• Chris Edwards

How To Grow Aquatic Plants

“I just can’t keep my plants alive, I need to buy plastic ones instead”

You wouldn’t believe how many times we hear this in general conversation, either in store or online. But it’s simply not true, we can all keep plants alive; we just need to get a few basic things right before we start planting.

To throw plants into an oxygen rich aquarium with an undergravel filter and poor lighting is throwing your money away, just don’t do it, please. Your plants will die, you will get disheartened and soon reach the point of; “I just can’t keep my plants alive, I have to have plastic ones”.

You will give up on something that’s so beautiful and so easy. So let’s blast that negative thought process away, get rid of it. We can all keep aquatic plants, you just need a little planning.

Following this guide correctly will give have a new problem, a welcome one. You will find your plants growing so well that your maintenance routine will go from throwing away dead and rotting plants (and money) to spending your time pruning and dividing plants that are thriving in your aquarium.

So what do we need? We need a few basic things in order for our plants to grow in our aquariums. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a few basic ingredients that the plants would normally get from mother nature out in their natural habitat

Water: Plants need water Substrate: Plants need a place to grow. Light: Plants need a light source

Nutrients: Plants need a basic food source CO2 (Carbon Dioxide): Plants need to breath

All of these key factors/contributors are readily available in the wild. But not so in your aquarium, you need to provide them yourself. This is the art of fishkeeping, this is what it’s all about. Recreating the beauty of the natural habitat in your home, your very own microclimate of beauty. So let’s break them down and look at them one by one.


An easy one to start with, needs no explanation. Substrate

Substrate is what your plants need to lay down their roots, this can be gravel, soil or sand in the bottom of your aquarium. In some cases plants like to adhere to wood and stones. But the majority of them just like a basic, simple layer of gravel or soil to spread their roots. There is an array of gravel to choose from, this can be slightly overwhelming. Getting the balance right between what looks nice to you and what is good for keeping plants in is your own private battle.

I personally prefer to use a soil-based substrate that’s high in nutrients. For me it’s very aesthetically pleasing and perfect for plant growth. It’s also very natural looking and great for keeping a stable water quality.

Preferred Substrate: Colombo Flora Base Pro

Lighting Again, this can be slightly intimidating due to the vast array of lighting products out there in the market. However, with the onset and growing popularity of LED lighting, this is becoming much easier.

Previously we’ve had to deal with T8s, T5s, PLS, choke units etc etc. Now we’re just talking LED, forget the rest. If you have an old aquarium that uses T8 or T5 bulbs, don't worry. There are many LED bulbs that can be retro fitted to slot directly into their fittings. So when your old bulb needs replacing, just replace it with bright, long lasting, efficient LED lighting. Another beauty of LED lighting is the running costs, they are significantly cheaper than the previous options. Preferred Lighting: Superfish RetroLED Bright

Interpet LED Lighting


In nature there are many sources of nutrients for aquatic plants to use. Decaying matter is the main one. Dead fish, dead plants, dead wood, fish waste etc are all broken down in the water and used by the plants through their roots and leaves.

Obviously an abundance of dead and decaying matter in your aquarium isn’t something we want, so we need to add this via a liquid top. The sun is also a valuable source of nutrients for aquatic plants. Decent lighting will replicate some of what the sun can provide, but again adding a liquid fertiliser periodically will make sure the plants get their full quota of nutrients.

Preferred Additive: Colombo Flora Grow Pro


Understand how photosynthesis works, you understand the need for carbon dioxide (CO2) in a planted aquarium. Basically, plants produce oxygen (O2). To do this, they need to consume CO2 to convert into Oxygen.

This is perfect because fish don’t like CO2. So in effect, the plants are making great water quality for your fish by removing CO2 and adding oxygen.

In an ideal world, we would have our planted tank working in perfect balance with the fish. The fish would be producing the CO2 that the plants need and the plants producing the oxygen that the fish need.

That’s how nature works, but unfortunately in an aquarium we need to give nature a helping hand to make sure we have the correct levels.

So we have CO2 systems. These are regulated systems that add just the required amount of CO2 to the water that the plants need.

Preferred CO2 Systems:

Colombo Flora-Grow Set

Colombo CO2 Basic Set

Colombo CO2 Nano

Why Colombo?

Firstly, it's a brand we believe in. We use these products ourselves.

Colombo are one of the world’s leading brands when it comes to aquatic plants. They have been specialising and researching aquatic plants and products for 30 years. Colombo’s sister company, Aquafleur, is one of the largest producers of aquatic plants in the world and well known as one of the highest quality plant producers there is.

Visit Us Following all the above will set you on your way to producing a beautiful natural looking aquarium. However, there is no substitute for a good old chat. Please drop by the shop and feel free to ask for any help and advice. Even if you just want to talk fish and plants, our door's open 7 days a week.

#aquascaping #aquaticplants #planting #substrate #aquariumlighting #growaquaticplants

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