Quick Guide: How to Plant Live Aquarium Plants
Congratulations on your new aquarium! You will need to follow different guidelines depending on what type of plant you have for adding new foliage. This guide will walk you through the steps of adding live plants into your aquarium.
Should You Remove Pots from Aquarium Plants?
Most plants purchased online or from a local fish store come in a plastic pot stuffed with rock wool. In most cases, you want to remove this little basket and the stuffing, unless you bought a carpeting plant (see Section 8 below) or you plan on using an Easy Planter decoration. These are the steps to take your plant out of its packaging.
1. Squeeze the pot to push out the plant and rock wool. You may have to trim the roots a bit if they are too long or tangled. 2. Split the rock wool in half. Remove the plant in its middle. 3. You can manually remove rock wool stuck to the plants using your fingers, a knife, or large tweezers. 4. You should get rid of any small yellow fertilizer balls that could cause an increase in nutrient levels in your aquarium. 5. You can now wash away any debris and plant the plant.
Anubias golden in a pot
1. Rhizome Plants
The most popular types of rhizome plants include anubias, java fern, and bolbitis. They all have a rhizome, which is like a thick, horizontal stem or trunk. All the leaves and stems grow upwards out of the rhizome, while the roots grow downwards from the rhizome. The best thing about rhizome plant is that they don’t require any substrate. They can be tucked between rocks, or attached to driftwood with super glue gel or sewing needle. 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.
It is even simpler to plant your Rhizome plant by placing it in a plastic basket with rock wool, and then dropping the pot into an Easy Planter decoration. If you want to plant anubias and java ferns in the ground, the roots can be buried as long as they are not covered by the substrate. Rhizome plants are able to absorb nutrients from the water column so make sure you give them a liquid fertilizer that is all-in-one.
Place your anubias or java fern with its plastic pot into an Easy Planter to prevent fish from uprooting it.
2. Sword Plants
A rosette plant is a plant that produces swords. This means that all of the leaves are arranged in a circular fashion from the base. Red flame sword and the Amazon sword are two examples. Sword plants can grow to be very tall so you should place them in the background or midground of your aquarium. You can either use your fingers to make a hole in the substrate to bury the roots or you can use a pair of planting tweezers. Substrat should not be covered around the crown, which is the area where all the leaves are visible. Swords are heavy feeders of nutrients, which means that they prefer to absorb nutrients through their roots. If you use inert substrate, or if the substrate is depleted, make sure to add plenty of root tabs.
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. You may notice your sword’s large, round leaves (i.e. emersed leaves grown out of water) melting away as the plant absorbs nutrients and grows longer, more narrower leaves (submerged leaves, which are grown underwater).
Amazon sword (Echinodorus bleheri)
Cryptocoryne, also known by “crypts”, is another type of rosette plants that needs substrate and root tabs to grow well. Cryptocoryne parva and Cryptocoryne spiralis are some of the more common varieties. You will need to bury the roots of these plants while keeping the crown above the ground, just like with sword plants.
Crypts are very prone to melting whenever they’re introduced into a new aquarium, so don’t throw away your crypt if its emersed leaves fall off. Once the plant gets used to its new surroundings, submersed leaves will soon appear. Aquascapers often recommend trimming the emersed leaves before planting the cryptocrypt. This encourages the plant to concentrate its energy on growing the submerged leaves. It’s unlikely to lose any of the old leaves anyway. Cryptocoryne parava isn’t prone to crypt melting so this technique shouldn’t be used.
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.
Depending on the size of your species, these plants can quickly propagate to form a grass-like carpet in the foreground or a tall seaweed forest in the background. You can spread the plant to another area or create a new tank by simply cutting the runners (once the plantlet has developed its roots and leaves), and then replant it elsewhere.
Micro sword (Lilaeopsis brasiliensis)
Mosses can be attached to hardscape using thread or glue, and they are very similar to rhizome plant mosses. In fact, instead of being packaged in pots, they’re usually sold already affixed to a mesh rectangle, driftwood, or 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. The most widely available varieties of moss on the market are Java moss or Christmas moss. Marimo Moss balls are technically an algae type, but they should be placed gently on the ground, not buried, or attached to hardscape.
Christmas moss (Vesicularia montagnei)
6. Stem Plants
These plants grow vertically from a single stem and have leaves that emerge directly from the stem. You can think of pearl weed, Pogostemon, and bacopa. The basket, ring or rubber band that has been wrapped around the base stems must be removed to prepare the plant. The substrate should be placed at least 2-3 inches deep in each stem. Plant the stem plants individually, not in a bunch. Leave enough space between each other to allow the roots to grow. Use tweezers to easily plant them, and if needed, wrap plant weights at the bottom to prevent them from floating away. If the stems have no roots, some people will float them at the surface until they develop roots and then plant them into the substrate. Stem plants are accustomed to liquid fertilizers because they prefer to be fed from the water column.
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. To keep the bulb from floating, either wait until it sinks or place it on top of a piece hardscape. 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 tall and reach the water surface with leaves.
Banana Plant (Nymphoides Aquata)
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 and dwarf child tears are examples. This is not the same as the grass-like carpeting plant dwarf sagittaria or micro sword 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 rockwool will keep your carpeting plants from floating around and give you a strong base to root. Once your carpeting plant is established, you can take out the potted section. 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 can’t forget floating plants, which are the easiest to add to your aquarium. Familiar varieties include frogbit, dwarf water lettuce, duckweed, and even certain stem plants like water sprite. Just place them on the water surface and give them plenty of light and liquid fertilizers. Slow down the current so that their leaves don’t get too damp. 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.