Many people are drawn to home aquariums because of the beauty and visual interest fish tanks can offer. In addition, fish are relatively low-maintenance pets when compared to other companion animals, like dogs, cats and birds.
Data from the National Pet Owners Survey from the American Pet Product's Association states more than 60 percent of American households have a pet. Of these pet owners, there are roughly 170 million freshwater fish and 12 million saltwater fish swimming in hobbyists' aquariums across the country.
The goal of some fish tank owners is to create a stunning display that's a beautiful component of home décor. Others' goals may be to establish an aquarium environment that is as close to nature as possible. In both instances, including live plants in the design of an aquarium can reap many benefits. Featuring live plants can make the aquarium more attractive and healthier for the fish and other animals that call the tank home. For various reasons, many fish thrive in an aquarium that includes live plants.
• Aeration: Live plants produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide and ammonia in the water that fish generate. Hobbyists may use a pump and air stone to push fresh oxygen into the water to keep fish alive. However, in a planted aquarium, the live plants may be able to provide all the air that fish need to survive.
• Food source: Some aquarium plants can be colonized by microscopic food sources, such as protozoa and algae, upon which aquarium fish will feed. When consumed in conjunction with commercially produced fish food, the aquarium fish will be getting all the nutrients they need to thrive. In addition, some fish experts say that miniscule food sources are especially beneficial for baby fish, or fry, to feed on when newly born.
• Hiding places: In a natural environment, fish will use plants and other outcroppings as shelter. According to the aquascaping news organization Aquatic Eden, fish that feel they do not have enough protection by way of places to hide can become stressed and more susceptible to disease. Live plants have soft leaves and stems and can be comfortable places to duck behind.
• Manage algae: Live plants can play an important role in managing algae growth. The plants will utilize nutrients in aquarium water that otherwise may encourage excessive algae growth. That leads to less maintenance and fewer problems for the fish.
• Filtration: In utilizing nutrients in the water, live plants act as an additional filtration system. Plants will work in conjunction with a mechanical filter to keep water sparkling clean and healthy.
• Breeding ground: Fish may be more inclined to mate and breed in an environment with natural plants. Those hoping to propagate their fish can include some live plants into the tank landscape.
Remember to select true aquatic plant species that will be fast-growing and establish good roots in the tank. Certain water conditions, including the right temperature and adequate lighting, will be necessary to keep live plants flourishing. Consult with an aquarium specialist about which plants will thrive in a tank and optimize water quality.