When setting up a balanced aquarium, it is important to remember that the finished result should give pleasure and satisfaction beyond that of looking at living fish floating in a bare glass bowl, a balanced aquarium is an ecosystem of fish, aquarium plants and other unseen organisms living together, each providing something for the other. Various types of bacteria within the gravel which convert various waists to less harmful elements that feed the aquarium plants.
Aquarium plants are of vital importance to the balance of the aquarium. Far beyond their beauty and the dimension they add to the over all look of the aquarium, they are the only living thing capable of transforming non-organic matter (the vary minerals and chemicals created by the bacteria in the gravel) into organic substances. To perform this vital process, plants only require proper lighting and a steady temperature. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, they take in nitrates and combined with photosynthesis grow new leaves. These two processes preformed by aquatic plants are why we say that plants help to “purify” the aquarium water.
A NICE BALLANCED LOOKING AQUARIUM INCLUDES LOTS OF AQUARIUM PLANTS
Additionally, plants provide supplemental food for some fish, shade and hiding places for others, locations for breeding pairs of some fish, nest building materials for others and a refuge for babies once they arrive! One of the most important functions provided by plants is that in the process of using the naturally provided fertilizer (nitrate) they prevent unwanted algae growth! In fact, keeping fish without plants in the aquarium is like keeping a bird in a bare cage without even a perch!
Aquatic plants are simply ordinary plants that have adapted the ability to grow and thrive under water. It is important to remember that aquatic plants need fish and their waist products as much as fish need the oxygen and food from the plants. In a new aquarium, the biological cycle that produces the chemicals which are in a sense “plant food”, has not matured and will not fully function for about 2 months. This condition could lead to poor plant growth and yellowish leaves; however, we can prevent this while insuring healthy plants.
First we need to buy plants in black plastic cages or pots, where they are planted in spun rock, an inert substance which will not dissolve in your aquarium, but encourages healthy root growth. These “pots” also serve to anchor the plants under the gravel and enable you to be able to easily move the plants without damaging the roots.
Additionally, most plants will benefit from an aquatic plant fertilizer, which is aquarium safe. Only aquarium plants fertilizers made specifically for the tropical fish aquarium are acceptable! Your tropical fish retailer can help you chose the fertilizer which will work best for you.
Now that you know the many benefits of having live aquarium plants in the aquarium, and why they are essential to the balanced aquarium, lets look for some very simple, easily cared for true aquatic plants which will do well in a new set-up. We will caption with both the common name and its corresponding Latin name. Both names are listed because many tropical fish retailers sell these aquatic plants by Latin name, others by both and still others by the popular name alone.
The aquarium plants shown here are those recommended for your new aquarium; the list of plants we recommend:
1) The Water Wisteria or Synnemia Triflorum. This is a true aquatic plant, which comes from India and Malayan Peninsula. Water Wisteria may be found in two forms. The form with single serrated leaves has been grown out of water, the lacier leaves have been grown under water. This kind of plant, in some cases grows right out of the tank towards the light, where the leaves will then convert to the single serrated kind out of the water. When this happens, you may find both distinctly different kinds of leaves on one branch! This is a very fast growing plant without special requirements.
2) The Banana Plant or Nymphodes Aquatic. This hardy little plant grows equally well floating or submerged. The Banana Plant is slow growing, has low light requirements, needs no pot or anchor and has no special requirements.
3) Bacopa or Bacopa amplexicaulis or Bacopa Carolinian. This is an excellent and hardy true aquatic plant from southeastern USA and Central America. This hardy fast growing plant grows in stalks or stems. As each stem reaches the surface of the tank, they may be carefully cut back and the cut stem re-planted, by simply pushing the cut stem under the gravel. Each re-planted stem then becomes a new Bacopa plant!
4) Green Cabomba or Cambomba Carolinian. This true aquatic is an aquarium standard from Eastern USA and South America. Cabomba is a fast growing stem plant which will form large decorative thickets, and is best placed in the back of the tank. Here it will provide excellent hiding places for shy fish and babies, it also serves to hide the heater or filter intake tube!
5) Anacharis or Egeria Densa. Anacharis is probably the best known aquarium plant. This plant is ideal for a new aquarium. It provides a good food source for plant eating fish, and survives equally well whether floating or anchored in the gravel. The Anacharis is another stem plant, which is very fast growing and can be easily cut and re-planted.
6) Giant Hygrophila or Hygrophila Cormbosa. The Hygrophila is a fast growing leafy stalk plant from Southeast Asia, and is another fast growing stalk plant. It grows wide and tall, so it should be kept in a larger tank and placed in the background.
7) Dwarf Anubias or Anuis Varteri Var. Nana. This plant is a beautiful small specimen from Tropical Africa and is so hardy it is known as the indestructible aquarium plant. The Anubias requires almost no light and is very slow growing; this permits them be placed in caves, overhangs or the crevices of a log for added effect.
8) Water Sprite or Indiantern or Ceratoperis Thalictroides. This is a fast growing tall plant from Southeast Asia and Indonesia. It is best used in a larger tank and placed toward the back to hide filter tubes and heater.
9) Ruffled Ribbon or Crytoryne Crispatula Var. Balansae. This is a very easy to grow. It is a true aquatic plant from India and Southeast Asia. There are many color and size variations of this plant. The rippled leaves make it a very unusual addition to any aquarium.
10) Broad-leaf Amazon Sword Plant or Echinodorus Bleheri. This beautiful plant is from South America. It is a large centerpiece plant, best kept in a well lit larger aquarium. The Amazon Sword Plant is most stunning when kept with a pair of Angle fish, who will most probably make the plant their home.
11) Straight Vallisneria or Vallisneria Spiralis. This is an ideal background plant from Asia, Africa and Australia, which grows straight up towards the surface of the tank. It reproduces by runners that creep across the bottom of the gravel and send up more and more plants, eventually becoming dense stands of vertical stems.
12) Hornwort or Ceratophyllum Demersum. The easiest and fastest growing of all common aquariums plants and comes from North Central and South America, Asia and Europe. This plant can be planted or left floating. Hornwort is very fast growing, in fact can actually grow up to an inch or more a day, under the perfect conditions. Great as a background plant or as a hiding place for babies!
Some things to look for when selecting your aquarium plants. Make sure there are no yellow or brown leaves on the plant you select. Make sure the plant is in a black aquatic pot or well anchored with a lead weight. Also make sure that the general “look” of the plant is healthy and vigorous, with signs of new growth. In general pick an aquarium plant the way you would select a healthy house plant; you want the healthiest one you can find. Your tropical fish professional can assist you in finding healthy specimens.
Your tropical fish professional will package your aquarium plant in a plastic bag for transport to your home or office. You must take care not to expose the bag to extreme cold or extreme heat. Your aquarium plants can be damaged by extreme temperature variations just as your fish can. Make sure to take the same precautions when transporting your aquarium plants as you would your tropical fish.