Most aquarium owners will agree that a lushly planted aquarium is a beautiful sight, and nearly all wish to grow at least some live plants in their own aquarium. However, many find this very difficult, with the fish often destroying the foliage or the plants simply rotting away. The truth is, that while a few aquatic plants are hardy and readily grown, the majority have very specific requirements.
Pros & cons of the planted aquarium
Plants are highly desirable in many aquariums for a number of reasons. Obviously, plants look good and provide a natural environment with shelter and an additional food source for fishes. When they are healthy and growing, they also absorb nutrients, add oxygen, and remove carbon dioxide. A well-planted aquarium also promotes breeding behavior in many species and may increase disease resistance. However, most of these benefits only occur when plants are healthy and growing. To achieve this, you need to provide specific conditions and may also need extra equipment. Also, plants do not take the place of a good filter, in fact, better filtration promotes better plant growth, and regular maintenance is still needed, although this need not be excessive. Finally, not all fish are plant-friendly, so your choice of fish may preclude having live plants in the aquarium (or, conversely, your choice of plants may restrict what fish you have).
So should you bother with live plants? It all comes down to the type of aquarium you wish to set up! A beautifully planted aquarium can be a very rewarding experience and is something nearly every serious aquarist aspires to at some stage. Of course, not every aquarium will support live plants eg, brackish tanks, or where plant-eating fish are to be kept. Additionally, some fish prefer a rocky landscape, and some may dig and uproot plants. It should be made clear that there is nothing wrong with artificial decorations, or with using a mix of living and plastic or silk plants, or having a tank with a rocky aquascape – these can all be attractive and appropriate setups. However, if you are keeping plant-friendly fishes (eg most small tropicals) or if you simply enjoy the green look, then having a planted aquarium is certainly highly recommended.