Aquarium Plant Basics
Adding aquarium plants is like putting a rose in a bucket of sand or gravel: you can add as much water as you like, but there aren’t many useful nutrients available. They will fight to the best of their ability, but without the building blocks, you may notice signs of deficiency.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a mix of Stephen Hawking and Monty Don to solve these problems, as most of the necessary trace minerals and nutrients can be found in a bottle of aquarium plant fertilizer.
There are other variables, which equate to gardeners’ principle of ‘right plant, right place’ and these can be an important factor in choosing plants that are likely to thrive.
Light in the aquarium is a bit like gasoline in an engine, it fuels the speed at which things happen. High light levels promote rapid growth, which increases the demand for nutrients.
Some species have high light requirements, the red species in particular can often be generalized as more demanding than their greener relatives. At lower light levels, these plants often produce more chlorophyll and turn green.
Slow growing plants tend to be less fussy about light levels and as such need feeding less frequently. This makes them a better option for low-maintenance systems where taking care of the aquascape or aquascaping is less interesting; think of it as the difference between a lawn and a bush.
CO2 is another factor in dedicated plant tanks and, like light, will drive the rate of demand for other nutrients. As plants use the extracted carbon to build their tissues, you can see how natural growth rates are related to demand.
Remember that plants only require carbon dioxide when the lights are on and heavily planted aquariums may require aeration at night to avoid low oxygen issues that can harm fish. Dissolving in water as carbonic acid, adding CO2 will lower the pH and must be combined with an understanding of KH to avoid problems.
Depending on your primary focus, you might be an aquatic gardener keeping a few fish in a meticulously tidy plant tank, or a fish farmer looking for something green that your pets won’t destroy.
Both approaches require some consideration for the plants’ requirements and there is no reason why you shouldn’t be successful with either approach.