How To Plant Aquarium Plants? (The Right Way!)

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how to grow aquarium plants

Do you want to add live plants to your aquarium but are unsure how to plant aquarium plants? Before you add live plants to your aquarium, you should know a few essential things to ensure their success.

In this article, I’ll share with you the knowledge and experience I’ve personally gained from my favorite aquarium-planting hobby.

How To Choose Your Aquarium Plants?

You would think that selecting live plants for your aquarium is as simple as going to your neighborhood fish shop and selecting a few packages.

However, if you want your plants to flourish, you must choose them with the same care as you did your fish and other tank decorations.

image of two aquariums

A wide variety of live aquarium plants are available, and each has varied maintenance needs. Therefore, before adding aquarium plants to your tank, you should stop and consider why you want them, which kinds would work best in your tank, how to grow aquarium plants, how to keep aquarium plants alive, and how to care for aquarium plants.

The tank size, light intensity, and placement are crucial factors when selecting the ideal plants for your aquarium. Place tall plants in the background to conceal equipment, hoses, and cords; medium-sized plants should be placed in the aquarium’s center, and low-growing plants should be in the foreground.

How Do I Prepare My Aquarium Plants Before Planting?

What should you do now that you’ve received your plants from Aquarium Gardens in excellent condition? Remove the plants’ plastic containers and Rockwool before adding them to your aquarium. Rockwool is used to grow the plants that will be in your aquarium.

You can take out the rock wool after the plant gets to your aquarium. Trim the roots with scissors if the plant has extensive root systems. The ideal root length is 2 to 3 cm.

Trimming roots also promotes the formation of new, healthy roots, which aids the plant’s establishment in your aquarium. Dead or yellowing leaves should be removed.

By doing this, you can prevent the degradation of dead leaves inside your aquarium and promote the growth of new leaves. Roots should be forced into the substrate (using a pair of planting tweezers will help, especially with small fiddly plants).

Give each plant room to expand. The ideal spacing for smaller plants is 3–4 cm. Make extra area for large plants like echinoderms. Let your plants grow for two to three weeks after planting them before pruning.

Which Medium Is Best For Aquarium Plants: Sand Or Gravel?

Sand and gravel substrates both support the growth of aquarium plants. But sand and gravel both have advantages and disadvantages.

Therefore, it would be best to weigh each substrate’s advantages and disadvantages when selecting one for your aquarium.

A sand substrate is excellent if you wish to keep fish that live on the bottom in your aquarium. Because if you select a coarse and pointed gravel substrate, it may scratch the sensitive fish’s belly or mouth, leading to a bacterial illness. Additionally, it can finally result in the fish’s demise.

Image of an aquarium with gravel inside

Sand is a very soft substrate. Therefore fish that live on the bottom won’t be harmed by it. Make sure the gravel substrate is not pointy and abrasive if you decide to keep bottom-dwelling fish in a tank with gravel substrate.

Go after some pebbles. On the other side, you should choose a gravel substrate if you don’t want to keep fish that live at the bottom of your aquarium. Since maintaining sand might be challenging.

Different Types of Aquarium Plants

The lush foliage that provides the fish with a natural habitat to explore is all that can be seen when you look at a fish tank that has been carefully designed.

But three different types of aquarium plants mix to the trained eye. This is determined mainly by how tall these plants go.

The front of the tank is where the foreground plants are placed; they are often shorter and develop more slowly. Taller than foreground plants, mid-ground plants can be put in the middle of your tank and along the edges.

The larger plants you employ in the back of your aquarium are called background plants. They can provide a natural backdrop for your tank and a place for your fish to hide.

Best 13 Aquarium Plants You Can Plant Today

Dwarf Aquarium Lily

The dwarf aquarium lily is a lovely plant with unusually shaped leaves that requires little maintenance. Dwarf aquarium lily plants need water between 72 and 82°PH 5.0-8.0, are soft to quite challenging, and may adapt to various conditions.

The bulb must be planted halfway out of the substrate to avoid death. Due to their rapid growth, they needed light that ranged from low to moderate.

Cryptocoryne Beckettii

Let’s learn how to grow cryptocoryne Beckettii using a lovely aquarium plant for the middle ground. Warmer water and higher lighting can affect how this species of aquarium plant looks. It can take a few weeks to get comfortable and establish strong roots.

It thrives in hard water and grows quickly. This one is one of the few plants on this list that I would advise against having a bright light since it can burn and stain the leaves. I advise using a moderate amount of light and slightly alkaline water, pH 5.5-8.

African Water Fern

Bolbitis heudeloti, often known as African Water Fern, is a plant with numerous common names. Even in ideal circumstances, this plant grows relatively slowly and does best when anchored to a piece of driftwood rather than rooted in the substrate. Once built, maintaining it is simple.

The roots will rot and die if you try to place them under the substrate. Fasten them to a rock and keep them there until it takes hold by using an elastic band or cotton thread. Usually, this happens within a week or two.

