Plants are an important part of the natural aquarium, but to say I have low-tech fish tanks would be an understatement. Most of my aquariums are built for natural function, not beauty. We breed aquarium fish and require plants that will provide security to fry (fish babies) and eggs. They also create territories, give harassed fish a hiding place, assist in keeping the aquarium water clean, and provide a more natural aquatic habitat.
As much as I would love to have one of those gorgeous, high-tech planted aquariums, it simply doesn’t work with my schedule. We do have a 90 gallon display tank in our living room, however, and I like to spend a little more time on making it look nice.
When I walk into an aquatic plant store, I do so with these limitations in mind:
- My aquariums all have standard, relatively low lighting.
- I rarely remember to fertilize, so the plants usually only receive the natural aquarium fertilizer that the fish and decaying plants provide. They do get a mineral boost from the Calcium Montmorillonite Clay in Bottom Bites fish food.
- I do not supplement CO2.
- My water supply is soft.
- My fish tanks usually have very little or no aquarium gravel, so my plant choices are often limited to those that do not require substrate.
I have killed many, many aquarium plants over the years, including those that were supposed to be easy. These experiences have left me with a few aquatic plants or plant species groups that appear to be bullet-proof:
Bolbitus heudelotii – It can be slow to establish, but Bolbitus heudelotii is an easy aquarium plant to keep happy. I use fishing line to tie Bolbitus to cactus wood.
Java Fern Species (Microsorium pteropus)– I’ve yet to find a Java Fern variety that I couldn’t keep alive. There are several to choose from, including Java Fern ‘Narrow Leaf’, and Java Fern ‘Lace’ (Microsorium pteropus v. ‘Windelov’). My favorite is Java Fern ‘Lace’, with it’s leaf tips that split into lacy groups of green. Java Fern spreads horizontally and is easily propagated by snipping a piece off a runner, or by floating a mature leaf until it sprouts plantlets. I attach them to long Tufa Rock, drift wood, cactus wood or large seashells.
Anubias Species – This is such a classy group of plants, with many species and varieties available to aquarium plant hobbyists. From rock-hugging, small aquatic plants to giants, they bring an elegant beauty to low-tech aquariums. I attach them to Tufa Rock, seashells, and small caves. Many aquarists attach them to driftwood. The Anubias group is so easy that I started collecting them, and now grow Anubias barteri, Anubias ‘Nana’, Anubias lanceolota, Anubias coffeefolia, Anubias hastifolia, Anubias minima, Anubias congensis, Anubias gigantea, Anubias ‘nancon’, and a few more that I haven’t identified. Fish that like to spawn on broad-leaf plants often favor Anubias.
Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Green’ – You may read that all Cryptocoryne (often called ‘Crypts’) are low-light plants, but they certainly aren’t always easy to grow. Cryptocoryne are not big fans of change, be it environmental changes in the fish tank, aquarium lighting changes, or relocation. When they’re unhappy, they ‘melt’, simply disappearing only to pop up again later (theoretically). While Cryptocoryne wendtii will melt sometimes, it isn’t as sensitive as some Cryptocoryne and it has always come back for me. Cryptocoryne wendtii is one of the few aquatic plants I keep that has to be planted.
Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demursum & Ceratophyllum submersum)– This is a floating (rootless) plant that will usually grow fast and furiously with minimal care. A tangled mat of Hornwort is a perfect place for fish fry or small fish species to hide in. I love it’s wild, natural look in my 90 gallon aquarium. Growth does slow to a crawl if the fish tank light is dim, but it requires only a reasonably bright, standard aquarium light to thrive. The ends closest to the light may become tinged with maroon, pink and red. Hornwort doesn’t require much for aquarium plant fertilizer if you do regular water changes (and you should), but it really goes nuts if you do add some aquatic plant fertilizer. Even a water change will cause a growth spurt. Hornwort naturally inhibits algae growth both by hogging nutrients and through a chemical it produces.
These aquarium plants are usually easy to find in stores, or check out your local fish club auction.
Note: NEVER release aquatic plants into the wild either directly or by flushing them. Share, sell or destroy unwanted aquarium plants.
Do you know of any aquarium plants that are super-easy for folks like me? Please add your comment below.
✔ You may also be interested in reading:
DIY Natural Fertilizer Balls for Aquarium Plants (Infographic)
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