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SubscribeNew to aquarium plants, how do i start
Posts: 45
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Registered: 08-Dec-2004
male usa
I've had my 55gal tank for almost three years now but i had an oscar fish that didnt like plants. He is now gone and i have started a community tank. I have decided to plant my tank because i dont like my fake plants anymore. Whats a good way for me to get started? I want the bottom to be covered and have a lot of flowing leaves. I have been reading about java moss and i think im going to givew that a try. I have guppies in the tank and that provides food and shelter for there fry. Is java moss a good or a bad thing to put in the tank? If its bad what other kind of plant could i get that would cover the ground?

55gal Tank:130 watt coral lights,Eheim Wet/Dry 2227 Canister Filter,Powerhead, Co2 Injection and a heater.
Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile Homepage PM Edit Report 
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male usa
i recently added java moss to my tank (within the last month or so), and it is amazing. i am running about .8 watts per gallon, and the stuff is visibly growing daily.

it seems to be happy growing attached to driftwood, or nothing at all. none of my fish seem to bother it. well worth the minimal investment (if you can find it at an lfs. in my area, no one carries it, but i lucked out at a store's grand opening- i refused to pay outrages internet shipping charges for one cheap plant). i am not sure if it will cover the bottom of your tank, and it does not have flowing leaves.

good luck.

Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile PM Edit Delete Report 
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male usa
I would start with some of the more easier aquarium plants. I like the amazon swords which have been happily growing for me in less that 1 watt per gallon. Hornwort doesnt need any light and it still grows like a beast. You may not like it because it float. Another plant called frill is like cambomba in a way ,but it grows quite a bit faster.

Plants in gerneral need nitrAtes to feed on if you dont have a lot of those then you may want to add fish periodicly from another tank to increase the nitrAtes because with out them plants grow.

If you get some time i would pm FRANK as he is very good with plants and will be able to help you.
Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile PM Edit Delete Report 
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male usa us-colorado
EditedEdited 01-Oct-2010 22:56
I was happening by, and noticed your post. This will be
a rather long response so grab a cup of coffee.

When you decide to put real plants in the tank there are
a number of things to consider.

First, the substrate (gravel) it needs to be the size
of regular gravel. By that I mean about a 1/16 to an 1/8
inch in diameter. You can go smaller (sand) but sand
can pose problems for the beginnner. Any larger than
an 1/8 inch and it becomes known as pea gravel and that
is on the edge of being too large. The spaces between
grains are too large. Plants have difficulties anchoring
themselves, and waste (fish poo, old food, and dead or
dying plant material) can get in to the spaces an rot.
If your gravel is in the right range, then the substrate
is great. Later, in another tank, you can consider a
different, more plant friendly substrate.
Substrates should be at least two inches thick at the
minimum and preferably three. This allows the plants
that grow larger and have large root systems, such as
the Amazon Swords, to spread out and flourish.

Having had the tank setup, with oscars, for three years,
I assume that all you did was a massive water change, and
then added the new fish. Oscars are messy eaters, and
produce large amounts of waste. The ones I had in my
55, you could have pan fried 'em for dinner! Without
some cleaning, and water changes, after the oscars, you
could have potential problems with water quality so
use something like a PYTHON and clean the gravel, and
change the water, if you have not already done so.

Read this site on substrates:

If you are curious about how much substrate to buy,
use this site:

Simply plug in the numbers, and hit <enter> it will
tell you how many pounds you need for what size tank
and how deep the substrate.

Second, Light.

At first, you simply wanted enough light to see your
fish. Now with plants you also want them to grow.
To keep things simple, "we" break the plant light
requirements into three categories and put all the
aquarium plants into them.
Everything is based on what kind of lights the plant
requires at noon time (when the sun is at its peak
(intensity, and elevation)) and the environment that
it is naturally found in. Then, we use a measurment
that everyone is familiar with - watts. We all know
the difference in the amount of light given off between
say, a 15 watt light, and a 100 watt light. So, based
on all of that, we have come up with the three categories
of light and plants.

Low light. These are the plants that grow in streams
inside the jungle where the noon day sun can't quite
make it through the jungle canopy. Or plants that live
in constant shade.
Low light is considered, for our purposes, about
1 watt/gallon.

Medium light. These are plants that get some direct
sunshine during a part of the day. They live in places
where the sunshine can break through the overhead canopy
of leaves to shine directly, or indirectly, on the water
during some part of the day.
Medium light is considered to be about 2 watts/gallon

High Light. These are plants that are exposed to the
sun throughout the day. These are typically plants
that grow in clearings, or out in the open.
High light plants are considered to be 3+watts/gallon.

