Potted Plants in Aquarium - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 8 Old 06-10-2012, 05:16 PM Thread Starter
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Potted Plants in Aquarium

So I have a tank with rather large gravel. It's just too large for plants, but I like the look. I would like to have a few (1-2 species) of plants in this tank for decoration and added benefits. I'm going to try putting plants in terracotta pots. I have three sizes: largest is 9 cm deep and 11.5 cm in diameter; smallest is 6 cm deep and 8cm in diameter; tallest is 11 cm deep and 11 cm in diameter. I can get more and of different sizes.

The tank is a 55 gal with two single-tube T8 fixtures. The lights are 6500k 18" bulbs. The pH of the water is 8.0, GH is 8, and KH is 6. No carbon supplement. Will use Flourish when the plants are in (and root tabs if they need it). I like low-tec. I'm looking for rather easy plants. I'm not the greatest with plants in general, and want to keep this simple.

I was thinking some kind of amazon sword. I think my petsmart has swords. Corkscrew vals were another plant I'm considering. Are these good candidates for potting? What would you recommend?


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post #2 of 8 Old 06-10-2012, 07:21 PM
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I would say go for it, put the val in the smaller pots and the swords in the larger because they tend to grow larger root systems and grab a couple root tabs for them and you should be fine

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post #3 of 8 Old 06-10-2012, 07:21 PM
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With the way Vals send out runners I don't or wouldn't think they would make a good candidate. If you go with a common Amazon sword I would think it would need to be a big pot as they will develop huge root systems. Maybe a dwarf sword of some type would be better? You could always go with Java ferns and Anubias and grow them on your large stones without pots.
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post #4 of 8 Old 06-10-2012, 07:31 PM
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My brother-in-law has potted swords in his 40gallon and they do quite well.
He potted them in soil with an inch or so of aquarium gravel on top to hold it down and plunked them in the tank.
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post #5 of 8 Old 06-11-2012, 01:59 AM
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Instead of vals, I would do something like crypt spiralis or another crypt. They're slower growing so they would probably be a better candidate for growing in a pot.

When I was having problems with my vals this is actually something that the owner of my LFS suggested because he thought the issue was the sandy substrate of my tank. He suggested either using just fine gravel & root tabs as needed, soil in the bottom topped with gravel, or one of the fancy plant substrates if I wanted.

I would also say you'd really want a large pot for a sword because of the large root system.. but I don't see any issue with planting them this way. A lot of people try this with crypts to try to help avoid them melting if they plan on moving them around a bit.
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post #6 of 8 Old 06-11-2012, 08:55 AM
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Vals need moderately hard, to hard water. At 8 dGH you're on the soft/moderate line so they may or may not do well.

Other options are stem plants, you could use small pots with them as they mostly get their nutrients from the water column. The only need for the pots would just be something you could keep them stuck in easier (stem plants are notorious for floating off on their own).

If you are restricted to the Petsmart tube plants, your choices are just Echinodorus amazonicus (Amazon Sword, large), Wisteria (stem plant, needs moderate light), Anubias (needs tied to rocks/driftwood. Don't bury), and Java Fern (needs tied to rocks/driftwood. Don't bury). Some have plant tanks with a few more varieties, they should already be potted in rock wool (I'd remove them from those pots though, they are small). But I would research before buying, some are not aquatic and are not marked as such (like Mondo Grass).
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post #7 of 8 Old 06-11-2012, 12:31 PM Thread Starter
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It's very encouraging to hear that some plants can grow potted in aquariums. I forgot to mention that I do have some stem plants (anarcharis and hornwort) that I'm going to put in the smaller pots. When I order the plants for my 29 gal community, I'll order a dwarf sword. Right now, I would like to try the amazon sword because I want some very tall plants in the tank to give the fish some good cover. What depth and diameter of a pot should I be looking for to accommodate a sword?

Also are there any major differences between root tabs and potting soil?


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post #8 of 8 Old 06-13-2012, 11:42 AM
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On the pots question, I agree with using stem plants, crypts, aponogeton and lily (like Tiger Lotus) as these will be more likely to last in pots.

I would not myself think swords (Echinodorus species) would do well long-term unless the pots are huge. A single E. bleherae for instance in my tanks will within a year have a root system that extends up to a foot in diameter and down to the bottom of the tank. Echinodorus have immense root systems, and are heavy feeders. I would think that the plant would become highly rootbound in a pot in fairly short order.

On your second question, there is a difference between soil and root tabs. Soil is a substrate medium, like sand or gravel. Initially it may have some nutrient value, depending upon the soil, but this will become exhausted at some point. If nutrient fertilization is required, whatever the substrate, it should first be liquid since this supplies all nutrients that plants need, and some nutrients are taken up via the roots and some via leaves. Water passes through the substrate in a healthy tank, and nutrients are thus brought to the roots. Adding substrate fertilization (in addition to the liquid) to plants like swords will result in faster/thicker growth if everything else is balanced.


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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