Is it Fine To Add Aquatic Plant Pots To Your Aquarium?

Add Aquatic Plant Pots To Your Aquarium

Is it Fine To Add Aquatic Plant Pots To Your Aquarium?7 mins read

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Tal Halperin
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Add Aquatic Plant Pots To Your Aquarium
Image from Flickr

Why might you want to add aquatic plant pots to your aquarium? It’s common for aquarists to have multiple ways of installing foliage or aquatic plants in an aquarium. If you don’t have much experience with aquascaping, you may wonder what the easiest way is and if you can simply add plants in their pots.

We’ll go over the pros and cons of using an aquatic plant basket vs free rooting, scaper soil, aquarium soil, lava and coral soils, and an aquatic planter pot.

Sounds complex? Don’t worry! Aquatic plants fall into many categories but if you know roughly which is which you will find some broad patterns that can help you create a thriving set up.

Is It Fine To Add Aquatic Plant Pots To Your Aquarium?

If you are wondering ‘is it fine to add aquatic plant pots to your aquarium?’ the short answer is yes. However, planning a successful planted tank where both plants and fish thrive is more complex. What’s more, a red or purple aquatic plant will often need different conditions to maintain it’s colors. Thus, there is more than meets the eye to preparing an ideal aquascape.

This article will go into the different options for adding plants to your tank, including an aquatic planter pot, an aquatic plant basket, and so on. Plus, it will look at the pros and cons of each so you can make the best decisions for your chosen tank setup. Read on to find out more!

How To Correctly Add Aquatic Plant Pots To Your Aquarium

You may want to keep aquatic plants in their pots as a quick shortcut.  especially if you are keeping fish that like to uproot plants, such as goldfish. However, remember they will quickly outgrow the plant pots that they come in from the store.

Secondly, many aquatic plants and their plastic pots are buoyant. Therefore, you will have to keep your pots weighted down with something.

Lastly, think about the substrate you are adding. If you are only adding gravel, it’s easy to keep plants in their pots. However, if you are also adding aquarium soil or even sand, there is no reason why you can’t take your plants out of their pots and simply plant them in it. They will quickly develop their own root systems and grow

Can Aquatic Plants Grow Without A Pot?

Can Aquatic Plants Grow Without A Pot?
Aquarium soil is what its name suggests, it is a specially formulated soil that works for just about any aquarium. Image from Flickr

As we mention above, aquatic plants can indeed grow without a pot. In fact, if you’re creating a fully planted tank, this is one of the best ways to ensure your plants flourish and thrive. However, you can’t just stick your plants into any old substrate.

If they don’t have the correct material to take root in, you will find your fish may easily dig them up. Furthermore, they may become loose and float to the top of your tank. Below are some of the suggested substrates, as well as some to avoid:

  • Lava Soil

Lava soil is soil made from volcanic rocks that is claimed to help your plants grow faster as well as balancing the pH of the tank. It’s important if you have sensitive fish, such as betta fish or discus, that prefer to have a stable pH, whatever that may be.

Lava soil is also very fertile and the air pockets in the little bits of volcanic rock are great for ensuring your plants get enough nutrients. They tend to store things, whether detritus, or CO2.

  • Aquarium Soil

Aquarium soil is what its name suggests, it is a specially formulated soil that works for just about any aquarium. It’s great for plants to grow in and allows their roots to spread while ensuring they get enough nutrients.

  • Scaper Soil

Scaper soil is specialist soil for aquascaping that not only has all the nutrients that your plants require, it also looks great too. You won’t need to cover it with a sand or gravel substrate if you use this soil, as it looks just fine on its own.

Furthermore, it is soft enough that pleco fish and other bottom feeders are able to live on it without damaging their sensitive stomachs. It’s added nutrients are also great if you have a red or purple aquatic plant and want to maintain vibrant colors.

  • Soil And Substrate Combination

Not all soils go well with your desired look from your tank. That’s why a popular choice is to plant a thin layer of soil that you can allow your plants to take root in, regardless of whether they are in an aquatic plant basket or otherwise. Then, you can top this off with a layer of your desired substrate, whether this is gravel, sand, or otherwise.

