right bacteria in order to guarantee that waste is broken down effectively and that the tank remains clean.
However, the majority of people are drawn to plants because of their aesthetic rather than the scientific advantages that they provide, and fish like the shady regions that provide them with places to explore and hide beneath.
Do I need live plants in my aquarium?
Live plants are not required, but they may be very useful since they create oxygen and absorb waste materials, and they may also aid to avoid illness. These beneficial activities, however, are only carried out when the plants are healthy and expanding. If the plants die or are eaten by the fish, they are no longer offering any practical value, and any decaying vegetation is really harmful to water quality. Furthermore, although growing plants is beneficial, there is no substitute for proper filtration and regular maintenance.
Requirements of aquatic plants
There are a few plant species that may be grown in almost every aquarium. Thin and gigantic vallis, for example, need very little light and are quite resistant to predation. Most other species, on the other hand, need all or at least part of the following:
- Aquarium lighting that is appropriate
- The substrate that is appropriate
- Excellent water quality
- Nutrient balance and fertilization at their best
- Fish and algae eaters that are suitable
It should be emphasized that algae are a form of the plant, hence the elements that drive plant development also influence algal growth. Algae, on the other hand, are opportunistic and may thrive in environments that are unsuitable for plants. If plants are given a healthy growing environment, they will frequently outcompete algae; but, if the circumstances are not ideal, algae development may be fostered instead.
Proper Aquarium Lighting
To flourish, all plants need light, and aquatic plants require a particular specific spectrum. Fluorescent aquarium tubes are often the best technique to give the optimum spectrum of light. This spectrum consists mostly of red and blue wavelengths with a very little yellow, and it also produces the finest visual impression in the aquarium. Extra illumination may be necessary for deep (over 46cm) or highly planted tanks. The most straightforward approach is to install a second fluorescent bulb, although mercury vapor or metal halide lamps may also be utilized.
The use of standard home fluorescent bulbs is not suggested since the spectrum contains a lot of yellow. This results in a murky aquarium and encourages the development of algae rather than attractive plants. Sunlight also promotes algae growth, and direct sunlight may cause overheating.
Aquatic plants need between 10 and 12 hours of light every day; extended durations of illumination will only promote algae.
Although certain plants may grow in the air (for example, Hydrilla and Cabomba), most plants need very fine-grade gravel to build their root system. The optimum gravel has a grain size of 1 – 3mm. A thick coating (5–7mm) is also required.
If an aquarium is intended to be a planted aquarium, a layer of iron-rich fertilizer may be put into the substrate.
Excellent water quality
Plants, like fish, dislike pH extremes or poor water quality. Most plants thrive at pH levels close to neutral (6.5 to 7.5). Sediment in the water will clog the leaves of fine-leaved plants, while water with a high nutrient content will harm plants and increase algal development.
For these reasons, most plants thrive in filtered aquariums with frequent partial water changes.
Optimal nutrient balance and fertilization
Nitrogen and Phosphorus are the two most important nutrients for aquatic plants, and both are abundant in aquariums since they are found in fish waste. Calcium and magnesium are also required and are often present in tap water. Some plants do not need extra fertilizer and will flourish by using the primary nutrients already present in the aquarium. Even resilient plants, however, need a specific balance of these nutrients. Even a single nutrient excess or deficiency may cause poor plant development and tilt the balance in favor of algae. Regular water changes will eliminate surplus nutrients and restore any that are depleted.
Despite the presence of the majority of essential nutrients, certain plants will not develop without extra fertilization, and fertilization is definitely required to promote really attractive, lush plant growth. This is because a single vitamin or trace element deficiency may slow plant development.
Fertilizers for aquatic plants come in a variety of forms, each intended to supplement the others by addressing a particular set of plant requirements. First, iron-rich fertilizers such as laterite are mixed into the gravel. Many plants, particularly those with red foliage, need a high iron concentration, which they absorb via their roots. Second, there are tablet fertilizers, which include all of the essential elements for plant development except nitrogen and phosphorus. Finally, trace elements are supplied in liquid form on a regular basis. Trace elements are only required in trace amounts, but since they are unstable in water, they must be supplied often. These various fertilizers should be used in concert to achieve a proper balance of nutrients for optimum overall development. Many plants, though, will benefit just from the addition of one or more of these components. A red-leaved plant, for example, may just need more iron, although many plants may only require trace elements or basic nutrition.