Amazon Sword

If your aquarium is large, you might consider adding some tall aquarium plants, not just for the background. Amazon swords and Sagittaria Subulata, which may reach a height of 20 inches, are the best of their kind.

This plant is an excellent option that doesn’t need special maintenance, thanks to its long sword-like leaves. It only requires slightly acidic water and a temperature range of 72–82°F to flourish. A moderate amount of lighting should be provided.

Water Wisteria

So you’re seeking a brightly green, bushy plant that will oxygenate the water and protect your fish. You also require Water Wisteria. Depending on the amount of light it receives, it can reach heights and widths of up to 20 inches and 10 inches, respectively.

It will be visibly smaller if there is insufficient lighting. The water should be kept at a PH of 6.5 to 7.5 and a temperature of 75 to 82 F.

Baby Dwarf Tears

This plant is perfect for breeding tanks because it generates clusters of small leaves. DBT is a well-liked carpeting plant because it develops quickly and coats the bottom of your tank with a vibrant green coating. It demands a temperature range of 70 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit and thrives in slightly acidic water.

Make sure there are 2 watts of light per gallon of water. Your lush emerald carpet will rise toward the surface in search of light if it doesn’t get enough of it.


Starting with wall-to-wall carpeting made of aquarium moss plants is the best way to make a gorgeous scene in your tank. These spread swiftly to cover the tank’s bottom and are pretty simple to grow.

It would be best if you also tried Willow moss, Weeping moss, Flame moss, Star moss, or Peacock moss. Java moss and Christmas moss are the two most popular varieties.

Crypts/Potted Plants

They typically generate offsets or runners, which can be replanted or distributed. With a pH of 7, reasonably soft water and neutral conditions are ideal for most.

The majority of crypt plants for aquarium growth thrive in low light. Adding some floating plants can also add a small amount of shade.

Stem Plants

Stem plants look great on the sides of the aquarium and in the backdrop. Avoid placing them too near to one another to preserve their delicate beauty.

Hygrophila has lovely leafy stems, and Water Wisteria, a tough and adaptable plant, are two of the most well-liked aquarium stem plants.

Alternatively, you might use Bacopa caroliniana, Ammannia gracilis, Cabomba Aquatica, Hornwort, Scarlet hygro, or Scarlet hydrangea.

Anubis And Java Fern

Two great freshwater plant options for low-light tanks are anubias and java fern. Unlike other freshwater plants, they can go in aquariums with African Cichlids or Goldfish. These two plant kinds require very little maintenance and are simple to take care of.

They can stay in the container, be fastened to driftwood, or be planted on aquarium rocks. They are the hardest working and most flexible.

Hair grass

With its grass-like look, this species lines the bottom of your tank like a field. Additionally, it cleans the water, adds oxygen, and provides bottom-dwelling fish with a refuge.

These species can be found worldwide, from North America to Europe and even as far as Asia and South America. Shallow freshwaters with lots of access to light are where you can find it.

Bulb plants

Bulb plants like the Nymphaea and Aponogeton species frequently come as little, brown bulbs that are not bundled or potted.

Others will only have a little sprout protruding from the top, while some will have leaves. The optimal placement for bulbs is just on top of the substrate, where they will grow new roots independently.

It is not advisable to bury the entire bulb deeply in the substrate because it needs oxygen to function correctly. Just one bulb is sufficient for most tanks because bulb species frequently grow to enormous sizes, and in the following few weeks after planting, numerous huge leaves will appear.

Tissue Cultured

Tissue culture is a technique for biological study in which small pieces of animal or plant tissue are placed in an artificial setting where they can continue to live and grow.

One cell, a group of cells, an entire organ, or a portion of an organ may make up the cultured tissue. Numerous cell types can multiply because of the excellent food source that the tissue culture media offers.

For Aquatic Plants, Water Requirements

Most aquarium plants thrive best in water with a pH of 6.5 to 7.4, general hardness of 50 to 100 ppm, and alkalinity of 3 to 8 dKH (54 to 140 ppm).

To stop bothersome algae from forming on leaves, nitrate levels should be below 10 ppm, and phosphate levels should be below 0.5 ppm. The ideal temperature range is 74–80 °F.

Image of a beautiful aquarium

Use Reef Carbon or Organic Adsorption Resin in your filter to eliminate organic contaminants that color water and reduce light penetration.

Change 10% or 25% of the water weekly or biweekly. If tap water is unfit for use with aquatic plants, utilize reverse osmosis or deionized water with aqueon freshwater renewal added.

Plants require proper circulation as well. It guarantees a consistent supply of nutrients, suppresses algae growth, and avoids the buildup of organic waste on leaves.

Ideal Lighting Conditions For Aquatic Plants

The most crucial element in the growth of aquarium plants is light. Your plants won’t be able to grow without it. Your aquarium’s lighting requirements will rely on a variety of variables.

The types of plants you want to cultivate, how quickly you want them to develop, whether or not you plan to add CO2 to your aquarium, and how much time you are willing to spend caring for your plants.

bokeh picture of aquarium

Some plants require more light than others do, and vice versa. The harder it is for a plant to grow, the more light it needs. Like Glossostigma Elantinoides, this plant can be challenging to grow without very high light intensities to produce a rich green carpet.

