How to Add Live Plants to Your Freshwater Aquarium

Aquarium plants are, for some aquarists, a hobby in themselves. We cannot hope to provide here the detail that will eventually be required if your interest develops along this path – but there are entire books devoted to the subject.

Plants for freshwater and brackish aquaria: You may be surprised to learn that some plants sold for aquarium use are: by nature not aquatic at all; are aquatic for only part of the year (water levels rise and fall seasonally but plants are rooted to the spot!); have the option of being wholly or partially aquatic, depending on where they happen to have taken root; or normally have only their lower parts immersed (marginal plants). Dieffenbachia, commonly sold for aquaria, is not only terrestrial and won’t live long in water, but is actually poisonous.

You will, we trust, by now not be surprised to learn that some plants have water chemistry likes and dislikes, just like fishes, depending on the natural conditions in which they evolved. In particular, few will survive in brackish water. Plants, like fishes, can sometimes be gradually acclimatized to alien conditions by a slow process of adjustment.

aquarium plants How to Add Live Plants to Your Freshwater Aquarium

Always remember that plants are living things. You wouldn’t, we trust, buy a fish until you had an aquarium, or subject a tropical species to a long journey in freezing conditions without benefit of insulation. Aquatic plants are often more difficult to keep alive than fishes, so handle them with equal care. Don’t buy them until the aquarium is up and running, and at working temperature for tropical species, which should be kept warm at till times. Buying plants: Your initial choice of plants will probably be dictated not by what is ‘biotope correct’, or even what you want, but by what is actually available. Most of the plants you will find offered in aquatic shops are hardy ones that will survive in a variety of water conditions. Try to buy plants that are grown rooted in special tanks or display units. Tropical plants displayed in trays may be chilled, and hence in bad condition. Plants grown in aquaria containing fish may carry disease and should, ideally, be quarantined. Look for snails in the tank – you may not want them in your tank, but you will most certainly get them if there are tiny on the plants you buy!

You may get a better choice of plants, and accompanying advice on their requirements and culture, by buying from tin aquatic plant nursery, usually by mail order.

Other aquarists are another source of plants -well-rooted ones that haven’t been sent by mail or left unplanted in shops for weeks. They burst into new growth with an enthusiasm not generally seen in commercial plants until months after purchase, simply because of the minimal upset. However, the warnings about disease and snails apply here too, so accept plants only from friends you trust and whose aquaria you have inspected.

Marine Vegetation: Most plants utilized in the marine aquarium are algae: not the simple ‘nuisance’ kind that coat underwater surfaces with a thin green or brown layer, but those better known to the man in the street as ‘seaweeds’.

Occasionally a specialized tank may contain mangrove seedlings or eelgrass, hut these plants can be difficult to obtain and don’t usually survive long under aquarium conditions. Algae, on the other hand, are readily available from most stores with a good marine section. Those such as Caulerpa prolifera, C. mexicana and C. sertularioid.es will normally flourish under the correct conditions (e.g. good water quality and adequate lighting), but the chances of long-term success in tt fish-only aquarium are slim. Constant browsing by fish, high dissolved waste levels and some medications all serve severely to reduce or even destroy growths of algae.

Be prepared

Acquire all the equipment you will need in advance; once you start setting up you won’t want to have to stop because you are missing some essential item.

Remember, some of the decor goes in before some of the equipment, and vice versa, so buy both in advance – except for plants. As we have already warned, they must wait until their home is ready.


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