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. However, many people are afraid to try them because growing plants underwater is such unfamiliar territory. 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 fertilizing the water
The best thing about plants is their ability to consume toxic nitrogen compounds from fish waste. But to truly grow well, plants need more “food” than fish poop can provide. Both macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are key building blocks for plants. These nutrients are essential for plants in all their proper amounts.
Experiential aquascapers love to use customizable products that provide separate containers for each nutrients. This allows them create customized fertilizer concoctions to suit their needs. You may be like me and want an all-in one solution that is already premixed by professionals. Easy Green liquid fertilizer is here to simplify your life. 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 the ground
See our article on choosing the right aquarium fertilizer.
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. Instead, you need a dedicated light that is intended for aquarium plants, so do some research on which light works well for other planted 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. This light allows you to start with low-light plants (plants that require low levels of light) and then move up to high-light plants as an advanced user without needing to replace your existing lighting.
Check out our quick guide to choosing the right planted tank light.
For the best growth, pick an aquarium light intended for plants. Regular aquarium lights are too dim and do not have the best spectrum for growing 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. Some fish are more inclined to dig through the substrate and pull out plants. You may have to switch to floating plants or rhizome plants attached with hardscape. You can find out which fish will be plant-friendly by looking online or speaking with people in our Facebook group.
Goldfish is a common species that can damage aquarium plants. It’s important to check before you get your pet.
Tip #4: Begin 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. For beginners, we recommend purchasing one plant of 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.
Make sure you only purchase aquatic plants that are able to be grown completely submerged or underwater. (Some pet stores sell “semi-aquatic” plants to be used in terrariums, not aquariums.) Interesting fact: Most aquatic plants are actually grown out of water at farm farms to accelerate growth and eliminate algae problems. When you add a new aquatic plant to your fish tank, it might melt down and start producing new leaves. 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.
Remember that even though it may look like it is dying, a plant can still be saved! It might start to melt as it adjusts its water parameters. Give it a chance and watch for new growth. You’ll see more information on planted tanks in the future. Sign up for an account to receive email notifications of new blog posts.