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Pros and Cons of Adding 'Filter Plants' to Your Tank

Did you know that you can also add houseplants in aquariums?

Some common houseplants can actually thrive with their roots in water and create a beautiful and natural look for your fish tank.

Plus, they can help oxygenate the water and filter out toxins.

Sounds awesome, right?

(Photo via r/houseplants by Hillside Capital)

Houseplants are plants that are grown indoors, usually in pots or containers. They can add beauty and freshness to your home, as well as minorly purify the air and reduce stress. Some houseplants can also grow in water, without the need for soil. These are called hydroponic plants, and they can be used to decorate your aquarium as well.

Why would you want to do that, you ask?

Well, there are many benefits of adding houseplants in aquariums as 'Filter Plants'.

Let's explore some of the Pros and Cons of adding houseplants in aquariums!

Pros of adding houseplants in aquariums:

One of the main benefits of adding houseplants in aquariums is that they can help reduce the levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate in the water. These are harmful substances that are produced by the fish waste and decomposing organic matter. If they accumulate too much, they can cause stress, disease, or even death for your fish.

Houseplants can absorb these substances through their roots and use them as nutrients for their growth. This way, they can act as natural biological/ chemical filters and keep the water clean and healthy.

Another benefit of adding houseplants in aquariums is that they can provide oxygen for your fish. Plants produce oxygen through photosynthesis, which is the process of converting light energy into chemical energy. Oxygen is a by-product of this process and it is released into the water. This can increase the dissolved oxygen level in the aquarium, which is essential for the fish to breathe and thrive.

This is most beneficial when your 'filter plant' or houseplant is growing slightly submerged, with leaves below the water. Pothos and Philodendron are houseplants that can do this. Moneywort, Brazilian Pennywort, Pearlweed, and Water sprite are examples of plants that also do this-- even though they are thought of as fully aquatic.

A third benefit of adding houseplants in aquariums is that they can create a more natural and attractive environment for your fish.

Houseplants can add color, texture, and depth to your aquarium, making it more visually appealing. They can also provide hiding places and shelter for your fish, which can reduce their stress and aggression.

Think of it like a little forest of Mangrove roots for your tropical fish to live out their best lives.

Some plants can even produce flowers or fruits that can add more interest and variety to your aquarium. Pearlweed produces gorgeous, tiny white flowers when it starts to grow above water.


Cons of adding houseplants in aquariums:

While adding houseplants in aquariums has many benefits, it also comes with some challenges that you need to be aware of and address.

One of the main challenges is choosing the right plants for your aquarium. Not all houseplants are suitable for aquatic environments. Some plants may not tolerate being submerged or partially submerged in water, while others may not adapt well to the temperature, pH, or hardness of the water.

For some plants, having their roots fully submerged in water will just result in root rot. You need to do some research and select plants that are compatible with your aquarium conditions and your fish species.

Here's something else to think about: Do you have a cat or dog in your home? They might be curious, and try to nibble on your filter plants. Certain common houseplants can poison them!

Avoid Aloes, Diffenbachias, pothos, Monstera, Peace lily, Kalanchoe, English Ivy, and philodendrons. These are commonly found houseplants that are irritating to fur babies at best, and poisonous at worst.

Try Bella Palm, Spider plants, Ferns, Polka-Dot plants, Purple Waffle, Succulents, Venus Fly traps, and Bamboo instead!

Another minor challenge of adding houseplants in aquariums is maintaining them properly. Filter plants (like any other living thing) will require SOME care and attention to thrive in aquariums. You need to provide them with adequate lighting, fertilization, pruning, and pest control.

For most hobby aquariums, these maintenance 'challenges' are next to nothing.

  • Maybe trim it when the plant grows too long?
  • Make sure your filter plant is not growing in complete darkness?
  • Make sure you don't accidentally knock the roots out of the water when you do aquarium maintenance?

Not a bad trade- off for all that the plant does!

Here are some more suggestions to overcome those 'Cons':

- Choose plants that have similar requirements as your fish: For example, if you have tropical fish that prefer warm water, you should choose plants that can tolerate higher temperatures as well. If you have freshwater fish that prefer soft water, you should choose plants that can tolerate low pH and hardness as well.

For most common houseplants available, this is already done for you. A super common plant like Pothos can thrive in a huge range of ph, Temperature, and water hardness.

- Choose plants that have different growth habits: For example, if you have a large aquarium, you should choose plants that have different heights and shapes to create a balanced and diverse look. You can have some plants that grow tall and upright, some that grow low and spreading, and some that grow trailing and hanging.

Purple Zebrina, heartleaf Philodendron, Bella Palm, and Marble Queen Pothos would be gorgeous in a 'filter plant bouquet'!

How about Neon Pothos, with Purple Waffle, N' Joy Pothos, Joseph's Coat, and a Red Mangrove?


-Don't pick house plants that don't like water: This one seems obvious (like cactus or orchid plants), but did you know almost all other plants will grow in well- oxygenated water? Even the plants that would otherwise suffocate and rot in water- logged soil!

But before you go and dump your entire indoor garden into your aquarium, you should know that not all houseplants are suitable for this purpose.

Some may rot, die, or even harm your fish. So, to help you out, I've compiled a list of seven houseplants that you can safely and easily add to your aquarium.

Let's check them out: 7 Amazing Houseplants That Compliment Your Fish Room

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