Aquarium plants provide so many benefits to the aquarium from both an aesthetic and a functional perspective.
Plants use light and CO2 to create oxygen and grow through a process called photosynthesis. This action provides numerous benefits to the aquarium environment. Oxygen is essential to support all life forms in the aquarium, from microscopic biological filtration bacteria to our fish, shrimp and snails. Richer oxygen levels means more efficient harmful waste processing and a healthier ecosystem all round. While CO2 is harmful in high quantities it is also the carbon food source for our plants, so any CO2 produced by our livestock and bacteria will be used up by our plants and converted to oxygen. So in summary an aquarium full of growing plants becomes an oxygen-rich and super healthy environment.
Plants provide shelter and an important sense of security for fish and shrimp. Imagine two aquariums side by side - one a bare tank with nothing in there except for fish and another full of plants and fish. The fish in the planted tank will be much more likely to be swimming confidently around the whole aquarium, showing more colour and vitality. The fish in the bare tank will likely be hiding in one corner with little colour. Plants also provide areas to lay eggs for breeding. Dangling roots from floating plants provide a further sense of security, as well as the shade from the floating leaves.
Algae is probably the biggest reason folk give up on keeping an aquarium. The good news is that by keeping an aquarium full of healthy aquatic plants we can help prevent algae. Algae needs light and nutrients to grow - and so do our plants. So the more plants we have and the better we look after those plants with appropriate conditions provided by appropriate equipment and techniques, the less likely we will be to have algae. Algae is a complex topic that will be covered in a separate article in more detail.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect to growing aquarium plants is the beauty they provide. If the aquarium is the canvas then the plants are the paint. Plants are available in all shapes, sizes, colours and textures and there is sure to be a plant suitable for almost any aquarium; no matter the size. With literally hundreds of available plant species the choice may seem overwhelming but by following a few basic guidelines the process can be simplified so an aquarium keeper of any experience level can create and maintain a successful aquascape. Aquascaping is another huge topic that will be covered in future articles.
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