Caring for Live Aquarium Plants

Many first-time fish keepers settle on plastic plants for aquarium ornamentation. Alternatively, you may want to consider live plants, which can actually help reduce algae growth since they compete with algae for nutrients. Be sure that your fish are compatible with plants first, though, since many are ravenous plant eaters and may constantly uproot plants.


If you choose to keep live plants in your aquarium, you will need to consider a few additional factors, such as light, soil, and nutrition. Most aquarium plants, like common aquarium fish, adapt to a wide range of pH hardness values. As long as the values are not extreme, you should have little difficulty growing and maintaining basic aquarium plants. There are a few simple guidelines you will want to follow to ensure that your plants grow and thrive.

Select a fertilizer that will nourish your plants. 
Aquarium plants take up nutrients by roots and by leaves, so fertilizer comes in both liquid and tablet form. Tablets can be inserted into your soil to promote strong roots, and liquid fertilizer may be used to ensure that your plants get essential nutrients through their leaves, such as iron and potassium. A treatment such as API® CO2 BOOSTER promotes colorful plant growth, and contains essential nutrients for your plants. The carbon in this product will promote the photosynthetic process by turning light energy into new plant growth.

Root your plants.
To create a natural-looking aquarium garden, add a variety of plant species that will thrive in your aquarium, and consider where and how you will root your plants. Most grow anchored to some kind of substrate, whether rooted in the ground or attached to a bit of rock or wood. For most plants, small gravel is best for roots, but do not use pebble gravel or gravel containing crushed coral.

Select the correct aquarium lighting for your plants.
The types of plants in your aquarium may have different light requirements. Some require high light even in fairly shallow tanks; others may thrive in lower than 2 watts per gallon. For most plants, 2-4 watts of light per gallon of aquarium volume are recommended. Generally, the deeper the tank, the higher wattage required.

You also need to consider the type of aquarium lighting you will need. Typical aquarium hoods offer either fluorescent or incandescent bulbs; however, these are only sufficient options for plants that are tolerant of dim light. For a more ambitious planted aquarium, you’ll need to explore alternatives such as high output LED lighting.

It is important to note that whatever aquarium lighting you select should only remain on 8-10 hours per day to prevent algae growth. If the conditions are correct in your aquarium, the algae will generally remain under control. Quickly eliminate any problematic algae growth with API® ALGAEFIX which is highly effective in eliminating unsightly algae, and is safe for your plants and fish.


Plant maintenance isn’t difficult!
Stem-forming plants will need to be trimmed or pinched back occasionally. Some growers periodically re-root the tips of fast-growing plants, and remove the older base portions. As your plants grow, they will utilize available nutrients (fertilizer) or carbon from the water. Regular additions of API® CO2 BOOSTER are great for plants, and may be added weekly. A root fertilizer, such as API® ROOT TABS, are best added on a monthly basis.

Keeping a planted aquarium requires very little maintenance, and provides fish with conditions that will make your tank feel more like an authentic, underwater habitat.

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