Plants for Goldfish
Live plants can add beauty to any aquarium and provide areas
for fish to hide and explore. They also play an important role in
keeping the aquarium environment healthy by reducing nitrates in the
tank, producing oxygen during the daylight hours, and providing a
surface for beneficial bacteria to grow. Live plants can be used as a
food source for fish and assist with algae reduction in your aquarium.
Many people are nervous to try live plants for the first time
because they fear they may not be able to care for them or that their
goldfish will eat them. However, there are many varieties of plants that
are hardy enough to stand up to even the most inexperienced aquarist.
Additionally, while many goldfish will see plants as a delicious snack,
not all goldfish will eat aquarium plants. This comes down to some trial
and error to find what plants your fish see as their own personal salad
bar, and which they could care less about. There are also a few plants
that are tried and true goldfish proof.
Substrate and the
Before we take a look at some of the common
plants available to goldfish keepers, lets take a minute to talk about
substrate, or lack thereof. As you may already know there are several
options for substrate in a goldfish tank, it is possible to keep plants
in all variations. In a bare bottom tank plants that do not require
substrate, such as anubias and java fern, can be tied to rocks or
driftwood with clear fishing line or cotton thread (note: please make
sure your driftwood does not have any hollow spots). Other plants, such
as water sprite, wisteria, pennywort, or anacharis, can be floated at
the top of the tank, which creates a nice covering for the fish. Plants
that do best planted in substrate, such as amazon swords and crypts, can
be planted in glass or terra cotta containers with the substrate of your
In an aquarium with substrate you can choose between
sand, gravel, or a nutrient rich substrate. If you choose an inert
substrate such as sand or gravel, you may want to consider adding root
tabs to the substrate if you choose plants that are heavy root feeders.
A nutrient rich substrate, such as Carib Sea Eco Complete or Seachem
Flourite, already contain nutrients for plant growth. Many aquarists
promote the use of dirt capped by another substrate for optimal plant
growth. However, goldfish are not the ideal inhabitant for this type of
planted tank, as they have a tendency to root around in the substrate,
turning it over, and sometimes digging up plants. With a layer of dirt
underneath, this can lead to quite a mess and may be more maintenance
than it is worth in the long run.
Carbon Dioxide and Liquid
Liquid supplements and Co2 are often used by
those who keep heavily planted tanks. However, in most planted goldfish
aquariums these added supplements are not necessary for healthy plant
growth. Most plants recommended in this article are low maintenance,
low-moderate light plants, that do not require a "high-tech" setup to be
healthy. Goldfish tend to produce enough waste and Co2 for these plants,
and in a low light tank the demand for Co2 is less than in a moderate to
high light tank. That said, if your plants begin to yellow or die off
you may need more lighting, an additional source of nutrients, and/or
Co2 in your tank. If you would like help problem solving what
supplements might be best for your tank, please check out the planted tank section of the
forum for advice.
A full discussion on
lighting is a bit beyond the scope of the current article. However, here
is a very brief overview. There are many different lighting options
currently available. Some of the common types of fluorescent bulbs
include T12, T8, T5, and T5HO. In the most general terms, these bulbs
all differ in terms of their efficiency and the amount of usable light
they produce. T12 bulbs are the oldest technology, followed by T8, then
T5 and T5HO. Essentially, a T8 bulb produces more light for the same
amount of watts as compared to a T12, while a T5 and T5HO will produce
more light for the same amount of watts as compared to a T8 bulb. LEDs
are the newest technology in aquarium lighting, and while some may be
good for growing plants, many of the fixtures currently on the market do
not produce the correct lighting for plant growth. So, if you choose to
go with an LED fixture, make sure to do your research on it.
When we only had a couple bulb options available the 'watts per gallon'
(wpg) guideline was used for determining if an aquarium was low,
moderate, or high light. As we have more options and higher efficiency
bulbs, this general guideline has become a bit outdated, as we now need
to consider the efficiency of our particular fixture as compared to the
older ones for which these guidelines were originally developed.
Although there will be some variation in this depending on who you talk
to, low light is generally considered less than 2 wpg, moderate is 2-3
wpg, and high is anything above 3 wpg. The wpg guideline is still widely
used and can be useful in guiding our decisions regarding lighting.
However, it is recommended that you carefully consider all aspects of
lighting before deciding on a fixture. If you would like assistance
determining what fixture is best for your aquarium please visit the Tanks and Equipment section of the forum.
When you first get your plants please make
sure to sterilize them before adding them to your aquarium, as plants
can carry unwanted pests such as snails and harbor bacteria or parasites
that could make your fish sick. A solution of plain household bleach or
potassium permanganate are popular sterilizing methods. For bleach, mix
a solution of 1 part bleach to 19 parts water in a bucket. Allow the
plants to soak in this for 2-3 minutes, then rinse them with tap water.
After rinsing, place them in a bucket of water and add dechlorinator,
such as Seachem Prime, this will remove any left over bleach residue.
Potassium permangante (PP) can be often be found in the water
softener section of your hardware store or can be bought online. It is
considered somewhat more gentle on plants than bleach and may be a good
choice for more delicate plants. A concentration of 4 ppm (4 mg per
liter of water) has been found effective for disinfection of plants. If
you do not have a way to measure the PP, you can just add enough for the
water to turn purple. Allow plants to sit in the solution for 10-20
minutes, then add a dechlorinator to the water to neutralize it and
rinse plants with tap water. (note: always wear protective gloves when
handling bleach or PP)
Disinfecting methods will not kill
everything. For example, parasites in the cyst stage will not be harmed
by bleach or PP. For further assurance that your new plants are safe you
can quarantine them in a separate tank for 2-3 weeks, using old water
from your aquarium to replace the water in the QT regularly.
General Maintenance and Care
All live plants require
some degree of care and maintenance, some require more or less than
others. When you first put your plants in the aquarium, some may 'melt'
and die off as they adjust to the new environment. Be patient, most will
grow back eventually. As a part of general care, trim off any dead,
dying, or old leaves that you see. Rotting plant material can be a
source of ammonia in your tank if not removed regularly. Some types of
plants may need to be trimmed occasionally and new growth ('baby
plants') can be removed from the mother plant and planted nearby.