10 Tips To Having The Best Aquarium Plants

aquarium plants

Caring for indoor plants is an art in itself – but aquarium plants?

For many people, the question of planting in an aquarium is secondary, if at all. Only when the size of the pool and the species of fish has been determined do the thoughts begin to revolve around the equipment. The plants in the underwater world play a decisive role in this.

In fact, they should move into the tank before the fish, make it habitable and attractive. But what do the best aquarium plants actually need in order to thrive?

Tip 1: Pick the best aquarium plants during the first planting

In an aquarium the plants take on several tasks. They are like a natural filter:

  • They clean the water
  • Enrich the water with oxygen
  • Even absorb various toxins such as ammonium and nitrate, which get into the water through the remains of the fish, or convert them into harmless substances.

Additionally, aquarium plants:

  • Offer sufficient protection to the inhabitants of the underwater world. They do this by providing natural camouflage and opportunities to retreat. This is the only way that fish and other animal species can live out their species-appropriate behavior and feel good in the aquarium.
  • Provide decoration. The best aquarium plants are also extremely decorative when properly planted.

IMPORTANT: When choosing the plant species, the main focus should be on how they work. Only with their help does the water basin become a real ecosystem and thus an aquarium that can be revitalized.

Tip 2: Pick the right aquarium plant species that is suitable for your fish

Not every underwater plant is suitable for every aquarium.

For appropriateness of the aquarium plants species, one should consider the following:

  • The size of the pool
  • The properties of the water
  • The species of animals that are supposed to move in

Factors such as light sources and temperatures also play a crucial role. They ensure optimal conditions for photosynthesis and thus for oxygen production.

If the aquarium plants die after a short time because they were not suitable, they will have the opposite of the desired effect: They will poison the water through their putrefaction processes.

Points to remember when picking the best aquarium plants species

  • It is important to note when first planting that no real forest overgrowns the basin. The plants would interfere with each other, fill the tank excessively and give the fish too little freedom to swim. A combination of fast and slow growing plants is therefore always recommended.
  • Biodiversity should not be exaggerated. It is better to only use three to four species and several plants of these instead of ten different species each. Apart from the visual chaos, aquarium plants like the Vallisneria, for example, prefer to be planted in groups.

The best aquarium plants are preferred primarily because of their easy-care handling. They include:

Vallisneria, also called water screws:

These are fast and long-growing freshwater plants with a high need for light. They look like grass, have long, thin leaves and grow to the edge of the pool. They have to be shortened or sorted out regularly so as not to take up the whole pool.

Sumatra ferns:

They are fast growing and relatively undemanding freshwater plants with medium to high light requirements. Their big advantage: They reduce the formation of algae because they process a large part of the nutrients themselves. At the same time, they are also suitable as floating aquarium plants and can be described as bush-shaped due to their slender and fanned habit.

Elodea, also known as waterweed:

This refers to the fast-growing freshwater plants that demand a lot of light, but can be very persistent. They grow branched with bushy leaves.

Southern sheet:

It looks a bit like clover. The fat leafs grow quickly and extensively, making it suitable for stone planting and requiring medium to high light. However, it can also get quite high and should therefore be reduced regularly.

Karolina hair mermaid:

This fast-growing plant also thrives in fresh water, stands well in groups and requires medium to high light intensity. With its fine leaves, it almost resembles a coniferous plant.

Cryptocoryne, also called water goblets or water trumpets:

They are slow growing, but persistent and they are viable both under water and above water. They also belong to the freshwater plants and form cup-shaped foliage.

Echinodorus or sword plants:

These slowly growing freshwater plants fan out quite wide, have oval-shaped leaves and can sometimes take on very beautiful, reddish tints, making them look almost like leaves.

Anubia, also known as spear blade:

Anubia is slow growing with at least medium light requirements. Originally it was a marsh plant, now it also thrives in fresh water in aquariums. She feels just as comfortable in gravel as she does on stones and wood.

Mangroves, algae, sea grasses, corals:

They all belong to the saltwater plants and therefore require special conditions in order to thrive optimally. In addition to the typical salt content, they sometimes need special fertilizers, a different grain size for the substrate and, last but not least, a lot of light.

5 Things to know before starting a planted aquarium: Do you want to switch from fake décor to live aquarium plants? This video shows you what you need to know about planted tanks.

Tip 3: Try some artificial aquarium plants

Again and again, aquariums are equipped with artificial plants. As a result, not only is the natural filter effect lost, but the entire balance in the “aquarium” ecosystem does not receive the support that is needed.

To compensate for this, technical devices are used that – also artificially – are responsible for the oxygen content and purify the water.

Advantages of artificial aquarium plants

  • You don’t need any maintenance.
  • They can neither rot nor become ill.
  • They still offer protection and camouflage for the fish and other animals.

Nonetheless, an artificial plant will never look as natural as the original.  The have 3 main functions:

  1. They are mainly used for decorative purposes, for example to additionally beautify the possibly still thin stock
  2. Or they have to be used as a substitute for sick fish so that they do not poison themselves on the “normal” plants
  3. Sometimes the artificial plants should simply add some color to the water basin. For example, by placing them in the form of artificial reefs in a freshwater aquarium. There are hardly any limits to the design ideas.

IMPORTANT: The welfare of the fish should always be a priority. They are dependent on adequate planting for species-appropriate keeping.

best aquarium plants

Tip 4: To get the best aquarium plants, make caring for the aquarium a top priority

Basically, the aquarium is set up starting with the substrate (including slow release fertilizer), sands, stones and caves as well as other decorations.

The water supply follows gradually. The plants are only used when there is sufficient filling quantity, and with caution: Depending on the respective plant species, the background, the sides or special levels should be selected as the location.

