Whether you already have an aquarium or you are planning to set up your first one, using live plants is an excellent decision.
Not only do they create a realistic environment for your fish that replicates what they would have experienced in their natural habitat, but aquarium plants can also be very useful when it comes to maintaining ideal water conditions in the tank.
Plants help to keep the water clean by absorbing toxic and harmful materials like ammonia and nitrates – materials that can kill your fish if the levels in the water get too high!
Aquarium plants also release oxygen into the water which keeps your fish happy and healthy.
Planting and maintaining aquarium plants might seem a little daunting if you are a beginner but don’t worry – we have put together this useful guide so you can successfully add plants into your aquarium.
Is Gravel A Suitable Substrate For Growing Plants?
Gravel is one of the most popular substrate materials to use and is also the most accessible as it can be purchased from most pet shops.
It might not seem like a suitable material for growing plants, or as ideal for aquatic plants as coarse sand, but if you provide the right conditions then you can definitely grow plants in a gravel substrate.
All you need is the right balance of light, nutrients and carbon dioxide.
You also need to choose the right kind of plants.
Planting Aquarium Plants In Gravel In Just 4 Simple Steps
There are 4 simple steps that you need to follow in order to successfully plant aquarium plants in gravel.
Step 1 – Make Sure You Select The Right Size Gravel
There are different sizes of gravel that you can use in your aquarium.
Most aquatic plants grow best in gravel that has a grain size of 0.1 to 0.2 inches.
You should also consider the fish in the aquarium and make sure that this size gravel is a suitable substrate for their required tank conditions.
Step 2 – Lay Down Your Gravel Substrate In Preparation For Planting
Once you have chosen your gravel you will need to lay down a bottom layer of substrate.
This layer should be not more than 1.5 to 2 inches deep.
Next, add a layer of aquarium plant fertilizer.
You can also use root tabs for extra nutrients.
Remember that, unlike soil, gravel has no nutrients so you need to provide it for the plants.
Now you are ready to add half of the water into the tank.
Step 3 – Plant The Aquarium Plants
Attach your chosen plant to the gravel using string, rope, or a rubber band just above their roots.
Make sure you are gentle so you don’t damage the roots.
The plant should then stay in place and remain steady while it grows.
Make sure all of the roots are covered by sprinkling a small amount of substrate around the base of the plant.
This will also give the plant extra support.
Make sure there are no sharp objects mixed into the substrate, like rocks, as this could damage the roots of the plant.
Step 4 – Fill Up The Rest Of The Tank
Once the plants are in position you can add the rest of the water.
Once the tank is full, add some liquid fertilizer to provide the plants with even more nutrients.
They will be able to absorb these nutrients through their leaves.
Top Tips For Growing Aquarium Plants In Gravel Substrate
There are three main things you need to consider when it comes to keeping your aquarium plants healthy – lighting requirements, carbon dioxide levels, and nutrients.
All plants use a process called photosynthesis to convert light energy into chemical energy. Different plants require different levels of light in order to get enough energy.
If the lighting in the room where the aquarium is kept is insufficient, then you can purchase additional lamps and lighting to ensure that the plants are getting enough light.
Another key element to the process of photosynthesis is carbon dioxide.
Plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen.
Whilst the plants will absorb any carbon dioxide that is already in the tank from the fish, they might need more in order to photosynthesize.
This is easily remedied with a carbon dioxide supplement.
The final thing you need to get right is the amount of nutrients available for your plants.
In a natural setting, plants would get their nutrients from the soil, from the riverbed, or from the seabed.
They would also absorb nutrients from the water.
An aquarium is an unnatural environment created by humans, so the only nutrients present are the ones we put in there ourselves!
This means that you need to ensure that there is a layer of fertilizer on the base of the tank, and add liquid fertilizer to the water.
Different plants need different micronutrients, which may require the use of additional supplements, so make sure you research the individual needs of the plants you are using.
What Are The Best Aquarium Plants For Planting In A Gravel Substrate?
In order to successfully grow plants in a gravel substrate you need to ensure that you are choosing the right kinds of plants.
Here are some examples of plants that can thrive in an aquarium with a gravel substrate (with the right conditions of course!).
Java Moss is a very hardy and resilient plant that can grow in tanks of any size. It is easy to keep them healthy with the use of liquid fertilizer as they absorb nutrients from the water.
Java fern is also a great choice as they require very little fertilizer and are very low maintenance.
Anubias are ideal aquarium plants for beginners as they are very easy to maintain. They also look very attractive so are an easy way to jazz up the appearance of your aquarium.
Amazon Sword is another kind of aquarium plant that is well suited to being planted in gravel. Bury their roots 2 to 3 inches deep leaving the crown of the root exposed for optimal growth.
You will also need to make sure they are not overcrowded and have plenty of space to grow.