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, they can be intimidating to start because it is so unfamiliar to grow plants under water. 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 to fertilize 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. Key building blocks for plants include both macronutrients (like nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium) and micronutrients (like iron, boron, and manganese). 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. Simply add 1 squirt per 10 gallons every week for low tech tanks (and increase to twice a week for high tech tanks). 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 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. Fluval Plant 3.0 LED is our favorite light. It allows you to adjust the light intensity to suit 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.
For best growth, choose an aquarium light that is specifically designed for plants. Regular aquarium lights are too dim and do not have the best spectrum for growing plants.
Tip 3: Choose the Right Fish
While this might not seem like something you have ever thought of, some fish love plants. For example, silver dollar fish, certain plecostomus, and even goldfish thoroughly enjoy their vegetables, so certain plants may not be well-suited 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. 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 – Start 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. We recommend that beginners buy one plant from each species. In other words, instead getting five of the same plant, get five different 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. 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.) An interesting fact is that most aquatic plants are actually cultivated out of water at plant farms to speed up 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. Aquarium Co-Op will help you get this going by putting your plants in tanks with plenty of lighting and fertilizers. This will allow them to convert to submerged grown leaves.
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. In the future, we’ll be covering more planted tank topics in greater detail, so create an account to get email notifications as soon as new blog posts are released.