How to Grow Live Aquarium Plants
Live aquarium plants provide a natural look to the aquarium, help clean the tank, compete with algae growth, and provide food for the fish. There are several ways to help keep them looking attractive.
While most filtration doesn’t influence plants much, an undergravel filter does. An undergravel filter pulls water through the gravel and deprives the plants from nutrients and other beneficial elements. Plants don’t grow well with undergravel filters. Undergravel filters aren’t as popular as they once were, but still sold and used.
Use a filter with a low flow rate. A high flow rate produces more oxygen and depletes the carbon dioxide that plants need. If oxygen rate is too high, a CO2 booster will add organic carbon to the aquarium to nourish plants, as this increases the photosynthesis process.
The easiest thing to try is a mineral supplement. These normally contain iron and carbon dioxide boosters and advertised to encourage plant growth. The concept is simple; pour the recommended amount into the aquarium and the plants will flourish. Follow the instructions as over use will lead to a significant increase in algae.
Some products offer specific minerals to improve plant growth. With experience an aquarist can determine which specific mineral his plants are lacking and add that mineral. Iron deficiency is common in aquarium tanks.
The proper substrate is also necessary for aquarium plants to thrive by allowing the roots to grow and spread out. The depth should be at least two inches, and three or more is preferable to allow plants with longer roots to grow. Natural is better than synthetic. Pick neutral substrate that doesn’t release calcium or other minerals into the water. Three to eight millimeters, or about 1/8 inch to 5/16 of an inch is the best diameter.
Commercial clay promotes plant growth. Mixing in commercial clay with gravel is better than just gravel. Clay has trace elements for plant nourishment and can be used indefinitely. Be aware that some of these products may unintentionally contain minerals that will change the pH and even kill fish. Clay is a common substrate for blackwater aquariums.
All substrates require rinsing to get the fine particles out before using. Put the substrate in a colander over a bucket with small holes and run water through until water comes out clear.
The first thing to check for plant health is the water. Check for pH as low pH can lead to root rot. If the pH is 6.8 to 7.2 is good, and don’t let it go below 6.8. Checking hardness allows the aquarist to match plants with their native environment. Some kits contain methods to test several things at one time; others are specific to one area.
If the water parameters are too extreme for the plants, control it with additives to raise or lower pH, or hardness.
All of these recommendations may not be necessary to keep your aquarium plants flourishing. Sometimes putting them in the gravel is all that’s necessary. They are suggestions for where to look if they aren’t growing.
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