Freshwater Aquarium Plants – 4 Considerations

Selecting freshwater aquarium plants for your aquarium is a serious business.      By reducing levels of nitrate in the aquarium, providing a haven for timid and shy fish, making the aquarium look great, helping reduce algae growth and during breeding supplying areas for spawning, plants have great beneficial effect on both the aquarium environment and the fish themselves.

Adding aquarium plants to your aquarium can be a good idea because these plants use nitrates which may be troublesome to your tropical fish if your nitrate levels are high enough. Live plants do more than that though, they always look nicer than their plastic counterparts.

Some are more difficult to look after than others. The more hardy aquarium plants include the Java Fern, Hygrophila polysperma and Vallisneria spiralis.

You will need to check out a couple of things before embarking on your live plant adventure.

Water Parameters

Aquarium plants and tropical fish are identical in their requirements when looking at water parameters.   Each aquarium plant has different requrements as far as water conditions are concerned. Make certain that you are aware of the required water conditions for the plants that you want. You need to know things like ph, hardness levels and lighting levels for each plant.

Good Substrate

For your plants to survive it is essential to have a good substrate. You can place your plants in clay planters or you can plant some straight into the gravel. Plants placed directly into the gravel will not get their required nutrients from the iron fortified clay so you need to add iron supplements to teh water.

Good Lighting

Low lighting levels are the main cause of plant failure in an aquarium.   In general aquariums come with somewhere between 20-30 watts of lighting which is far too small for successfully growing plants.   Different aquarium plants require different levels of aquarium lighting, usually measured in watts per gallon.   This measurement is most important for photosynthesis to occur and therefore for your plants to thrive.   Photosynthesis also requires CO2. The fish respiration process which goes on in the aquarium can produce enough CO2. However, if you have a heavily planted tank, you may want to get a CO2 injector for your aquarium because you won’t be getting enough CO2 from your fish.

Fish Compatibility
Live plant care can be made very tricky by some fish varieties.   For example, Silver Dollars will enjoy munching your plants, similarly Goldfish and Oscars will uproot them.   So, if you already have fish, do some research to find out any combatibility issues.

Save yourself some money and dead plants by researching the plants you want to get before buying them so that you can determine their exact needs and whether or not you can meet those needs.

Finally, you should feed your plants with special freshwater plant food.   I usually feed mine about once a week.

Some Recommended Plants

Most of these do not require very high lighting levels and they all look good in the aquarium.

  1. Java Ferns.   pH 5.5-7.5, temp. 20-28 Celsius, Water hardness 2-15 degrees, tolerates low light levels.   These do better tied to floating driftwood rather than planted in the gravel.
  2. Amazon Sword.   pH 6.5-7.5, temp. 22-28 Celsius, Water hardness 2-15 degrees, Lighting 50 watts per 25 Galls water.   These should be planted in loose substrate and supplemented with iron fertilizer.
  3. Argentine Sword.   pH 6.5-7.5,   temp. 16-25 Celsius, Water hardness 1-5 degrees, Lighting 50 watts per 25 Galls water.   These should be supplemented with iron fertilizer and planted in loose substrate.
  4. Hygrophila Polysperma.   pH 6.5-8.0, temp. 20-30 Celsius, Water hardness 2-15 degrees, Lighting 50 watts per 25 Galls water.   Small reddish or green leaves atanding at 24 inches, they should be placed in the center back of the tank so they have room to grow.
  5. Umbrella Plant.   ph 5.0-7.0, temp. 22-25 Celsius, Water hardness 4-12 degrees, Lighting Intense.   They can be anywhere between 8-12 inches tall. They have tall, thin stems with small leaves at the top of each stem that branch out into a star shape. They will die if completely submerged in the aquarium water because they are not really aquatic plants. You can successfully grow this plant by submerging its roots and growing the plant on the surface.
  6. Vallisneria Spiralis.   pH 6.5-7.5, temp. 15-30 Celsius, Water hardness 5-15 degrees, Lighting 50 watts per 50 Galls water.   This grows up to 24 inches and looks a bit like grass.   Vallisneria spiralis have wide ranging water parameter needs and are therefore a good choice for beginners. These plants look best along the sides or in the back of your aquarium
  7. Anubias Barteri.   pH 6.5-7.5, temp. 22-28 Celsius, Water hardness 8 degrees, Lighting Moderate.   Anubias Barteri are wide plants with wide green leaves that grow as tall as 16 inches.   They grow best with CO2 fertilization.
  8. Other low light options include:  Cryptocoryne, Dwarf Hairgrass, Water Sprite, Anacharis, and Cabomba.

For more information on Freshwater Aquarium Plants go to my website

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