How to Get Started with Aquarium Plants
Aquarium plants are an amazing addition to nearly any fish tank. Not only are they beautiful and natural-looking, but they also help greatly with biological filtration and create a comfortable environment for your fish. Many people are afraid of growing them underwater, which is why they are so difficult to grow. These are our top 4 tried-and-true tips to help you get started with your first aquarium plant.
Tip #1: Use a Good Fertilizer
Easy Green all-in one fertilizer for water fertilization
The great thing about plants is that they consume the toxic nitrogen compounds produced by fish waste. Plants need more nutrients than fish poop to grow well. Both macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are key building blocks for plants. They also require these nutrients in the right amounts.
Aquascapers who are experienced use customized products that have separate containers for each nutrient. This allows them to make specific fertilizer combinations for their aquariums. You may be like me and want an all-in one solution that is already premixed by professionals. Easy Green liquid fertilizer makes your life easier. For low-tech tanks, add 1 squirt to 10 gallons each week. High tech tanks will need twice as much. Root tab fertilizers are best for plants that rely on their roots.
Easy root tabs for fertilizing ground
See our article on choosing the right aquarium fertilizer.
Tip #2: Use Good Lighting
Fluval Plant 3.0 LED light
A steady supply of light is essential for plants to photosynthesise. But direct sunlight is not recommended because it’s difficult to control the intensity and can cause severe algae problems. You need a light designed for aquarium plants. Do your research to find out which lights are best for other tank keepers. Our favorite light is the Fluval Plant 3.0 LED because it allows you to control the light intensity from very low to very high, depending on 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.
Check out our quick guide to choosing the right planted tank light.
An aquarium light designed for plants will ensure the best growth. Regular aquarium light bulbs are often too dim, and they don’t provide the right spectrum for plants.
Tip #3: Choose the right fish
Although this may seem strange, certain fish enjoy eating 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. It is easy to find out which fish are suitable for plants by doing some research online or talking to others in 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: Begin with beginner plants
Low light plants are easier to start with as they are slower growers. They also make it easier to learn how to grow plants underwater. For beginners, we recommend buying one plant of each species you like. Instead of buying five plants from the same species, you should get five different beginners plants. This method increases the likelihood that some plants will survive and you’ll still experience some measure of success, even if your husbandry isn’t perfect. Also, certain species will naturally prefer your local water parameters, so talk to local hobbyists to find out which plants grow the best for them.
Make sure you only purchase aquatic plants that are able to be grown completely submerged or underwater. Some pet shops sell “semi-aquatic plants” that can be used in aquariums. It is interesting to note that many aquatic plants are grown in water at farms to increase growth and reduce algae problems. When you add a new aquatic plant to your fish tank, it might melt down and start producing new leaves. Aquarium Co-Op helps you jumpstart this process by placing them in holding tanks that have lots of light and fertilizers to help them convert to submerged grown leaves before they reach your house.
Remember that even though it may look like it is dying, a plant can still be saved! It may be melting back as it gets used to your new water parameters, so give it a chance and see if new growth comes back. You’ll see more information on planted tanks in the future. Sign up for an account to receive email notifications of new blog posts.