Best Live Aquarium Plants

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My Review of the Fluval Edge Aquarium, 12-Gallon

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 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.

Friday, June 7, 2013

How to Trim your Aquarium Plants when you Bring them Home from the Store

When you get your aquarium plants from the store they should look like this: healthy, bright leaves, in a substrate with a black plastic container, rooting shooting out every which way. Should you trim the roots of your aquatic plants to promote growth? Absolutely! It is recommended from tank plants and required for pond plants.

Sometimes when you bring a plant home from the store, the change in water is shocking to their growth. You will want to reinvigorate them. You can do this by carefully removing them from the plastic pots they are in and trimming the roots.

Trimming the roots sounds counter productive but it is a great way to promote growth in the plant. Look at the longer roots, not the main one but, those that appear to be older with little to no growth on them. These are the ones you want to cut. Never cut more than 1/2 of the overall roots. You want to snip the ones that appear to be dull in color, mushy and old.

To cut them, simply use a small pair of medical scissors from your home. Make sure they blades are sharp and clean of any debris. A quick dip in alcohol or the light of a match over them will kill any bacteria. You should do the same thing once done.

Remove any of the roots and do the same thing with any leaves that appear to be dead so that the energy is diverted to growth. Make your cuts smooth and quick, no ripping or pulling and the plant will be just fine.

If you have rooting hormone that can be helpful but not necessary. Cut off the plastic container it was in if you would like and bury the plant in your substrate. The crown of the plant, just between the stem and start of the roots should be just underneith the substrate with no roots exposed.

Finally it may take a few days but, you should be all set to having a healthy plant in your tank.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Fish Abuse and Neglect at Walmart

This video may seem too critical because, let's be honest, Wal-Mart does not have the best of employees or really care about the money made from fish and the animal department in general. However, these conditions should tell hobbysts that we need to support our local stores instead.

Make the trip to a local aquarium store or animal supply store. At least they will support their fish stocks and support humanity for any and all animals. They may even have some knowledge about what they are doing.

Finally, when you buy any fish or aquarium product from a Wal-Mart, know what you're getting into. Disease and death are likely to follow. Whatever you bring home, will bring with it nasty stuff that will invade the rest of your tank.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What's the Difference between Fluval Shrimp Stratum and Fluval Plant Stratum

Fluval is one of the leading brands in aquariums and accessories. They are a step above what you can find in a typical big box store and their substrate is no exception. When putting together a fish tank though, we have to wonder what is the difference between Fluval Shrimp Stratum and Fluval Plant Stratum.

Where the Confusion Comes From

It might seem quite obvious that these are two different substrates intended for two very different fish tanks; one for cherry shrimp and the other for growing live plants. However, it is not that easy.

After purchasing both bags of substrate many have discussed disappointment because they are unable to tell the difference. This is not only a problem of ingrediants but utlimately what they are designed to do. Many have said both work for live plant tanks and both work just fine for cherry shrimp tanks.

What's the Difference between the Two Aqua Soils?

I have called Fluval several times in an attempt to get the story straight. Sales associates are much more difficult at relaying information than customer service is. After badgering for several minutes about what the difference is, several employees openly admitted that there is no difference. Or at least that's what they believe.

The handful of customer service representatives at Fluval told me that the only difference is in the size of the substrate and that Fluval is not trying to be deceptive at all.

The Plant Stratum is designed for plants because it is a of a larger composition. It is supposed to do a better job of holding them in place and preventing them from coming undone. The Shrimp Stratum is designed to be a lot smaller in diameter. This is to benefit cherry shrimp as they like to play around with the substrate. The assumption is if you have a cherry shrimp tank you are growing more mosses than rooted plants.

Which One Should I Buy?

Many will tell you it really doesn't matter. The bottom line is both are currently the same price and both do the job of providing nutrients to your aquarium better than almost anything available. The color of the black substrate will also improve the color and complexion of your fish and other aquatic creatures like shrimp.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Want to See a Hot Girl Cleaning a Fish Tank or Aquarium? Me too!

