reg aquarium gravel with plants? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-07-2018, 05:13 AM Thread Starter
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reg aquarium gravel with plants?

So my husband has become interested in the fishkeeping hobby! I've been it it for about a year and a half and have my own 36 gallon community goin on. My question is i have an established 10 gallon tank with a finnex planted plus se light and just plain aquarium rocks as my substrate because it had silk in it at the time. He's gonna put a betta in it and he wants to add some plants. Are there any plants that can go into the gravel and be okay if i added root tabs? I am going to get some anubias and java fern for his tank and attach it to some wood for him but he really wants something in the substrate. Originally he wanted a carpet. I laughed and said no chance without changing your whole substrate lol but what could he put as maybe a background plant around the edges of the tank? My original thought was crypts but i think they might need a good fert substrate or am i wrong?



Thanks guys!

Last edited by LilBetta; 02-07-2018 at 01:32 PM.
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-15-2018, 04:48 AM
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It should work fine and all of the common low light/tech plants should do ok'ish as they all usually draw nutrients from the water column as there main source even if they have roots.

1.) It's going to be hard to kill java moss no matter what he does and it will kind of carpet out over time or overgrow the tank ether one.
2.) Dwarf Baby Tears might carpet over time as well it's kind of forgiving, it's probably the best looking as well.
3.) Java Fern/Anubias Nana can't go wrong there. Try super gluing (gel) it to rocks and wood.

Get him a bottle of Thrive (Thrive 500ml | Premium Liquid Fertilizer | NilocG Aquatics) and have him add a couple of pumps a week to the tank it should help.

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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-15-2018, 04:45 PM
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Many stem plants draw well from the water column, so you could use a lot of the easy to medium difficulty stems in there too.

I only switched to planted substrate about 1 1/2 years ago, and was able to grow most common stuff with only water column ferts like flourish. I still have 3 older tanks with plain gravel that are planted with stems (hygrophilia and pennywort are especially good growers, but some rotala and ludwigia have done well too), anubias, java fern, and buce.

Actually, buce could be a good choice to carpet in a small area if you choose one of the mini varieties.

I think if you have root tabs available though, all but the heaviest root feeders should work. Planted substrate is comparatively new in the timeline of the hobby, and folks managed to grow all sorts of plants in regular gravel back in the days before you could trot down to the LFS or Petco for a bag of Amazonia or Ecocomplete.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-15-2018, 05:07 PM
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And then there may also be another way to think of the substrate? I find no need to totally remove and redo when I change up a tank as I like what I see as "natural" and that is not a totally uniform color but a variety. As that also fits my low stress/low work idea of fun, I just add or remove whatever I see as easy and works at the time. So with natural gravel, adding sand is one way to change up the substrate if you want. I normally lower the water, use a cut off soda bottle like a two liter and add the new without doing much of the dust cloud.
Cut the bottom off, leave the cap semi-loose and fill. When you put it in the tank, do it slowly and when near the bottom, remove the cap and let it pour out, adjusting the rate and dust storm as you move around the tank.
I find narrow leaf sag is one that thrives and does spread and form something of a carpet.
Go with the flow and adjust as needed!
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-17-2018, 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by bradac56 View Post
It should work fine and all of the common low light/tech plants should do ok'ish as they all usually draw nutrients from the water column as there main source even if they have roots.

1.) It's going to be hard to kill java moss no matter what he does and it will kind of carpet out over time or overgrow the tank ether one.
2.) Dwarf Baby Tears might carpet over time as well it's kind of forgiving, it's probably the best looking as well.
3.) Java Fern/Anubias Nana can't go wrong there. Try super gluing (gel) it to rocks and wood.
I will second java moss and anubias nana. They are nearly indestructible and don't really need a particular substrate. They can also both be quite pretty, although you have to keep on top of trimming back java moss, in my experience.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-17-2018, 03:15 PM
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Java fern is one that I find handy for all kinds of locations and even as "portable" plants. I don't find it too easy to stick it down on the floor but really easy to glue it to a small rock, using super glue and then semi-bury the rock. I have a couple tanks that I use to let things grow out and they are almost always in flux. That leaves me just doing some temporary things. When Java gets too thick or too much in one tank, I don't always have a need right then. Putting it on rock or wood lets me keep it and store it where there is a space and then if/when I really want it, I can move it without disturbing the roots much at all. Another way to do this is with plastic cut from old bottles. I may want to start a plant for some times later, have the plant now but not the new space -yet. So a cut off soda bottle can hold the plant and whatever dirt, etc. I use long enough to let it grow and then when I find a permanent home, I just clip the plastic tray/pot off enough to hide the sides.
That is also a place where having the mixed substrate lets me do more with less effort. Hide the pot and pour in enough of "something " to hide the plastic but let the plant have whatever I feel it might like best. I find yard dirt to be good stuff but I sure would not want the whole tank full. Too messy and easy to stir up the dirt storm but nice for here and there.

Last edited by PlantedRich; 02-17-2018 at 03:18 PM. Reason: added info
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-18-2018, 12:10 PM
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Plants grow just fine in regular aquarium gravel. Any nutrients can be supplied through the water column. So called "heavy root feeders" grow quite well in regular gravel also.

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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-26-2018, 07:29 PM
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Another option you could try if you're dead set on growing stem plants in the tank would be to plant them in pots with a nutrient rich soil like ADA Amazonia or Tropica Aquarium Soil. If you go this route, the best bet would be to purchase net pots used for hydroponics (or you could just take a normal plastic pot and drill a bunch of holes in it, but thats a pain and the hydroponic net pots would probably work better), so the plants roots can expand out in to the regular gravel.

With that light on a 10 gal, you should be able to get a carpet (or close to it) by adding a few net pots of hydrocotyle tripartita (Japanese clover) and keeping it trimmed and/or tucking the stems in to the gravel as it grows. Clover can be trained to grow pretty much anyway you'd like it to grow and will creep almost like a vine, even on inert substrates, if trimmed properly.

epiphytes like anubias and java fern will grow just fine in normal aquarium gravel if their light and nutrient needs are met through the water column, so you could absolutely plant either species in the gravel with no additional soil amendments if thats your preference (although I would add a root tab or two just to be safe). Since you plan on using it as a betta tank, you might consider adding some floating plants as they are found in bettas natural habitat and would be appreciated/utilized by the fish to rest on and when creating bubble nests. If you were to plant a few anubias, java ferns, and moss on driftwood or lava rocks, with a nice mat of riccia growing at the surface and some indian almond or other tropical hardwood leaves on the bottom above the substrate, the result would be a very nice, low-maintenance, biotope type aquarium that does not require any changes to your substrate- And your Betta would be in Heaven!
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-26-2018, 09:59 PM
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Before all these fancy substrates I used to grow great basic stem plants in plain gravel. Better than I grow them now to be honest! Stick to the easier varieties and use some root tabs for easy feeding and you'll probably be pleasantly surprised.

You could try some of the smaller crypts or perhaps pygmy chain sword for a carpet. It's probably not going to grow a beautiful green lawn but you should be able to get some ground cover.
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