4 Benefits of Having Aquatic Plants In Your Aquarium 6

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A question that many may ask is, “why plants?” Well, think of plants as the underwater trees of aquatic ecosystems.

In addition to natural décor, plants provide vital functions for aquariums as well.

In planted aquariums, instead of trying to keep the fish happy, the focus shifts to keep the plants happy. If the plants are happy and growing, fish will thrive.


Benefits of Keeping Aquarium Plants

Here are some of the benefits provided by plants:

1. Filtration

While HOB (hang on back) filters and canister filters provide good mechanical and biological filtration, plants provide a unique kind of filtration. Plants can absorb and remove all types waste created by fish, excess food, decaying materials, and even heavy metals.

In addition to this filtration, plants also create additional surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow on. This provides additional biological filtration.


Mechanical filters can lose effectiveness over time if not cleaned properly, but plants will continue to act as good filters as long as they’re growing. The overall quality of water in aquariums is higher if plants are growing in it.

2. Aeration

Instead of placing airstones and airpumps into aquariums which aren’t aesthetically pleasing, plants can provide adequate amounts of oxygen in aquariums while absorbing carbon dioxide released by livestock.

PhotosynthesisOxygenReleasePhotosynthesis oxygen release (img src: Orphek)

Plants can do this because they perform photosynthesis. During this process, plants absorb nutrients, light, and carbon dioxide to release oxygen as a by-product.

3. Algae repellent

Algae growth is a common problem in aquariums and difficult to deal with without plants. Algae grow due to excess nutrients and light in aquariums. To combat the growth of algae, plants can be used to out-compete algae for nutrients.

algaerepellent Plants make great algae repellents

The more plants there are in an aquarium, the less likely you will see algae growing in that aquarium. In fact, if an aquarium is in balance, where the plants are growing well, very little maintenance is required.

4. Fish home/territory

Sometimes certain species of fish can be very territorial. Plants allow different species of livestock to coexist by providing cover and protection.

fishplantedtank(img src: Flickr)

Some types of fish even breed and lay eggs on the leaves of the plants. With the presence of plants, the ratio of number of fish per gallon is greatly increased.

With all of these benefits provided by plants in aquariums, it doesn’t make sense to have a freshwater aquarium without plants.

Think of it this way, an aquarium without plants is like a world without trees.

Join The Discussion

Editor’s Note: This article makes a great rebuttal to our controversial post, 5 Reasons Why Artificial Plants Are Better Than Live Plants.

Join the conversation and have your say by clicking the link above.

About Kevin Liang

Kevin Liang is the inventor of the EcoQube a desktop aquarium that uses basil to filter water (ADIventures.net). Kevin has been a hobbyist since age 7 and got his dream job at age 16 working at a fish store. Since then, Kevin has worked for public aquariums, distributors, LED manufacturers and started Aqua Design Innovations with a goal of bringing sustainable aquariums to the masses.

6 thoughts on “4 Benefits of Having Aquatic Plants In Your Aquarium

  1. Reply Dr Irshad Baloch Jan 12,2015 9:40 am

    Good article providing encouragement to opt for natural plants in the aquarium.

  2. Reply les pullan Jan 12,2015 3:48 pm

    Very good article.Have been thinking of replacing artificial plants in my 140l aquarium with real ones for a while.This article has inspired me to give it a try.

  3. Reply tamjaycole Mar 1,2015 6:56 am

    Hi. Really good info.I’ve been trying to find more plants where I live but so far have had no luck. I’m waiting for spring when the greenhouses open. I’ve got hornworth I think and oak leaf something or other I believe so far but I’d like to get java moss and other plants. I’m new at this and doing a bit of research.

  4. Reply Miss Cellany Mar 25,2015 12:00 pm

    My advice to newbies at planted tanks is to start with low light plants first and no more than 1.5 watts per gallon of flourescent light. With low light, plants grow slowly but so does algae.

    Every planted tank will have some level of algae in the tank. In healthy tanks at the least ther will be some green spot algae growing on the glass. This can be easily managed, and if nuisance algae (like black brush algae) are introduced to the tank, low light conditions will keep the growth slow and give the aquarist time to get rid of it.

    If you go straight to high light, you will need to dose CO2 and micro and macro nutrients. The doses have to be balanced so there isn’t too much of any one thing, but there isn’t too little either. You will also have to do 50% water changes weekly which is hard work on a large tank! If you manage to balance the needs of the plants at high light and don’t get overrun by algae, the plants will grow fast and require pruning to keep open swimming spaces available.

    Some good plants for beginners:
    (from my experience)

    Anubias (low light)
    Java Fern (low light)
    Marimo “moss ball” (low light)
    Java moss (low light – prefers cooler temps)
    Cryptocorynes (low to medium light – need rich substrate)

    Vallisneria (medium to high light – needs hard water)
    Hornwort (medium to high light – Prefers hard water)
    Aponogeton crispus (medium to high light – needs rich substrate)
    Brazillian pennywort (medium to high light)
    Salvinia (medium to high light – floating)

    Micro sword (high light – needs rich substrate)
    Crinums (high light – need very rich substrate)

    I’ve not recommended Echinodorus / Amazon sword plants because I’ve never been able to grow them well – whether that is due to my water chemistry being wrong, or the substrate or lighting being wrong I’m not sure, but others have reported that most common sword plants are easy for beginners.

  5. Reply Paul Sampugnaro Jul 29,2016 1:43 am

    Can aquatic plants live for a week without filtration or fish just dechlorinated water

  6. Reply Max Apr 23,2018 8:31 am

    No need to have a motor running in my 5 gallon tank now.

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