All of that stuff us men typically love: young women that are generously endowed in their cup size along with our favorite hobby - aquariums. Nothing could be sweeter.

Besides the big boobs there are some awesome things to learn here from this hot chick.

  1. Gravel Vacuum Cleaners are Essential 

    These things are cheap, last years and are really easy to use. Instead of sucking through the siphoning tube like you've been taught, place it upside down in the tank. When it begins to fill with water bring it out of the water. When it reaches the bottom of its cylinder put it right back in the tank. As long as you are siphoning to a bucket at a lower level it will work just fine.

  2. Do NOT use a Pot and Pan Scrubber

    Anything used in the kitchen like steel wool or other dish scrubbers are going to be far to tough on the glass and are likely to actually scratch it or damage it. The best bet is your tooth brush. Choose a brand new one that has never been used.
  3. Do NOT Change More than 10% of the Water

    This is a common mistake. People think it is best to change a lot of the water at a time or a majority of it. If your tank has been sitting for a few weeks it is an ecosystem. It has developed beneficial bacteria and nutrients for both your plants and fish. Changing too much water could shock the fish and damage their ecosystem. If you have more than 40 gallons, aim to only change 5% at a time.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Building a Psychedelic Tank Plastic Plants

Psychedelic fish tank? If you are going to go with plastic plants this is a really cool way to do it! I would have added a few more or traded out the plain green plants in the foreground but those on the outside each have an incredible look to them!

Match Your LED Lights with the Gravel

If you are looking to pull off this look it is important to match the gravel color with the color of the LED light. Blue is a great option but you could do purple, pink, yellow or green. The LED will probably have a color that is not necessarily one color. To take advantage of that, choose a gravel mix that is one color lighter and one darker but both the same shade, like in this photo.

Pick Obnoxious Plants and Decor

You cannot try to pull off a realistic look with natural accent rocks and wood, with the addition of crazy color plants! Hot pink gravel will look awful with driftwood and live plants! If you are going with the psychedelic look, stick to it.

Instead of going with driftwood or natural rocks consider an art deco piece that is transparent and cube-like. Also consider keeping the region plain and simple with only the funky colors. If you are putting in rocks, look for those that are painted and with a glitter dust.

Use it as a Fish and Plant Incubator 

The perfect place to have your incubator is in this really cool looking tank! By having nothing organic or natural, you give yourself the opportunity to have a really fun looking acquarium that can be used while you are healing damaged plants or fish.

You could also use this as a breeding tank for snails, shrimp and even live plants. You could substitute the fake crazy plants and just load it up with live plants that grow like crazy. It could be an easy way to hang onto a bunch that you could later sell for a profit.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Avoid Buying Aquarium Plants at Walmart

I know a lot of people are politically minded when it comes to buying from Wal-mart, whether it has to do with the lack of unions or the incredible cheap prices for products manufactured outside of North America.

Nevertheless, quality has increased in recent years. One area where they have failed to increase in quality is fish and aquarium supplies in the pet supply section.

Poorly Understand by Employees


The first major problem with buying your aquarium plants and supply from Wal-Mart is the lack of understanding by employees.

To be honest though, it makes sense. Why on Earth should Wal-Mart employees know a thing about fish tanks and running an aquarium? Financially, it is not a section of the store that is cleaning up. Besides dog and cat food, pet supply is a pretty dead industry, just ask Petsmart and Pet Supply Co.

Employees do not know how to spot diseases, infections and dangerous bacteria. Often you will see incredibly damaged or dying plants, left to rot in the tank with perfectly normal fish and plants.

Nothing Really Special Anyways


The selection at Wal-Mart for live plants is really not that impressive anyways. You can occasionally find a wisteria or a water onion but that's about it. The other items are unidentified and likely not intended to be an aquatic plant but instead a terrarium plant.

