It’s hard to imagine an aquarium that’s full of fish but doesn’t have any plants in it. It would just look so lifeless and bare and in truth, it’s beneficial to keep your fish healthy because it helps to recreate what feels like a more natural ecosystem for them.
A lot of people seem to think that fish are a little bit of a worthless pet. They say that because of the fact that you can’t hug a fish or take it on a walk and also because of the myth that you’re lucky if a fish lives for more than a couple of months.
None of that is valid. Fish can actually live for a long, long time if taken care of properly and just because your fish stays in the aquarium, doesn’t mean you can’t interact with them. A lot of fish learn to recognize those who feed them and will react to their presence.
And fish are also good pets to have for stress relief, watching a fish move in its tank can have a calming effect. So they’re not worthless at all, but the other side of that is that you do need to make sure you keep your fish happy.
Part of that is ensuring that the ecosystem you put together actually stays there. Plants in an aquarium can die, just like your houseplants and you will need a different approach when taking care of them.
So here’s three strategies to ensure the plants stay alive in your aquarium:
1. Choose the Right Plants
This is the first problem that a lot of people face when including plants in their aquarium. You first need to consider the fact that in the one aquarium, you can only have either freshwater or saltwater, not both, and not all plants are suited to each of them.
You also can’t just buy a houseplant, dump it in the aquarium and expect it to survive. You have to get specific plants that will survive underwater, and also ones which you have research to make sure that the type of fish you have won’t eat.
If it’s freshwater fish that you have, then you should look for plants which are a little bit less demanding. Some of the better coldwater aquarium plants are things like Java Moss, Chain Sword and Lace Plant.
These are generally slow growing and can deal with the cold more than certain other plants. In a saltwater environment when you’ve got a water heater, there are more of a wide variety of aquatic plants which are suited to that, but with freshwater you need to be wary.
Aquatic plants are no different from any other kind of plant in the sense that they need to use photosynthesis to survive. This process essentially just means that they absorb light through their leaves which is then turned into essential nutrition.
Most plants are outside of course, so they’ll be able to conduct this through sunlight, but this isn’t going to work in an aquarium. So it will have to be artificial light but a very specific kind of artificial light.
The best kinds of lights are either T5 or T8 fluorescent bulbs, or you could use LED lighting. It depends on how many plants you have as well as the types of plants and the size of the aquarium.
No matter what, you should be able to buy the light fixtures as well as the bulbs in your local pet shop. Most plants will need up to eight hours of lighting per day, having the lights on for longer than that will end up causing damage.
When you decide on specific plants, be sure to check if they have any specific light requirements such as if they need more or less than eight hours and if that will have a negative effect on the other plants you’ve got.
3. Water Quality
So many people neglect the water quality in their aquariums, and it is disastrous for the health of the fish, but the health of the plants too. This is a big part of the reason why most pet fish don’t live as long as they should.
You need to have a filter in an aquarium but that doesn’t mean that the water never has to be changed. You have to take out about half of the water every week and replace it with fresh water from the tap and then you also need to use some kind of water conditioner to reduce chlorine and ammonia.
Another thing which can harm the plants is the buildup of algae. This will happen in every tank, and while you can use an algaecide to try and keep it under control, that won’t get all of it. I would suggest including a herbivorous creature in your tank which will eat a good chunk of it.
The appropriately named Siamese Algae Eater and the Chinese Algae Eater will both serve this purpose, as will a variety of different freshwater snails including the Nerite and Malaysian Trumpet Snails.
It might seem like too much extra work on the surface and you may be incentivized to not bother with plants, but these things will soon be like second nature to you and it is well worth it for your fish if you make sure you’ve got some thriving plants in the tank.