Aquatic plants make their homes in riverbeds, lake bottoms, tide pools, and of course, your home aquarium. They add a unique, tropical flair to any indoor space, and they’re surprisingly easy to care for. Join us as we journey into the world of these one-of-a-kind plants!
There are countless species of aquatic plants and more still waiting to be discovered! We’ll discuss a few of the most popular varieties in this article. We’ve also got some basic care tips to help you get started on your own aquatic garden. Now, let’s get into the reeds!
What is an Aquatic Plant?
Aquatic plants are plant species that live either partially or entirely in water. Instead of relying on rain or a watering can, they get the nutrients they need from the water surrounding them. The most popular varieties come from the wetlands and rivers of the Tropics, but you can find aquatic plants in any body of water.
In addition to their good looks, these plants serve a vital role in nature. They oxygenate the surrounding water, allowing fish and other aquatic life to thrive. Live aquatic plants also provide natural filtration for home aquariums, keeping the tank water clean and nutrient-rich.
Aquatic plants are generally very easy to care for, and it’s not hard to see why. While most other houseplants demand strict watering schedules, aquatic plants get all the nutrition they need just relaxing in their tank.
Aquarium plants do pose a couple of unique challenges. You’ll need to invest in a pH testing kit (these are cheap and widely available) to monitor the balance of nutrients in the water and a pump to create a current in the tank. We’ll cover care tips in more depth at the end of this article.
Types of Aquatic Plants
There are three broad categories of aquatic plants:
- Submerged Plants: These aquatic plants live entirely below the water surface. They make great live aquarium plants to keep alongside fish or in their own independent aquarium garden. Common examples of submerged plants include Anubias and Java Fern.
- Emergent Plants: Emergent plants live half-in and half-out of the water, with their roots submerged and their blossoms exposed to the air. Common emergent plants include pond plants like Cattails and Bulrushes.
- Floating Plants: As the name suggests, these plants float freely on the water’s surface. Their roots dangle in the water where they can absorb nutrients. Common floating plant varieties include Pistia and Spirodela. Contrary to popular belief, Water Lilies and Lotuses are not floating plants, as they are actually rooted in the soil and are therefore considered emergent.
What Colors Can They Be?
Aquarium plants come in a vast array of colors, just like non-aquatic plants! Unsurprisingly, green is the dominant player, but you can find every color of the rainbow represented in the world of aquarium plants. From red Rotala to purple Spiderwort, you have some truly eye-catching options.
How Tall Can Aquatic Plants Grow?
Aquatics plants vary in size even more than they vary in color. The Jungle Vallisneria can reach a height of 6 feet, while the adorable Dwarf Anubias tops out at 6 inches. When shopping for aquarium plants, research their maximum size, and make sure you have an aquarium that can fit them.
Do Aquatic Plants Flower?
Some aquatic plant species flower, but others do not. You’ll have to consider this question on a case-by-case basis. If you’re looking for a blossoming aquarium plant, check out the Anubias Congensis. Every autumn, it sprouts small, white flowers that resemble Calla Lilies.
Popular Aquatic Plants
Let’s look at a few of the most popular aquatic plants that you might consider for your aquarium.
There are over a dozen members of the Anubias genus, but the most popular are Anubias Congensis and Anubias Hastifolia. These are fully-submerged plants that produce a few gorgeous little flowers every year. While they only bloom seasonally, their rich green foliage provides a natural glow to any aquarium year-round.
Anubias is the perfect choice for both experienced gardeners and novices. It is a hardy plant that thrives in room-temperature environments and only requires moderate light. It’s hard to find a plant that’s easier to care for.
Philodendrons are popular houseplants known for their large leaves, which come in various colors, patterns, and textures. Most people keep Philodendrons as typical houseplants, but they can also thrive in water. Just note that these are emergent plants, and their leaves should stay above the water’s surface.
According to the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, maintained by the Royal Botanic Gardens in London, there are over 800 species of philodendron known to science. That’s a big selection, but the Heart-Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron Cordatum) and the Velvet-Leaf Vine Philodendron (Philodendron Micans) do best in aquatic environments.
Echinodorus Grisebachii, better known as the Amazon Sword, is a staple in aquariums worldwide. Its name comes from its tall, blade-like leaves that make an incredible backdrop to any tank environment. Just be sure your tank is big enough — these plants can grow up to 20 inches tall.
Amazon Swords can be submerged or emergent. Sometimes, they grow a single, long branch. If you let this branch raise above the surface of the water and get some air, it may sprout little white flowers. Amazon Swords are amazingly hardy plants, tolerating a wide range of temperatures.
General Aquatic Plants Care
One of the biggest draws of aquatic plants is how simple they are compared to other live plants. After all, aquatic plants require no watering schedule! As long as you keep them submerged, they should thrive.
Most elements of care, like soil, nutrients, and light, depend on the individual species. Submerged plants generally need less sun than emergents and floating plants. Of course, floating plants come with the benefit of needing no soil. Each species is unique and should receive care tailored to its needs.
Aquatic Plant Health
Aquatic plants are generally hearty, and many species can survive in a planted tank for years. However, there are a few concerns that you should keep an eye out for. With proper care, you can avoid these issues.
Fungal diseases are a major concern in aquariums. They can lead to leaf rot and even plant death. Fortunately, you can easily protect your plants against most fungal diseases by maintaining a steady current in their tank.
Aquarium keepers should also monitor the pH level of the tank water. Ideally, you want the pH to be close to neutral (7.0). Most aquatic plants thrive at pH levels between 6.5 and 7.5. A pH level outside of that range could disturb the balance of nutrients in the water, harming the plant.
Aquatic plants don’t require a lot of hands-on effort from their owners, but it pays to keep an eye on them. Close monitoring ensures that you catch any health issues early and tend to them faster. Honestly, though, aquatic plants add such a lovely pop to the home, you won’t be able to keep your eyes off them!
Here’s one last thing to keep in mind. Certain species, like the Water Hyacinth, are invasive in the U.S. They are great in your home, but they can quickly spread and take over local vegetation if they get out into nature. If you need to dispose of an invasive species, first burn or dry the plant to ensure it is actually dead before adding it to your compost. This simple step can keep your local environment safe!
Final Thoughts — Aquatic Plants
Now that you’ve seen how vast and varied the world of aquatic plants is, one thing should be clear. Lumping “aquatic plants” under one umbrella is ridiculous! There are countless differences between submerged and emergent plants, stem plants and algae, flowering and non-flowering plants, etc. You need to consider each aquatic plant species for what it is — something totally unique.
Are you ready to start your own aquatic garden? Head to the Planted Pot store to find great deals on aquatic plants shipped straight to your door!