  • Just Sand

Just sand can be a minimalist and low maintenance substrate. However, it’s not always the best for your plants, nutrient wise. Plants can and do take root in just sand. But they may not do as well as they would with a specialist substrate. This is because there are less nutrients and it is harder for them to take root.

  • Just Gravel

Just gravel can be even worse than just sand for your plants. There are very few nutrients in gravel and it can be very hard for them to anchor into and take root. However, gravel can be a great surface layer if you want an aquascaped tank that has soil underneath. Furthermore, if you have your heart set on gravel but don’t want to put soil underneath, you can purchase an aquatic plant basket and fill that with soil so your plants get nutrients without you having to commit to putting soil in your whole tank.

  • Just Crushed Coral

Likewise, just crushed coral doesn’t provide enough nutrients for your plants. Remember that the little baskets and foam that your aquatic plants may arrive in are not necessarily intended to be their habitat for their whole life.

Otherwise, crushed coral is a fantastic, alkaline medium that can raise the pH of the tank if you have soft water or want a higher pH, for example, for lake malawi cichlids.

What Is The Best Soil For Freshwater Aquariums?

All of the options listed above as suitable can be good for aquarium plants. However, if you want your plants to really thrive, one of the best options is a classic aquarium soil.

Otherwise, you can use scaper soil, which is said to contain all the nutrients your plants need. However, it can never hurt to build them a more naturalistic environment. In addition, scraper soil can be more expensive than regular aquarium soil, and it can be more difficult to find.

Will Keeping Aquatic Plants In Pots Stop Them Growing?

When you get your aquarium plants home, you will find they are in a small aquatic planter pot, often with a bit of foam. Many species can grow within these or a larger aquatic plant basket, but because you are restricting the spread of their roots, you will find that they may not grow as much as they could otherwise.

This is because the larger a plant’s root system, the greater amount of nutrients it can take in from the surrounding substrate. Plants with a free root system are also great at recycling the nutrients from fish waste and uneaten food that falls from the surface, keeping your water clean. Therefore, there are many benefits to taking your plants out of their pots, and planting them properly in your aquarium substrate of choice.

Is there ever a situation where it’s best to keep your foliage in an aquatic planter pot? Some plants, such as cabomba, are very fast-growing. Therefore, you may wish to keep your plants in pots if you want to prevent your tank from becoming overgrown, and too crowded for your fish. This is a good natural way of limiting their growth that is also low maintenance.

How Can I Make My Aquatic Plants Grow Faster?

How Can I Make My Aquatic Plants Grow Faster?
For starters, give your plants enough root space. They will inevitably grow and spread their roots out, so a deep enough layer of substrate (over an inch) is best to allow for this. Image from Flickr

Naturally you may desire a lush, planted tank. In this instance, you’ll probably want to help your plants grow faster. Like with any living organism, plants that get great care will naturally grow faster. And, the waste from your fish will naturally fertilize your plants. However, what does this mean?

For starters, give your plants enough root space. They will inevitably grow and spread their roots out, so a deep enough layer of substrate (over an inch) is best to allow for this.

Secondly, ensure that if they are in a container like an aquatic planter basket, they have enough space. Likewise, any aquatic plant pots should be big enough that you give the plants room to grow.

If you are interested in limiting size while still ensuring lush foliage, you can always keep the aquatic planter pot that your plant or plants came in from the store. However, in this case you should provide them with enough light. This should include but not be limited to an LED light that you switch on and off to create distinct day and night times. If you find one that produces blue light, this is even better. You should also give your plants lots of natural daylight, in an ideal situation. Consider where you set your tank up beforehand, such as somewhere near a large window.

Alternatively you can consider low light plants such as the purple waffle plant. This is a popular purple aquatic plant with large leaves that tolerates low levels of light.

How To Set Up An Aquatic Planter Basket

You may not want to spread substrate over the whole of your tank, especially if there is an area that you are planning to leave bare. In this case, you can opt for an aquatic plant basket that you confine to one end of the tank.

