Commissioner Adam H. Putnam

Florida Agriculture: 500 Years in the Making

Aquarium Fish

Care and Maintenance: Aquatic Plants

To thrive in aquariums, tropical fish need a certain level of comfort: places to hide, areas to explore and sites for breeding. Nothing provides this healthy environment like aquarium plants. Whether artificial or live, plants add a natural and pleasing appearance to an aquarium.

Artificial Plants: Artificial plants can look life-like and are easy to maintain for the first-time aquarium owner.

Live Plants: There are more than 100 species of plants, in all sizes and colors. Be sure the live plants you choose for your tank are "aquatic" plants for aquariums. Generally, any plant that flops over lazily when removed from the water is a true aquatic. In general, aquariums with live plants require more light than those without, but most standard aquarium hoods will grow aquarium plants. Some plants, such as the cryptocorynes and anubias, will do well with low light.

Growing aquatic plants is often an opportunity for the hobbyist to mix "gardening" with their love of fish and other aquatic plants, and often results in creating an aquatic plant enthusiast if a broad selection is available. Plants should be pruned regularly to prevent them from overgrowing the aquarium. Dead leaves should be removed by hand to prevent debris from degrading water quality. Care should be given to avoid mixing plants with plant-eating fish or invertebrates.

Benefits of Live Plants:

-- Increases production of helpful bacteria in a newly established aquarium

-- Removes carbon dioxide from water

-- Adds oxygen to the water

-- Clarifies the water

-- Utilizes nitrates generated by the nitrogen cycle

-- Increases overall water quality

-- Provides additional source of food for fish

-- Adds tremendously to the beauty of an aquarium, and the attraction of the hobby as a whole.

Types of Live Plants:

-- Leaves radiate from a central base
-- Sold individually or potted

-- Sword plants (Amazon, Ruby, Radicans, etc.)
-- Aponogeton Bulbs
-- Cryptocorynes
-- Anubias

-- Float on or just above the surface
-- Root system dangles in the water
-- Provides shade to fish and other plants

-- Water Sprite
-- Duckweed
-- Riccia Fluitans

-- Come in bundles of 7 to 8 stems
-- Plant individually or in groups
-- Fast growing and inexpensive

-- Water Wisteria
-- Java Moss Hornwort
-- Anacharis

Planting Guidelines: Just like landscaping a yard, planting an aquarium can be a true work of art. General tips to remember include:

-- Try and keep tall plants in the back, and shorter plants in the foreground.

-- Think about how big the plant will grow when mature, and make sure to give it plenty of room.

For example, fully grown Amazon Sword can easily fill half of a 55-gallon tank.

-- Use colors and textures in groups to provide highlights.

-- Be careful to limit amount of floating plants, as they will eventually shade the others out.

Plant Fertilization: Some species require routine fertilization. Fertilizers come in liquid, tablet and substrate form. Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully for the recommended application. The frequency and amount of fertilization depends on the product.

CO2 Fertilization: Carbon is a very important element used by plants during photosynthesis and is essential for healthy live plants. In nature, aquatic plants receive carbon from several sources. In an enclosed ecosystem like an aquarium, there may not be enough sources of carbon, especially for a densely planted tank. Although some carbon dioxide (CO2) is produced by fish respiration and organic decomposition, it is limited. Supplemental CO2 can be introduced into the aquarium using several types of CO2 generators.

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