Category Archives: plants

how to plant aquarium plants

So I’ve chosen this question as I know A LOT of you who are new to planted aquariums, wonder how to plant aquarium plants. So I wanted to cut straight to the point and I have combined this post with a YouTube clip I made sometime ago now.

1) assuming you have purchased the plants from us, there is no need to clean under tap water – our plants DO NOT contain any pesticides or anything that would harm you tank inhabitants. So relax about that one 🙂

2) Remove the plant from the plastic pot and if you can please recycle the pot as most recycling centres now accept them.

3) You are now looking at your plants and on the bottom of it is rockwool. This is totally inert and safe for your tank. It’s used so that the plants can root into. The easiest way to remove rockwool is to physically remove what you can by hand, and the remainder run it under tap water and it comes off very easily that way. If you are using plants such as Hemianthus then I recommend that you leave about 10mm of rockwool as this will help to anchor the plant down as they are very light and likely to bob up to the surface otherwise. For those of you unsure about this plant – it looks like this:

Hemianthus callitrichoides

4) You now need to split your plant into several sections (if possible). Using Heminathus as an example, you can cut this with scissors into 5-6 pieces. Other plants like cryptocorynes you will be able to gently tease apart and  plant as 4-5 new plants. But, not all plants can be split – most Echinodorus are only one plant and that is how they will stay.

5) Some plants will have a decent root structure to them, others will not. If the roots are big and you find they will get in the way, simply cut them off with scissors. Leave about 20mm – you will find this does not effect plants at all and can actually have the reverse effect and create positive plant growth. A bit like stemmed flowers – they’re always trimmed at the base before putting in water to improve nutrient uptake and the same goes for aquarium plants.

6) So you’ve now removed the pot, removed rockwool (if necessary), split the plant and trimmed the roots, all you need to do is plant into your substrate. You need to make sure you give your plants room to grow so for smaller plants give them at least 30mm between each plant. With larger plants, realise that they will grow a lot more and spread out so bare this in mind. Stem plants you can plant fairly close together but bare in mind if insufficient light makes it down to the bottom, then the leaves will fall off and you’ll be left with strange looking plants. Push your plants about 50mm into the substrate and I recommend using tweesers for this – it makes the job so much tidier.

7) Now your plants are in place, let them settle in. Try and avoid moving them and certainly don’t trim them for at least 2 weeks. They need to become acclimatised to their new world – which may be dramatically different to their old one. It’s your job to make sure you give them what they need, and in most cases that’s lots of CO2, lots of fertilisers and plenty of water changes.

Any questions? Ask away 🙂

Sagittaria Subulata

This is a tasty looking foreground plant that I thought you might like. Foreground types are always the most popular for reasons I’ve mentioned in previous posts. However, they can be rather tricky sometimes but this one won’t cause any problems.

Sagittaria Subulata is a small yet elegant plant that has a lovely vivid green colour to it. It reproduces easily via runners (see the picture below) and will grow in medium to high light. Like most plants it does better with pressurised CO2, but will be fine is a low tech planted tank (i.e. one without CO2) – it just grows slower that’s all.

Each pot can be split into 6 different plantlets and place them into a nutrient rich substrate for the best effect (try Colombo Flora Base). Position them about 25mm apart from each other (use tweesers for this) and in no time you’ll see new runners. Don’t forget if you start to see your plant going yellow, then you need more nutrients! Add AE Design Aqua Nourish.

Lastly with all our Aquafleur plants we offer deals for multiple purchases so if you invest in 5 or more, we offer it to you for £3.59 per plant.

2 New Echinodorus Plants

Always on the look out for some different plants, we’ve got a couple of Echinodorus’ that I think you will like. Definitely not new to the market, but certainly new to us. So what are they?

Aquafleur Echinodorus Ozelot Red – stunning shaped oval leaves make this plant a real beauty. Similar in appearance and size to Ozelot Green, it’s not a demanding plant and looks great in medium sized plant. When established this plant will grow quickly and will become a real focal point.

Aquafleur Echinodorus Rubra – a rather neat and tidy plant, its leaves are slightly larger than the Ozelot Red. It flourishes in a wide range of conditions and is unlikely to cause you any problems in your planted aquarium. Young leaves start off a pinky colour and as they mature, turn green. Suitable for mid to background you will be very happy with this plant.

For a range of all our fully rooted potted plants you can follow this link.

Top 3 most popular foreground plants

What’s the easiest, what’s the best, what’s the quickest, what’s the nicest…?

We get asked all sorts of things regarding foreground plants and the answer is always the same “it depends!!”….

it depends on what you are trying to achieve, what your skills as a hobbyists are, if you’re using CO2, what your lighting levels are etc etc. So there’s no easy answer but here’s my personal top 3:

Pogostemon Helferi – probably the easiest foreground plant to grow as it will happily flourish in CO2 and non CO2 tanks. Lighting wise it’s not too fussy either and again likes low and high light. Great for beginners and upwards.

