When setting up a fish tank one of the key considerations is all of the systems to help keep the tank clean and the water quality at a premium level to keep the fish happy and healthy. There are many systems available.
From filtration systems to choosing fish and other marine life which feed off debris, there are also electronic options that alert you to changes in the water quality – however, there is always going to be some kind of manual cleaning required which can become time-consuming.
One of the questions people often ask themselves when setting up a tank is whether to have artificial plants or real plants in the tank. It’s often a question of maintenance with a perception that artificial plants are easier to look after and less hassle.
However, there is a growing movement of fish tank owners who are realizing that actually, having living plants in the water can be of great benefit and can actually help to keep the tank clean in a very natural way.
Living plants can be very attractive in your aquarium and also offer your fish a natural food source as well as somewhere to live and hide in, making it a nicer environment all around for the fish, particularly for those who are quite shy in nature. The betta fish even cannot live without any live plants.
However, the biggest bonus is that live plants can provide a natural biological filter system for your water, keeping the water quality higher and helping to support your fish health in a totally natural way.
How Do Live Plants Keep Water Clean?
Live plants carry out photosynthesis during the day to keep themselves alive. This process involves the plants absorbing the carbon dioxide which is produced by the fish. The plants then release oxygen into the water, which provides the fish with the ability to breathe.
The plants will also naturally take out pollutants from the water, including ammonia, nitrate, phosphate and other organic waste materials, before they are able to build up to a toxic level which could impact water quality.
The plants basically act as a completely natural filtration system, processing any negative nutrients and creating a more balanced, clean and healthy fish tank all around, without the need for any timely maintenance from you.
Can Live Plants Help Reduce Algae Levels?
One of the most problematic issues in keeping fish tanks clean and clear and looking great is the rapid growth and development of algae within the tank. It can be a constant battle scraping it from the glass and removing it from any ornaments and items within the tank.
Keeping algae at bay can become a nightmare and while there are chemical treatments available, the best way to get rid of it is to try to stop the growth and spread of this irritating plant in the first place and live plants can help with that.
Live plants use up nutrients found in the water to help them grow and survive – this means those same nutrients are not available to the algae. Live plants deny algae what it needs to flourish therefore keeping aggressive algae at bay in the tank in a way that causes no harm to the fish.
Some fish enthusiasts worry that live plants require a lot of maintenance, however, if you compare this with the number of times you have to remove all the artificial plants to scrape the annoying algae from them it is clear that live plants offer far more benefits than downsides.
A live planted aquarium is also a much nicer and healthier environment all around for your fish to enjoy living in so there are many plus sides and if you choose your style of plants carefully, they won’t require an inordinate amount of maintenance either.
Which Plants Are Best For Keeping The Tank Clean?
There are many different plants to choose from which will help to keep the water clean and healthy so make sure you choose and select those which are most suited to your type of tank – different plants will be required depending on if your tank is saltwater or freshwater.
An example of excellent plants to help keep the water clean includes the Wisteria family which are great for managing the nutrient levels in the water as they help to absorb and filter any waste before it can build up.
Another option is the Anacharis family which is great for helping to oxygenate the water making it a nicer environment for your fish all around.
Adding live plants to your aquarium will always have an impact on your tank’s cleanliness as all plants to some extent, will use up the nutrients created by fish waste or from overfeeding, helping to keep the water clean.
Any live plant, therefore, will always be better than an artificial one, reducing your need to keep manually cleaning the tank and removing waste and debris from the water quite so frequently, making it healthier for the fish.
However, here are a few examples of key plants which are renowned for their support in keeping an aquarium clean and healthy and the water clean and clear:
The Water Lettuce
Water lettuce is a very commonly used plant in fish tanks because it is perfect for helping to improve the water quality naturally. Water lettuce floats on the water surface and is very quick at growing and spreading.
Covering the surface can help to reduce the opportunity for algae to grow as algae need a lot of natural light to thrive. Water lettuce also works really well at removing toxins and excess nutrients from the water.
It is a readily available plant, found in most aquatic stockists and pet shops that have an aquarium section so is very easy to add to your fish tank and requires very little ongoing maintenance. For a pretty and useful live plant, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Another widely available plant, bamboo is also easily found in aquatic supplier shops and other pet shops which sell relevant plants.
Bamboo grows very quickly and is great for surviving really well even when completely submerged in water.
The key benefit that bamboo can bring to a fish tank is the roots. If you allow bamboo to grow for long enough the roots tangle together to form a thick mesh which is fantastic for trapping debris and pollutants.
It creates its own natural filtration barrier at the bottom of the tank, helping to keep any fallen debris or excess food out of the water and hidden within the root mat, so keeping the water cleaner and healthier for longer.
As mentioned earlier in the article, this aquatic live plant is great for helping to keep fish tanks clean. It grows completely submerged in the water and is very pretty to look at.
As well as being an attractive addition to your aquarium, it works hard to help keep the water clean and pure. Anacharis grows in tall columns of silk-like leaves which help to capture any floating debris, preventing it from polluting the tank.
These plants enable debris to be easily removed from the leaves and it also helps to filter out excessive nutrients from the water making it a great addition that your fish will love hiding in as well as benefitting from the cleaner water.
What Do I Need To Think About When Buying The Plants?
So, now you are all set to go out and buy some live plants to benefit your aquarium? But first, there are a few other things to consider. If you know which plants you are thinking about buying make sure you look up how to care for them.
Plants all have different water requirements and different lighting and heat requirements so make sure you are able to provide this within your tank. You need to choose aquatic plants which are going to thrive in the conditions you have created in your aquarium.
One of the common mistakes new aquatic enthusiasts make when selecting live plants is not buying true aquatic plants. Unfortunately many ornamental or tropical plants often get sold as suitable for aquatic use.
While they might look pretty initially they aren’t meant to be completely underwater and will eventually die, break down and fill your aquarium with toxic debris which is the last thing you want. Always check that the plants you are buying are truly aquatic plants first.
One of the key ways is to only buy from aquatic specialist stockists and avoid buying your live plants from more generic places like pet shops or garden centers, that way you can be sure you are getting the right kind of plants that you need.
Lastly, plant some fast-growing plants to help get the cleaning process started quickly – if you plant a few fast-growing ones to keep out the algae, you can always add in some slower-growing species later on.
Using live plants is a great way to provide a far healthier, cleaner and more natural environment for your fish to live in as well as helping to reduce all the manual cleaning required. A win-win situation.