Introducing plants To An Aquarium

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To encourage plants to settle into the aquarium and begin growing healthily they must be prepared and planted carefully. Plants can become damaged or 'stressed' by transport and by planting them in a specific way, any damage can be minimised, allowing the plant to quickly establish new roots and adapt to its new environment.

Transporting plants

During the move from a retailer to your aquarium, plants are susceptible to physical damage and drying. To prevent this they should be packaged in sealed bags, retaining any moisture, and carefully handled. The plants do not need to be transported in water; a sealed bag will retain enough moisture to prevent the plants from drying.

Separating plants

Most plants are sold either in pots or in bunches, in many cases there will be more than one individual plant in each pot or bunch. Bunched plants are normally fixed together with a lead weight, this should be carefully removed. The individual plants within the bunch can then be separated for planting. Potted plants contain plants that are rooted in a wool-like substance and placed in small pots. The pots should be removed and if the wool comes away easily, then this should also be removed.

Trimming the roots

If the plant has significant root growth, the roots should be trimmed down to around 2-3cm. Cutting the roots will encourage the plant to grow new roots downwards into the substrate. If the plant is planted with its existing roots they may become damaged and placed in an unsuitable position. Use a sharp pair of scissors to ensure a clean cut.

Checking for snails

Most plants are grown in snail free conditions although it is virtually impossible for a retailer to eliminate the possibility of plants containing some snails or even snail eggs. The plants should all be carefully checked, and any snails removed. Check for snail eggs as well which appear as a small clear jelly like substance normally on the underside of leaves.


Aquatic plants should be planted in a similar fashion to terrestrial plants. First create a dip in the substrate into which individual plants can be placed and then cover the root section with substrate. The plants should be covered up to the point where the base of the plant turns from white to green. Most stem plants should be planted at least 3cm apart, although the distance varies with the eventual size of the plant. Some large Echinodorus sp. may grow to cover a large area and so should be planted up to 20cm apart. In contrast, small grass like plants such as Eleocharis sp. can be planted together with virtually no space between individual plants.

Planting on rocks or wood

A few plants such as java fern (Microsorium pteropus) and Anubias sp. prefer to root on wood or porous rock rather than in the substrate. These plants have a thick main root, called a rhizome from which smaller roots grow which attach to solid objects. These plants are particularly good for aquariums without a deep, or otherwise unsuitable, planting substrate. To position these plants, the roots (not the main rhizome) should also be trimmed and the plant can be attached to a piece of rock or wood using cotton thread. Black cotton is normally best, as it cannot be seen as easily. Over a period of a few months the plant should produce new roots, which will attach to the rock or wood. The cotton can be removed carefully after the plant is established, or simply left to naturally break down.

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