Live plants perform two essential roles in the freshwater aquarium. First, live plants enhance the appearance of your aquarium in a way that artificial plants cannot. Fake aquarium plants often look rigid and unrealistic whereas live plants bloom and grow, filling your aquarium with natural beauty. Second, live aquarium plants improve the water quality in your tank by removing nitrates and by oxygenating the water. Some aquarium plants even help to reduce algae growth.
Before you begin cultivating a planted aquarium, make sure you have adequate tank space to accommodate the growth of live aquarium plants. A tank height between 12 and 18 inches is sufficient along with a volume between 15 and 50 gallons. In addition to providing your live plants with plenty of space to grow, adequate filtration is necessary in order to circulate the water and to remove toxins and waste. Undergravel filters may hamper the spread of plant roots and are not recommended for planted tanks. The best filter for a planted aquarium is a power filter that provides both mechanical and chemical filtration.
Lighting is one of the most important aspects in keeping live aquarium plants healthy. Aquarium plants require at least 2 watts of fluorescent lighting per gallon of tank capacity in order to grow properly. Special plant-friendly fluorescent lights are available at most pet supply stores but regular full spectrum and daylight varieties work just as well and are much less expensive. Leave the lights on in your tank for 10 to 12 hours a day to maximize plant growth and replace the bulbs every few months to ensure the maximum efficacy.
Though many aquarium plants do well in regular gravel or sand, substrates designed with aquarium plants in mind are best for optimal plant growth. Plants need a supply of iron in order to grow properly so substrates like Fluorite and Eco-Complete which provide plants with this nutrient are recommended for planted tanks. If you do not want to purchase a planting substrate, consider at least putting down a 1-inch layer of peat moss or laterite under your gravel to fertilize your plants. Providing your plants with the right substrate will enhance their growth, ensuring that they will be able to do the work of improving the water quality in your tank.
To maximize the water quality-enhancing effects of live aquarium plants, add an EcoBio-Stone. The EcoBio-Stone is made from natural zeolite and crushed stone, making it the perfect environment to cultivate the microbes and beneficial bacteria that help aquarium plants to thrive. EcoBio-Block products help to improve water quality by establishing a colony of nitrifying bacteria that clear cloudy water, making it a healthier environment for live plants.
Cultivating a planted freshwater tank is not as difficult as it may seem to the novice aquarium hobbyist. Aside from providing the right substrate, lighting and nutrients there is little else that must be done on a day to day basis to keep your aquarium plants thriving. In order to ensure the success of your planted aquarium, purchase an aquarium water test kit to check the CO2 and nitrogen levels in your tank on a weekly basis and make adjustments when necessary. If you provide your plants with the right environment they will grow well and repay you by keeping your freshwater aquarium clear and healthy.