A Plethora of Possibilities for Perfect Plantlife

java fern in aquarium
Java Fern

Everybody loves the look of real plantlife in freshwater aquariums, especially newbies who are just getting their feet wet (pun intended!) in the hobby. But the big question is this: What kinds of plants are best suited for the beginning aquarist?

One can find a wide variety of plants at your local store, but which ones are best?

Well, here’s our take on things. The following five plant species are fairly simple to grow and maintain, and can make even the most rank beginner’s tank look like a miniature ocean forest with a minimum of expense. Plus, if you stick to these five, you likely will avoid wasting money on plants that just won’t work.

Best plantlife bets for beginners

The Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus) tops our list, largely due to the fact that it does not require gravel or sediment, or even high-intensity light to grow. In fact, for this species, less is more when it comes to light. You could even make your entire tank a java fern forest, if that suits your taste. This species is sometimes seen attached to driftwood and rock in planted aquariums. One issue though is the Java fern’s slow rate of growth, so you will want to plant it first, before you put any other plants around it.

Another great low-light plant with which beginners will find success is Wisteria (Hygrophilous difformis). Wisteria needs to be planted in gravel or sediment, though it can survive if not planted. A very fast-growing plant, wisteria is well-equipped to out-compete algae, as it reproduces at a relatively fast rate and usually requires regular pruning to keep it from overtaking your aquarium.

The only reason Java Moss (Vesicularia dubyana) isn’t at the top of this list is because it is a challenge to grow for even the most experiences freshwater fish hobbyist. It does not require substrate or high intensity lighting, but once it has established itself and is flourishing in your tank, it can become obnoxious and take over your tank. Java moss requires continuous maintenance in the beginning, allowing you to create a lush garden in only a few months. It is a great plant for hiding aquarium equipment in the tank, too.

Here’s one every beginner can grow: Anubias (Anubias nana). It does require you plant it in a gravel bed, but it doesn’t require high-intensity lighting or any specific water conditions. It can, in fact, even prosper out of the water. Anubias prefers water movement around its rhizomes and it is highly susceptible to beard algae, a brownish/greenish algae that takes over the leaves. The biggest negative for this species is its slow rate of growth. So you should prune lightly and only when you absolutely have to trim.

Also known at “turtle grass,” Anacharis (Egeria densa) is a low-light plant that can either be free floating or planted in the gravel. The invasive nature of this species makes it a difficult find in hobby stores, but if you do find it, take heart in knowing that it grows relatively quickly compared to anubias and java fern.

All this plantlife will prosper in a aquarium that has a pH range between 5 and 9. CO2 injection is not required and most of these plants can be found in any local pet store. Follow this list and your new aquarium will look amazing!

Reverse Osmosis Can Create the Perfect Aquatic Habitat

clean water filtered by reverse osmosis makes for a beautiful aquariumIt is a basic truth of life on Planet Earth that clean, pure water is a priority for most all living things. This is particularly true for almost all fish and plants. When it comes to providing them with a proper environment, it is very possible the water that comes from the faucet in your home doesn’t have the right stuff for the inhabitants of your aquarium. It might even be toxic. The good news is, there is a rather simple solution: a Reverse Osmosis (RO) unit.

An RO unit can filter out up to 99 percent of the chemicals normally found in the water that comes from the tap by forcing it through a semi-permeable membrane. The semi-permeable reverse osmosis membrane only allows very small molecules (such as the water molecule H2O) to pass through it, effectively removing most water impurities including agricultural chemicals, arsenic , pesticides, and heavy metals, like lead and iron.

If you are a freshwater hobbyist, using an RO unit will result in water without both general and carbonate hardness, creating an environment where trace elements and electrolytes can be added to match the natural water conditions of our fish. It also allows you to use buffers to set the water’s pH wherever you wish.

