How To Plant Aquarium Plants

If you know how to plant aquarium plants, your fish tank will thrive. Plants acts as a natural filter and do an excellent job polishing the water. They also help break down the solid fish waste and provide a natural environment for fish to congregate. The fish in a well-planted tank will always look more vibrant and colorful than fish in a tank with no plants at all.

To plant aquarium plants, you will need:

  • Live, aquatic plants
  • Scissors
  • Small rocks
  1. Know this. For plants to thrive in an aquarium, they will need three things: adequate lighting, a good substrate and carbon dioxide. You will want three watts of lighting per gallon. If you have a ten gallon tank, you will need 30 watts of lighting. Plant roots will need a substrate to survive. Your substrate should be made of fine gravel, sand or fluorite. Fluorite is great because it provides the plants with nutrients without affecting the water column. Some carbon dioxide is created from fish waste but not enough to keep the plants healthy. You will either need to purchase a carbon dioxide rig or you can make one yourself.
  2. Pruning. Most of the plants you see for sale at places like Petco or PetSmart are aquatic, but some are not. If the person helping you has no idea, you may want to look up the plant before purchasing it. Mondo grass and dracaenas are commonly sold as aquarium plants even though they cannot survive long underwater. You want to purchase several plants to start out with to help keep the algae in check. Fast growing plants like Amazon swords, hygrophila or pennywort work well. After you get your plants home, you will want to clean them. Rinse them in the sink and remove any dead or rotting leaves. Now would be a good time to look for snails. Most plants come in a plastic mesh pot with rock wool inside. Carefully cut away the plastic pot and pry off the rock wool. Be careful not to harm the roots.
  3. Planting. You may wish to siphon a few gallons of water from your tank so you do not create an overflow when you put your arms in the aquarium. To plant aquarium plants, all you need to do is scoop a small hole, put in the plant, cover the roots with substrate and pin it down with a small rock. You can omit the small rock but they are quite useful until the plant has a chance to root down. Place taller plants in the background and smaller ones upfront. Do not worry too much about the layout until your plants start growing. After a few months you will need to do some gardening and your plants will be strong enough to be moved, split up or propagated.


  • The strong lighting will cause algae issues until the plants are healthy enough to take over. Luckily you can buy tiny helpers. An otocinclus (commonly labeled as ‘ottos’ at fish stores) is a small catfish that eats algae while leaving your plants alone. Another good algae eater is the Amano shrimp. A combination of ottos, shrimp and snails will help keep things in check.
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