How to Get Started with Aquarium Plants
Aquarium plants are an amazing addition to nearly any fish tank. Aquarium plants are not only beautiful, but also provide biological filtration and a pleasant environment for your fish. Many people are afraid of growing them underwater, which is why they are so difficult to grow. Don’t worry, these are our top four tips to get you started with your aquarium plants.
Tip #1: Use a Good Fertilizer
Easy Green all-in one fertilizer for water fertilization
Plants can eat the toxic nitrogen compounds found in fish waste. But to truly grow well, plants need more “food” than fish poop can provide. Plants need both macronutrients, like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous, as well as micronutrients, such iron, manganese, and boron. They also require these nutrients in the right amounts.
Experienced aquascapers like to use customizable products that offer separate containers for each nutrient, allowing them to create specific fertilizer concoctions for their aquariums. But if you’re like me, I just want an easy, all-in-one solution that’s already premixed by the experts. That’s why we offer Easy Green liquid fertilizer to make your life simple. Low tech tanks only need to add 1 squirt of Easy Green liquid fertilizer per 10 gallons once a week. For high tech tanks, you can increase this number to twice a week. To provide nutrients from the soil, root tab fertilizers can be used for plants that are dependent on their roots.
EasyRoot Tabs for fertilizing your ground
For more information on plant nutrients, see our article on picking the aquarium fertilizer for you.
Tip #2: Use Good Lighting
Fluval Plant 3.0 LED light
To photosynthesize, plants need constant light. However, direct sunlight is not recommended as it can be difficult to control and could cause serious algae problems. You need a light designed for aquarium plants. Do your research to find out which lights are best for other tank keepers. Fluval Plant 3.0 LED is our favorite light. It allows you to adjust the light intensity to suit your tank’s needs. You can start with low-light plants, which are plants that need very little light, and move on to higher light plants later without upgrading your lighting.
Our quick selection guide will provide more information about which type of planted tank light you should get.
An aquarium light designed for plants will ensure the best growth. Regular aquarium kit lights are usually too dim and don’t have the optimal spectrum for growing plants.
Tip 3: Choose the Right Fish
This factor may not be something you’ve ever considered before, but certain fish love to eat plants! Some fish like the vegetables of silver dollar fish, plecostomus and goldfish, but some plants might not be suitable for their aquariums. Other fish have the tendency to sift through substrate and uproot plants, so you may need to switch to floating plants, rhizome plants attached to hardscape, or potted plants to decorate your tank. The easiest way to figure out which fish are plant-friendly is to do a little online research or talk to people on our Facebook group.
Goldfish and other species are prone to destroying aquarium plants, so make sure to research beforehand whether or not your latest pet is plant-safe.
Tip #4: Start with Beginner Plants
Low light plants are the easiest species to start with because they tend to be slower growers and more forgiving as you’re learning how to grow plants underwater. We recommend that beginners buy one plant from each species. Instead of five plants, buy five beginner plants. This will increase the chance that some plants can survive, and you will still be able to experience some success even if your husbandry skills aren’t perfect. You should also know that certain species may prefer specific water conditions. Talk to local hobbyists about which plants will thrive in your area.
You should only buy aquatic plants that can grow fully submerged or underwater. Pet shops may sell “semi aquatic” plants that can be grown in terrariums. An interesting fact is that most aquatic plants are actually cultivated out of water at plant farms to speed up growth and eliminate algae problems. So, once you put a newly purchased plant in your fish tank, it may melt back a bit and then start producing new leaves that are used to being fully underwater. At Aquarium Co-Op, we try to jumpstart this process for you by putting them in holding tanks with lots of good lighting and fertilizers so that they start converting to submersed grown leaves before they reach your home.
With this in mind, remember that a plant that looks like it’s dying may still be possible to save! You may see it melting as it adjusts to the new water conditions. Give it another chance to grow and you might be surprised at how much it grows back. We’ll continue to cover more topics related to planted tanks in the future. Register now to receive email notifications when new blog posts are published.