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Live Plants in Aquariums: A Fish Guide

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Zach's writing ranges from matters of gardening, cooking, aquariums, and fish to more niche topics like coin collecting.

Live plants can be used in any size fish tank. This is a 10-gallon tank.

Live plants can be used in any size fish tank. This is a 10-gallon tank.

Aquarium Live Plants

Let’s face it—when most people dive into fish keeping, live plants usually do not even come to mind. I'd like to change this! Live plants offer outstanding aesthetic qualities and many benefits to the occupants of your fish tank.

Look at it this way, if you already have the knowledge to care for fish, what’s the big deal with caring for a couple of live plants? In this article, I'll discuss the benefits of live plants in aquariums and cover some aquatic plants that even the most inexperienced beginner can handle!

Benefits of Live Plants

  • Aquatic plants produce oxygen as a usable byproduct. They work just like terrestrial land plants. Just as we breathe the oxygen out of the air, fish use their gills to remove oxygen from the water column. Oxygen levels can sometimes dampen in large aquariums that have insufficient circulation. Live plants relieve any oxygen deficiencies by constantly producing and replacing it back into the water. It's always better to have excess oxygen than not enough at all.
  • Live plants are extra filtration. Aquatic plants will thrive off the waste of your fish. Aquariums with no live plants allow waste components to accumulate until a water change is performed. With live plants, waste products are recycled and become growth fertilizers. Toxins and other waste products will not accumulate in the water as fast because they are turned into plant growth. Live plants are not a replacement for water changes but will greatly improve the water quality between them.
  • Your aquatic occupants will love the addition of plants. As a part of natural ecosystems, your fish will find comfort with plants. Plants offer hiding places, food, and visual barriers to keep fish active and stress-free.
Anubias featured in a 10-gallon planted tank. The two large plants are perfect for beginners.

Anubias featured in a 10-gallon planted tank. The two large plants are perfect for beginners.

Easy Aquatic Plants

Aquatic plants are no different than gardening plants. Certain plants are more suited to experienced gardeners, while others can be grown by gardeners of all experiences. The same goes for live aquatic plants. Some require the patience of a skilled aquarium keeper, and others will grow in almost any condition. I'll cover the three easiest plants that any beginner fish keeper will be able to keep alive and enjoy!

  • Anubias barteri – This is my top pick for beginners looking to pick up aquatic plants. This broad leaf, lush green plant is very easy to grow and will accept a wide range of water temperatures and pH levels. The lighting requirement for this plant is 2watts per gallon of natural lighting (5000-6700K).
  • Java MossThis is the top pick for low-lighting aquariums. If you only have around 1 watt per gallon of usable light, Java Moss is the answer. This moss grows on rocks, driftwood, or anything you want it to attach to. It is also the perfect plant for those who are trying to breed fish, as fry use the moss for protection.
  • Amazon Sword – If you’re looking for a large, fast-growing plant, this is the one for you. These swords are very hardy and are nutrient hogs. They will pull excess nitrogen from fish waste, keeping any algae away. I would recommend at least 2 watts per gallon of strong lighting in the daylight spectrum (5000-6700K).

Don’t hesitate to add live plants to your aquarium; the benefits are well worth the little extra care they’ll require from you. A great micro-ecosystem is at the tip of your fingers. It’s time to grasp it by adding a few live plants to your tank.

Absolutely Amazing Planted Aquarium

© 2011 Zach


raakachi from Madurai / Tamilnadu / India on October 30, 2011:

A lovely hub for the beginners of fish keeping that how the aquatic plants are served as Eco friendly and their helping in generation of oxygen consistently. voted up!

Dan Harmon from Boise, Idaho on August 31, 2011:

I have tried live plants in a salt water aquarium and never had much success. A few grew, but most simply slowly died off or were eaten.

It was and is something I would very much like to have as I try to make the reef tank as natural and self sustaining as possible. Your points of oxygen production and filtration are well taken and why I want them (plus appearance). I just haven't found that magic touch yet.

Thanks for hub - voted up and appreciated.

Om Paramapoonya on August 24, 2011:

Lots of great tips here. I've been thinking about buying a little aquarium for a while. Rated up and bookmarked for future reference.