To figure out what your tank lighting system supplies,
simply total the watts of each bulb and divide that
total by the capacity of the tank. In your case you
would divide by 55.

Along with the "amount" of light, you would want to
consider the spectrum of light that you provide.
If you look at various light bulbs for aquariums, you
will find some that are specifically designed for plants.
Plants use light in the red and blue part of the light
spectrum. The red part is easily absorbed within the
first few feet of water, while the blue part penetrates
deeper into the water. Now if you choose a red and/or
blue bulb, your plants would love it, but you as a human
would hate it. Blue would wash out the color of the
greens and reds of the plants, and red light is just
plain hard to see in. Among other things lights are
rated by their Temperature, in degrees Kelvin. This is
what temperature a black body of metal would radiate
what color at. Aquarium bulbs come in various wattages,
and also at various degrees Kelvin. Bulbs in the 4000
to 5000K range give off a redish or purplish glow.
Bulbs starting at 10,000K and higher give off a progressivly
bluish glow. Probably the best to use is one that
gives off light in the 6700K to 8800K range. Light in
this range will give you the best color rendering. That
is the greens will be green, the reds will be red, and
the fish's colors will not be affected by the color of
the light they are viewed under. Generally speaking
light in the 10,000K range and higher are used in
Salt Water tanks that house invertebrates and corals.
These critters need the very intense light to produce
algae and nutrients that they have to have to live on.
Folks with these lights generally mix them with lower
K rated bulbs for asthetic reasons.
Just in case you are not aware, it is best to use
flourscent bulbs, they give off less heat, are available
in various "varieties" and come in standard "wattages."
You can purchase "plant bulbs" such as growlux and other
plant friendly bulbs at any Local Fish Store (LFS) or
you can simply go to the local hardware store and purchase
any bulb that is labled DAYLIGHT or SUNLIGHT. You do not
want a bulb that is "WARMGLOW" or WARMWHITE etc.
The daylight or sunlight bulbs are all around 6700K
and perfect for your tank, and in general are less expensive
than those "plant friendly" bulbs sold at the LFSs.

The lights for a tank should be on for about 10 hours/day.
Ideally, you can have two and run one set for the full
10 hours and the second set for four hours. The second
set would increase the watts/gallon, or intensity, to
simulate the sun as it approaches (10am) its noon day
peak, and drops off (2pm). But that is not necessary.

Plants (finally )

As I hinted at earlier, we have divided plants into the
three light demand groups. Once you have figured out
what your lighting is (how many watts/gallon) then you
are ready to shop for plants.

THE KEY to success, especially for beginners, is to choose
only plants that thrive within the watts/gallon area that
you are providing. It's a modification of choosing only
the fish suitable for the tank you are going to house it

Go to this site:

Choose the "easy life" habitate, and look at the plants
on the list. Write down the names of the plants that
catch your eye, and then look for them at your LFS.
The easiest way to ensure success would be to call
those folks, tell them what size tank you have, how
many watts/gallon and type (degrees K) light, and what
you want to achieve with the plants. They can suggest
plant packages directly suited for your tank and its

Or you can shop online from any one of several places that
sell plants (Tropica, Drsfostersmith, BigAls, etc.) If you
do that, you need to know the difference in low,medium,
and bright light plants.

If you have "medium light" you can raise low light plants
most medium light plants, and even some high light plants.
But there are variables that only time and experience will
allow you to choose the high light plants that will or will
not work in your tank.

Hope this helps. Above all, if you have questions, ask.
And, READ. There are dozens of books on planted aquariums
and aquarium plants on the market, and... they make good
Christmas gifts (hint )

I deliberately stayed general, and was not specific on
plants. As you have read, the choice of plant depends
upon the light. There are dozens and dozens of low,
medium, and high demand plants on the market, and some
are very readily available.


Last edited by FRANK at 12-Dec-2004 11:41

Last edited by FRANK at 08-Feb-2005 21:14

Last edited by FRANK at 14-Mar-2005 10:34

-->>> The Confidence of Amateurs, is the Envy of Professionals <<<--
Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile PM Edit Delete Report 
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male usa
Thanks Frank, You answered all of my questions. Im am going to start planting some plants tomorrow. ]

55gal Tank:130 watt coral lights,Eheim Wet/Dry 2227 Canister Filter,Powerhead, Co2 Injection and a heater.
Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile Homepage PM Edit Delete Report 
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male usa
Frank. That as amazing! This should be in some kind of starters guide on this site. Thank you soooo much. If I were a woman (or better - a plant) I would kiss you!
Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile Yahoo PM Edit Delete Report 
*Ultimate Fish Guru*
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male australia au-victoria
I fully agree with Azmentl, Frank has put a lot of effort into this reply. I think it should be tagged like many others in their respective forums.

