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.

Watching plants grow and flourish in your tank can be very rewarding.
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 on television!

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

You will be much more successful raising plants if you start simple.

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.

A planted tank looks so much more natural.
The types of plants we are looking for should have the following qualities:

  • 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


    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.