How to Get Started with Aquarium Plants
Aquarium plants are an amazing addition to nearly any fish tank. They are beautiful and look natural. However, they can also be used to biologically filter water and provide a safe environment for fish. Many people are afraid of growing them underwater, which is why they are so difficult to grow. Not to worry – here are our top four tried-and-true tips for getting started with your first aquarium plants!
Tip #1: Use a Good Fertilizer
Easy Green all-in one fertilizer for water fertilization
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. Plus, they require these nutrients at all the proper concentrations.
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. If you’re like me, then all you need is a simple, all-in-one fertilizer that has been pre-mixed by experts. Easy Green liquid fertilizer is here to simplify your life. Low tech tanks only need to add 1 squirt of Easy Green liquid fertilizer per 10 gallons once a week. For high tech tanks, you can increase this number to twice a week. For plants that feed primarily from their roots, use root tab fertilizers or a specialized planted tank substrate to offer nutrients from the ground.
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. 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.
Our quick selection guide will provide more information about which type of planted tank light you should get.
An aquarium light designed for plants will ensure the best growth. Regular aquarium lights are too dim and do not have the best spectrum for growing plants.
Tip #3: Select the Right Fish
This factor may not be something you’ve ever considered before, but certain fish love to eat plants! Certain plecostomus, goldfish, and silver dollar fish all love vegetables. However, some plants may not be suitable for their aquariums. Fish have a tendency to pick through substrate and uproot plant material, so it is advisable to use floating, attached-to-hardscape, or potted plants for decoration. 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 best to start with. They tend to be slower growers, and they can be more patient as you learn how to grow underwater plants. We recommend that beginners buy one plant from each species. Instead of five plants, buy five beginner plants. This increases the chances that some plants will survive. You’ll still have some success with your husbandry, even if it’s not perfect. Some species prefer certain water parameters. Ask local hobbyists for advice on which plants are best suited to your environment.
Finally, make sure to only buy true aquatic plants that can be grown fully submersed 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. 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.
Keep this in mind. A plant that appears to be dying could still be saved. It might start to melt as it adjusts its water parameters. Give it a chance and watch for new growth. We’ll continue to cover more topics related to planted tanks in the future. Register now to receive email notifications when new blog posts are published.