Today I want to talk about aquarium plants. Aquarium plants are just as important to some hobbyists as the fish itself and they make you aquarium feel alive.

Aquarium plants can be tricky for someone who just started tho, in this guide I’ll get you on your way in the world of aquarium plants.

Table of contents

  • Different types of aquarium plants
  • Growth difficulty
  • Low tech tank
  • High Tech tank
  • Lightning
  • Substrate
  • CO2
  • Fertilisers

Different type of aquarium plants

Just like aquarium fish, there are many different plant species in the aquarium hobby, all with their own unique characteristics, requirements and difficulty to keep.

Terms you need to know

First of all, I’d like to start with some common used therms within the planted aquarium community. Most plants have a label with their best ‘place in the tank’ These places are of course, in the back of the tank (background plant), in the middle of the tank (middle ground), foreground plants and carpeting plants.

  • Background plants: are ment to be placed in the background
  • Middleground plants: Are ment to place in the middle
  • Foreground plants: are ment to place in the foreground of the tank
  • Carpeting plants: carpeting plants cover the substrate of your tank, like grass does in your garden.

Luckily for us, there are too many species of aquarium plants to count, so to keep it simple, I’ll skip these for now. I will however take some time to talk about their origins for the theme capers out there! Most plants come from specific places in the world, the most populair are:

  • The amazon
  • Thailand
  • Africa
  • Japan
  • India
  • China
  • Sri Lanka

Growth difficulty

Different plants have different requirements and some are harder to keep alive than others. It’s a good idea to start with plants who’m can take a punch if you’re starting with aquarium plants or if you are on a low budget. I’ll talk more about this later on, but it mostly has to do with: The amount of lightning, substration, temperature and CO2.

You can find the difficulty level of the plant on their labels. Usually with a icon going from green to red. If you can’t find the difficulty level of the plant your want, asking an employee at your local fish store or looking it up on Google usually goes a long way.

10 easy to keep aquarium plants I high recommend:

  • Java Moss
  • Mainam Brazillian Micro Sword 
  • Water Wisteria
  • Dwarf Baby Tears
  • Anubias barteri (there are many different types of Anubias plants on the market! Place them in the shadow tho)
  • Ceratopteris Thalictroides
  • Eleocharis parvula
  • Lagenandra meeboldii
  • Microsorum pteropus
  • Murdannia keisak

Low tech tank

A low tech tank is an aquarium setup without CO2 and like the name says, an aquarium without a lot of external equipment plugged in to your aquarium. A low tech aquarium in definition isn’t worse than a High tech tank, it’s just a way to define what kind of aquarium you have and what you can plant in it. Plants that are harder to keep, usually need an external CO2 source (later more on this) and in order to make your Co2 setup worth it you need a good light to balance things out. A low tech plant is a lot cheaper than a High tech plant, so if you are just getting started with aquarium plants, I would go for a low tech tank.

High tech tank

A high tech tanks has all the bells and whistles your plants need to grow to their fullest potential. High tank plants are usually equipped with a strong light and a proper external CO2 source. Aquascapers and people with a ‘nature tank’ are the ones who’m most benefit from having a high tech tank, because it best supports plant grow and meet the requirements difficult plants need.

Lightning for planted tanks

Now we have some basics out of the way, we finally can talk about lightning! Having good lightning on your tank is essential for good plant-growth. Simply because light makes Photosynthesis possible. Plants aren’t really picky about what kind of light it’s get as long as it is strong enough to make Photosynthesis possible. Throughout the years many different kind of lights have entered the aquarium market, all with their own pro’s and con’s. The most populair are:

  • Fluorescent lights
  • Led Lights

Fluorescent lights are cheaper to buy, but consume more energy and have a shorter lifetime, led’s are of course the opposite of Fluorescent lights, they cost more, but save you money over time and have a longer life. Led lights have become really good in the past few years, so I recommend to invest in a good led light, you will not regret it.

If you are looking for a good, but affordable led light for your planted tank, check out my review of the Chririos A361 here:

Luckily for us, plants aren’t picky when it comes to lights. As long as the light in strong enough and has a color temperature close to daylight (5600 kelvin) you will be fine.

Subtrate for your planted tank.

Good substrate Substrate is my secret sauce for a successful planted tank.

Substrates come in all different kind of flavours, some are extremely useful for planted tanks, others are only good for decoration. And there’s plant growth substrate. This is the juicy stuff you put underneath your normal substrate. Plant growth substrate is filled with plant nutritions and usually will provide your plants with enough nutrients for a couple of months. On top of your plant growth substrate you can plant nutrient rich soil like ADA Amazonia or decide to get some decorate substrate.

A planted tank with ADA Amazonia
A tank with decorative sand.

If you are are planning out a beautiful aquascape, I highly recommend to use Amazonia on top of your plant growth soil and besides your decorate substrate. ADA Amazonia is a great way to create hight in your tank, looks good, has a lot of nutrients for your plant and it makes it really easy to plant your tanks.

Watch this amazing video from Green Aqua to see what I mean by this:

Adding CO2 to your planted tank

Adding CO2 to your planted tank is a great way to improve plant growth. Besides light, plants absorb CO2 and convert this in oxygen in the Photosynthesis process.

The Co2 levels in an aquarium are lower than they are in nature and this can limit your plants growth potential, for some plants it’s an essential to add co2, otherwise they’ll likely die (this goes for the harder to grow plants.)

Adding a co2 installation to your aquarium can significantly boost the growth of your plants and make them healthier. But, I don’t recommend adding CO2 to your tank if you are just starting out or if you are looking for a simple fix for bad growing or dying plants and this is why. First of all, Co2 installations are expensive. A good set usually goes for around $ 150 or so with the added cost of replacing the cylinder that holds the actual co2 every once in a while. Second of all, there need’s to be a fine balance between the amount of light your plants receive and the amount of co2 they can absorb.

More lights leads to more Photosynthesis and therefore increases the demand for co2 needed in the water that can be used to be turned into oxygen. And with more Photosynthesis, the plants will grow harder and this again increase the demand for light and co2. Starting the whole cycle again. This can be battled with proper trimming of course. but it is something to keep in the back of your head.

When you don’t have a strong light, I don’t recommend adding Co2 to your tank, for the simple reason that plants can’t use the added amount of co2 in the water. And I don’t recommend having a super strong light, because the plants won’t have enough co2 to turn into oxygen.

I also have friends in the hobby that have had great results without Co2 in their tank and I have friends that have terrible results with Co2. So it can be a game of balance en experimenting.

Fertilizers and nutrients for your plants

The last thing I want to talk about is fertilisers and extra nutrients for your plants. These are extra supplements you can buy for your aquarium plants. They often have variants that you add to your water once a month, once a week or once a day. These can be a great extra to promote healthy plant growth for you plants.