A handy guide to aquarium plants is something that most of us with established tanks would have really appreciated when we first started out in the fishkeeping world. This article will talk about the best plants for people who are new to the world of fishkeeping, how to care for them, the best places to purchase them and how to maintain them. I’m often asked by those new to the aquarium hobby why the plants they have bought have died not long after bringing them home. There are many different reasons why this can happen. Plants need a good combination of light, temperature, the right water parameters, CO2 (which is not recommended for beginners) and a good fertiliser to give them all the nutrients they need to survive. If you don't get the conditions right, the plants will eventually die. I would recommend doing prior research before buying any aquatic plants or you will live to regret it. Most people go wrong by walking into an aquatic store and are quick to purchase the nicest plants they see without knowing what they are or what care they will need. You cannot always rely on the knowledge of people who work in aquatic retail. You would think they would know everything about aquatic plants, but let's be honest, quite a few of them do not. This is why is falls to you to do your own research and to make sure you ask the right questions. I hope you find this article helpful, especially if you are thinking of setting up some live plants in your aquarium.
Let's talk about why aquatic plants are so popular. Firstly, the wonderful thing about aquatic plants is that they all vary in shapes, sizes and colours. There are many types of plants to suit every fishkeeper and aquarium. I'm sure every fishkeeper who keeps aquatic plants always has a certain favourite. I know that I do! There is nothing wrong with plastic plants but nothing can beat the real thing! Secondly, live aquarium plants also improve the water quality in your tank. They help to use up the carbon dioxide (CO2) and ammonia (NH4) produced by your fish and they also use the nutrients needed for algae to grow. Live plants also help to saturate your tank water with oxygen which helps aerate the tank. Aso an added bonus, they also help to provide the necessary cover to help keep your fish stress free and provide more of a natural environment for territorial species, as well as giving cover for small fry who may be eaten otherwise. Always make sure to buy plants from a reputable store. Never buy any plants that look wilted, discoloured or any with holes in the leaves. The healthier the plant, the better!
This planted aquarium has Java Fern, Hygrophila Siamensis, Java Moss and Marimo Moss which are perfect beginner plants.
Aquatic plants are usually listed into three categories. Easy, moderate and hard. A good aquatic store will have all the plants separated into these categories to make it more easier for the buyer. A bad aquatic store will have all the plants bunched up together with no names. A few of the best aquatic plants that I would recommend for beginners are Java Fern, Java Moss, Cranium Calamistratum, Frogbit, Hygrophila Siamensis, Anubias, Aponogeton (which is a bulb plant), Guppy Grass and Marimo Moss. These are all very hardy plants that require little lightning than the majority of plants on the market. I would start off with these and as as your knowledge increases, I would then look towards buying different species of aquatic plants that are listed in the 'moderate' category. Stay away from red plants. As beautiful as they look... they are very hard to keep alive for beginners!
How do you care for your plants properly? The three most important things are having the correct lightening, substrate and the right fertilizers. The majority of plants will need a fertilizer to keep them healthy and green. By not adding any fertilizers, you are basically starving the plants of the nutrients they need to survive. Fish waste and uneaten food will provide some of the required nutrients but it won’t provide everything that is truly needed and you are highly likely to experience issues such as holes in the leaves, discolouration and stunted growth. From personal experience, the best fertilizers to buy are Profito and Prodibio. Having a good quality fertilizer is very important. Although they may cost a little more than other cheap fertilizers on the market, it will benefit your plants in the long run and save you having to buy new plants after your other ones die off due to not getting the nutrients they needed. Usually, liquid fertilizers should be used weekly or dosed on alternate days throughout the week. Make sure to check the individual manufacturer’s instructions as this can vary.
Easy Life Profito is an all-in-one, universal plant food which is suitable for all water plants in freshwater aquaria. The composition of Easy Life Profito ensures strong, healthy and lush plant growth.
As for substrate, there are many different brands on the market. Substrate for planted tanks are almost soil like or are made from clay based compounds. These can only be added when you set up your aquarium from scratch. If you are planning on creating a heavily planted tank, then you really should consider using a suitable substrate. A good quality substrate last for several years and will provide sufficient nutrients for many strong and healthy plants. Almost all of the really impressive planted tanks you may have seen online will feature a substrate fertiliser so this is definitely something to consider if you are set up on the idea of having a heavily planted aquarium.
Now that we have discussed fertilisers and substrate, let's talk about the correct lightening. Most aquariums now come fitted with LED lighting. LED (Light Emitting Diode) aquarium lighting has become extremely popular in recent times, and with good reason. They last over 50,000 hours and emit no heat so can be placed very close to the water surface so that your plants can benefit more from the light that they emit. The strength of lighting they admit can even be adjustable to suit your plants. As an added bonus, their small and flexible size gives you an element of flexibility when positioning them too. Your local fish shop where you purchased the tank from should be able to advise you on the best lighting for your tank. Most planted aquariums do not need more than 8 hours of light. During the first month of setting up your tank, your lighting period should be shorter to keep away algae while your plants grow in. Try not to over do it with the lighting, as the last thing you want is an algae bloom!
Beware of a few unwanted hitchhikers that can be brought into your tank from some plants you have recently purchased. They can soon multiply and take over your aquarium.
Bladder snails and unwanted pests can often be brought into your tank from newly purchased plants. I'm not saying having snails in your tank is a bad thing but if they definitely aren't for you, then I would suggest treating all of your plants before adding them to your aquarium. You can do this by adding some aquarium salt to a bucket. Once all the salt is dissolved, rinse the plants in the saltwater for a few minutes, holding the roots above the water. After this saltwater rinse, rinse the plants in dechlorinated freshwater before planting in the aquarium. I have successfully used this method and my tanks have remained snail free! There is nothing worse than having your aquarium over run with pest snails. Prevention is always better than a cure. Once they are already established in your tank, you will have an even harder job of getting rid of them.
Overall, aquatic plants are very important when it comes to a thriving, healthy aquarium. Introducing live plants into your aquarium is most definitely a learning curb. As a fishkeeper, you will eventually find the plants that suit you and your aquarium best. Do as much research as possible and you will be fine. I highly recommend looking at the Aqua Essentials Website which you can find by clicking here. I have ordered most of my aquatic plants from here and I highly recommend them. Below are a list of my top 3 easy to grow plants. I hope that you have found this article helpful.