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Tag Archives: Aquarium Plants

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Aquascaping – Proper Techniques for Planting Aquatic Plants

Amazon SwordLive plants are to the freshwater aquarist what live corals are to the saltwater reef aquarist. They add a natural look to the tank, can benefit the water quality and other livestock and can be a challenge to maintain and “aqua-scape” into just the right look for the aquarium. Just as corals need to be placed in the right area of the aquarium and secured correctly so they can remain healthy and thriving, so also do plants need to be planted correctly and appropriately. Knowing how to best plant different types of live plants that you may have will help them thrive. Keep in mind however that these are general guidelines. Some plants prefer larger or smaller substrates or may have special considerations for their species.

Bunched Plants

Bunched plants are popular and common. Though their appearance, care and requirements vary, “bunched plants” are all sold as bundled individual stem cuttings held together with a metal plant anchor or rubber band.  These plants generally root within a week or two and the growing tips can be pruned and replanted to make new plants. Some bunched plants like hornwort an anacharis, can be left floating on the water’s surface. You can plant each stem of a bunch individually by inserting the end into the substrate, or keep them in their bunches for a bushier look. The plant anchors or rubber bands can be removed once the plant is rooted in place. Read More »

Nymphaea lotus (zenkeri) – The Tiger Lotus, a Beast of a Plant

When you look at the hobby today, one can see that the popularity of freshwater planted aquaria has really taken off. With the cost of lighting and CO2 systems becoming more reasonable, it is becoming easier to keep a lushly planted aquarium than ever before. Not only has cost of equipment become more reasonable, but the selection of plants available at most hobby stores has certainly grown.

All kinds of plants are being cultivated for the aquarium hobby now. Everything from standard Amazon swords (Echinodorus bleheri) to new strains of Cryptocoryne that produce orange and pink and green leaves. Some plants available are certainly challenging, while other plants are virtually maintenance free. All plants that have needs, and when those needs are met they flourish and can become real centerpieces for your aquarium. One perfect example is the African Tiger Lotus – Nymphaea lotus (zenkeri). Read More »

Why Did My Plant Do That? – Part 2 – Melting Cryptocorynes

Hello, Craig here again with with another answer to a common plant problem! This time I’d like to address a problem some aquarists have with Cryptocorynes. Crypts are generally described as hardy, low maintenance plants, but not everyone finds them to be that way.

Why do my Crypts look like they’re melting?

So, you are standing in a fish store and over hear someone talking about Crypt Rot. Sounds pretty nasty doesn’t it? They aren’t talking about mummies or some weird disease you get from exploring pyramids. They are talking about an unfortunate problem with an otherwise very sturdy group of plants known as Crypts.

Crypt WendtiiMembers of the Cryptocoryne genus are well known and well established within the aquarium hobby. The most popular of the Crypts, Cryptocoryne wendtii, is tolerant of lower light, higher heat, and just about anything else you can throw at it. Though there are some types that can be tricky to keep, the species that are regularly available to hobbyists are certainly considered to be among the most reliable and versatile plants around. Read More »

Why Did My Plant Do That? Exploring Some Common Aquarium Plant Problems – Part 1

UruguayensisHello, Craig here again! With 15 years on the retail side of this hobby, I have been asked a lot of questions, many of which have been centered on the well-being and growth of live plants for the freshwater aquarium.  In my next couple of entries, I thought I would explore some frequently asked questions about aquarium plants. Here we go!

Why is my sword plant losing leaves when I just bought it?

As a general rule, most aquarium plants are not actually true aquatic plants. Most of them are found along the banks of rivers, streams, or lakes. This is the case with Echinodorus sword plants. In their natural environment wild Echinodorus are very rarely fully submerged and some individuals may never be fully submerged. Rainy seasons are part of what allows hobbyists to keep these beautiful plants in a fully aquatic environment!

When swords are cultivated at an aquatic nursery, they are typically grown in a bog like setting, or even grown hydroponically in a greenhouse. The growth rate of an emerge-grown sword is more rapid and transportation and shipping of that plant tends to be safer than if the plant was grown completely submerged. Knowing that the plant has been grown emerged helps to explain why some of the leaves die off when you get the plants to your home aquarium.  It helps to explain why, even though you have a nutrient rich substrate and bright light, your swords still seem like they are dying. When that plant is fully submerged in water, the growth form changes somewhat. Those long, rigid stems and smaller leaves that you see will begin to decay shortly after the plant is placed fully underwater. Once you see that emerge-grown leaf start to turn brown, simply clip it off near the base of the stem and the plant will pop a new leaf out to replace it. This new leaf will grow from the center of the sword’s rosette and will often have a slightly different shape and/or color. The new growth may start slow, but adding the proper nutrients will ensure that the sword maintains growth. Fortunately, most plants make the transition to fully submerged form rather quickly and easily!

So, next time you see a big beautiful Sword that you can’t resist , just show a little patience and give it a little pruning. You will be amazed how resilient swords can be!

Thanks, Until Next Time,


Acceptable Plants for Bettas – Common Aquarium Questions

Bettas are one of the most popular fish for aquarists of all levels and many betta-keepers chose to combine their love of fish with their love of gardening to give their fish a natural planted environment. So what are the best plants to keep with bettas? The choices are endless! We’ll discuss a few options here as well as how to choose the best plants and how to set up your display.

