Aquarium plants give the fish cover and play a role in the natural exchange of gases. Smaller fish can use leafy plants as a hiding spot, if needed, when competing for resources and food. At the same time, the plants take in carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and release oxygen, which help sustain plant and animal life. Some care and attention are needed to make aquarium plants grow. They respond well to the proper light, food and temperature.
Sterilize plants before putting them in an aquarium. Create a diluted mixture of potassium permanganate if your fish and plants can cope with this chemical. Dip the plants in the solution for 10 to 15 minutes to kill bad microorganisms.
Pluck off damaged leaves before putting the plants in water. If you allow them to decay in the tank, they will pollute the water.
Use a substrate with a diameter of 1.5 to 3.0 mm if your plants need the stones or pebbles to cling to. Some aquarium plants will float or grow on driftwood, but many need to be rooted in substrate. Some species do not grow well in finer particles because their roots cannot cope with anaerobic conditions well. Larger pieces allow for better water circulation. Plant the plants to the depth they require.
Change some of the aquarium water at least twice per month. Waiting too long can shock the plants because of changes in the bacteria and pH levels. Fill the tank with tap water, which is high in carbon dioxide and other elements.
Add bright light to the aquarium to make the plants grow. In general, you need 0.5 to 1.0 watt of fluorescent light for every liter in the tank. One liter is equal to 0.264 gallons. So, you need about 50 watts of light for a 25-gallon tank. This number varies if your tank doesn't have the standard dimensions or if it's densely planted.
Give the plants as much light as they would have in their natural environment. If the plants need 12 hours of light, make sure they get it. Leaving the lights burning all day, every day will cause algae to grow and disturb the fish.
Feed the plants with an aquarium plant fertilizer. Fertilizers for other types of plants have too much nitrogen which will make algae grow. Use the application instructions from the manufacturer.
Heat the tank so the environment is most conducive to plant growth. Install a submersible heater and keep the temperature between 75 and 88 degrees. If the tank is in a cooler location, put cardboard, styrofoam or another insulated material under it. This will keep heat from escaping out the bottom of the aquarium. The plant roots located there need the heat to grow well.
Install a CO2 system. Aquarium plants need it to perform photosynthesis. The fish do not give off enough on their own. A system will make up for shortfalls. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for installation.