If you are taking the time to put live plants in your aquarium you would be better fit to include items you actually want, care to take care of, and have an interest in for your fish and tank ecosystem.

Support Your Local Shops Instead

I love my local shop, Tribly Tropicals. These guys are passionate about what they grow and what they know. They are dedicated long term to providing beautiful and high quality fish and accessories. Their live plants are expensive. But you know what? They stand behind them! They guarantee they will live if taken care of. They are free of disease, snails and rot.

Besides, I would rather support the guys that are passionate about aquariums than a big corp. How much would I save if I shopped at Wal-Mart, probably $5-10 total. That is a one time cost! How often do I buy new plants? I replace plants rarely because they grow well and keep making new plants for me. I have an outdoor pond and occasionally start a new tank ever 2-3  years. That's not a big deal!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Live Aquarium Plants Available at Meijer Stores

Meijer is a high quality grocery store in the United States. They are known for having an excellent pet section. Within that pet section they have a nice variety of fish and fish tank equipment to choose from. What sets them apart from competitors though is their selection of live plants for sale.

To save you some time and money, I have compiled a list of live plants commonly available at Meijer stores. This is not necessarily authoritative and will likely vary between two stores.

Pennywort $5.49 - This plant is usually low growing in dwarf form and is often used in the background to hide heaters or filters. It can make a great center piece as the vines creep along the substrate and grow very fast. It does eventually produce beautiful white flowers.

Filligree (myrio) $3.49 - I don't really know much about this one... Maybe you guys could help me out.

Vallisneia Jungle $3.49 - This plant is a great cover for the background of a tank, ideal for covering a filter. It also has the possibility of producing flowers in time.

String Fountain Plants $3.49 - This is a common catch all phrase used to describe a number of different species. These plants grow tall and thin. They are only ideal for tall tanks.

Lloydiella $3.49 - This plant has fern-like branches and leaves. It is very compact, delicate and pretty. It is supposed to be one of the easiest to grow.

Wisteria (assorted species) $3.49 - This plant is very full and pretty. It is one of the most common plants purchased because it fits a variety of different tanks and demands very little. Aquariums with low light, bad nutrients and poor substrate will do fine with this plant.

Rotala Indica $3.49 - This plant is uncommon for the species. The genus Rotala is very popular amongst fish tank hobbyists.

Crypt Wendtii $5.49 - This plant is pretty but requires very strong light to grow well. You will likely have to buy better lights for your tank.

Java Fern $5.49 - This plant is the signature plant for cherry shrimp collectors. A native to Southeast Asia it is very easy to grow and takes little to no maintenance. It perhaps planting in the foreground in groups.

Amazon Sword $3.99 - This plant is often very fast growing and will become very tall very quickly. I would steer clear of this one if you do not have at least a 20 gallon tank.

Water Sprite (spotted) $5.49 - This plant is very pretty but I know little about it. It is compact and looks to be easily transplanted to make new plants very easily.

Dwarf Water Onion $2.99 - This plant looks like an onion does above ground but underwater. The bulb remains under the substrate while continually protruding to the surface. It is compact and skinny but will get very tall in time.

All of the plants Meijer has are designed for a fresh water tank.

Overall, Meijer employees take good care of their aquatic plants. All of them come in sturdy pot with aggressive root growth and green leaves and stems. Often times the plant you take home will have several growing on it, giving you more bang for your buck.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

My Review of the Tetra Cube Aquarium Kit, 3-Gallon


I have been out of fish keeping and aquarium for a long time and just finished moving. I used to own a 20 gallon and 10 gallon filled with tetras and live plants. Since moving I have more limited space and thought the 3 gallon cube would work well on a desktop or bedroom dresser. Here's my review.

Where I Bought it

Wal-Mart had these for $31.99 which is not a bad price for a full kit. They had the same 1.5 gallon cube for $19.99. The difference in size is that this one is just a larger cube. The height is the same, but there is a small increase in width. It looks like both are the same price on Amazon as of this writing.

