Plants for the aquarium

Lets take a brief look at the different types of plants available for the aquarium. I have put them into three basic categories.


Rooted plants

Rooted plans are those that grow leaves and roots from a central base. The base of the plant can be a crown, bulb or tuber, or a rhizome. Bulbs and rhizomes store nutrients for the plant, and will generate new growth if the leaves all die off or when the plant comes out of a seasonal dormancy. To a lesser extent a crown will also continue to produce new growth if the existing leaves are damaged. Examples of these types of plants are Sword plants, (Echinodorus), Cryptocorynes, Anubias, Crinums, Aponogetons, Vallisneria, Sagittaria and Nymphaea, (lilies) In general these plants have a slow to medium growth rate, fairly tolerant of less than ideal growing conditions, and are fairly easy to grow.


Stem plants

Stem plants grow leaves of various shapes and colors from long erect stems. Pieces of stems will usually take root and continue to grow. Cut stems are bunched together and sold as a plant that usually has not formed roots yet. In general most stem plants have a moderate to very fast growth rate depending on the intensity of the light overhead. This fast metabolic rate creates more of a demand for nutrients and many of the plants when actively growing will produce a steady visible flow of oxygen in the water which is why they are sometimes referred to as oxygenators. Some of these plants are more challenging to grow under water than above water and hobbyists rely more on C02 supplementation and nutrient regiments to get the desired growth. Although challenging, these plants are popular with hobbyists for the unusual shapes, textures, and vivid colors. In a high tech planted aquarium, the fast growth rate of these plants is taken advantage of to mold and sculpt the aquascape like a living canvas.


Floating plants

Floating plants have long been popular with pond keepers for their beautiful flowers or large floating leaves. While its rare for floating plants to flower in the aquarium, and many species are too big for the aquarium, there are smaller species that are beneficial for several reasons. Like all water plants, floating plants will help to keep nitrate and ammonium levels low. To some extent the dangling roots of the floaters will release some oxygen during photosynthesis. They also provide some cover and safety for various fish fry species.

The best way to appreciate the beauty of floating plants and possibly have them flower is to have an open top tank with an overhanging light. The problem with having floating plants is that they will quickly cover the entire water surface and block light to any plants below. Duckweed is a good example of this. While the individual plants are not much bigger than a pinhead, they will quickly blanket the entire water surface.