aquaforest-aquaium-iaplc-2010 The above “Aquascape”  is a complex interaction of light levels and nutrient balance ~ combined with a personal sense of aesthetics and years of experience.

Get the nitrogen levels wrong, see PH or acidity numbers sink or soar… and watch this idyllic habitat wilt and moulder.

But your average aquarist rarely reaches that rarified level of cause and effect. Most people’s aquarium plant woes are prosaic by comparison.


browning and edge-fuzz are common aquascape challenges.

browning and edge-fuzz pose a challenge


For instance… Josh, who works at a nationally known pet-retailer in North Haven, Conn., said, “The most common mistake I’ve encountered? People who put house plants in their tanks without realizing they’re toxic to fish.”


"Your fish won't have a prayer with the Prayer Plant."  photo:

“Your fish won’t have a prayer with the Prayer Plant.”

In other words, just because it’s called a “Goldfish Plant” doesn’t mean it’s meant for a goldfish tank!

"Goldfish Plant"

“Goldfish Plant”

Josh said such customers generally come in complaining their fish are “acting sluggish,” or worse, and after some diagnostic questioning admit, “Why yes, I have recently added something new to the tank. I thought a cutting from my English Ivy might look nice.” images-1 Josh said it might “look nice” but English Ivy is toxic to pet fish.   images-1Here’s a basic list of other toxic plants:

And an even more extensive one here:


Josh said  dependable beginner-friendly aquarium plants include that hardy duo mentioned in our previous post: “Eat Your Greens.”

Amazon Sword Plant

Amazon Sword Plant

Anubias barteri

Anubias barteri

He continued, “It’s important to know what kind of plant you have and what kind of fish goes with it.

Some fish, like certain algae-eaters (that means you, Mr. Pleco) will overeat if you provide too many

live plants.”


As for caring for basic beginner plants, like Anubias Barteri and Amazon Swords, or even duck-weed and java moss balls…



Josh said most of the nutrients these hardy tank additions need are “acquired straight from the tank’s substrate, its water, fish wastes and your basic florescent or L.E.D. aquarium light. They don’t really need a lot to keep them going.”

He added that while light is obviously essential for photosynthesis, “It’s also important you turn the lights off at night. Just like fish need their little quiet-time, plants need a rest, too.”


Though his shop sells a wide variety of colorful and realistic looking artificial plants… Josh says he for one prefers natural plants. “They just look nicer, compared to plastic. I think an aquarium setting should look as natural as possible. That’s part of the aesthetic of setting up a beautiful tank.”




Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.




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