Taking it Out of the Box - Initial Thoughts

I was quite surprised at how light weight this tank is. I should have realized it was cheap plastic but was very concerned with how it light it was coming out of the box. Upon further notice the top of the plastic was severly scratched right below where the lid is placed. Already I was dissappointed.  The worst was yet to come!

What this Start Kit Comes with

The Tetra 3 Gallon Cube comes with a whisper filter, LED light, a cartdridge for the filter and the two corresponding power supplies for the devices. The filter has a suction cup attachment on the back but I am very weary of suction onto plastic tanks.

The Filter

The Whisper Filtration System is supposed to be well know for keeping things quiet so I did buy it on that principal alone. Though I was displeased at the sheer lightweight of the device and the poor construction of it. It is flimsy and does not fit with its corresponding parts all that well. This leads me to believe its usage is quite limited as many reviewers on the Wal-Mart and Amazon site suggest.

Perhaps the most unsettling find was that the instructions for the Whisper Filter are missing. The general directions state that it is very important to follow the directions included with the separately packaged Whisper Filter so as to ensure the quality and performance of the unit. There were no instructions! To anyone new to aquarium filters or someone new to these mini junk ones this is very frustrating! The parts do not look like they assemble well and appear to be very fidgety.

The LED Light

The LED light looks pretty and conveniently clips on to the tank so as to allow the top to be completely see-through. This is one of the features that I thought was really cool about this unit and convinced me to purchase it. The LED though which has a number of lights on it is very bland and very weak. It is useful for looking at fish at night but certainly not for a planted tank.

Final Thoughts

I will be returning this tank to Wal-Mart for a full refund and take my business elsewhere. This is the second time in the last month that I have tried to buy a Tetra Starter Tank and have been very dissappointed by the lack of quality instruction and the flimsy irresponsible filter systems.

Thus, I will likely be buying a nice glass tank by itself (5-10 gallon) which is not made by Tetra and buying a nice filter separately.  I'm looking at getting the Marina S10 Power Filter or the Aqueon 06079 QuietFlow 55/75 Power Filter, 400-GPH.

Lately I've come to the conclusion that with aquarium keeping, patience is the best solution. Patience will allow me to learn more about what I need and slowly acquire good quality equipment that will last and not cause me or my fish headaches.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Choosing a Substrate for Growing Live Aquarium Plants

If you want to grow live plants in your fish tank or aquarium one of the most important factors in growing plants that will survive is choosing the right substrate.

Substrate is a fancy word for the rocks, gravel, sand, soil or a combination of all of them at the bottom of your tank. For most live plants you will need a substrate for them to hold their roots in and be fixed to the bottom of the tank. However for me, the right substrate will give them the proper nutrients and ability to have a long healthy life.

Aquarium Gravel 


The most common substrate that we use is gravel. You can buy aquarium gravel at any pet store or department store. Many live plants will grow in this gravel but very slowly and not with the desired size or color. Plus you will need to continually add fertilizer and supplements.

Aquarium gravel is also often treated with dyes and chemicals that are likely to be damaging to your fish and plants. This is most common with quartz gravel. If you do choose quartz gravel you will need to supplement with laterite or Fluval Substrate. Pea gravel is a much better choice and generally considered more natural looking. It is a great match on top of white sand and mixed in with it.

Aquarium Sand 


Sand can be a great alternative to gravel and is an ideal substrate to many available in stores. You will have to be careful though to not get play sand or construction sand. Getting the right sand should be available in the aisle with gravel.  The best sand is available online where you can choose the color and size you need.

If you do use sand it can get very compact and cause sinking. Many aquarium owners complain of it eventually turning to mud.When it sinks, the larger substrate will eventually move to the bottom of the tank and the sand will appear at top, potentially ruining your display.