Garden fertilizer should never be utilized! Fertilizers for garden plants are rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, resulting in an excess of these nutrients. This not only promotes algae development but is also harmful to fish and vegetation.
Plants’ most fundamental nourishment is carbon dioxide. It is present in an aquarium owing to the fish’s respiration, although its concentration will inhibit plant development if all other parameters (especially light and nutrition) are ideal. It is undoubtedly feasible to accomplish very excellent plant development without adding carbon dioxide, however, carbon dioxide fertilization is preferred for the best and quickest plant growth. However, there is little use in adding carbon dioxide if the lighting or nutritional supply is insufficient; in fact, the extra carbon dioxide may be harmful to the fish if it is not eliminated.
The carbon dioxide will be removed from the water by vigorous aeration. This is great in an aquarium without plants, but in an aquarium with plants, aeration should be regulated to let the plants consume the carbon dioxide.
Suitable fish and algae-eaters
Going to great measures to stimulate plant growth is pointless if the aquarium has plant-eating fishes, which may destroy plants as rapidly as they develop. Some fish are staunch herbivores and will consume almost any species of plant, whilst others are general feeders that will nibble on plants they find appealing while leaving others alone. If you maintain just herbivorous fish, such as silver dollars or scats, there is nothing you can do to deter them from eating plants. Goldfish are another well-known plant-destroyer, yet certain tough-leaved plants may be grown in goldfish tanks. One method is to give goldfish many tiny feeding throughout the day. They are more inclined to reject the plants if they are continuously anticipating flakes, pellets, or frozen feeds. Some plant-eating cichlids may be fed using the same manner.
Other fish cannot be mingled in a well-planted aquarium because they either dig or act in a raucous way that causes damage to or uproots the plants. Large cichlids and catfish are examples of such fish.
Most common tropical community fish, fortunately, can be raised in planted aquariums. Almost all tetras, live-bearers, rasboras, sharks, barbs, rainbows, and gouramis, as well as most tiny catfish and a few cichlids, are acceptable. Aside from goldfish, most coldwater fish (for example, danios) are plant-friendly as well.
Algae eaters are beneficial in any aquarium, particularly in planted aquariums. Algae use the same nutrients as plants and thrive in environments where these are even slightly out of balance. Algae-eating fish will aid in the management of any algal development that occurs. Bristlenose catfish, siamese foxes, and otocinclus catfish are the best species. These are efficient algae eaters that do no harm to plants. Some huge algae eaters (for example, Plecostomus) may harm leaves when rasping at algae.
Aquarium plants Care
There are a few very easy actions that need to be taken in order to ensure that the plants in your aquarium are able to survive in the environment in which they have been placed. It is important to remove any yellowed or dead leaves from the plants before planting them in order to promote proper growth, and this is also true for the roots. If the roots are healthy, they should be white and stiff, not brown and floppy. Brown and floppy roots indicate that they are dead, which will cause them to decompose and contribute substrate to your tank, which will cloud the water. By removing the plant’s lowest few leaves, which aren’t receiving any light, you may assure that the plant’s nutrients will flow to the leaves that are higher up and that the plant’s new root system will be able to handle the situation. Be sure to keep track of whether the roots of your plants should be planted in sand or gravel, or if they should be allowed to root themselves in rocks or bogwood. This is the ideal method for the growth of things like Java fern and Java moss, but they need to be planted properly.
When your plants begin to develop into larger specimens, it is only natural that they will need pruning. Once the plant has grown to the top of the tank, you may begin to take cuttings from it. The cuttings, in turn, can be replanted to produce more greenery in your aquarium or to replace plants that are becoming older. These new plants will quickly get established and flourish alongside the existing ones. Other plants reproduce via something called runners; after they have grown to reach approximately a third of the size of the mother plant, they may be cut off and put elsewhere in the tank.