Choosing Plants For Your Aquarium
Most hobbyists are quite naturally drawn to making their aquarium look as natural as possible. Adding plants is one of the better ways to make your aquarium look stunning. Plants have some obvious advantages when it comes to looks as well as use. Most viewers are stunned by the beauty of lush green plants that grow abundantly in water. As described earlier in this e-book, live plants have a much more serious role to play in your aquarium than being mere decoration. The plants provide a hiding place for the fish too. So, you will find that many fish species are happier and more relaxed around plants. Plants will also produce oxygen and use up the nitrogenous wastes that the fish give out. This alone makes them desirable in your aquarium.
Natural plants have some inherent negative aspects. You should be aware of these before you decide whether you want to keep them in your aquarium. Keeping real plants in your aquarium requires an equal amount of dedication as keeping live fish. Plants need to be maintained, nurtured and propagated. Dead and decaying parts will need to be pruned and cut off regularly. Real plants may also introduce snails and hydra into your water and they can be the transmitter of fish infections too. If your fish love to nibble on the plants that you have decided to put in, you will have a hard time keeping these plants alive. Real plants require some particular kinds of nutrients, fertilizers etc. That means you will have to go in for a particular combination of materials in your substrate. When the substrate becomes old, you will have to change it or fertilize it. A planted aquarium with real plants generally needs more light than a fish-only aquarium, since fish do not rely on photosynthesis. Without sufficient lighting, your plants will not be able to generate oxygen and can even begin to die and decay.
If you do not have that much of time for the aquarium just at the moment, you can go in for fake plants. There are numerous gorgeous looking fake plants available in the stores. Fake plants are of course much easier to keep. And hopefully, your fish will not develop a taste for it. A combination of fake and real plants can also be a good solution and give a more natural look to your aquarium. Maintenance will be less because a large chunk of your plants will not need to be maintained. When you select fake plants, it is usually better to choose silk plants rather than plastic plants. Silk is easier to clean if you need to scrub out algae. Plastic plants tend to fall apart while cleaning. This will however vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and high quality plastic plants can still be a good choice.
So, why put in live plants at all, when you can have equally beautiful artificial plants? After all, artificial plants are so much easier to look after and maintain. And they NEVER wither or die. Well, here are some very valid reasons to go for live planting, at least partially, in your aquarium.
- Oxygen, the byproduct of photosynthesis, is a necessary ingredient for any fish aquarium to thrive.
- In addition to keeping Carbon dioxide levels low, plants also keep a check on the nitrogen levels, thus protecting your fish.
- The natural surroundings that the plants provide give the fish in captivity a sense of freedom and security. This is especially important if you plan on breeding your fish.
- Plants are a source of food for many species of fish, provided of course that they do not nibble away too much and kill the plant.
- Plants also help to keep your substrate in place, especially if you are using sand at the bottom. The tiny root systems of the various plants help to anchor the substrate to the bottom of the aquarium.
- Small amounts of algae are a natural part of an aquarium, but excessive algae growth can be an aquarist's worst nightmare. Real plants inhibit the growth of algae by releasing certain chemicals. They will also compete for nutrients, since they live on the same substances as algae.
Plants are also a sure shot indicator of the health of your aquarium. Unfavorable conditions within your aquarium will typically first affect the plants, and this will warn you that the fish will soon be sick too. This helps you to take timely precautions and emergency protective measures.
Before you can make up your mind regarding the kinds of plants that will go into your aquarium, there are some style statements that you should know about. There are two main planting styles that have evolved among aquarists over a period of time. A quick overview of these styles and their usability will help you decide which way you want to go, or if you want to think up something entirely different.
The natural style: As the term suggests, the natural style is just that - natural. Here, we strive to mime nature as closely as possible. Introducing a variety of plants without any particular order is the most important thing in this style. Think natural - in nature, you would not find groups of similar plants sitting pretty in some order. The aim is to cultivate a 'wild' look. It may seem that no planning goes into this kind of style, but this is far from the truth. Plants may seem to be placed at random without any serious coordination, but to achieve that striking display of 'wilderness' in your aquarium, you need to sift through the various plant varieties, and pick and choose the right ones.
The Dutch Style: This style is for the more serious planters. The aquarium is more for the plants, and the fish seem to be added in as an afterthought. You will hardly find these kinds of aquariums with superbly colored fish. There will just be a few colorless fish hanging about. The style tries to replicate a verdant garden, in all its green glory. An important element in this style is terracing or layering. You will find that the aquarium is divided into terraces, with different kinds of plants growing on different layers. The back of the aquarium will be higher than the front. The plants are the main focus of this display.
There are two ways in which you can adapt the natural planting style to your aquarium. Firstly, there is the open style aquarium. In this kind of aquarium, the top of the aquarium is left open most of the time. The plants are allowed to grow right out of the aquarium. The tops of the plants are never trimmed. You need to be extra careful when you keep an open aquarium. If you have any jumpers in this aquarium, you will find that you are poorer by a number of fish after some time. An open aquarium is therefore not suitable when you keep such fish species.
A habitat aquarium can also adopt the natural style. The habitat aquarium is one in which you place ideally suited species of fish and plants that have the same requirements. A habitat display will take plants and fish from some particular geographical location, and mimic their ecosystem.
You can categorize the natural plants that should go into your aquarium depending upon their behavior. Very broadly, there are three kinds of underwater plants:
- Plants that float at the top of your aquarium
- Plants that will stay firmly rooted to the bottom
- Plants that come in a bunch and keep moving or floating around
Keep in mind that you cannot put in just any plant. Common household plants should naturally be avoided. Any plant that is not a water plant is bad news in the long run. They may adapt to the water initially, but may not be able to cope with their surroundings after a period of time. Changing your set up after some time is not very easy, and plants also take time to adapt and grow.
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