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How To Grow Live Plants In An Aquarium

By John DoeLast update: 2023-09-17

Planting a live plant in an aquarium gives it a natural look and can help with water conditioning and filtration. It sounds simple, but live plants are hard to add to an aquarium without the right setup and tools to help them thrive. No matter what plants you choose to add to your aquarium, fish and aquatic animals will feel right at home in the setting. Let's learn how to grow live plants in an aquarium below!

1. Set up an aquarium

Choose a pet tank and choose a place to keep them

You should check the tank size requirements for aquatic animals before purchasing an aquarium, then choose a suitable place in the house to place them out of direct sunlight. You can also purchase aquariums with supplies for your aquatic pets at most major pet stores or local exotic pet stores. You always make sure to fill it with water, substrate, and live plants, so don't keep it on a rickety or uneven surface.

For every 1 US gal (3.8 L) of water weighs about 8 lb (3.6 kg), a 10 US gal (38 L) tank with gravel and trim will weigh significantly more than an empty tank.

Place the light bulb above the cage

LEDs and fluorescent lights are good choices to use because they give off less heat and provide light for the plants to convert into energy. Put a bulb to illuminate the aquarium without shining the light directly into the animal's eyes, if it's too bright for you to see in, it's too bright for the fish, so use a low setting.

Incandescent bulbs should be avoided as they do not penetrate the water efficiently and will not provide any nutrients to your live plants.

You should leave the lights on for a maximum of about 10 to 12 hours a day.

Choose a filter that matches the size of your tank and the types of plants you will be adding

Aquariums under 50 gallons (190 L) will be fine with a small filter attached to the rear of the tank, but heavier aquariums will need a stronger filter. The media that will be added later will help to filter the water somewhat, but the water filter will keep the water clean and help the plants thrive.

A filter as heavy as the box filter, if you're worried about the crop dies. While a small filter is enough for a light aquarium, one built for heavier ones will clean the water more effectively and won't require as much change.

Install the water heater (if possible)

There are still some animals that will do perfectly well in non-hot water, others need warm and inviting water. Look up what conditions are optimal for your fish or aquatic animal, and purchase a heater to maintain that temperature.

2. Place the base material in the tank

Clean and spread sand 3 cm (1.2 in) thick on the bottom of the tank

It is recommended to pour sand underwater in a pillowcase or ultrafine mesh container until the water comes out clean. Pour sand gently on the bottom of the aquarium to create a moderately thick layer at the bottom.

The sand will filter the water, provide nutrients for the plants, and create a place for benthic animals to dig and bury themselves.

Limit the use of gravel, as it does not contain nutrients necessary for living plants. Gravel is the choice for aquariums without live plants because it is easy to clean and handle. However, with live plants, gravel provides no nutrition and colored gravel can make the water acidic. But if gravel must be used, choose fine gravel over bulk gravel, as it can be mixed with sand or another substrate to provide some level of nutrition.

Pour a 3 cm (1.2 in) thick layer of vegetation over the sand carefully

There are a variety of substrates available at all pet stores and aquariums, and it doesn't matter which brand you choose, as long as it doesn't contain gravel. Products made from clay to mix with sand and look for products that are advertised as living plant-friendly.

Clay media will help your plants take root and take root more easily, while other media can provide additional nutrients.

Choose a medium that contains a plant fertilizer or mix it with a plant fertilizer before adding any plants to your aquarium.

Cover the substrate with a sheet of plastic or an easily removable cardboard

It is advisable to cover most of the substrate when filling the aquarium so as not to disturb it. Use a long piece of plastic wrap, a tub cover, or a pot lid for a spherical aquarium.

Pour room temperature water into the tank slowly and carefully

Water should be anywhere from 70–80°F (21–27°C) to create the right conditions for most aquatic vegetation. Pour the water slowly and carefully into the tank, making sure not to disturb the substrate too much.

A plastic cap or cap will help reduce the impact of water spilling on the base layer.

The temperature requirements for both aquatic animals and live plants should be checked at 70–80°F (21–27°C) as recommended for animals and fish.

3. Choose plants for the aquarium

Find compatible plants

Moss and grass are compatible with all aquatic pets, but check the care leaflet or information guide that comes with your pet to see which plants to avoid and which plants they prefer.

