Aquatic plants have been gaining popularity for years, used both in aquaria and in water gardens. They have similar needs to their soil-bound counterparts, but maintaining a healthy water plant takes a little know-how. Learning a few basics will enable you to successfully cultivate your aquatic plants, whether you're just beautifying a fish tank or developing a full-scale water garden.
According to Aquatic-plants.org, Aquatic plants depend on the same basic elements that terrestrial plants do: water, light, and carbon dioxide. Since water somewhat replaces soil in aquatic plants, getting the right balance is essential to plant health. Aquatic-plants.org states, "For plant growing purposes, water has three main parameters you need to be familiar with: pH, GH, and KH". pH refers to the acidity or alkalinity of the water; GH (General Hardness) is a measure of minerals in the water, and KH (Carbonate Hardness) is a measure of carbonate and bicarbonate ions. These measures are important for plant selection; either you will select plants that fit the particular values of pH, GH, and KH in your vessel, or you will need to adjust these levels in your vessel to fit the plants you want to grow. A local garden store ought to have the necessary testing equipment and additives for achieving either end.
Your aquatic plants will utterly depend on getting enough light to live and thrive. If you are growing plants indoors in a tank, you'll need to get a proper light source. For this, Aquatic-plants.org says, "Various broad spectrum "daylight" bulbs are the choice of most aquatic gardeners". Plants are not entirely picky as to the kind so much as the amount, so choosing a light that you enjoy will play a part in the decision. Mongabay, an environmental science and conservation news site, states, "As a general rule, 2-3 watts per gallon is sufficient for a well-planted aquarium".
Ensuring healthy doses of carbon dioxide for your plant is possibly the most important task you will perform in maintaining an aquatic garden. Indeed, Aquatic-plants.org states, "it is more important to invest time, effort, and money into making sure your plants are receiving a good supply of CO2 before anything else". A variety of products exist that can provide carbon doxide to your water, and these in turn have a variety of cost and time factors that you will need to weigh as you decide which you will use. Air stones, an additive called Flourish Excel (produced by SeaChem), and Carbon Electrolysis are all available methods of adding Carbon Dioxide. However, Aquatic-plants.org says, "A compressed (or pressurized) CO2 gas system is best for most situations".
By maintaining a healthy balance of these three basic elements, your aquatic plants will be able to thrive. You may need to make small adjustments to your particular setup, but a basic knowledge of the factors that govern aquatic plant growth will help you do so knowledgeably and successfully.