Best Live Aquarium Plants

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.