An excellent article Frank what else could any one say.


Near enough is not good enough, therefore good enough is not near enough, and only your best will do.
VOTE NOW" border="0"> VOTE NOW
Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile PM Edit Delete Report 
Fish Addict
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male usa
All I can say is ... wow...
I just planted my 29 today with some swords. gonna see how they fare. gonna check out those sites, too. thanks a heap
Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile PM Edit Delete Report 
Ultimate Fish Guru
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male usa

That was a great plant response. Learned alot.
Got a question for you.

I have a 46gallon S.A. tank. The only plants right now
are Wisteria, java fern and java moss. All lower light.

I've been having a problem with algae attaching itself to these plants and causing many of the leaves to fall off or not grow well.

Here's my lighting situation.

I have a Current USA fixture that can hold 2 96watt bulbs.
I currently have three bulbs available that I could use.

They are:

96watt dual daylight 6,700/10,000k
96watt coralife 6,700k
96watt dual Actinic 420nm/460nm

Which combination of bulbs would be best for my current plants &amp; algae current and which would be best if I got
higher light plants.

From what you said in your "article" I think you will
tell me to use only the 96watt 6700k bulb anything else would be overkill. Although I do like the way the Actinic looks at night with the other bulb off.

And if I get higher light plants I should use the 6,700k and the 6700k/10,000k bulbs.

By the way my tank is about 20inches deep and I have eco-complete as a substrate. Again my big problem has been algae (hairish) on my plant leaves and all over my javamoss

Thank you in advance for your response.

The fixture could operate one or two bulbs.

My Scapes
Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile PM Edit Delete Report 
Fish Addict
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male usa
I think the problem is if you don't use co2 you need to. The light is not being fully used by the plant in such high wattage and no co2 to perform its photosynthesis.
Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile PM Edit Delete Report 
Small Fry
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male usa
Hello, I have a 30 gal tank with various plants in it, my plants are not growing well because as soon as I put them in, the fish are nibbling all of the leaves off of them. Does anyone have any remedy for this? Are there plants that fish do not like to eat? I have 2 gouramis, a rainbowfish, a raphael, a pictus cat and a loach. From what I have read, none of these is notorious for eating plants. Thank you.
Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile AIM PM Edit Delete Report 
Small Fry
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male usa
Also, how do you know what wattage your aquarium light is? I purchased a hood and I am using the light that came with it, the entire kit cost about $35. I am using a coralite florescent bulb. Thank you again.
Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile AIM PM Edit Delete Report 
*Ultimate Fish Guru*
Panda Funster
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male uk
Okay, here's a quick rundown of the kind of species that will fit in various lighting situations.

Low light - here we're looking at Java Moss and Java Ferns as being two excellent species, that are practically indestructible unless your tank parameters are catastrophically deviant from the norm. To give you an idea how tough Java Frens are, I've had surplus ones sitting in a plastic bag waiting to go to the LFS for three months, and they've actually grown inside the plastic bag. Java Moss will similarly survive a truly eclectic range of conditions, and both plants will adapt readily to life either fully submerged or partly emersed in a paludarium. Java Fern is also one of the relatively few common aquarium plants capable of surviving moderately brackish water.

Low to medium light - the classic plant here is Hygrophyla difformis, commonly known as Water Wisteria. I have some in my Panda breeding aquarium and in the space of two weeks, six small specimens have multiplied to become a forest. But then, they ARE under an 18,000 K tube! Other low to medium light plants include Cryptocoryne species, of which there are at least 25 to choose from, and that's before you dive into the plethora of man-made hybrids. There's a crypt to suit just about every aquarium, from the small 10 US gallon Betta setup to the giant 12ft underwater rainforest full of Characins and dwarf Cichlids.

Medium light - Amazon Swords tend to like reasonable lighting levels, though with something like 30 species to choose from, some are likely to be more adaptable than others. Slightly less light demanding, but with otherwise similar requirements, are the Aponogeton Genus, with one MAJOR exception, which I'll come to in due course.

Medium to high light - here we're looking at more difficult plant species in general, though one of the easier Genera for medium to high light is Bacopa, if you can find it. Where I live, it's pretty rare, but if you can find it, it's an intersting plant, contrasts nicely with both crown-leaved plants such as Amazon Swords and more regular broad-leaved stemmed plants such as Hygrophyla polysperma. This latter plant prefers decent lighting if you can provide it, but is otherwise pretty adaptable. I once had it growing like the proverbial Triffids in my main aquarium, so much so that I made a profit selling the surplus cuttings back to my LFS! Trouble was it grew too well under my 10,000 K tube in the main aquarium, and consequently, thinning it out once every 3 days became a chore I could do without!

