Can Aquarium Plants Grow in Gravel?

A few weeks ago, I decided that I was going to add some live aquatic plants to my aquarium. This led me to the question, Can I plant plants in gravel? What holds them down? How can I get things started? I decided to do some research and which you’ll read about in this post.

So, can aquarium plants grow in gravel? In short, yes. Certain species of aquatic flora can grow in gravel. This will depend on the type of gravel that you have. Large chunky aquarium rock gravel isn’t an ideal substrate material choice.

Rock gravel is designed for easy cleaning and waste coverage. It shifts easily and tends to have a non-porous surface that can prevent biological material adhesion, making it easy to clean and remove.

Most aquatic plants need to remain stable in order to thrive and grow. Shifting gravel can cause constant uprooting and tipping. Plant roots are also easily bumped and removed when the aquarium is cleaned.

Additionally, most types of visually attractive or aesthetically appealing plants will require a firm substrate of some kind for optimal growth. This can be achieved by purchasing a finer substrate gravel.

If you’ve got the wrong kind of gravel and don’t want to remove it before you start planting, try the anchor method. This is done by anchoring plants to driftwood or suction cupping them to the bottom of your tank. You can then just scoop the large rocky gravel around them decoratively.

Here are some additional tips you can use when trying to get plants to grow in gravel.

  • Choose hardy aquatic plants that have flexible root structures.
  • Anchor plants so they don’t float away when gravel is disturbed.
  • Use an additional substrate fine gravel material under the larger gravel that you already have.

How Can You Add Plants to Your Aquarium?

Through trial and error, I was able to figure out a lot about aquarium plants and how to get them thriving. You’d be surprised at how making a few minor adjustments to your aquarium’s environment can impact your success rate with aquatic plants. If you’re trying to get plants growing in your aquarium there are a few things that you can do to help ensure your success.

1. Choose the Right Plants

Make sure to choose plants with fast-growing root systems that tend to cling easily.

2. Have Adequate Lighting

Check the lighting requirements of the plants that you pick. This will ensure that they are going to grow at all.

3. Use Anchors

Anchors are a great workaround if you don’t want to add a substrate to your tank. Porous materials that are organic work amazingly. My favorite is driftwood.

4. Add Fertilizer

Adding root tab fertilizer is a great way to speed up a root growth system can make things anchor down. With the right fertilizer, you can even get plant root systems to anchor themselves to the bottom of your tank.

Which Plants Grow Easily in Gravel?

There are a few nice aquatic plants out there that don’t require much in the way of a substrate material.

• Java Ferns

These guys love driftwood. I tied mine on with a cotton thread that dissolved as the plants grew into the wood. Now they stay in place.

• Anubis

Just like Java Ferns, Anubis grows well on driftwood. No substrate required.

• Other Options

Java Moss and Amazon Swords are also some nice options that don’t necessarily require a substrate. I haven’t used them personally, but from what I can tell, Amazon Swords are bulbs that do well with a bit of fertilizer and don’t have any crazy lighting requirements.

How Does This Process Work?

There are many different types of aquatic plants that do well in a freshwater tank. They will each have different growth requirements concerning their lighting, anchor or substrate material, and fertilizer. Generally, aquatic plants will be planted or anchored in a certain area of your tank. There are three categories of aquarium plants.

What are the Main Categories of Aquarium Plants?

There are generally three categories of aquatic plants that are classified based on where and how the plants tend to grow.

• Foreground Plants

These plants can be placed in the front of your tank. They are usually short and grow slowly. Common foreground plants include Anubis, Dwarf Baby Tears, Four Leaf Clover, Indian Red Sword, and Moss.

• Midground Plants

Midground plants are taller and can be used in the sides and the center of your aquarium. Some great mid-ground plants are Cryptocoryne Spiralis, Anubias Afzelli, Moneywort, and Lush.

• Background Plants

Background plants are the tallest and fastest growing plants. Some nice background plants include Aponogeton Boivinianus, Potted Tall Hairgrass, Anacharis Aquarium Plant, and Coontail.

How do Your Begin the Planting Process?

So how exactly do you go about planting things in your tank? It’s not as hard as you might think. With a little preparation and the proper steps, you’ll have a beautiful aquatic garden going in no time.

How Should You Pick your Plants?

I recommend picking out plants that are easy to grow and don’t require any special types of lighting or expensive fertilizers at first. You’ll probably want to pick out plants that have the same lighting and water requirements across the board.

Are There Any Tank Preparation Steps?

Yes. Getting your tank prepped can consist of reorganizing your decorations, cleaning, or even totally removing all of your fish and laying down a substrate material. Honestly, laying down a substrate may be your best option. I ended up buying a simple and easy to install substrate. It’s made of a fine gravel material that goes under the larger rocky gravel. I had to clean out my tank to put it in, but it ended up being worth it in the end.

Where Should You Put Your Plants?

I discovered that just following the directions that came with the plants I purchased was the easiest way to go. Know if your have midground, foreground, or background plants and place them accordingly. You may need to use anchors or substrate material. Having the right kinds of fertilizer is also a good idea.

How do Plants Benefit Your Tank’s Ecosystem?

Aquatic plants can provide a myriad of benefits to your tank and fish. Knowing what benefits you’re looking for can help you decide which plants you’re going to buy. Here are just a few of the benefits freshwater aquarium plants can provide your tank with.

  • Better Oxygenation – Plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen that your fish will be able to use.
  • Water Filtration – Live plants are able to use nitrates to grow. This helps to remove these waste products from your tank and keep your water cleaner and healthier.
  • Aeration – Oxygen saturation helps to aerate your tank.
  • Aesthetic Appeal – Plants can give your tank a natural and aesthetically pleasing appearance.
  • Shelter and Security – Plants give your fish places to lay low and rest.
  • Hide Fixtures – Aquatic plant life can be used to hide unsightly fixtures like pumps and filtration systems.

Is it Easier to Use a Substrate Gravel or to Anchor Plants?

Anchoring is easier at first, a substrate foreground will be easier in the long run. Anchoring can be done by attaching plants or bulbs to rocks, fixtures, decor, or driftwood. A substrate foreground can be used to integrate a wider variety of aquatic plants over time. The substrate foreground will be like the living carpet of your tank. Essentially, if you want a complex aquatic system, you’ll have to use a substrate material. On the other hand, if you just want to add a few decorative living plants that will oxygenate your tank, using anchor points is a great idea.

What Gravel Substrate is Best for Growing Aquatic Plants?

There are many gravel substrates available that can be used for aquatic plant life. This link ranks some of the best substrate gravel products out there and describes them in-depth. The top 3 are:

  • Flourite Black
  • Carib Sea Eco Complete Planted Black Aquarium Substrate
  • UP AQUA Sand for Aquatic Plants

Are There Any Other Things You Should Consider?

If you know what plants you like, what purpose they serve, where they belong, and how you should plant them, you should be good to go. The only other thing I’ll say is to have fun! Planting aquatic life can be really entertaining and fulfilling.

You can also check out these links for more helpful information!

Leave a Comment