How to Get Started with Aquarium Plants
Aquarium plants are an amazing addition to nearly any fish tank. Aquarium plants are not only beautiful, but also provide biological filtration and a pleasant environment for your fish. However, they can be intimidating to start because it is so unfamiliar to grow plants under water. 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 to fertilize the water
The best thing about plants is their ability to consume toxic nitrogen compounds from fish waste. To grow properly, however, plants require 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). Plus, they require these nutrients at all the proper concentrations.
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. But if you’re like me, I just want an easy, all-in-one solution that’s already premixed by the experts. That’s why we offer Easy Green liquid fertilizer to make your life simple. For low-tech tanks, add 1 squirt to 10 gallons each week. High tech tanks will need twice as much. To provide nutrients from the soil, root tab fertilizers can be used for plants that are dependent on their roots.
EasyRoot Tabs for fertilizing your ground
For more information on plant nutrients, see our article on picking the aquarium fertilizer for you.
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. A dedicated light is needed for aquarium plants. Make sure to research which light is best for your tank. Fluval Plant 3.0 LED is our favorite light. It allows you to adjust the light intensity to suit 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.
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 light bulbs are often too dim, and they don’t provide the right spectrum for plants.
Tip #3: Choose the right fish
Although this may seem strange, certain fish enjoy eating 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. Other fish have the tendency to sift through substrate and uproot plants, so you may need to switch to floating plants, rhizome plants attached to hardscape, or potted plants to decorate your tank. You can find out which fish will be plant-friendly by looking online or speaking with people in our Facebook group.
Goldfish, and other species can cause damage to aquarium plants. Make sure you research before you buy your new 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 buying one plant of each species you like. In other words, instead getting five of the same plant, get five different beginner plants. This method increases the likelihood that some plants will survive and you’ll still experience some measure of success, even if your husbandry isn’t perfect. Also, certain species will naturally prefer your local water parameters, so talk to local hobbyists to find out which plants grow the best for them.
Make sure you only purchase aquatic plants that are able to be grown completely submerged or underwater. Pet shops may sell “semi aquatic” plants that can be grown in terrariums. Interesting fact: Most aquatic plants are actually grown out of water at farm farms to accelerate growth and eliminate algae problems. So, once you put a newly purchased plant in your fish tank, it may melt back a bit and then start producing new leaves that are used to being fully underwater. 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.
Keep this in mind. A plant that appears to be dying could 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.