Because your plants will develop more quickly and require more trimming, fertilizing CO2 demands, and water changes, higher light levels frequently necessitate more maintenance.

Optimal CO2 Needs For Aquatic Plants

Light, macro-and micronutrients, and CO2 are the three primary variables aquarium plants rely on for growth and energy.

Because the amount of carbon dioxide in the tank naturally limits plant growth, adding more CO2 will allow plants to develop to their maximum potential. Plain tap water typically has a CO2 content of 3-5 parts per million (ppm).

When adding CO2, an aquarist aims for a 25–35 ppm range. When employing a pressurized CO2 system with halfway adequate illumination, many plants frequently referred to as complicated or expert are pretty simple to maintain.

The Ideal Temperature Range For Aquatic Plants

Because physiological processes like photosynthesis, respiration, and aquatic plant growth are constrained and influenced by aquarium temperature, aquarium water temperature is a significant component in aquatic plant growth.

Therefore, it is crucial to check the temperature of your aquarium with a decent aquarium thermometer. Although most aquatic plants thrive in water between 70 and 80 degrees, some, including anacharis and Japanese dwarf rush, need cooler water temperatures.

How To Take Proper Care Of Your Plants

A plant that can remain entirely submerged in water is, by definition, an aquatic plant. However, different aquatic plants require varying amounts of maintenance.

As they are easier to maintain species, Echinodorus, Lilaeposis (Sword Plants), Anarchies, and Anubis are frequently suggested for freshwater aquariums.

Image of aquarium with plants and small fishes

You already know that light is necessary for plants to photosynthesize as a source of energy, but for best growth, the type of aquarium plants you have should determine the sort of aquarium light you use.

Freshwater aquarium plants need a clean atmosphere for optimum growth, just like your fish do. Regularly cleaning your fish tank with the right cleaner can help.

Remember that most plants like a pH level of 6.5 to 7.8 (although some prefer a more alkaline or acidic environment), so regular water testing is necessary for their maintenance and the rest of your aquatic wildlife.

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Final Verdict:

Any aquatic plant that wants to thrive needs the ideal amount of light and nutrients. Some plants grow more slowly and require less light than others; carbon dioxide can also be added to the soil to speed up plant development. Three categories of planted aquariums are low, medium, and high tech.

High-tech tanks require a lot of light, fertilizer, and CO2 injection, whereas low-tech tanks require less light, less plant food, and little to no CO2. They also require frequent water changes to help control algae.

The optimal conditions for any newly planted aquatic plant to flourish include a nutrient substrate, routine application of aquatic plant fertilizer, plant growth-promoting illumination, and CO2 injection.

If you add lots of fish and shrimp that consume algae, change the water frequently, and maintain adequate circulation, your aquarium should soon become a lush aquarium garden.

Frequently Asked Questions

#1 – Do aquarium plants need soil?

For aquarium plants to thrive, the soil is required. To remain thriving and healthy, they require the correct kinds of fertilizers and nutrients from the soil.

However, you must purchase aquarium soil since you cannot use the dirt used for land plants in your tank.

#2 – Can you plant aquarium plants in gravel?

In general, growing plants in gravel is a great idea. However, only a few types of plants will thrive on this substrate. Numerous aquarium plants flourish in gravel.

Aquarium plants should have gravel between 3 and 8 mm thick because larger gravel obstructs root growth, and smaller gravel can easily break delicate plant roots.

#3 – Can I plant aquarium plants in the sand?

Sand is frequently so tightly packed that plant roots have difficulty expanding and growing. Sand is similarly devoid of nutrients for the plants as gravel is. It is not the ideal solution for a planted aquarium, even with the addition of root tabs.

#4 – Do aquarium plants grow better in sand or gravel?

Some burrowing animals prefer sand, but most can survive on gravel if there are rocks and other cover options.

Given that it enables roots to absorb nutrients from the water flowing through the substrate, gravel is also the best material for growing aquatic plants.

#5 – Do aquarium plants need roots?

Your other plants should be rooted or tethered to keep them where you want them, as floating plants will float on the tank’s surface while moss balls will roll around at its bottom.

#6 – How do you start a live plant aquarium?

Live plants can be started at any time. Plants can be placed in your aquarium immediately following the addition of water.

The water will still be cloudy if there is a substrate. You can always add plants to tanks that have already been constructed.

#7 – Can you put aquarium plants in tap water?

If a de-chlorinator has been used, tap water in planted aquariums is entirely safe. We can choose the water chemistry we want in advance thanks to other water conditioners.

Today, substrates, filter media resins, and liquid conditioners can change pH, absorb, and bind particular compounds.

#8 – How long can I keep aquarium plants in a bucket?

The length of time your plants will survive in the container will mostly rely on the type of plant. Hardy plants, like anubias, can survive in a container for a few weeks if you have them. On the other hand, sensitive plants can survive in the container for a few days.

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