We investigate the main types of plants and provide you with a simple set of tips so you can get them growing easily in your aquascape. We also advise on what to look for when considering new plants, to create a stunning collection of plants for your aquascape and to avoid species which are simply not suitable to the easy aquascape.
Using our knowledge that the easy aquascape has relatively low levels of nutrients, light and CO2, we can identify plants suitable for the easy aquascape. We need plants that are suitable for these conditions. This does not limit our choices as much as you might think, but how do we identify suitable plants when in the local fish store? Most aquatic plant growers and distributors have a very simple coding system from 'easy' to 'hard' (or similar words to that effect). If we look at the wording offered plant manufacturers for their 'easy' plants, they give the following guidance in terms of CO2 (the limiting factor to plant growth in the easy aquascape):
"CO2 supply is recommended because the CO2 supply,
despite the low light, ensures the growth of the plants."
"CO2 injection is not required, but recommend for more lush growth."
Here we can see that even easy plants have a CO2 requirement, and indeed most manufacturer's make very clear that pressurised CO2 injection is required for healthy growth of plants outside of this category. So the easy aquascaper should not be attempting to grow plants in any other than the 'easy' category of plants.
Further to this, there is often very useful guidance given on plant labels, this should include whether the plant would be considered 'easy', it will also include the light requirements of the plant, some easy category plants require relatively high light, and whilst you may wish to avoid these to maximise your chances of success, they certainly will grow slowly in the easy aquascape, we just need to take care with their placement, to ensure they do not get overshadowed by taller plants. There is a position guide on most labels too, this relates simply to the maximum height of the plant, which is also displayed and is simply advising us to put smaller plants towards the front and taller towards the back of the aquascape so they can all be seen. Finally there are normally temperature ratings, these can be largely ignored. All this does not however, significantly restrict what can be achieved in the easy aquascape. In the rest of this article we will look at the range of options available.
Aquafleur plant labels showing the 'Easy' category and other
Here at ScapeEasy, we categorise aquarium plants into 4 main groups which guide us to their requirements. These are modifications of the official scientific definitions or groupings which focus on reproduction, and can be used to easily identify how to look after different species:
e.g. Java Fern, Anubias and Buces
Plants which should not be planted in the substrate and cling onto surfaces
instead via their roots which should be exposed to the water column or they
can rot, so tie or superglue them to rocks or wood. Rhizome plants tend to be
quite slow growing and extremely hardy, many having been grown before aquarium
fertilisers and aquarium lights had been invented; they can be propagated via
splitting the rhizome.
e.g. Swords, Vallis and Aponogetums
These tend to be heavy root feeders and also quite large plants with extensive
root structures once established. Will benefit greatly from being fertilized
with root tabs. These are flowering plants and will send up flower spikes to
the surface. They will benefit from having older or damaged leaves removed to
encourage new growth. Again, often quite hardy plants and bulb plants can regrow
from the bulb only.
e.g. Hygrophilas, Rotalas and Bacopas
By far the most common type of aquarium plant. Stem plants root in the substrate
though not as heavily as other plants, they feed from both the water column
and substrate and as such are quite fast growers. They grow as individual stems
which can be trimmed and replanted to create new plants. Often trimming will
create a more bushy appearance as the stem splits where it was trimmed to form
two new shoots. The aquascaper may wish therefore to trim low to the ground
so this point is less visible.
eg. Duckweed, Water Sprite and Salvinias
Plants which float their leaves on the surface of the water and therefore have
unlimited access to carbon dioxide and can be very fast growing as a result.
Some stem plants can be put in this category where they do not tend to grow
roots at the base such as hornwort and pennywort. Often suffer in tanks with
high surface water agitation. Good at reducing nitrate levels in the tank, aiding
fish health, but will shade other plant types.
There are multiple species of each type of plant which would classify as easy to grow. There are a number of good resources for researching which plant species are most suitable for your aquascape:
In the image below, we have included our 'top 6' plants in each of the four categories,
Matt has reported having success with these plants, and considers them to be the
hardiest choices, so we hope that you will have success with them! But when considering
which plant to buy next, there are a few things we recommend you consider to ensure
you get a varied and luscious feel to your aquascape, by forming a strong collection
of plants. For example, you should consider if you have plants with varied height,
texture and colour. Height is fairly obvious, and as we have previously stated,
smaller plants should be situated nearer the front of the tank to ensure they are
visible. By texture, we mean style of plant e.g. stem or rosette, and leaf shape
or size. Some plants have wavy leaves for example, others could have small round
leaves, or large elongated leaves. When considering colour, we are referring to
the various shades of green, from lighter (often fast growing plants) to darker
greens (indicating the plants are shade tolerant as the leaves contain more chlorophyll).
There are also plants with red, brown or purple leaves which are often highly sought
after and commonplace in most professional aquascapes. We have included some suggestions
below also, but cannot report significant success in achieving bright red growth
in easy aquascapes.
Red Plant Recommendations:
There are a number of red plants which would fall in the 'easy' category of plants which we can recommend you try. Please note that these plants will benefit from access to strong light to aid their colouration so try to allow them to grow tall in the aquascape and/or ensure that they are not shaded by other plants. Some of the species we would recommend you try are:
- Cryptocoryne usteriana
- Echinodorus rose
- Hygrophila polysperma
- Limnophila hippuridoides
- Ludwigia palustris
- Rotala rotundifolia
We wish you all the best with your plants, please let us know if you have any questions in the comments section below and we will endeavor to answer them asap. If you haven't already, please do take a look at our articles on Easy Plant Fertilisation and CO2 in the Easy Aquascape, these should help you get good healthy growth. You can also submit photos of your aquascape on our Gallery page and enter our competition to win more easy plants for your aquascape.