Adding Plants to Your Aquarium
By Steve Kalzac
Adding plants to your aquarium is a sound idea for a number of reasons. They are aesthetically pleasing and provide a healthier environment for your aquarium. Fish and other creatures in your fish tank will benefit from aquatic plants, as the plants, through the process of photosynthesis provide oxygen by converting the carbon dioxide found in the environment. This helps create a balanced ecosystem within the aquarium.
By absorbing the ammonia that comes from fish waste, aquatic plants also help prevent ammonia levels from becoming too high. Another benefit of aquatic plants is they will compete for nutrients in the water, thus helping “starve” the algae and keep its growth under control. The fish also benefit by finding food and shelter among the plants foliage.
No two aquarium’s are alike and the plants you add to your aquarium will depend on the water’s characteristics and the species of fish that live in the tank. Spend time researching what plants are suitable for your aquarium. Keep in mind the overall theme that you are trying establish. By choosing plants for their contrast and colours you can help create an illusion of depth. But don’t go overboard, try to create a natural look that flows together without appearing contrived.
Aquatic plants health and vitality depends on nutrients, water hardness, pH levels and temperature. The amount of dissolved salts and minerals in the aquariums water will determine its “hardness”. Magnesium and calcium contribute the most to the waters hardness. Carbonic acid is produced by the interaction of magnesium and calcium and it affects the pH level’s of the water. A pH range of 6.5 to 7.5 will be suitable for most aquatic plants. Most plants prefer harder water, though the tropical’s prefer softer water. The temperature of the water in most aquarium’s is in the 16 to 29Â°C – (60 to 85Â°F) range and this will suit the majority of aquatic plants , but double check when purchasing your plants, especially if they’re exotics.
When it comes to the lightening of your aquarium the ideal amount is 10 – 12 hours a day. This will give the plants enough light for strong and vigorous growth, but not too much to cause excessive growth of algae on your fish tank’s walls.
The substrate is the growing medium that your plants are rooted in. Porous gravel is a favourite medium as it doesn’t compact down. It’s important to add nutrients to this substrate, especially if it’s a new aquarium that hasn’t had time to build up levels of mulm (fish waste and other organic debris) over time. A good substrate would consist possibly of gravel ( non-coated ), granular laterite and sphagnum peat moss.
When deciding on what fish to add to your aquarium, avoid herbivorous fish for obvious reasons. The last thing you want to see is your well planned aquatic garden being consumed. Finally, be sure to only add a few fish to the tank until the plants are established. Otherwise, the fish may destroy the plants before they can grow strong enough to withstand the occasional nibble.
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