The short answer is no, not necessarily. Live aquarium plants are not absolutely essential for creating a functioning, healthy fish tank.
However, while they are not compulsory, aquarium plants do bring many benefits to a fish tank and its inhabitants, and it is certainly worth the little extra time and effort introducing them to your aquarium if you can.
What are the benefits of aquarium plants?
As you are keeping living creatures in your fish tank, it makes perfect sense that including live plants would be beneficial. But what exactly are these benefits?
We’ll start with the biggest benefit of all:
They produce oxygen
Live aquarium plants produce oxygen and absorb some of the carbon dioxide, ammonia and other harmful nitrates that your fish generate. This puts less strain on your filtration system (though should never be used to replace your filter) and helps maintain good water quality, keeping your fish happier and healthier.
They reduce algae growth
Because they compete with algae for the same nutrients and light sources, aquarium plants are great for keeping algae growth to a minimum. Preventing too much algae from growing is important, as excessive amounts can be harmful to your fish.
They provide shelter for fish
Fish like to have secluded spots and safe places to dart into and hide, and live aquarium plants are the perfect way to provide extra security and shelter for them. This helps reduce stress levels and increase quality of life.
They look fantastic
There’s no denying that real aquarium plants add an element of natural beauty to any fish tank, and there are lots of types you can choose from. With vibrant shades of greens and reds, the addition of a variety of plants is a surefire way to make your fish tank more attractive.
What do I need for a planted tank?
In order to set up a natural planted tank, you’ll need the following:
Just like with any plants, aquatic plants need something for their roots to grow into. You can buy aquarium substrates like aqua soils, sands and gravels to line the bottom of your aquarium and help your plants anchor and thrive.
All aquarium plants need light to grow and survive, so make sure your tank is equipped with sufficient aquarium lighting for the species of plants you want to introduce, and keep your tank lit for 12 hours per day.
There are many different types of aquarium plants you can use in your fish tank, but some good ones to start off with include Wisteria, Micro Sword, Java Fern, Ludwigia and Rotala Indica. Use a mixture of colours and heights to create an interesting composition.
Allow time to establish
Once you have arranged your chosen plants in your aquarium, you need to wait at least 3-4 weeks before adding your fish, to allow the aquarium time to establish and cycle.
Note: Make sure you do your research and find out which plants and fish species can live in harmony together, or else you may find one does harm to the other.
What are the alternatives to live aquarium plants?
As we said in the beginning, live aquarium plants are not a compulsory element if you don’t fancy introducing them. Using real plants can be daunting, especially for beginners, but luckily there are some great alternatives:
The ideal and most obvious alternative to live aquarium plants is the artificial plant. You can get these in all sizes, shapes and colours, and they allow you to get really creative with your displays without worrying about your fish.
If you’re worried about your fish tank looking a little bare, you can fill some space and create an attractive landscape with a few ornaments. These also give your fish some great places to hide in the absence of real plants, which will help reduce stress.
You can create the illusion of depth and add colour with aquarium backgrounds of varying designs. These are more for your benefit than the fish, so make sure you do have some ornaments and artificial plants to enrich your fish’s environment and give them plenty of shelter.
Want some advice on setting up a new aquarium with live or artificial aquarium plants? Our sales team is available 7 days a week to give you all the help and guidance you need. Give them a call on 01642 612419 to get started.