Beginner's Guide to Plants
Introduction (Why I Like Plants)
I like growing live aquatic plants. In fact, if I was to calculate the percentage of
enjoyment I receive from the hobby I might say it is 60% fish and 40% plants.
Plants are really cool. I've thought a lot about why I like aquatic plants so much, and
what they bring to the hobby.
One of the main aesthetic benefits of plants is the dynamic presence they bring to a fish tank.
Plants seem to foster a lively atmosphere to the tank just as much as the fish do! The
plants grow, they spread out and propogate, sometimes they can even flower! They move with
the current, shake and rattle when a fish disturbs them, and fill the tank with life. It's
so much more natural with plants in a tank... it's really like watching a nature show
Watching plants grow and flourish in your tank can be very rewarding.
But I'm not just happy with the way plants make the tank look. They provide a real
benefit to the tank and its inhabitants. Plants help filter the water of nitrogenous wastes
such as ammonia, nitrite, and even nitrates. They oxygenate the water through photosynthesis.
They also provide food for some fish, and plenty of hiding places. And sometimes, they
provide places for the fish to spawn which they may not ordinarily do otherwise!
How to Start Growing Live Plants
So you're convinced that you want live plants too? Of course! But before we get too excited...
it's never a good idea to jump right into something without being properly informed how to
begin. Starting something without planning ahead leads to disaster, or at least a big
waste of money. So in this section we will talk about what type of plants are good to begin with.
This first planted tank will allow a new plant keeper to become aquainted with a plant's
needs before getting into the needy and greedy plants that are so common in the hobby.
You will be much more successful raising plants if you start simple.
The types of plants we are looking for should have the following qualities:
A planted tank looks so much more natural.
not require a lot of light
not require extra fertilizers
not require CO2 added
Basically we want the plants to not require a lot of attention, special setups, and
any costly chemicals added to the water. We just want some nice green life in our
tanks which will accept our mistakes and reward us with growth. This requires plants
which can take conditions that most plants wouldn't survive under... low light.
So the ideal first planted tank would be called a "low light" tank. In this
tank we would have normal flourescent tubes over the tank to provide the light for
our plants to use. A normal flourescent hood setup cannot support most plants because it
is just not enough light, but luckily there are a few plants which can handle it. Those
are the plants we will focus on at this point.
Plants need three main things: Light, Nutrients, and Carbon Dioxide.
Low Light Plants
This plant is one of the more common low-light plants you will see at
fish stores. It is usually sold in a basket and has multiple stems
coming out of a single crown. Commonly called "crypts" in the hobby.
These are very slow growing plants. The anubias are broad leafed plants which
grow out of a single rhizome. Their leaves are very thick.
- Java Fern
One of the most popular low-light plants due to its tenacity to stay alive.
It will even reproduce little plantlets under the worst of conditions. It also
thwarts the intentions of most plant-eating fish, almost as if it tastes bad. This
plant grows from a rhizome, and develops a ton of brown hairy roots.
- Java Moss
This plant grows in a clump, and has very stringy stems with tiny leaves up
and down it, kind of like a pipe cleaner. It is usually grown as a clump on
the substrate, or tied to a piece of driftwood.
- Bolbitis Fern
This is another fern (like Java Fern) which can grow under lower light levels. It
also has similar roots to Java Fern and does not need to be planted.
I hope this article gives you the confidence to go and seek out some of these less
demanding plants and add them to your tank. Replace those foreign plastic objects with
a natural live plant! Your fish will thank you for it! Once you've become comfortable
with plants, transplanted a few baby plants, you can go onto the Intermediate Plant Article
and start to get into a wider range of aquatic plants.