Before we begin, it is important to note that the plant DOES NOT feed the betta! When the trend of keep a plant on top of a betta bowl first became popular, it was a common misconception that the betta would feed on the roots of the betta and wouldn’t need to be fed…that could hardly be farther from the truth. Bettas are carnivores, meaning they eat meaty food…NOT plants. A betta seen nibbling at a plant is more likely bored, starving, or picking off tiny animals on the surface of the plant. Even if you have live plants in the tank, you still need to feed your fish.

While bettas can be kept in tanks or large bowls (preferably at least 1 gallon at the absolute bare minimum) without a filter, the lack of filter means that the water would need to be changed more frequently. Those frequent changes can actually be harmful to some plants (especially rooted or bulb plants) if they are disturbed often.

On to choosing your plants…

Aquarium Plants:

This one may seem obvious but any live aquarium plants would be safe with a betta. The key is making sure that the water parameters and lighting on the tank are suitable for the plant. You can consult a Plant Requirements Chart like ours to make sure your lighting, hardness and other parameters are suitable. If your tank doesn’t have its own lighting, consider investing in a fixture if you would like higher-light plants or stick to low-light species. These plants are all generally tropical, meaning they need water at a consistent temperature, usually about 74-78 degrees…coincidentally, the same temperature your betta will thrive at as well. You may need a heater in the tank for both the fish and plants if your tank is in a cooler location or somewhere drafty that may cause the water temperature to be inconsistent. The plants (and fish) will also thrive better with a filter and gentle water movement.

Some popular and easy choices are fast-growing stalk plants like Anacharis, Hornwort, Myrio, Ludwigia and countless others. These plants are typically sold in bunches held together with a lead weight or rubberband. This should be removed when the plant is added to the tank and the stalks planted individually or left floating for some plants. Java Fern and Anubias plants are also popular low-light choices. These plants grow from a rhizome with roots coming from it that should be planted in the substrate. They would benefit from a plant substrate rather than decorative gravel and should be disturbed as little as possible once they are planted. Mosses are also good for betta tanks as well as floating plants like Duckweed or Azolla (just make sure they are allowed in your area as some areas prohibit some floating plants as invasive species). Many tissue-culture plants are also good for bettas since they are offered at a smaller size and are snail-free.

Partially-submerged plants

Many planted betta tanks can give you the opportunity to really think outside the box…literally. Some popular “betta plants” actually do much better with part of the plant extending above the water level. The two most common of these plants are the Brazilian Sword (also known as a “Peace Lily”) and “Lucky Bamboo”. For both of these, you can either plant the plant into the substrate so the top sticks out of the water or suspend the plant towards the top of the tank. We’ll cover how to do that later.

“House plants”

Garden PondThis is what we get questions about the most… “Can I keep my <insert plant here> in with my betta?” Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer but we can help you find the answer. The most important thing to consider here is the moisture level of the plant. Any plant that needs dry soil – cactus, succulents, Aloe, etc. – can’t be kept in a wet environment and would make a poor choice for your betta. At best, the plant wouldn’t survive. At worse, the dying plant would pollute the water and take the betta out with it. Instead, look for plants that can handle constantly wet soil. During the spring and summer, you can look for plants sold for outdoor ponds as “bog plants” or “marginal plants”. These plants live at the edges of ponds or swamps and are used to having their roots in water. Some popular species of these plants are the Peace Lilies and Bamboo we mentioned above as well as some ivy, Philodendrons, Spider Plants, Water Clover, Sensitive Plant, Violets and many more. Many plants sold as pond plants can grows very large or need full sunlight so just make sure you consider the needs of the plant carefully before adding it to your tank. As with any plants, you may need to prune or trim the plant as it grows so it doesn’t take over the tank. Also, some fertilizers or insecticides can be harmful to the betta so choose your plant carefully.

Suspending your plants

As we mentioned above, may popular set up with plants involve suspending the plant above the level of the tank. The most common of these is the hourglass-shaped betta vase with a “Peace Lily” (the Brazilian Sword from earlier) suspended at the neck of the vase but any plants that need their leafy bits above the water level can be kept this way. There are many ways to accomplish this and depend on the size, shape and setup of your tank. Some modern, high-end tanks even have a built-in section just for a live plant above the water but even if yours doesn’t you can create your own.

If you have a vase or tank with a narrow opening, you can set the bowl containing your plant right on top….just be sure to keep a fair amount of space between the water level and top of the vase, because bettas need an open space to breathe atmospheric air. If your tank has nothing to support the plant dish, you can suspend it using supports like bamboo rods, dowels, chopsticks or a similar material that is strong enough and will keep its strength with the moisture…avoid anything that will soften or metal that may rust. You can also use clips to hold the cup onto the side of the tank as long as they are strong enough to support the plant without stressing the tank. For a few ideas, check out these photos:

For the cup itself, you can use a clean plastic cup like the one pictured here in any size suitable for your tank and the plant, or a pot made of a plant-safe material like terracotta (as long as the support system can hold it). If the dish you choose doesn’t have a hole or holes for the roots to extend through, cut the center out while leaving a ledge around it so you can add some stones to support the plant. With the cup we used in our example, I would cut out the black area in the center. When adding some stones to keep the plant upright, it is best to use larger pebbles or gravel so it doesn’t fall through the hole into the tank below.

Hopefully, these ideas help you with some ideas for your own new betta display. As always, feel free to let us know if you have any questions or need help making your idea a reality!

For more information on bettas and their care, please read these helpful articles in our archives: