Best Live Aquarium Plants

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

3 Important Needs to Consider Before Putting Live Plants in your Fish Tank



Growing live plants in your aquarium takes some work and discipline. Notably, it generally requires a hobby aquarium keeper to keep a clean and tidy tank, to keep track of everything and to react to changes. Here are a few things to consider before putting in live plants. 

Needs for Photosynthesis and Light


The first thing though before getting into live plants is to understand how they work. Live plants remove carbon dioxide and add oxygen to the water during photosynthesis and use nitrates generated by the nitrogen cycle.
In low light or in darkness, plants do not photosynthesize; instead they produce carbon dioxide like fish. Have you noticed the dirtiness of the tank, the ease with which plants wilt and look like mush? Without proper light, the pH and water quality will be adversely affected.

Food – Plants Provide it but Should you Rely on it?



Another important factor to consider before putting live plants in your tank is that they are another element of food for your fish and other animals. The reality is, some fish will eat plants down to the roots, others will slowly nibble on them over the course of months and years. The sooner you can cope with this the better. That is why it is of incredible importance to pair the right plants with the right fish.
With that in mind, you now have to budget your fishes food more carefully. Will you constantly supply live plants instead of food, or will you continue to buy fish food, stocking your tank with plants that fish are not likely to eat? Again, it’s in the research.

Filtration is Essential but a Great Filter is Better



The average filter that you get at Wal-Mart or the big box store from a company like Betta, is not going to be the best filter for keeping live plants. Yes, you can use one and at the absolute least you should. However you need to consider a more reliable filtration system for your tank. The more consistently filtered it is, the more it is like real life fresh water bodies.
The greatest filters are not alone in saving your plants. You may need to invest a few more bucks into a heater (not expensive), a lighting unit (not expensive) and a C02 system (a little more expensive). The point I’m getting at here is, you can get by without the highest end supplies. Just remember, with aquariums and live plants, the best the product, the better experience and life of your plants. They are an investment.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

How to Pick out a Healthy Live Aquarium Plant at the Store



Have you ever looked at the live plants in the aquarium and pet section of your average big box store? Most, like Wal-Mart and even Pet Smart are in awful shape. They look bruised, decayed and dead. Before putting down your hard earned money on another plant for your tank, consider these guidelines for choosing the optimal healthy plant to add to your aquarium.


Dividing the Roots



Although often forgotten, because they might be difficult to see, the roots are the most important element of the live aquarium plant. Look for a specimen that has sturdy looking roots. If the employee will allow you, touch the roots. They should be firm and not mushy. If only a few roots are mushy but, overall the plant is looking great you should be okay, just cut them off when you get home with a sterile and sharp blade.
Besides the health of the roots, look for evidence of new growth in the roots. You want to buy a live plant that is actively growing, not one that is struggling to survive. You should see some small rootlets and roots emerging from the massive of roots at the base. Even if you only see one or two, that is fine, the more the better. They will often appear stubby and pearly white in color.


Looking at the Color



The color of the plant is an easy indication of whether or not it has received the proper nutrients and essentials in the tank at the store.  If you know what it is supposed to look like, compare it to an example in your home tank or guide book.  Most plants at big box stores are often yellow or light green in complexion when they should be dark green. Examples that are darker or deeper in color are often those that receive plenty of light, good filtration and are absorbing nutrients from the substrate properly.

Inspecting the Leaves


Although it is the first thing most people look at, the quality of the leaves is probably the least consideration because they are the easiest to repair and grow back, even on an injured or dying plant. If all else looks good and you are only choosing your plant based on the leaves, look most importantly for growth on the leaves. 

Many plants go through cycles and will drop their leaves or allow them to waste away in an effort to use more energy (photosynthesis) to create younger, stronger leaves. Sometimes these leaves are even the basis for a whole new plant.

If you do decide to buy a plant with struggling leaves that are heavily decayed and have an odor to them, cut them off when you get home, using a sterile sharp instrument. They should recover just fine.

Things to Remember - Final Thoughts

Remember that in a big box store, or even pet supply store, fish and their plants are not exactly the highest priority. You might have to wait and wait for a long time before an employee will help you. The reality is, money is not made here and the company hardly cares about keeping things in good shape.

Nevertheless, you are a paying customer. Take your time to pick out the appropriate plant for you and your aquarium. You are the one who has to live with it and is spending the money. You should pick something that is healthy and looks to be growing. The employee helping you might not know much about aquarium plants, so don’t assume so. Educate yourself.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Beginners Guide to Aquascaping – Planning your Planted Tank

Aquascaping is the term used to describe setting up the inside of your aquarium or fish tank so that it is pleasing to the human eye as well as your inhabitants – namely fish. Although it does include rocks, gravel, soil, wood, live plants will often play the most important role.

First, you absolutely need to plan how your set up will look and how you will use your space. Nothing is more frustrating than finishing an aquascape, only to find that it is unappealing, unrealistic or does not allow a healthy environment for the fish. Sit down and draw out your design. Be realistic with the space that you have and don’t overdo it. This step will also help you save a lot of money. Another great idea is to get a photo of a favorite tank and copy that design.

The next consideration in aquascaping is where the tank is located and how it can be viewed by the average person. If the tank can only be viewed from the front and the sides, for example are attached to the wall, a scene that depicts a never-ending tank might be appropriate. Always plan for what yourself and your guests can and should see. If the tank can be viewed from all angles, be sure to keep that in mind.

After that you will need to decide on your focal point. What will be the center of attention? Or will there be none? Generally this is a large rock or branch in the middle of the tank. However it could also be a series of rocks or a series of plants. Maybe it is a large plant. What is it that viewers will first be drawn to? What impression do you want to make? The rest will follow.

Less is often more in these designs. When aquascaping, avoid the temptation to overfill your tank. Nature rarely provides such a crowded space in just 10 or so gallons. Likewise, try to stick to odd numbers. Nature also rarely provides even numbers, pairs or sets of anything. Grouping like plants and rocks together makes sense, arranging them in order or symmetry will not.

When choosing your rocks, stone and plants go to a trusted source. Digging them right out of a local freshwater body will often have dangerous consequences. Rocks that you just find outside could be rough or sharp, injuring fish. Driftwood from your local beach will often have diseases and microorganisms that are dangerous to your fish. At the least they will need to be boiled. Forget outdoor plants too. Quality pet supply stores will have everything you need. Otherwise, find a great seller on eBay.

Finally, have a theme in mind or a plan. Nothing looks and feels more ridiculous than plants growing with rocks which don’t fit or colored sand with plastic pirates. Try to be as realistic as possible and capture a scene from nature that could be actually available in some fresh body of water. Always maintain a swimming spot (wide open area) and stick to the theme.

Friday, January 10, 2014

How to Grow Bunched Plants in your Live Aquarium – Pondweed and Foxtail

Bunched plants are those like elodea and milfoil that propagate by way of cutting. You buy cuttings from your pet supplier or even big box store. Often the bundle is attached at the bottom by a lead sinker weight which will allow the stems to drop to the bottom. Other times the buddle is strung together and intended to just float on the top.

Bundles are great options for at home aquarists because the offer an alternative to the typical plant which might just be placed in the substrate. Many aquariums are filled with rocks and driftwood, which will not allow for many rooted plants. They are a great alternative. They will often move around in the tank and give a variety of habitats for your fish. They are especially great choices for goldfish.

Anacharis Canadensis or pondweed, sometimes called elodea is a great choice for the beginner’s tank. It is a plant that prefers cold water. Nevertheless it can tolerate temperatures exceeding 80 degrees F. It is long, with narrow stalks that sprout rings of thick green leaves. It will achieve a very tall look and can be positioned to stay in on place, weighted down or allowed to float throughout the tank.

Although they require constant pruning because their growth is so fast, this could work out to your advantage because new plants are taken by cutting. Pondweed is reproduced by cutting off the lower inch and planting the remainder firmly in the substrate. Weighting them with lead sinkers is a must. They do not need rooting hormone and will take up very quickly.

Another option is Foxtail or milfoil, Myriophyllum spicatum. Although it requires stronger light (or a light kept on most of the day) it will grow several inches in just one week. It is incredibly beautiful, like pondweed but with more delicate, fern-like leaves. It is one of the most commonly produced in plastic form.

Bundled plants like foxtail and pondweed require very little in the way of nutrients or special supplies. They are two of the easiest plants to grow and are a sheer pleasure to watch in your tank. Although they do not disappoint they do need constant attention, in pruning them so as to ensure you get constant growth and new free plants.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My Review of the Fluval Edge Aquarium, 12-Gallon

Introduction
A long-time fish keeper, my last purchase, a 3-gallon Tetra tank, was a complete disaster. The plastic was too flimsy for any series hobbiest and was likely to fall apart in a matter of weeks. I returned it and finally picked out this 12-gall tank by the much more respected Fluval company.

Where I bought it

This one I bought on Amazon.com here: Fluval Edge 12-Gallon Aquarium with 42-LED Light, Black It's a pretty expensive tank in comparison but is likely to last me my whole life and then some. I received free shipping on it and used some saved up points on my Amazon credit card so it was much cheaper. The price though is pretty fair for what you get.

Taking it out of the Box - Initial Thoughts

This is definitely a cool tank. You will not find anything like this in design. It looks like the designers of Edge were going for that edgy look. I felt like a professional aquascapper. As opposed to the previous tank I bought, this one has some weight to it. The material is heavy and sturdy. Everything appeared there: instructions, no damage, little assembly.

What this Tank Comes with


The Filter

This tank makes use of the same filter as the 6 gallon version, only a little taller. It is not the best and will need an aeration system as I can see, a few weeks in algae buildup at the bottom is beginning. With that said, the entire system is spotlessly hidden making this an aquascapers dream come true!

The LED Lights

These lights really make this aquarium shine. Oftentimes with LED you get either really cheesy colors that are not at all practical for raising live plants or you get a light that is just so weak, it's hardly good for anything. In this case there are 42 high power lights! They are definitely powerful. The optional blue hue for nighttime use is a great addition.

Final Thoughts

Setting this thing up was a bit tricky. First of all, the little space to fit your hand in, to do the basic set-up is not very wide. That can become a bit frustrating. Similarly, I noticed that doing any kind of rearranging or cleaning is also troublesome. The 3d effect is only accomplished by filling the water to the top of the tank. When you stick a hand in a whole mess begins.

These are things I can live with though. I bought this tank for two reasons: it looks so unique and it is well-built like many of Fluval's products. I will be keeping this one, hosting a very tranquil aquascape, relying mostly on mosses. A few zebra dainios would be fitting.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Which is Better for a Planted Tank – Sagittaria (Arrowhead) or Vallisneria spiralis?

Sagittaria and Vallisneria are two of the easiest and most enjoyable plants to grow in your newly planted live aquarium. They have the benefit of being two plants that will get along with goldfish, who eat almost every plant and grow aggressively more than any plant. But is there a better one or should I get both?

Sagittaria and Vallisneria are both known as stolon-type plants. This means that they reproduce by sending out a runner, which will eventually, over time, grow into another plant. The runner will essentially, come from the roots and produce another, separate plant near the mother-plant. In time, they can be removed from the mother plant and replanted elsewhere. This is one of my favorite elements of these plants: they are more fun to watch and they save you money in the long term.

Both of these plants also react very well to pruning. Prunning should be done regularly and is not something to worry about overdoing. Any leaves that turn brown, get mushy or are decaying should be pruned, closed to the stem. If not done regularly, this can kill the plant. However, I look at it as a benefit because I am constantly keeping an eye on the plant and improving its health.

Sagittaria, otherwise known as the arrowhead can grow up to thirty-six inches in height although it will usually conform to the size of your tank. However high it goes, your plant will follow. What I especially like about them over Vallisneria, is that they can handle temperatures approaching 80 F but are also very cold hardy. If you are someone that does not like to keep the tank light on that often, you are in luck because these generally do not mind a lack of light to growth healthy. Perhaps the main drawback is that they need to be planted in bundles in order to achieve the desired look.

Vallisneria is also pretty hardy. It grows much like Sagittaria but maintains a more curled look. It is commonly imitated in plastic plants. It will grow up to two feet long if allowed to. Because of that they do not need to be bunched as much as Sagittaria and can achieve a beautiful look in singular plantings. The one drawback is that they are not nearly as hardy. Their preferred temperature range is approximately 59 to 72 degrees F.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Pros and Cons of Using Soil in the Aquarium

If you want to grow live plants in your aquarium it seems like a no-brainer to use soil. Although it seems like an obvious choice as a substrate for your fish tank plants, soil can be a messy affair. If you do it right though you can have a lush garden of plants in your tank.

Aqua soil is it is called is very popular among hobby aquarium circles. This expensive, pre-bagged and sterilized soil is ideal because it maintains many positive nutrients that assist in the optimal growth of aquatic plants.

Why Aquarium Soil is Good for Your Tank


The greatest benefit of having aqua soil in your tank is that it releases carbon dioxide during respiration which your plants can absorb as a food source. Carbon dioxide is not necessarily required for fish tank plants but it is required for photosynthesis. If you want your plants to grow tall, strong, and healthy carbon dioxide is a must.

The alternative is carbon dioxide fertilization which can be very difficult to set up. Attaching CO2 gas tanks to your aquarium is expensive, troublesome and arguably messy. Even dosing with CO2 tablets can get expensive really fast.

Another added benefit of aquarium soil is the high iron content. This eliminates the need to supplement your fish tank with iron fertilizers which can be more expensive long term.

The Problems with Using Aquarium Soil in Your Tank


For the beginner, aqua soil is very expensive. In the United States it can be found on Amazon for an affordable price, but definitely far more than the cost of gravel and sand at a pet store. Internationally it can be very expensive, often $20-40 for a 4-8 pound bag.

Another issue to consider with aqua soil is that it can be just a downright mess. If you shift the water too much or intend to clean it often (which you should) it creates dust clouds and mud in the tank that can last for days and take weeks to settle.