High light - here you're into the touchier species. Cabomba is sold all too frequently where I live, but needs a minimum of 12 hours of intense lighting, and water that is free of suspended particulate matter. It's pretty fussy in this regard. Then you encounter the Alternanthera species, which are very delicate, especially the ones with red foliage. In general, most plants that have predominantly red foliage are high-intensity light lovers that also need a lot of TLC in other respects (fertilisation, CO2 injecton etc), and these are best left to experts with full-blown Dennerle systems or Dutch aquaria.

Finally, one plant that is a sky-high desirable species among plant collectors, but which needs a LOT of maintenance, is the MAdagascar Lacce LEaf, Aponogeton madagascariensis. When you see its unique leaves, you'll understand why. Think of it as the Discus of the plant world and you won't go far wrong.

Hope this quick guide helps

Panda Catfish fan and keeper/breeder since Christmas 2002
Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile Homepage PM Edit Delete Report 
Bob Wesolowski
Mega Fish
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male usa
Great posts, Frank and Calli! I would add another great site for plants, At the top right of the page, you will find an ADVANCED SEARCH button. Click it and you find yourself in a great search engine for the site. Plug in your tank parameters in centigrade and the metric system and it will guide you to a wide selection of plants for your set-up. I constantly refer to the site.

In converting to metric, divide inches by 2.5 to determine rough centimeters. In converting to centigrade, subtrat 32 from your tank temperature then divide the reult by 1.8 to get degrees C.

"To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research."
researched from Steven Wright
Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile PM Edit Delete Report 
Bob Wesolowski
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male usa

Sounds like you have had a hair algae outbreak on your higher plants. I was able to knock it out by doing a three day blackout on the tank. I closed the window shades and curtains then made sure that the light was unplugged. Prior to taking that action, I did a large water change to be sure that I did not have a high level of nitrates or ferts in the water.

"To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research."
researched from Steven Wright
Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile PM Edit Delete Report 
*Ultimate Fish Guru*
Panda Funster
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male uk
You can deal with hair algae without a blackout if you have the space to reserve for some Siamese Algae Eaters (Crossocheilus siamensis). I obtained some in 1999 to deal with a hair algae outbreak on my Java Ferns and they utterly nuked it .... only thing is these fish grow FAST. So if you get 1" juveniles as I did, they become 4" adults in about 6 weeks, which is what mine did. And, they have voracious appetites for algae - if you have any other algae eaters in there, start buying Spirulina algae tablet supplements or they'll be starved out of house and home by the SAEs ....

Panda Catfish fan and keeper/breeder since Christmas 2002
Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile Homepage PM Edit Delete Report 
Big Fish
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female usa
Does anyone have a picture of a Siamese Algae Eater? They sound like neat fish, but I cannot locate a picture. Thanks!
Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile PM Edit Delete Report 
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male usa
Hey ras,

Identifying SAEs is an art in itself. I went through this a few months ago myself. Most LFS's, even good ones, don't even try to separate the SAEs from other species that look similar. This is a problem, because most of the other species don't eat algae and can be very agressive.

I wouldn't recommend getting them online, because then you're stuck with what you get, even if they send you one of the "false" varieties.

First, use the links I added below to figure out which is which. Then, look around your local LFS store for Flying Foxes, Chinese Algae Eaters, or Siamese Aglae Eaters. There are likely a few real SAEs mixed in with these.

There are some good pictures of SAEs and "false SAE" species at:

Also, check out this page, and scroll down a bit until you see a table of characteristics you can use to ID them in the store.

Believe me, all of this is worth the effort. I fertilize my tanks with CO2 and trace elements, and still only have to clean the algae off the glass every other month.

Have fun

Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile AIM PM Edit Delete Report 
Small Fry
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female uk
Been reading all this with interest as I too have hair algae all over my plants. I got a bristlenose catfish which has cleaned most of the algae off logs and stonework and is a really cool fish to have, however would have too much stock in tank if I add any more fish.

I have a nitrate filter sponge in my tank, but I still have a problem with nitrate as it is in my water supply - our water comes from a well in the field behind our house and testing it shows a reading of 40!

Will try the three day blackout for sure.

How do you put CO2 in the tank - or is this a stupid question? What is the best plant fertilizer - is the CO2 in it or separate?

Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile PM Edit Delete Report 
Communist Hamster
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male wales
One thing, is there such a thing as too much Watts per Gallon?
Oh, and do I have to get a new hood for extra tubes?
Post InfoPosted 26-Jan-2006 11:43Profile MSN PM Edit Delete Report 
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