How to Choose Plants for Your Aquarium
When you diving into the world of freshwater aquatic plants available, it can be overwhelming. There are so many to choose from! They come in every shape and size, and even an assortment of colors. And, like fish, they are not all easy to maintain. There are far too many species to list - and an equal number of guides available.However, here is a short, simple guide for the most common and popular plants to choose, or to avoid.
Sword plants are very common, and for good reason. They are relatively hardy plants that don’t require special care. There are several species so even within the family you can have an interesting, varied selection in your aquarium. Amazon sword is the most common, but you can find ocelot swords with darker spots,flame swords for a splash of red, and narrow left or micro swords for a different size and shape. It’s hard to go wrong with swords.
Equally ubiquitous is java fern and its cousins. Java fern is just about unkillable -it will put up with low or high light levels, a wide pH range, a little bit of salt, and almost anything else you can throw at it. It may not grow quickly,but it doesn’t stop growing! Java fern prefers to be rooted to driftwood.
Crypts are almost as popular as swords, and even more varied. They come in a huge variety of species, and most are relatively easy to keep at home. The only caveat is that they don’t tolerate rapidly changing water conditions well: you may experience “crypt rot” as the plant seems to quickly die and fall apart.Don’t remove the remnants prematurely! The roots may grow back into a healthy plant with time.
Red ludwigia is an easy plant to care for if you want to add some color to your plants. As the name suggests, when healthy its leaves are a brilliant scarlet color. It also gets very tall, making it an excellent background plant. Keep in mind: all plants require some iron to be healthy, but plants with red leaves need a little extra. You will want to add an iron supplement if you include any red plants.
Baby’s tears, hairgrass, other carpets
Spend any time researching planted tanks and you’ll find pictures of “Iwagumi style”planted tanks, which typically feature a lush carpet of short plants over most of the gravel. These carpets are most often made of dwarf baby’s tears or hairgrass, although there are a few other species. There’s no mincing words:carpeting plants are difficult. They need a lot of light and a lot of nutrients to grow. If you plan to take on the challenge, be prepared to dose supplement soften.
Many stores, especially chains, sell plants labeled “aquatic” that are actually marginal plants. Marginal plants are those found at the edge of water, and they rarely do well when fully immersed in water. They usually get very large and try to extend well above the water level. Try to avoid them if possible.
Like marginal plants, lilies do best when they can extend above the water surface.Even dwarf lilies get large and will take up a lot of real estate in your tank,shading the bottom and cutting off the light to neighboring plants. They are good additions, as long as you know what you’re getting into and have an adequately sized tank.
Enthusiasts might be surprised to see plants that float freely at the water’s surface.Species include duckweed, giant duckweed, water lettuce, water hyacinth, and more. They can look nice at first, but they tend to overpopulate, sucking nutrients from the water and shading the rest of the tank. Water hyacinth and water lettuce are considered noxious weeds and if you do choose to purchase these for your tank or your pond, you should do everything you can to ensure they never get into natural waterways. They are horribly invasive and wreak havoc around the country.
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