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  • Writer's pictureStewart Kessel

Benefits of a Planted Aquarium

Updated: Jan 8

Why Should You Use Live Plants in your Aquarium?

Artificial plants, either plastic or silk, can produce an aesthetically pleasing aquarium layout but do not offer all the same benefits as live plants.

Featuring live plants in your aquarium will not only make it look more attractive, but they also create a more stable and natural ecosystem, that benefits the health and wellbeing of your aquarium inhabitants.

The main benefits of using live plants include:

· More natural environment

· Natural food source

· Produce oxygen beneficial for fish & bacteria 

· Remove harmful chemicals and nutrients 

· Provide shelter & security for fish 

· Outcompete nuisance algae 

The most significant benefit that live plants provide for your aquarium is they produce oxygen (O2) and absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and ammonia (NH3) that your fish excrete.

Removal of the potentially toxic carbon dioxide (CO2) and release of the beneficial oxygen (O2) is part of the plant’s natural photosynthesis process. The improved oxygen levels benefit not only the fish but also the bacteria responsible for converting toxic waste products in the aquarium.

Plants also absorb other nitrogen-based waste products, including toxic ammonia (NH3) and nitrite (NO2). The less harmful Nitrate (NO3) produced form these as part of the nitrogen cycle is also absorbed by plants and is one method to help minimise the undesirable build-up of this material.

Plants are therefore like a natural filter, helping to improve water quality. Adding plants, however, does not replace the need for regular maintenance and water changes.

Live plants can also provide your fish with a natural, replenishable, food source.

Live plants enhance the appearance and provide a much more natural environment for the fish. Importantly they can also provide them with shelter and security, reducing their stress, which in turn reduces the risk of health issues.

Finally, because plants compete with algae for nutrients, they can help to reduce nuisance algae growth.

Planted aquariums do not need to be high end, high maintenance, carefully crafted aquascapes to achieve these benefits. Outstanding success can be achieved, with the correct selection of suitable aquatic plants in most aquarium set-ups.

It is not the intention to deal with aquatic plant selection and care in detail in this article, but some simple rules to apply include:

When selecting live plants, ensure that the chosen plants are genuine aquatic species and that they are suited for your aquariums water chemistry and chosen fish species.

Ensure they are fresh and of good quality when purchased to give them the best chance to get established.

Provide the plants with appropriate light conditions and nutrient source.

Lastly, ensure that you incorporate a sufficient number of plants, the more, the better, to be sure that they outcompete algae for the nutrient source.

To summarise, adding live plants in your aquarium helps create a visually beautiful and natural ecosystem in miniature. It improves water quality, helps reduce stress in your fish and therefore is one of the most beneficial ways to keep your fish healthy.

Author: Stewart Kessel CChem, MRSC

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