Quick Guide: how To Plant Live Aquarium Plants

Quick Guide: How to Plant Live Aquarium Plants

Congratulations on your new aquarium plant! There are different ways to introduce your new leaf, depending on the type of aquarium plant. This step-by-step guide will show you how to add live plants to your aquarium.


Do You Need to Take Pots Out of Aquarium Plants?

Most plants purchased online or from a local fish store come in a plastic pot stuffed with rock wool. This little basket and stuffing should be removed in most cases. These are the steps to take your plant out of its packaging.

1. Squeeze the pot to push out the plant and rock wool. If the roots are overgrown and tangled, you may need to trim them back a little to free the basket. 2. Divide the rock wool in half and remove the plant from the middle. 3. If rock wool is stuck to the plant, use your fingers, a fork, or large tweezers to manually strip off as many pieces as possible. 4. You should get rid of any small yellow fertilizer balls that could cause an increase in nutrient levels in your aquarium. 5. Now, wash off all debris and you are ready to plant your plant.

Anubias golden in a pot

1. Rhizome Plants

The most popular types of rhizome plants include anubias, java fern, and bolbitis. Each one has a rhizome which is a thick horizontal stem or trunk. All stems and leaves grow upwards from the Rhizome. Roots grow downwards from it. Rhizome plants are easy to grow. You can use super glue gel to mount them to driftwood or wedge them in cracks in rocks. This article will provide more information on using super glue gel in aquariums. The roots of the plants will eventually grow and wrap around the hardscape, making it difficult to remove.

A even easier way to plant your rhizome plant is to leave it in the plastic basket and rock wool and drop the pot into an Easy Planter decoration. You can also plant your anubias, or javaferns in the ground by burying the roots. However, it is important that the rhizome remains exposed. Rhizome plants absorb nutrients primarily from the water column, so feed them an all-in-one liquid fertilizer as needed.

Place your anubias or java fern with its plastic pot into an Easy Planter to prevent fish from uprooting it.

2. Sword Plants

The rosette plants are swords that have all their leaves growing out from the base in a circular shape. Examples include the Amazon sword and red flame sword. You should plant sword plants in the middle of the aquarium, or behind other plants. They can get very tall so be sure they don’t block your view. Dig a hole through the substrate with your fingers and place the roots of the blade. You can also use planting tweezers or your fingers to push the roots into the substrate. Do not cover the crown (i.e., the base of the plant where all the leaves come out) with substrate. Swords are heavy root feeders, meaning that they prefer to absorb nutrients via their roots, so make sure to add lots of root tabs if you’re using inert substrate or if your nutrient-rich substrate is depleted.

Note: most aquarium plants are grown out of water at the plant farms and then must get used to living completely underwater when you put them in your fish tank. Therefore, you may see your sword’s big, round leaves (i.e., emersed leaves that were grown out of water) melt away as the plant reabsorbs their nutrients to make longer, narrower leaves (i.e., submersed leaves that are grown underwater).

Amazon sword (Echinodorus bleheri)

3. Cryptocoryne

Cryptocoryne plants, also known as “crypts” for short, are another kind of rosette plant that requires substrate and needs root tabs to grow well. Common types include Cryptocoryne wendtii, Cryptocoryne spiralis, Cryptocoryne parva, and many other species. Similar to sword plants, you want to bury their roots while keeping the crown of the plant above ground.

Crypts can melt when they are introduced to a new aquarium. Don’t throw out your crypt if the emersed leaves start falling off. Submerged leaves will soon emerge once the plant has adapted to its new environment. Some aquascapers recommend that you trim the emersed foliage before planting the crypt. This will encourage the plant’s energy to be focused on submerged leaves and reduce the likelihood of losing all its old leaves. Cryptocoryne parava isn’t prone to crypt melting so this technique shouldn’t be used.

Cryptocoryne lucens

4. Grass-like Plants

This category refers to vallisneria, dwarf sagittaria, micro sword, and other stoloniferous plants. These species are propagated by runners, or stolons. They produce small plantslets at the ends of their stems. As with rosette plants, plant the roots into the substrate, and don’t cover the base of the plant’s leaves. Sometimes, a pot contains several plants. Plant them individually so there is enough space for each plant to grow and multiply. You can also place the plant with its plastic pot inside an Easy Planter decoration to prevent it from getting uprooted by fish.

