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Green Up Your Tank: Quick Guide to Live Planting

Welcome to Glass Grown Aquatics' guide to successfully planting live aquarium plants in freshwater tanks!

Whether you're a seasoned aquarist or just starting out, this guide will provide you with everything you need to know to create a stunning underwater landscape with live plants.

We'll walk you through the steps of choosing the right plants for your tank, preparing the substrate, planting the plants, and providing them with the care they need to thrive.

Let's get started!

Why Choose Live Plants? Live aquarium plants offer more than just aesthetics. They play a vital role in maintaining a healthy and balanced ecosystem within your aquarium.

Through photosynthesis, they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, enhancing water quality and providing a natural habitat for aquatic life. Additionally, live plants compete for nutrients and light, helping to reduce algae growth.

Preparation: Removing Pot and Rockwool 

Upon receiving your live aquarium plants, many typically come in plastic pots filled with rock wool. Many people choose to leave their plant potted, especially if they have them in a bare- bottomed tank like the one pictured above. It's up to you. The rockwool is inert and won't harm anything.

If you decide your plant needs to be in your substrate, follow these steps:

  1. Gently squeeze the pot to loosen the plant and rock wool, allowing it to slide out.
  2. If roots are tangled, trim them slightly to free the plant.
  3. Split the rock wool in half and remove the plant from the center, being careful not to damage the roots.
  4. Check for yellowish fertilizer balls and remove them to prevent nutrient spikes.
  5. Rinse off any debris for a clean and healthy start.

Planting Different Types of Aquarium Plants

#1: Rhizome Plants

(Anubias, Java Fern, Bolbitis)

  • Natural Hardscape Attachment: Place rhizome plants in cracks between rocks or attach them to driftwood using super glue gel or sewing thread. Roots will anchor over time.

  • Easy Planter Decoration: Keep plants in plastic pots with rock wool and place in an easy planter decoration to prevent uprooting. Aquarium Coop sells these!

  • Substrate Planting: Plant rhizomes above the substrate, as they absorb nutrients from the water. Use all-in-one liquid fertilizer.

#2: Sword Plants

(Amazon Sword, Kleiner Bar Sword)

  • Substrate Planting: Dig a hole in the substrate and bury roots without covering the crown. Use root tabs for nutrients, as these are usually heavy feeders

  • Placement: Swords usually get tall, so me mindful of where you place them to avoid blocking light to smaller plants. Vesuvius and Rosette, Broadleaf chain, and Microswords are exceptions

#3: Cryptocoryne Plants


  • Substrate Planting: Bury roots while keeping the crown above the substrate. These guys spread through lateral nodes with new crowns appearing above the substrate.

  • Melting: Crypts may shed emersed leaves. Trim them to encourage new submersed growth. As long as the root crown is good and firm, don't worry, it'll come back.

#4: Grass-Like Plants

(Vallisneria, Dwarf Sagittaria, Micro Sword)

  • Substrate Planting: Insert roots into the substrate without covering the base of leaves. These also grow laterally, spreading like a carpet.

  • Propagation: Space plantlets and inch apart to allow growth and multiplication for a carpet or background forest. Smaller spacing means a denser carpet... faster!

#5 Mosses

(Java Moss, Christmas Moss, Marimo Moss Balls)

  • Hardscape Attachment: Attach moss using thread or glue to hardscape, or use pre-attached options, kind of like the Rhizome plants like Java fern and Anubias.

  • Ground Placement: Gently place moss on substrate, allowing it to drift and attach naturally.

  • Floating placement: Some mosses like to float (such as Riccia). These can be an excellent floating raft refuge for baby fish fry and shrimplets that like to hang out at the surface!

#6: Stem Plants

(Bacopa, Pogostemon Stellatus, Pearl Weed)

  • Prepare the Plant: Remove base wrapping foam and lead, or the rockwool and pot if it has been growing potted.

  • Substrate Planting: Plant stems deep into substrate, removing some bottom leaves and burying the nodes. I like a good two inches as a rule of thumb. You want to give it every chance to grow roots.

  • Alternatively, float them until roots develop, then plant them in the substrate as usual.

  • Stem types usually have no set point for growth. They'll just keep getting longer and longer if they have access to light and nutrients. Keep them bushy by trimming and replanting... trimming and replanting.

#7:Bulb Plants

(Banana Lily, Dwarf Aquarium Lily, Tiger Lotus)

  • Rinse the Bulb: Use a toothbrush to gently scrub any loose debris off the outside, then place bulb on substrate. Do not bury! It will root on it's own.

  • Floating Method: Allow the bulb to sink, or pin under hardscape.

  • Nutrient Source: Use root tabs and liquid fertilizers.

#8: Carpeting Plants

(Monte Carlo, Dwarf Baby Tears)

  • Keep the Pot: Insert the pot into substrate for stability. Remove when well-established. These roots tend to be very delicate. You can also try snipping mats out very lightly.

  • Fertilization: Usually thrives with high light, CO2, and liquid and root fertilizers.

#9: Floating Plants

(Frogbit, Dwarf Water Lettuce, Duckweed)

  • Surface Placement: Just place floating plants on the water surface. Don't worry if they are wonky. As long as the roots are touching water somewhere, they'll right themselves within a day.

  • Nutrient Source: Provide bright light and liquid fertilizers, preventing leaves from getting too wet. Avoid strong current and a lot of water splashing. It can cause leaves to rot.

  • Containment: Keep these guys contained to a corner of your tank so they don't deny plants underneath them access to light. Too many could also deplete available nutrients in your water, stunting other plants. Too many floaters could also limit the oxygen exchange of water in your tank, causing issues with your other livestock.


By following these guidelines, you'll enhance the beauty of your freshwater tank while promoting a healthy aquatic environment. Regular monitoring, adequate lighting, and balanced nutrient supply are key to optimal plant growth.

Glass Grown Aquatics wishes you a flourishing and visually captivating planted aquarium. Happy planting!

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