Plastic aquarium plants may seem like the simplest solution for a beginner's tank, but live aquatic plants come with a wide variety of benefits and can be raised easily by following a few basic steps. While fake plants need to be removed and cleaned regularly, live plants will keep your aquarium looking healthy and vibrant on a continuous basis. Provided with adequate lighting, substrate and fertilizer, your live aquarium plants will thrive and repay your care and attention with filtration and algae control for your aquarium.
Place three to four inches of silica sand in the bottom of your aquarium. Rinse the sand in clean water until the water runs clear before adding it to the tank. Sand that is sloped so that it is deeper in the back of the tank will provide a visually pleasing illusion of depth. Fill the tank half way with water if you are setting up a new aquarium for the first time.
Select a variety of submerged, immersed and floating plants for your tank. Read the instructions for each plant species and stick to a selection of plants with similar needs if this is your first planted aquarium.
Remove the packaging that has kept your plants contained on the way home. Bunch plants will have a weighted strip and foam collar that need to be removed. Potted plants come in a small plastic pot with rock wool at the bottom. Discard all of these items.
Separate the plant into smaller, individual plants if there is more than one in the pot or bunch that you have purchased. Trim long roots with a pair of sharp scissors.
Insert the base of the plant into the substrate to a depth of about two inches. Create a small mound of substrate around the base of the plant to keep it secure in the tank. Plant taller plants at the back of the tank and shorter plants near the front.
Fill the tank the remainder of the way with water if you are setting up a new aquarium. It is best to leave your plants alone in the tank for about a week before adding fish if this is a new tank.
Install plant growth light tubes in your tank and keep these on for 10 to 12 hours every day. Remove and clean the light shield once every week or two to allow the maximum amount of light to reach the plants.
Add a small amount of carbon dioxide to your tank with a pressurized cylinder system. Insert the tube into the water to add carbon dioxide to the tank. Turn this system off at night or any time that the lights in the tank are not on. The live aquarium plants produce their own carbon dioxide when it is dark.
Provide a drop or two of liquid aquatic plant fertilizer, or a few tablets of solid aquatic plant fertilizer once a week. Follow the manufacturer's directions on the specific type of fertilizer that you are using to prevent over application, which can harm your fish.
Remove dead leaves, rotting roots and damaged parts of the plant as soon as possible to keep these from damaging the water quality in your tank.