Monday, April 16, 2012

Aquarium Plants

There is a very restful and almost hypnotic quality about water gardens and fish, and if there is room water in a garden is a relaxing element to include. If there is not space for a pond outdoors, an indoor aquarium is an alternative. It offers an opportunity to design an underwater landscape that is mesmerising, which draws visitors to the colour and movement of the underwater world of fish in a tank. If maintained well an aquarium is a living showpiece and an attractive addition to the interior of a home.

Fish can be chosen for different purposes and to live at different levels in the tank. Types of fish include bottom-dwellers, suckers, schoolers and individuals, where the variety of fish work together to create a living ecosystem within the confines of the tank. Aquarium plants are a necessary part of the underwater landscape with a variety of plants used for different purposes that contributes to the health and wellbeing of the fish. Microsorum ‘Windelov’ is a small clumping plant that can be grown from pieces that shoot from the main plant, and can be planted to create an expanse of clumps spreading across the bottom of the tank. The fish use the plants to hide in, to rummage through and dart in and out of, which keeps them active and healthy. Some of the most dramatic plants in the tank have attractive foliage like the waterlilies, which have large russet or bright green leaves, or the Aponogeton, which is a vertical plant with attractive crested leaves. Cryptocoryne is a common low-growing plant that effectively spreads across the bottom of the tank in time to create a grassy blanket. Amazon Sword Echinodorum amazonicus is a plant with long pointed leaves growing from a central crown. It can vary in size, seasonally dying back but rejuvenating with a new vigour when it regrows.

Plants are also chosen for the type of fish that inhabit the tank. Some fish like to eat plants, while others suck the leaves, and some rummage through the foliage and around the roots. It is important to know the tendencies of particular fish before purchasing them so that equilibrium can be maintained between the growth of plants and the habits of the fish.

The best source of aquarium plants is from an aquarist shop, which will have the widest range of plants, the best plant support products and the best horticultural advice. Communal tropical fish are probably the easiest to keep and have an almost unlimited variety of plants that can be grown with them. Goldfish have a tendency to eat particular plants so should be avoided. Tropical plants need warm water and will require a heater, but all live aquatic plants, whether from warm tropical water or cool temperate water will require a light to help them to grow properly.

Water Wisteria has chrysanthemum-like foliage and pretty blue flowers, but Hygrophila ‘Rosea’ has larger leaves with decorative marbled foliage. Copperleaf Alternanthera reinekii is a popular plant because of its vibrant burgundy-pink foliage. Tall slender stem plants add a vertical accent to underwater landscapes, and the simple foliage of Vallisneria makes a good background plant. Fertilisers that are specifically designed for aquarium plants must be used. A good depth of gravel is also necessary to give roots adequate room to give optimum growth of plants. Plants may need to be moved to different locations within the tank environment to find their ideal growing conditions. The amount of light and the temperature of the water will influence their growth. Most fish will eat the same leafy greens that we eat. If they are blanched to make them softer and easier to eat and secured down in the tank with a rock, then it is likely that the fish will refrain from eating plants in the tank.

It is important to be diligent about changing the water in the tank at least once a week. It is also advisable to have a filtration system that is designed for a much larger aquarium, because it will be much more efficient at keeping a smaller volume of water in pristine condition.

Ensuring that each additional plant and fish is well established and happy in its new environment before adding a new variety will pave the way for a successful aquarium that will evolve over time.

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