THE ROLE OF LIVE PLANTS IN THE AQUARIUM
It is hard to imagine fish living in a lake, river or stream without the presence of aquatic flora. An aquarium with live plants looks beautiful and creates an every-changing backdrop for your fish.
An aquarium fully decorated with live plants is a sight to behold. The different colours and plant shapes create a unique environment in every aquarium. Tropical fish feel at home in this environment and they are less likely to compete for territories. Quite often they will be inclined to breed as if they were in their native environment.
Aquatic plants are a natural benefit to your aquarium:
They convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. Oxygen is essential to the inhabitant of your aquarium. The increased oxygen levels will also boost your aquarium’s biological filtration capability.
Nitrates are plant nutrients, which are created by natural biological filtration. Phosphates are also plant nutrients found in fish waste. Without live plants in the aquarium, these nutrients would build-up causing algae to grow faster.
Lighting – All plants require light to grow, but sunlight shining through the window can cause problems in the aquarium. Intense sunlight would cause an increased growth of unsightly algae. The heat coming off the window can also cause the water temperature to fluctuate. Incandescent lights are not recommended for live plants, because they are either not bright enough or produce too much heat.
Flourescent lighting is suitable for growing live plants. To calculate how much flourescent light is needed, average about two watts of light per gallon (3.8 L) of water. A combination of plant growth and daylight bulbs are recommended. To maintain the optimum amount of light for your plants, replace your bulbs once a year.
Temperature – Most plants do not demand a specific temperature, as long as it does not exceed 82°F (28°C).
Aquarium Gravel – The best gravel for a plant’s root development is a fine to medium grade. The gravel base should be at least 2 ½ inches for proper root development.
Fluorite® and Laterite – This natural type of river clay (rich in fertilizers) can be used in combination with aquarium gravel. This type of mix will provide a base of necessary nutrients for good root growth and development of the plants planted in the gravel.
Plant foods should be added to the aquarium for the growth and health of aquatic plants. Each aquarium utilizes these nutrients at different rates. Water testing is the best method of judging when and how much to add.
Nitrogen and Phosphate Fertilizers – Adding extra nitrogen and phosphates is necessary for new set-ups. As these nutrients are created, the plant life will absorb them. The quantity of live plants and adversely live fish will determine whether it will be necessary to supplement in established aquariums.
Iron and trace element fertilizers are necessary for plant growth and vibrant plant colours and should be added to the water on a regular basis.
The planting techniques are different depending upon the plant species.
Bunch Plants – remove the rubber band or lead weight so that each strand can be prepped and planted. To prep the plant strand, a 1 ½ inches bare stem is needed. Pull off all the leaves down to the node (where the leaf connects to the stem), which will allow the bare stem to grow roots. The plant stems can now be floated in the aquarium for a few days to develop roots or be wrapped in rock wool and planted.
Bare Root Plants – These plants need to be planted like house plants. Dig a hole in the gravel large enough to accommodate the roots. Gently place the plant roots in the hole and spread them out. Carefully cover the roots with enough gravel to secure it in place. Make sure you don’t push the crown of the plant (the node from where all the plant stems radiate) below the gravel surface, doing so can damage the crown and alter growth.
Mounted Plants – Some plant species root on wood and rocks and will require a little help. Use fishing line to attach the plant base and roots to the driftwood rocks you wish to grow plants on. After the plant roots have grown and attached themselves securely to the wood or rock, the fishing line can be carefully cut away.
Pruning – Just like the plants in your household, aquatic plants (especially bunch plants) require trimming. As an aquarium plant grows, it will become thick with leaves and will block the light from reaching the other plants below. Aquatic plant trimmers have extended handles which allow you the easily reach into your aquarium and prune your plants.
Leaf Removal – Periodically plants will lose leaves due to lack of lighting or damage caused by fish nibbling on them. Decaying leaves can cause excess pollution and a decrease in pH.
On a weekly basis, remove any decaying or damaged leaves to maintain healthy plants and a clean aquarium.
2 ½" aquarium gravel
Laterite gravel additive
Nitrogen & phosphate fertilizer
Iron & trace element fertilizer
Aquatic plant trimmer or rocks you wish to grow plants on. After the plant roots have grown and attached themselves securely to the wood or rock, the fishing line can be carefully cut away.