Aquarium plants Articles

Aquarium plants: pros and cons!

December 27, 2012
planted aquarium

When choosing what kind of decorations you want for an aquarium, one of the first things you’re confronted with is whether or not you want a planted tank. Live aquarium plants can look beautiful, but a lot of aquarists are slightly intimidated by the thought of having to provide their plants with special care and possibly seeing them die one by one. 

I am personally a huge fan of planted aquariums and hopefully after reading this article on why aquarium plants are great, you will be too!

Fish love plants. It’s as simple as that. Fish and invertebrates use aquarium plants to hide in, sleep on and, in some cases, nibble on between feedings. Tall plants like Cryptocoryne imitate the natural habitat of a lot of species and make lighting less harsh, thus making the fish feel safer and reducing stress levels. This, in turn, reduces the chance of stress-related diseases like fin rot.

Well-positioned plants make a beautiful aquascape. The right plants add depth and color and give your aquarium a lovely natural feel. While this ‘aquatic garden’ effect can be achieved with fake plants, tanks usually look better with real ones. There are gorgeous examples of what you can create with the right plants all over the Internet, so be inspired!

Plants absorb wastes. The end product of the nutrient cycle in your aquarium is nitrate. Nitrates are less harmful to fish than poisonous ammonia and nitrites, but a higher concentration of nitrates is still dangerous. Unfortunately,there is no way to remove nitrates from the water except by doing water changes – and by adding plants. Plants absorb nitrates and use them as food, thereby helping your aquarium stay cleaner and your fish healthier. Of course this doesn’t mean you don’t have to do water changes any more, but it definitely helps for the overall health of your aquarium.

Goldfish deposit their eggs on plants.

Goldfish deposit their eggs on plants.

Plants encourage spawning behaviour. A lot of fish like to ‘hide’ their eggs in plants, and will spawn less quickly when the aquarium is filled with just gravel, rocks or crazy dragon-shaped bubblers. If you’re interested in breeding your fish or seeing their natural spawning behaviour (which can be quite interesting in some species) adding plants will often help. Not only will this make them feel safer, it will also give them a place to deposit their eggs.

Surplus plants can often be sold. As your aquarium plants grow, you’ll find yourself with leftover plants after tank maintenance once in a while. These can often be sold on sites like eBay or Craigslist (when packed correctly, they can be shipped just fine). Local pet- and aquarium stores are also often willing to pay you a small fee or give you a discount when you bring in your leftover plants. And what does one do with this money? Why, buy other plants, of course!

Plants add color and depth, make fish feel safer, absorb wastes and often help bring out natural spawning behaviour. If you’re still not sure or think you won’t be able to succesfully grow any plants, these 8 super easy aquarium plants might convince you otherwise.

Happy plant-keeping!

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  • Reply Lycramosa September 13, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    I have a 10 gallon planted Aquarium (green and red crypts, and one Anubias nana) with sand substrate that has been up for a year. For some reason recently, despite the weekly water changes and siphoning with my gravel vacuum, there is still a bunch of light brown junk floating around that eventually clings to my filter intake And the sides of my tank. I have also changed and cleaned the filter as well.

    The fish I have are: one male half moon betta, a few ghost shrimp, one otocynclus (had one more but it died recently and I don’t want to introduce more into the tank until I get this dirt figured out), 1 Apple snail, and 2 peppered cory cats (I took 2 from my school of 6 in my 36 gal tank to see if they could help move the sand around and keep it cleaner but it’s not really working. So I’ll probably move them back to their school) .

    I didn’t know if the reason it is getting so dirty so fast is because of the sAnd, the fish, the plants, or what.

    I don’t have this problem in my tropical community 36 gal with gravel and plants.

    If you have any suggestions, I would be eternally greatful!

    • Reply Mari September 13, 2015 at 5:11 pm


      That sounds like an odd problem. With the apple snail, I think the tank is a little overstocked. I’m not sure at all if that’s the cause, but I would keep the stock at the betta, shrimp and 4-5 otocinclus. Apple snails produce a LOT of waste, especially when they start growing larger – up to the size of a golf ball.

      It’s really difficult to “diagnose” this without a photo. If you google “freshwater aquarium diatoms”, is that it? Or is it loose dirt-ish stuff? If that’s the case, do you rinse your filter media regularly? Are you sure there are no “forgotten” spots where dirt collects which is then disturbed when doing a water change? Does one of the plants have rotting leaves? If it’s not anything like that, you can try mailing a photo to aquariadise(at)gmail(dot)com so I can have a look 🙂

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