Aquatic Planter Basket VS Aquatic Planter Pot

You may end up having to decide whether you want to keep your plants in pots, or transfer them to an aquatic planter basket. But is there any significant difference in how they will grow based on which ones you choose? Yes, in fact, if you put your plants in an aquatic planter basket, they are more likely to grow larger due to the increased rootspace.

However, this comes with a flipside. Since they are all in the same basket together, their roots may get entangled. You are less likely to be able to transfer them elsewhere or move them around if you want.

Apart from that, this decision is more a matter of personal preference. An aquatic plant basket takes more resources to hide or bury under your chosen substrate. On the other hand, an aquatic planter pot will keep your plants small, and are easy to bury and weigh down.

Are Plastic Aquatic Plant Pots Dangerous For Fish?

Are Plastic Aquatic Plant Pots Dangerous For Fish?
In fact,  the only time you should be worried is if you have fish such as the goldfish or the Chinese algae eater which love to dig up plants. Image from

Plastic isn’t very good for any animals. However, the plastic pots that plants come in generally are inert. They won’t leak chemicals into the water. In fact,  the only time you should be worried is if you have fish such as the goldfish or the Chinese algae eater which love to dig up plants. If so, they may ingest bits of plastic.

This can cause digestive upset in your fish which can lead to other difficulties as well such as swim bladder disease.

You can limit the risk of this by ensuring you give your fish enough stimulation, so they don’t feel the need to dig up plants. In addition, you can bury the plant pots under a gravel or sand substrate, even if they are still in pots.

What Alternatives Are There To Pots For Aquarium Plants?

If you don’t want a free-rooted aquascape, but you want alternatives to the pots that your plants have come from, you may wish to consider a larger aquatic plant basket or aquatic plant pots as mentioned above.

In addition, free-rooted plants are ideal for aquarists who want to add some low-maintenance greenery to their tank. Popular floating plants are as follows:

  • Red root floater
  • Mosquito fern
  • Water wisteria
  • Water primrose
  • Amazon frogbit

For more options as well as info on how to identify and care for some of these plants, you can take a look at our article that covers floating aquarium plants.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right way to add aquarium plants can be complex, especially if you don’t have much knowledge or experience with aquascaping.

Sometimes you may think you don’t have any options but to keep your plants in the soil, or leave them in their pots. However, with a growing market for beginner aquarists who want more than just the basics, aquatic planter pot setups are increasingly popular, too.

Hopefully, this article will have shown you some ways you can add plants to your tank, whether in an aquatic plant basket, pot, or otherwise. Plus, you should have learned the pros and cons of each – both for your plants, and for your fish and other tank mates such as shrimp.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some of the best aquarium plants for beginners?
Some of the best aquarium plants for beginners are easy to care for and low maintenance. These include species like cabomba, ludwigia, elodia, java fern, and java moss. All of these can grow well in an aquatic planter pot or aquatic plant basket. Marimo moss bills, which can simply sit on the bottom of your tank, are also popular and trendy. They’re also very easy to keep and you won’t actually need aquatic plant pots for them!
Do fish eat aquatic plants?
Yes, fish will sometimes eat aquatic plants, especially goldfish. The other species that occasionally eat plants are some bottom feeders such as the Chinese algae eater. However, as a general rule, most other fish species prefer to hide in plants as opposed to eat them – especially when breeding!
Are any aquarium plants poisonous?
Some aquarium plants are actually poisonous to dogs and cats, but in terms of fish, all the plants you see in your local store should be fine. Although fish have different dietary needs, there are no species that are poisonous to some fish but not to others. Therefore, so long as you get your plants from a reputable store and not the wild, you can rest assured that they will be suitable for any species of fish you choose to add to your tank.
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Sydney Perry

Sydney Perry has loved fish since she was a child and has enjoyed keeping many varieties over the years, ranging from black moors and shubunkins to betta fish. As a lover of nature and of Japanese culture, her dream tank is an Iwagumi aquascape, combining fish with carefully crafted aquatic landscapes in miniature.