These plants can easily multiply depending on their species to create a grass-like carpet or a tall seaweed forest. To spread the plant in another area, or to create a new tank, you can simply remove the runner once the plantlet is established. Then, replant the plant.

Micro sword (Lilaeopsis brasiliensis)

5. Mosses

Mosses can be attached to hardscape using thread or glue, and they are very similar to rhizome plant mosses. Instead of being packed in pots, mosses are usually sold pre-attached to a wire mesh rectangle, driftwood, and other decor. Moss can also grow as a large, free-floating mass, which is great for colony breeding since baby fish can easily hide from the adults in the dense coverage. Java moss and Christmas moss are some of the most readily available varieties on the market. Marimo moss balls are technically a type of algae, but like normal mosses, they should be gently placed on the ground (not buried) or attached to hardscape.

Christmas Moss (Vesicularia montei)

6. Stem Plants

These plants can grow vertically from one stem, with the leaves emerging directly from that stem. Think of bacopa, Pogostemon stellatus, and pearl weed. To prepare the plant, remove the basket, ring, or rubber band wrapped around the base of the stems. Plant each stem deeply, at least 2 to 3 inches into the ground, which means the substrate may cover some of the bottom leaves. The stem plants should not be planted in one group. Instead, plant them individually with some space between to give the roots room to grow. Use tweezers to easily plant them, and if needed, wrap plant weights at the bottom to prevent them from floating away. Some people will place the stems on the substrate and let them grow roots. Stem plants prefer to feed from the water column and therefore appreciate a diet of liquid fertilizers.

Bacopa caroliniana

7. Bulb Plants

A bulb or tuber can be used to grow many different types of plants, including the dwarf aquarium lily (banana plant), dwarf aquarium lily (tiger lotus), and aponogetons. To remove any rocks wool or loose substrate, rinse the bulb or tubers and then place it on top. You can either wait for the bulb to sink or place it under some hardscape to keep it from floating. New leaves and roots should quickly sprout from the bulb, but if there is no growth after one to three weeks, try turning the bulb over because it may be upside-down. Bulb plants can grow very tall with leaves that reach the water surface, and they tend to take nutrients from both root tabs and liquid fertilizers.

Banana Plant (Nymphoides Aquata)



Carpeting Plants
There are many kinds of foreground plants and even mosses that can be used to cover the ground in your aquarium, but this section is specifically referring to short, dense carpeting plants with lots of tiny leaves and very weak roots. Monte carlo, dwarf baby tears, and microsword are two examples. These plants are not the grass-like carpeting plants like dwarf sagittaria and dwarf hair grass, which were mentioned in Section 4. Most websites recommend that you cut up a pot full of carpeting plants and place them around your aquarium. But, the roots are too fragile or small and they end up floating away.

Instead, you can place the entire pot in the substrate and allow the plant to carpet from there. The basket and rock wool will prevent the carpeting plant floating and provide a solid base from which to grow. After the carpeting plant has established itself, you can remove the potted part. Carpeting plants need lots of light, carbon dioxide (CO2) pressurized, and both liquid fertilizers as root tabs.

Monte carlo (Micranthemum tweediei)

9. Floating Plants

We shouldn’t forget about floating plants, the easiest type of plant to add in an aquarium. Frogbit, duckweed and dwarf water lettuce are all common varieties. There are also certain stem plants such as water sprite. Simply place them on the water surface, provide lots of light and liquid fertilizers, slow down the current, and don’t let their leaves get too wet. Some people like to use fishing line or airline tubing to contain the floating plants and prevent them from getting pushed underwater by the filter output. Our final tip is to make sure that they don’t cover the entire surface of the water or else you may have issues with oxygen depletion for the fish and lack of light for the other plants down below.

All the best for your new aquarium plants. You can find our free guide on plant nutrient deficiencies to help you troubleshoot the issue if your plants are not growing well.