It is important for this that the substrate is well prepared in order to offer the roots sufficient support. The long-term fertilizer provides the plants with all the important nutrients right from the start. After about four to five weeks, the biological balance in the aquarium will stabilize.

For planting, it is usually sufficient to press a small hollow in the gravel. The roots are first carefully shortened so that they grow back even more vigorously later.

Then the plant is placed in the hollow and covered again with gravel. You should never expose the best aquarium plants to strong weather or strong currents. Nevertheless, the substrate should not be too fine-grained.

In addition to sufficient hold, an optimal supply of nutrients and ventilation for the roots are essential. Aquarium gravel with a grain size of approx. 3 to 8 mm is usually the best choice. The gravel should also have the lightest possible color so that the roots still get enough light.

Some exceptions even grow primarily on rocky ground and not in gravel. These plants can be adjusted with a thin thread on the stone until the roots are sufficiently buried.

Tip 5: Check water values regularly and use fertilization to compensate if necessary

To ensure the supply of nutrients, the water values should be checked regularly. In particular, the pH value, the iron content and the oxygen or CO2 content must be checked.

If necessary, liquid fertilizer or so-called bio-CO2 sets can help. However, the aquarium enthusiast should have a certain understanding of the biological and chemical processes in order to take the right measures at the right time.

For example, many plant species prefer only soft water. The water should also be changed at regular intervals to aid cleaning. This benefits the fish as well as the plants.

Tip 6: Don’t forget to do some underwater gardening

Similar to a vegetable patch, the best aquarium plants also need to be cared for.

Any remains that have fallen off must be removed, and shoots that are growing too fast cut back. This should guarantee the ideal light supply.

Artificial light sources are to be preferred to fish, not least because they love natural sunlight. This means that the aquarium does not have to stand directly at the window. Therefore the temperatures can also be better regulated.

However, after about a year of use, the fluorescent tubes should be replaced. Hardly visible to us humans, after about this period of time the luminosity decreases and photosynthesis suffers from the lack of spectrum of light sources.

If the conditions are optimal, many plants start to grow sinkers by themselves. These can also be cut and removed or grown as new plants.

If, on the other hand, the leaves turn yellow, brown or generally pale, this could be a sign of nutrient deficiency or excess. However, such occurrences can be managed well by checking the values ​​and fertilizing if necessary.

It becomes more difficult with parasites. Snails, freshwater polyps and other unwanted guests can pose a threat to the planting. Usually, snails are easy to collect, with other pests it often only helps to temporarily quarantine the infected plant or, in case of doubt, to eliminate it completely.

Blue-green algae, for example, form a real layer on the leaves and thereby hinder photosynthesis in the plant. They also release toxins into the water, which in turn harm the fish. In such cases, thorough soil and water care is required. Sometimes it helps to leave the aquarium unlit for a few days. However, the health of the fish and plants must be taken into account when taking such measures.

Tip 7: Check the compatibility of the aquarium plants with the other aquarium inhabitants

When selecting the best aquarium plants, you should already have an idea which fish species you will get.

Special spawning hiding places such as those offered by the Sumatra fern may be required for breeding. It is also very suitable for small shrimp. However, for the Elodea (waterweed) is not at all recommended for shrimp.

In contrast, cichlids tend to nibble on numerous plants. However, the Anubia usually leave them alone.

Size, number and direction of growth (flat, wide or particularly high) should also suit the species. Not only fish have their own special requirements for best aquarium plants, but also reptiles and even the plants among themselves.

Tip 8: Change of aquarium when needed

Ideally, the aquarium is always a coherent system. The smallest fluctuations, irregularities or disturbances can throw the entire biotope out of balance.

Just as the water must be thoroughly prepared, checked and renewed, such attention should also be paid to the planting.

Each component is directly dependent on the other. Be it the fish, the technical aids, the water parameters, the equipment or the aquarium plants.

Tip 9: Only replace the aquarium plant as a last resort

Only a few commercially available aquatic plants are annual. Most of them easily survive for several years. They multiply themselves, for example through countersink, they are content with the lighting conditions and fertilizers as well as some care every now and then.

Reasons why you might want to replace aquarium plants

  • The aquarium plants are so badly damaged due to lack of nutrients or severe parasite infestation that it is more of a burden than a relief should it be replaced.
  • The fish are affected because the plant species was not chosen to match the fish population.
  • Plants floating around that may not have been firmly rooted or torn out by the fish are relatively easy to reintroduce. At least as long as the roots aren’t too badly damaged.
  • The aquarium plants are disturbing the biological coexistence. If necessary, they should therefore be replaced with plants of the same quality.
  • Other factors in the tank have changed and have to be compensated for by the best aquarium plants. Often spawning times are such a reason. When courting, spawning and rearing the young, other conditions are sometimes required in the aquarium.
  • A change of plants can also be useful if a new resident is added or, conversely, some are left out.

Tip 10: Consider seasonal options if you have fish that flourish overwinter

The aquarium is usually subject to constant conditions. However, some use both options for keeping fish for their aquaristics. For example, goldfish or koi are in the garden pond during the summer and are put in the aquarium to overwinter.

However, this does not necessarily mean that the pond plants also have to move. On the contrary: In order to optimally care for plants and animals, the pond plants should remain untouched so that they can thrive again naturally in spring.

Instead, suitable plants must be prepared in good time for winter quarters in the aquarium. As a rule, the affected fish overwinter at slightly cooled temperatures and in dark rooms. The planting should be accordingly undemanding. Some pet owners even do without aquatic plants during the winter. However, species-appropriate behavior includes many retreats, especially in this resting phase.

For fish, in addition to caves, protective plants are the best and just as natural option to feel protected and safe.