There are several benefits to having plants in your freshwater aquarium. Plants add oxygen to your fish tank and also act as biological supplementary filters that assist in keeping your aquarium clean. In turn, fish provide carbon dioxide and nutrients to the plants. Live aquatic plants are good for you too – they look great and make your aquarium look more like a natural habitat. Between making you, the fish, and the plants happy and healthy, it is a triple win situation!
Several factors apply when researching plant possibilities:
One: water parameters – Water parameters are specific levels of things in water, such as temperature and pH. When water has a lot of mineral content, it is said to be hard.
Two: Substrate – Substrate is the surface a plant or animal lives on. (Are you planting in rocks, gravel or dirt? Does the plant float like a lily pad?)
Three: Lighting – Even aquatic plants need light to grow.
Four: Fish Compatibility – If you have fish that are herbivores, for example, consider your ferns and grasses as good as salad.
The best plants are flexible in all of the above factors except the last. There are seven aquatic plant species that are hardy and also attractive to stick in your aquarium:
One: Java Ferns – (Microsorium pteropus). Java ferns tend to be around eight inches tall with bushy with tall spade-shaped leaves. They grow well in waters with a pH level between 5.5-7.5 and in temperatures between 68-82 degrees Fahrenheit. They have the potential to grow even in low-lit tanks and require a water hardness of between 2-15 degrees. Java Ferns grow best when tied to floating driftwood rather than planting their roots.
Two: Amazon Sword – (Echinodorus amazonicus). Amazon Sword grow to be 20 inches tall and have wide green leaves that fan out. They will grow best in a tank with a pH level ranging from 6.5-7.5. They also require the water’s temperature to be regulated between 72-82 degrees. With regards to lighting, provide 50 watts for every 25 gallons of water. They require the same water hardness as Java Ferns and should be planted in loose substrate and supplemented with iron fertilizer.
Three: Argentine Sword – (Argentine Echinodorus). Argentine Swords grow as tall as 18 inches and have long, thin stems. They thrive in water temperature of 60-77 degrees and require soft water hardness. Otherwise their specific care needs are identical to that of the Amazon sword.
Four: Hygrophila Polysperma – Hygrophila Polysperma are tall, standing at 24 inches. They grow in bunches and have small reddish or green leaves. The tank should have a pH level between 6.5-8 and a temperature between 68-85 degrees. The lighting and water hardness needs are the same as the Sword plants. Trim the Hygrophila Polysperma every so often, as they tend to branch out. Because of this it may be wise to place them in the center of the tank and back, so they have room to grow.
Five: Umbrella Plant – (Spathiphyllum wallisii). Umbrella plants can be anywhere between 8-12 inches tall. They have tall, thin stems with small leaves at the top of each stem that branch out into a star shape. They are high-maintenance plants and need a pH level between 5-7 and a temperature between 72-78 degrees. They need intense light to grow and a water hardness measuring between 4-12 degrees. Umbrella plants are not actually aquatic plants and will die if submerged completely in water. You can still have this gorgeous greenery as a part of your fish’s habitat-Just grow the plant on the surface and submerge the roots below.
Six: Vallisneria spiralis – This looks like grass and grows to 24 inches. It needs a ph level between 6.5-7.5 and a water temperature between 60-85 degrees Fahrenheit. It should have 50 watts of light for every 50 gallons of water and the water should have a hardness between 5-15 degrees. Vallisneria spiralis are good plants for beginning aquarists as they have a wide range of water parameter needs. These plants look best along the sides or in the back of your aquarium.
Seven: Anubias Barteri – Anubias Barteri are wide plants with wide green leaves that grow as tall as 16 inches. The water temperature should be regulated between 72-82 degrees with a pH level ranging only from 6.5-7.5. These are also aquatic divas, insisting on moderate lighting and a water hardness of 8 degrees. They grow best with CO2 fertilization.
All of the plants discussed in this article look great in an aquarium. The first three are the best to get if you are a novice because of their flexible needs. But as always, do your research before buying.