Flowering Aquarium Plants
Beautiful plants give the tropical aquarium that little something extra, really helping to show off your fish, but better still are plants with flowers. Although it might seem unlikely, it's possible to get a wide variety of popular aquarium plants to flower if you look after them well. You don't need to spend lots of money, you just need patience and commitment.
Choosing PlantsSome local aquarium shops and online retailers sell aquatic plants already in flower, but you should be wary of these, especially if they're expensive. This is because, as with most other types of plant, the flowers are seasonal and will probably vanish soon after you get them home. The fact they were flowering when sold doesn't mean you'll be able to get them to flower again in your own tank.
In fact, most species of popular aquarium plants will flower just as well as these if given the right conditions. Exceptions are mosses and ferns, which never flower even in the wild. Simply look for plants in good health, the larger the better (provided you can comfortably accommodate them). Take them home as you would new fish, aiming to minimise shock - plants too can become stressed and this can discourage them from flowering.
Light and NutritionEveryone knows that plants are happiest in a brightly lit aquarium, but the precise amount of light that is ideal depends on the particular species of plant. As a rule, use brighter light for plants with darker leaves. You'll need a specially designed full spectrum aquarium light to encourage plants to grow, but be careful not to scorch them - for this reason, LED lighting or a big gap between the light source and water surface is recommended.
Leaving a larger gap at the water surface also suits plants because most prefer to flower above the surface, and this gives them room to push up flower stalks. Often plants with broad leaves are more likely to flower if allowed to spread across a large section of the surface first. Don't overwhelm your plants with continual lighting but give them a natural day and night cycle, if possible adjusting it to provide shorter and longer days as the seasons change.
To encourage flowering, you will also need to make sure your plants are well nourished. Try a fish-safe fertiliser like Tetra PlantaMin to make sure they're getting all the essentials.
Types of Flowering PlantsAlthough all angiosperm plants have the potential to flower in the aquarium, some are significantly more likely to do so than others, and of course some produce better results than others when they do bloom. Good choices for beginners include the following:-
- Anubias - One of the most popular and rewarding aquatic plants to keep, anubias will actually form flowers underwater where your fish can enjoy them. It's expensive but hardy and fast growing.
- Aponogeton - Best suited to a mature, soft water aquarium, these plants are quick to bloom if carefully handled. They produce purple flowers which then turn into green seed cases, safe for your fish to snack on.
- Giant Hygro - Though often fragile in transfer, this is a tough plant when it gets established. If permitted, it will grow over the edge of your aquarium and down the side, with trailing violet flowers.
- Sword plants - There are many species of these tall, tough plants, which thrive in all water conditions but need a peat base to encourage them to flower. Choose from green or red leaves and a variety of flower colours.
- Water lilies - The most famous flowering water plant, lilies need plenty of surface area to bloom. They're best kept with carnivorous fish who won't nibble their floating roots.