Like the surrounding seawater environment, clownfish are very fond of sea anemones. In freshwater tanks, avoid planting leafy plants if goldfish or snails are present.

Size of the plant type

Should you choose a plant size that is compatible with the size of the aquarium, you will have a lot of options to choose from or a limited choice. Tall plants are not for short aquariums as the plants outside of the water will not survive, on the contrary, small plants can get lost in the scene in a large aquarium.

Moss and grass do well in aquariums, so make sure to include them in the tank. If the aquarium is longer than it is wide, consider growing some edging and wide ferns instead of the continuous stems.

Changing the size and position of the plant

Consider the placement of plants to increase the aesthetics of the aquarium, such as short plants should be placed in the front, while tall plants should be in the back so as not to lose sight.

The groups of aquatic plants include carpet plants, foreground plants, middle plants, and background plants.

  • Plant carpet: will spread throughout the layer of substrate and create a lush "carpet" of vegetation. Java moss, hair grass, and other mosses and grasses are easy to grow and care for.
  • Foreground plants: placed in front of the aquarium, adding a sense of depth and landscape to the tank. Water Wisteria, Pygmy Sword, and other short but pleated plants.
  • Middle tree: in the middle of the thick, high ground, revealing the natural scenery in the tank. Ground-level plants include African water ferns, Java ferns, and others that take up a lot of space and grow widely.
  • Background plants: placed at the back of the barn, are the tallest and most obstructing plants. Amazon Swords, Anubias, and other flowering and soaring plants are popular choices.

4. Planting with caring for live plants

Remove the plant from the container and place the plant in the substrate

Watch out for lifeless plants and you should remove the plant from its packaging and carefully plant it in the media according to the growing instructions. Different plants require different depths to grow in media.

  • Moss and Grass: Turn off the filter and place moss directly on top of the substrate in areas where you want it to grow. Place a heavy coin, like a half-dollar or pound coin, on top of the moss to keep it down while the roots grow into the medium over the next week.
  • Potted plants: Move the plant out of the lot and be careful not to damage the roots sticking out of the soil or bottom cotton. Then dig a hole in the medium as wide as the plant, place it inside, then blend the sides of the plant with the medium.
  • Ferns: attach the fern to a rock or piece of driftwood with a fishing line or cotton thread to keep it upright. The fern doesn't need to be placed in the substrate, it needs something sturdy to hold onto for stability. Cotton thread will melt over time, and the fishing line should be cut and discarded once the fern has taken hold.
  • Stems: Push the base of the stem about 1–2 in (2.5–5.1 cm) into the medium and should be upright. If not, use a fishing line or cotton thread to hold it until it can support itself. At this point, you can plant all the leafy plants in one area in a bunch of folds, or spread them around the back and center areas.

Prune plant regularly to encourage growth

Plants can quickly become too large and take up too many resources in the tank. Use a very sharp knife to cut away dead leaves, and dead stems, and cut grass or moss in the tank every time you clean the aquarium.

Moss can be replanted in other areas of the tank, just place it on an empty patch of substrate and press over it with a heavy coin until the roots are firmly attached.

Store about 2 in (5.1 cm) off the top of the stem to encourage growth.

Set the tank to recirculate for about 1 month before releasing the fish

Now the substrate, plants, and everything else that has been added to the aquarium can change the acidity, nutrient content, and overall health of the tank. Let the tank circulate the water normally through the filter, removing algae and build-up, and allowing the plants to take root before you introduce fish and aquatic animals.

This time the tank needs time to accumulate nutrients and beneficial bacteria in the medium. Beneficial bacteria help stabilize the tank and prevent ammonia and nitrate build-up.

With benthic and burrowing aquatic animals, some aquatic animals will dig at the base of trees or eat leaves and stems.


Your friend advises not to grow live plants in an aquarium with cichlids or goldfish in it. Because these fish all like to eat plants. Snails and plecos will also sometimes eat plants. Also, avoid adding plants to an existing aquarium. If you want to add animals to the tank, change things up first and then reintroduce the fish in a few weeks. On the other hand, a gravel base should not be used when there is no other option, but remember to mix it with sand or a specialized substrate.

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