For the saltwater hobbyist, an RO unit will remove a variety of chemical that likely could cause problems. Unfortunately, the standard reverse osmosis membrane does not remove nuisance chemicals like phosphate, nitrate, or silicates, all deemed undesirable because they contribute to algae growth (a big headache on its own!). So a Hi-S membrane, which is less permeable than standard RO membranes, will take care of the silicates, and adding a final-stage deionization (DI) cartridge handles the phosphates, resulting in the best possible water for your environment.

Maintaining your Reverse Osmosis unit is important

Regular maintenance of the RO unit requires replacement of the sediment pre-filter and carbon block. The manufacturer suggests replacing these cartridges after producing 1000 gallons of RO water. This is gauged by watching the pre-filter and noticing any color deviation from its original color. The semi-permeable membrane needs replacing after approximately three years. You can increase the life of the membrane by utilizing the optional RO flush kit.

So, now the question is, which RO unit is right for me and my aquarium setup? There are five simple questions you should ask when choosing an RO unit starting with what do I want to remove from my tap water? Does my water contain chlorine? Knowing the answer to these first two questions will help you answer the other three: How many filtration stages do I actually require? How many gallons per day (GPD) of purified water do I need? and What type of membrane do I need?

How much filtration do you need?

Ok, so, now let’s look at filtration. Various RO units feature a different number of filtration stages. Generally speaking, they vary from two-stage filtration to four-stage filtration, and depending on your needs, each accomplishes different levels of water purification.

A two-stage RO unit is generally light and compact, which makes it much easier for storage and transport. They contain a small inline pre-filter and the RO membrane. This is an excellent choice if space is limited, and is a good value at an economical price.

Three-stage RO units are larger, and employ carbon or sediment pre-filters to protect the delicate RO membranes. These are higher in quality, more durable, and thus are an excellent choice for regular use.

By adding deionization to the equation, the four-stage RO unit will remove the small amount of contaminants that remain, resulting in a purity level in excess of 99.9 percent, the highest level of water filtration you can get!

Overall, RO units definitely benefit your fish and plants by removing impurities in your water. Knowing how many impurities your water contains, helps you determine the best RO unit for your aquarium.

Choosing Aquarium Plants

live plants in an aquariumSelecting live plants for your aquarium depends on whether you will have a freshwater tank or a marine one. Some aquarium plants will thrive only in freshwater, while others are needed in the diets of some marine fish. Everything about an aquarium habitat affects other aspects of it. The type of fish you choose determines the volume of water and its salinity, as well as the types of live plants you include.

The Benefits of Live Aquarium Plants

The benefits of adding live plants to your aquarium are that they give the environment a natural looking appearance.  The fish respond favorably to the more natural habitat, which helps keep them healthy. Additionally, live plants help oxygenate the water. They can even absorb nitrates, thus helping keep the whole system in balance.

Knowledge Helps in Selection

It is important that you learn about the aquarium plants you select, however. Some will live totally submersed only for a limited period, and then die. When that happens, the plants must be removed so that the rotting vegetation does not contaminate the tank water.  In a marine aquarium, you are most likely choose either a sea grass or a macro algae. Unlike the sea grass, macro algae lack true roots. Instead of roots, the algae secure themselves with rhizomes or holdfasts with individual runners supporting the growth.

Some marine fish and invertebrates definitely need live plants in the aquarium habitat. There are fish that are not comfortable in open spaces, and so require vegetation as part of their environment. Others need plants as part of their diet. Considering all these aspects as you plan your aquarium will lead to a combination of fish and plants that will be healthy for the fish and a pleasure for you for a long time to come.

Live aquarium plants

Getting Expert Help

Pay attention to the needs of your choice of fish, and then learn what you will need to do in order to maintain the plant-life in your tank. Don’t over-crowd the aquarium with vegetation. Seek advice from an expert about which specific plants will best serve the fish you intend to keep. Enjoy the graceful beauty of live plants in your aquarium, whether you choose freshwater or saltwater.