Eleocharis Acicularis – a long term favourite amongst planted aquarium hobbyists you can see why this plant became so popular so quickly. Relatively easy to grow, it looks great and reproduces quickly by throwing out runners pretty much everywhere. In a CO2 infused aquarium, it really motors and you will have a lushous carpet in no time.

Echinodorus Tenellus – a cracking plant that has been in the hobby since the mid 80s. A plant with lovely shaped leaves which when submersed become slimline and grass like so it sways in the current (very relaxing to watch). Suitable for non CO2 tanks, however if you’re looking to create a carpet effect (which most are with foreground plants) then CO2 would be necessary along with a decent fertiliser such as AE Design Aqua Nourish and Aqua Nourish+.


Limnophilia Aromatica – a stunning aquatic plant

This has got to be one of my all time favourite plants, particularly now as it’s always in flower due to our new hydroponics set up. This plant really seems to be loving the conditions and what most hobbyists miss is the smell!! It’s absolutely lovely but sadly all this is lost once submerged 🙁 In Vietnam the leaves are actually used as a spice and if you infuse it in hot water you can make yourself some rather tasty tea. If you purchase it from us, make sure you have a good smell first.

A stunning plant

You can clearly see from the picture above the type of flowers that come out when this plant is grown immersed. But as hobbyist grow this plant submersed, lets get onto some finer details about this plant and how to keep it.

Limnophilia Aromatica is not a difficult plant to keep but it does have a few pre-requisites that you must follow. It loves nutrients so plenty of macros (nitrates and phosphates), it’s also rather fond of CO2 so make sure you give plenty. If you plant in a decent substrate expect it to put down lots of roots and of course if it grows to the top of your aquarium, expect flowers. In order to keep this plant from becoming leggy, trim hard and then replant the trimmings into your substrate being careful that you don’t plant too close to each other. It won’t appreciate any shadows and this is main reason why it prefers bright lighting.

Place Limnophilia Aromatica at the background of your aquarium as it grows fast and tall – expect 50cm easily but you can of course reduce this by heavy trimming. Like most stem plants they always look better together so when investing in this plant choose 3 pots or more for the most dramatic of effects. Planting it behind rocks is often a clever way to give real impact, especially with the colour transformation this plant will go through when it’s happy growing underwater.

How We Hold Our Aquatic Plants

As you know we’re a serious shop which specialises in the planted aquarium – a life long passion of ours. Plants as you might expect are very important to us and have always intrigued us due to the variety and the types of species available. But there are lots of other plants retailers in the UK, admittedly they’re not specialists, but they ‘hold’ plants. The definition of ‘holding’ plants varies enormously and you may have visited these shops before, a metal halide on the ceiling and lots dead or poor quality plants floating about. Some are much better (not many) but you get the idea.

We’re in business because we love what we do and strive to be the best. So why do some aquatic shops not look after their plants and why don’t they care? They lose money every time a plant dies but for some reason this makes no difference. Even in the current economic climate few retailers are able to hold plants for longer than one week without them deteriorating or dying – the end result means chucking them straight in the bin. Of course the question should why are they not worried about throwing away money and why are they holding their plants in a tank anyway with no CO2 and fertilisers anyway? Because they don’t really care….

It is perfectly feasible to keep plants looking great in aquariums, providing you know what you are doing, but there is also a better way. Have you ever wondered how Tropica and Aquafleur keep and grow their plants?  The answer is hydroponically – it’s much easier. But shops will not embrace this way which is a shame as they would have so much more success, and if they really loved their plants they would care.

I find this really sad because I love plants and want to make sure they look their best at all times, particularly as they will be sent in the post and customers rightly have even higher expectations of plant quality when they are buying online – because you can’t see the exact plant you will receive. Some shops will take advantage of this situation and maybe send a plant which shouldn’t be posted in the hope that the customer won’t be bothered to complain but we’re different. You expect the best and when shopping with Aqua Essentials, and that is exactly what you receive, the best. So how do we achieve and maintain this standard? The answer is a simple one, and incredibly no other shop in the UK, holds aquatic plants like we do. That’s right, no other shops in the UK, and possibly in the world. Intrigued? Read on…

We spoke to the growers of Aquafleur and Tropica plants and asked about their systems. We wanted to know all about humidity, temperature, air movement, nutrients and so on but the biggest question was how to replicate their conditions in our own warehouse. Because if we are serious about plants, which we are, why wouldn’t we want to keep plants the same way as the growers? Makes sense doesn’t it?