Natural White Sand is preferred and really cheap

Aquarium Soil aka Aqua Soil


Aqua soil is a much better alternative to growing aquarium plants than rock, gravel or sand. However you must be careful with what you choose and be ready to pay for it. Most aqua soils are only available at specialty pet stores. Most pets stores like Pet Pro, Petco, Pet Supplies Plus will not have it.  Amazon is the best option for buying aqua soil. It is rather affordable now, gives several options and is usually under free shipping.

Aquarium soil is best used by it self. Many manufactures, most notably Fluval will tell you explicitly on the directions to not mix the soil with any other substrate. This has angered many people but it is because the light construction of the Fluval substrate will be crushed by anything rock based.

Flourite is one of the best rated options.

Plants that Require Gravel, Stone or Sand

Some of the easier and less demanding plants like the Sea Onion, Vallis or Vava Fern will be just fine with gravel or sand.  They do not require nutrients as much as other aquarium plants but do require something strong and hardy for their roots to be positioned. If you used high end substrates and soils it will be difficult for them to hold their roots and they may float to the top of the tank. You can fill your tank with lots of these because they are light and thin.

Plants that Require a Mix of Stones and Soil

Plants that are quickly growing, branching and sending off shoots are going to require something to hold their roots but also something to give them nutrients for their constant growth. Examples might include Anubias barteri, Orchid Lily, Brazilian Pennywort. These plants will be aggressive and take over your tank. One of each will be enough.

Plants that Require Aqua Soil

The most difficult to grow plants will include those that require constant nutrients. Instead of continually supplementing them with fertilizer tabs and liquids you could use an aqua soil and a CO2 attachment. These plants will include Hairgrass, Dwarf Helzine, and Echinodorus 'Red Special.' These plants will usually require a stronger light too.

Plants that Require No Soil, Gravel or Anything

There are a number of aquatic plants that actually need no substrate to live in your aquarium! One class of plants that will grow perfectly without substrate are those that float at the top. Their nutrients are gathered from the water and bacteria left from fish waste. Some of these plants include the Salvinia's, Water Lettuce and Crystalwort.

Another class of plants that need no soil or substrate are the mosses. These are very easy to grow and only need something to attach themselves to. These could include driftwood, rocks or decorations in your tank. The most commonly used mosses are Java Moss and Christmas Moss. They are slow growing but easy to maintain and often spread easily.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Different Kinds of Live Plants for the Background of the Aquarium

The background will be filled mostly with the tallest plants. The theme for plants in the background is to cover up any unsightly aquarium devices like your heather, thermostat, filter and CO2 system.

Cabomba Family

You can make use of plants that are both tall and bushy like those from the Cabomba family. Most common amongst these are Green Cabomba, Yellow Cabomba and Red Coboma or  c. caroliniana, c. aquatica, and c. piauhyensis respectively. These plants are some of the most commonly duplicated in plastic plants. They are lush, full and grow very well in the back. Mixing the colors can easily hide equipment.

Onion Plants 

Other common theme is to use plants that are purely tall but lay their leaves across the top of the water. One such example is the onion plant (Crinum Thaianum). This plant has a 'fountainlike' effect at the top of the water which is matched well right next to the filter. Although it will not cover the heater completely it will draw your eyes away from the heater to the surface for a tranquil site.


The greatest benefit of having background plants are those that can interact with the flow of water in the back. The leaves of Hygrophilia's can do an incredible job of taking care of that task. These plants which are native to India, Malaysia, and Singapore appear dainty and delicate but they are indeed quite strong. Their leaves will move with ease near your filter and are great paired near oxygen stones. The most common is Hygrophila difformis also known as Water Wisteria.

Vallisneria and Corkscrew Plants

The three main samples of the Vallisneria family are distinguished mainly by the way their leaves point. All of them are tall, thin plants very similar to the aquatic onion. Corkscrew Vallis is perhaps the most famous because of its use in professional Japanese Aquascaping. It does become invasive which can be good for your wallet is you can produce more plants. The Giant Vallis can command dominancy in the tank and is great for covering up portions of the background. The Straight Vallis is shorter and thinner. It is ideal for filling in gaps.