If you’ve decided to grow plants in your aquarium or switch from a no-plant tank to a planted one, there are a few things you should know to make your venture successful. One of the things that play a critical role in your aquarium plants thriving in your tank and your plant-keeping becoming a success is the substrate.
Substrate refers to the base layer where your plants take roots in. Very simply, substrates are gravels, stones, rocks, pebbles, and other organic materials located at the bottom of your tank.
Substrates are essential in growing healthy aquarium plants, and you need to give them attention. Just as all other plants need healthy soil to grow, aquarium plants need healthy substrates.
Some species of plants do not need the substrate to be healthy because they do not draw all of the nutrients they need from their roots, but for all other plants, you need your substrate to contain essential nutrients so that your plants will grow well. Thus, the substrate you buy will have a long-term impact on the health of your aquarium.
When buying substrates, keep away from cheap ones as they lack aquarium plants’ food nutrients. Too often, aquarium plants die because they weren’t rooted to suitable substrates. So, what makes substrates good, and what is the kind of substrates that you should keep an eye on?
Good Substrates, Huh?
Good substrates include high amounts of Aluminum, Iron, Potassium, Magnesium, Sodium, and other minerals. The most important of these is Iron. Plants need Iron to grow well. Therefore, the substrate must provide a stable supply of Iron. If it does, then you’re on your way to growing aquarium plants that are healthy and will make your aquarium beautiful.
Take note that the size of your fertilized gravel is not too big. Instead, opt for fine-grained gravel, about 3mm or smaller. This will make planting easier as well as make the plants stay planted. In addition, big gravels tend to be unsympathetic to plant stems.
Aside from the gravel, consider using sand. Fine sand also makes it easy to plant any size of the plant, whether big or small. Plus, plants tend to root faster and better with fine sands.
When you’re ready to set up your substrates, try layering your gravels. That is, use peat or any organic debris, and then top it off with laterite and then your regular aquarium gravel. Some planted aquarium hobbyists like to make an Iron enriched substrate at the very bottom and then cover it with regular gravel or sand.
This kind of layering is cost-effective, and you’re also sure your plants are getting all the Iron they need. Remember that the deep should be about 3 inches, so you could set up 2 inches of Iron-enriched substrate and then 1inch of fertilized fine-grained gravel.
Choosing a suitable substrate is not everything, though. You have a whole lot of other things to think about, like lighting and nutrition. Suppose you choose the right substrates, though, for planting aquarium plants; you’re already halfway there. So choose your substrates wisely, and you’ll soon find yourself the owner of a beautiful planted tank.
Different types of Aquarium plants
A planted tank is not only beautiful to look at, but it also provides a lot of benefits to your aquarium fish. If you’re considering having aquatic plants in your tank, you’ll need to learn the basics about the types of aquarium plants you can have in your tank.
There are three types of aquatic plants: rosettes, stem plants, and ferns and mosses. There is a fourth group that people sometimes categorized aquarium plants in, but this group comprises three groups. They are called floating plants.
Let’s discuss the basic characteristics of each aquarium plant group.
Rosette plants are beautiful, leafy, flowering plants with usually short stems on them. These plants are perfect as ornamental aquarium plants because of their flowery pattern leaves. They do, however, need better care than other plants, but when taken care of properly, they could easily be the focal point of any planted tank.
Rosettes can also be used in outdoor ponds and can also be planted in groups. Popular rosette plants include Amazon Sword, Vallisneria, Water Lily, Sword Grass, Anubias, Water Hyacinth, and Madagascar Lace.
Stem plants are the largest category of aquarium plants. They are hardy plants that respond well to pruning and re-rooting. They can be easily propagated, and they can tolerate different kinds of water conditions. They also grow fast and are easier to grow than other types of aquarium plants. Because of this, stem plants are a very popular choice among beginners.
There are many different kinds of stem plants, and you can generally use them anywhere in your aquarium. Some of the species belonging to this group are Cabomba, Anacharis, Hornwort, and many others.
FERNS AND MOSSES
Ferns and mosses are non-flowering aquarium plants. They reproduce and propagate through their asexual reproductive structures. They also propagate by growing through underground stems that produce roots and develop new plants. They attach to rocks and ornaments in the aquarium and grow on their own. You can also proliferate them by cutting the stems and planting them separately.
Plants belonging to this category include varieties of ferns, mosses, and liverworts such as Java Fern, Java Moss, Willow Moss, Water Sprite, and Crystalwort.
Floating plants, as the name implies, are plants that float in the tank. Most species of this category also grow on the substrate, but “floating plants” grow well floating than restricted.
Popular floating aquarium plants include Water Sprite, Anacharis, Homework, Duckweed, Azolla, and many others.
Aquarium plants help in making the quality of your water high. They serve as biological filters and produce oxygen in the water. In addition, they keep your algae growth in control by competing with them in water nutrients consumption.
They also provide a good hiding place for your fish and help mimic the natural environment of your fish, thereby helping make your fish happy and healthy. Having aquarium plants in your tank can significantly improve the look of your aquarium and the health of your tank.
Jesse is the principal author of this blog. He is an avid fishkeeper with rich experience spanning several years. He is here to share his knowledge and ensure you also have a guiding compass, as he did with his father.