After taking on their advice, we invested in a climate controlled environment in which all plants are held hydroponically. This means that the pots are kept in nutrient rich water but the leaves are kept out of the water. The humidity is high, so we invested in equipment that creates humidity. We also needed to make sure that there is plenty of air movement so intake and extraction fans are used – this makes sure plants receive fresh air and oxygen. Temperature has to be specific for aquatic plants so, we’ve invested in equipment that maintains a specific temperature at all times. But the message is not what we have invested in, it’s the dedication we make to ensure your plants (which is essentially what they are) are kept in the very best condition. Our plants don’t have algae, they don’t have snails but do have the strength to survive in the post for incredibly long periods of time because we have replicated as close as possible the growing conditions of the plant farms we buy from.

We want you to feel safe and secure that you’re buying the best. We’re proud to be the first aquatic retailer that has replicated plant farms in Europe and we wanted to share this news with you. In the future we will be holding at least 3 times the amount of plants we currently stock which is pretty exciting – this means you’ll be able to get a wider range from us along with better stock levels meaning if you have an idea for a planted tank and specific plants, odds are you’ll be able to get them from us and know that they are being held in the very best environment, just like the growers.

If you have any questions about the way we hold aquatic plants, ask a question on this blog 🙂

Problems In Planted Aquariums

We deal with a lot of problems on planted aquariums – after all that is what we specialise in so naturally we expect to deal with a lot of the same issues. One issue that crops up over and over again is the way people deal with problems. Now it was Einstein who defined insanity:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

and it’s so true…

Many hobbyists keep doing the same things and expect to get different results – which after reading the above makes you insane. Now of course this is an exageration, we don’t really think you’re mad but it’s  making people aware that they need to try something different if their planted aquarium is not going the way they expect. Lets look at an example of yellowing leaves. Customer notices some of the leaves on their crypts going yellow and thinks that’s strange but ignores it hoping it might go away.

Now yellowing of leaves normally indicates a nutrient deficiency so the remedy – add more nutrients.

Next couple of days the situation is no better, in fact it’s worse. More leaves are yellowing and no more fertilisers are being added. This fictional story happens all the time and I encourage you to do something different if you’re not getting the results you expect. In this situation if you added more fertilisers you would notice a positive difference. Leaves would begin to look better.

So next time things aren’t going your way in your planted tank, think about what Einstein said and then, do something different :), oh and add some ferts too

Plants For A Planted Aquarium

The exciting part and the one reason that you became interested in this hobby. These wonderful aquatic plants make your aquarium come alive with lush colours of green and red. Now the difficult part of choosing what plants to grow!

It’s important to do your homework before you choose which plants you keep in your tank. By doing some research you save yourself both time and money. Many hobbyists make the mistake when they go into a fish shop and are amazed by certain plants that look beautiful, may be a lovely red colour or a certain shape or size. They take them home and gradually they deteriorate. You’re left puzzled and confused as to why they didn’t grow and flourish.
Not all plants are suitable for aquariums. I’ve been in countless shops that sell non aquatic plants, so no matter how good your conditions are these plants will always fail. Shops only sell these plants because they know as soon as they are placed in your aquarium they begin to die – they hope rather than do your research you will come back and buy some more. I’ve never understood that concept and surely it’s better to educate customers so that they come back and buy a much broader variety of plants as their skills expand. So just beware of what plants are aquatic prior to purchase.

There are a huge amount of plants available for people in this hobby. There are 3 major growers of plant in Europe and they are Tropica, Aquafleur and Dennerle. Most plants will have labels on them indicating different requirements from a plant. They always state their Latin name, what size they grow to, their lighting requirements and normally where you should place them in your tank. Some will have other information on the labels such as how easy they are to grow. As you are at the early stages of this hobby, it will be best to opt for plants that are easy to grow. These types of plants will not require lots of light (this is key!) and normally flourish in the most basic conditions. A very small sample of these plants are:

Crinum Thaianum, Echindorus Parviflorus, Java Moss, Lilaeopsis Novea-Zealandie, Marsilea Crenata, Micromanthemum Umbrosum, Microsorium Pteropus, Nuphur Japonicum and Vallis Spiralis.

There are many others that are suitable simply check the label and marry that up against your tank set up. If a plant requires high light you can be sure it needs CO2 – this is typical of red plants. View the range of plants here.

Most plants are grown in pots – make sure they have roots. When you get them home remove the pot and rockwool carefully and split into about 6 plants. Tall plants must always be planted at the back of your aquarium are are ideal for covering up filters or heaters. Medium sized plants are most suitable for the midground and small plants are typically suited for the front of the tank to avoid obstructing the plants behind. Foreground plants often the most sought after because of the way they look and grow. They also spread rapidly given the right conditions and can really transform an aquascape.