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Choosing, Planting and Taking care of Flora

by Rahim Mohamed 25 Jun 2024

A planted freshwater aquarium is more than just beautiful. Freshwater plants have endless benefits to an aquarium and its inhabitants. With the correct plants, fish, and invertebrates an aquarium you can replicate a pond, river, or stream in your home or business. 

With the correct equipment and knowledge, freshwater can be simple and easy to maintain. Saltwater aquariums are known for their streamline sumps and equipment, and while there’s not as much technology for freshwater, many underestimate the opportunities for a freshwater system. 


The basics to a planted freshwater aquarium can differ depending on what look you’re going for. A good substrate to start with is Fluval’s Stratum. This substrate has a strong mix of nutrients and minerals that are curated to promote plant health and growth. It has a dark, natural look and subsequently hides most debris. Another great option is sand, but this may limit plant options due to some plant’s roots having difficulty latching in the fine grains. A simple, but sometimes deceiving option is gravel. Most plants will grow in gravel, but substrates like the Stratum Series provide better results. Ultimately it is down to the hobbyist's vision for the aquarium when choosing a substrate!


There are dozens of different types of lighting in the freshwater community, and many are created to show different results. Some lights are targeted to create a natural and hyper-realistic shimmer such as the Kessil A80 Tuna Sun. This light is a personal favorite and is considered top of the line in the aquarium industry. Kessil lights are highly technological while still being simple to use. If you’re looking to primarily grow your aquatic plants, Fluval’s Plant 3.0 Series is targeted toward plant health and growth. Fluval is a fan favorite due to their affordability and plant-targeted products. The options are endless for lighting, and we would recommend creating aesthetic and stocking goals for your aquarium before you make your final decision.


Most freshwater hobbyists start with plastic decor, and if done correctly, they can create a variety of fun looks. If you’re leaning towards a more natural vibe for your plants, driftwood can be a fantastic addition. Driftwood can be found at most commercial and local fish stores. These pieces are ideal because they have been treated and are safe to be placed in your aquarium. If you have  a piece from outside, make sure to properly treat it before using it. There are many articles that can inform you of the correct process.

PH and Hardness (GH) 

Most aquarium plants thrive in 6.5 to 7.8 PH with a general hardness of 50 to 100ppm. It is important to test your water to ensure the correct parameters for your aquarium.


Most freshwater fish thrive in planted aquariums, but there are a few species that will take artistic liberty with your scape. Cichlids, Goldfish, and Oscars are notorious for digging up or eating plants and are typically seen in relatively bare aquariums. A few fish that particularly thrive in planted aquariums are discus, tetras, angelfish, bettas, and many more. 


There are hundreds of species of aquatic plants, but hobbyists have discovered certain species that thrive in planted aquariums. If you’re looking for a simple and hardy plant, Anubias, Vallisneria, Cryptocoryne, and amazon sword are fan favorites. It is important to know that some plants, such as Anubias, cannot have their roots planted. Learning about what plants will work for your aquarium is important before purchasing and planting. 


Aquatic plants need enough nutrients and minerals to survive. Supplements are vital to an aquatic plants health and are a staple in every hobbyist's routine. Seachem Flourish produces a variety of supplements that promote growth and keep your aquatic plants happy. One of their most popular supplements is Flourish Excel. Flourish Excel is an alternative to CO2 that you dose your aquarium with so your aquatic plants can get enough carbon. If you’re looking to upgrade your system, there are dosing systems that will automatically dose your aquarium with supplements, so your freshwater ecosystem thrives independently.

If you’re looking for inspiration, there are many social media groups where people share their aquariums. I hope that this article gave you some insight into planted aquariums and inspired you to create your own!

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