Adding plants to your aquarium is one of the best ways to ensure you’re creating a healthy environment for your fish. If you’re thinking about adding live plants to your tank but have yet to make the jump, you’re in the right place.
There are a lot of reasons why adding live plants is beneficial to your aquarium. Here’s everything you need to know to get started.
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Pros and Cons of Having Live Plants in Aquarium
Before adding live plants to your aquarium, it’s important to consider all of the pros and cons. We’ll get into more details about the pros later, but here’s a quick look at the many reasons why you may or may not want to consider adding plants to your tank:
- Live plants make your tank look natural.
- Aquarium plants are always growing, so the look of your tank is always changing.
- Plants act as a biological filter.
- They help to balance the nitrogen cycle.
- Live plants provided needed aeration to the water.
- They provide hiding spots for fish.
- Aquarium plants can help deter algae growth.
- Aquarium plants can be expensive.
- It could take a while to get used to caring for live plants, so you may have to replace them often.
- Some plants require supplemental carbon dioxide, fertilizer, and special grow lamps so you may end up investing a significant amount of money upfront.
- You should quarantine plants before adding them to your main tank, which is tedious and time-consuming.
- Some plants harbor snails or snail eggs that can take over your tank.
- Aquarium plants require consistent care, including regular fertilizing and pruning.
- Dead plants and leaves have to be dealt with right away so they do not deteriorate in the water.
- Some fish and other tank inhabitants might eat your plants.
Top 6 Benefits of Live Plants in Aquarium
Now that you have a general idea about what’s good and bad about live plants in your aquarium, we’re going to take an in-depth look at six of the biggest benefits of having live plants in your aquarium.
1. They’re a part of the natural habitat
When you put together an aquarium, you’re creating a little habitat for the fish that live in it. Ideally, you should provide your pets with the most natural environment possible. That includes live plants.
By mimicking their natural environment, you give fish a place to hide, explore, and interact. Plus, the right setup is a gorgeous addition to any home.
2. They help with water filtration
If you have an aquarium, you should already know about the importance of filtration. But, you might not realize that adding live plants to your aquarium can actually help keep the water healthy.
Not only do aquatic plants help to remove fish waste and decaying materials by using it for food, but they also absorb nitrates through their leaves and the substrate. That means that plants help keep nitrate levels down, making the water better for your fish.
While plants cannot replace mechanical filtration, they are a supplemental source of filtration that helps make and keep the water healthy.
3. They oxygenate the water
You might remember that, during photosynthesis, plants use carbon dioxide and release oxygen. This process is ideal for your aquarium. Any fish you have in your tank need oxygen in the water, and they release carbon dioxide.
Mechanical filtration can only do so much, and aerating the tank only helps the water at the surface. By using plants, you help saturate all of the water in the tank with oxygen while the plants use the carbon dioxide to make energy and grow.
4. They can help control algae growth
If you have ever dealt with algae growth in an aquarium, you know how frustrating it can be to get it under control. Believe it or not, adding live aquarium plants can help.
Any plants that you add to your tank compete with algae for the same nutrients, like irony, potassium, and nitrates. Fast-growing plants are more effective at controlling algae because they use up the nutrients quickly whereas slow-growing plants may be overtaken by it.
Even the fastest aquarium plants aren’t likely to get algae blooms completely under control, but they can help slow it down. That gives you a better opportunity to remove algae by scraping it off the sides of your tank or removing it in clumps.
5. They’re good for the substrate
Most aquatic plants root like any other plant. In an aquarium, the roots grow into the substrate. When your plants have a strong root system, they hold the substrate in place. This prevents the substrate from being disturbed and clouding up the tank during vacuuming and water changes.
6. They provide safety and security for your fish
If you have a stocked tank, you already have some idea of what goes into finding suitable tankmates. Some fish are territorial, some are aggressive, and some like to hide.
By adding plants to your tank, you can create smaller areas that your fish can call their own. If you have a territorial fish, give it an area to call its own, but make sure you give its tankmates plenty of plants, rocks, and other decors to hide in and around.
Plants are also very important when your fish breed. Having a place to hide makes it much easier for your fish to protect their eggs and gives the fry safe places to hide until they’re big enough to hold their own in the tank.
How to Keep Live Plants in an Aquarium?
Keeping live plants in your aquarium takes a bit of skill, but it’s something anyone can learn. It’s one thing to add plants to your tank, it’s another thing to keep them alive and get them to flourish.
Here are some of the things you need to know about basic plant care:
Choose the right plants
Choosing the right plants is the first step to keeping them alive in your tank. If you have a tropical tank, choose tropical plants. If you have a tank without a heater and fish that like cooler water, choose plants that prefer the same environment.
Make sure you have the right parameters
This varies somewhat from plant to plant, but generally, plants need between eight and 12 hours of sunlight or full-spectrum light every day. Water temps should be between 75 and 88 degrees F (24 – 31°C), depending on the plant.
Most plants prefer a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. You’ll likely need to do 25 percent water changes every week, and make sure you use the right substrate. Choose something suitable for growing roots.
Check the water regularly
You should already be doing this to make sure everything is right for your fish, but your plants need care, too. Check nutrient levels regularly, and make sure the water isn’t too hard.
Use the appropriate fertilizer
Some plants only absorb nutrients through the roots while others need them in the water, too. Research the plants you choose so you can make sure you’re giving them what they need, be it root tabs or liquid fertilizer.
Most Common Reasons that Aquarium Plants Die
When you add plants to your tank, everything might look great for the first few days, but eventually, you might notice some problems. Maybe the leaves are yellowing or they have brown spots. You might even notice that the green leaves are losing their color altogether.
Many things can cause your plants to die. Some of the most common are:
- Not enough light
- Not enough fertilizer
- The wrong kind of fertilizer
- The wrong type of substrate
- The water temperature is too low or too high
- Fish are eating them
- pH is too high or too low
Figuring out the specific issue your plants are having isn’t always easy. Sometimes, there’s no quick fix and you have to rely on trial and error.
For example, if your plants are turning brown, it can mean many things. Maybe there’s too much phosphate in the water or your nitrates are too high. This is one reason why we recommend you do a 25 percent water change every week. It will help keep these things under control.
As you can see, there are many benefits to keeping live plants in your aquarium. If you’re thinking about it but are a little overwhelmed, don’t be. It seems like a lot, but it’s not more or less difficult than performing regular tank maintenance in the first place.
Consider the pros and cons and make the decision that’s right for you, of course, but we highly recommend a planted tank and think it’s well worth the effort.