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Real Plants? Or Ornaments

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Offline Lellynelly

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real plants? or ornaments
« on: September 09, 2017, 08:23:18 AM »
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I have been fishkeeping for around 7 years now and currently have 4 aquaria containing a variety of small fish. Over the years of general maintenance the thing I have spent the most money on is plants. They just don't last. they turn brown and look messy, they uproot and float on the surface, or they get eaten. this leaves the tanks looking quite bare at times. Having recently looked at a friends tank that contained lots of rocks/ornaments and hardly any plants I am now wondering whether its worth decorating the tanks with hardware instead, as in ornaments, fake logs, castles, rocks (Can I use rocks from the garden? and do away with plants altogether.
What do people think? how much benefit do plants give to the water quality?

Offline Matt

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Re: real plants? or ornaments
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2017, 08:53:26 AM »
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Plants do have benefits to water quality -especially nitrate levels.  What do your test results indicate for nitrate in your tap and tank water? Is your tank over or under filtered? You will likely have to slightly increase the frequency of water changes in an unplanted tank, though this would be more the case if the plants were growing well.  Personally I'd be more than happy to help you get to the bottom of why your plants are not growing.  For example, are you dosing any plant nutrients? What substrate and lights do you have? By working though this we should be able to get you that planted tank look you are after.

You are welcome to use just aquarium safe decor and no plants should you wish but please be aware that you must check they are aquarium safe (look for videos on the vinegar test).

Offline Littlefish

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Re: real plants? or ornaments
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2017, 08:55:10 AM »
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This could be a very long message without really providing you with an actual answer, so apologies in advance.
Real plants help water quality by using up the fish waste, etc. I also use floating plants in some tanks to lower my nitrates as they are 40ppm from the tap.
Live plants as a bit like fish, they will thrive in certain water conditions. Unfortunately this isn't always made clear at point of sale, but there has been a recent thread on this forum with a lot of information on this, so it may be a case of finding plants that work with your water conditions. Some plants also require a lot of maintenance (fertilisers, carbon, trimmimg), and others don't
I have quite a lot of different plants, and have made some awesome mistakes with them over the past year or so, and have not found a basic list of plants that work well with my water, and don't need too much looking after, which works for me as my focus is more on the fish than the aquascaping. By the way, my basic list doesn't have any stem plants as I forget to maintain them, they go stringy and lose their bottom leaves.
Another option, which @Sue uses, and which I have used in my axolotl tank and river tank, are plants which can be attached to the decor. This will avoid your fish moving them, and the plants are (generally) slower growing and need less attention.
I have seen some awesome tanks that have no plants at all, and if you consider certain fish, this could be a very accurate representation of their natural environment.
As far as rocks go, anything that is from the garden would have to be cleaned and tested negar for suitability. This is off the top of my head, so I can't give accurate details, but if the rocks fizz with vinegar they are not suitable because they will release minerals into the water.

So, after a lot of ramble, it boils down to how you want your tanks to look. Lots of decor/limited or no plants can still give your fish a suitable and interesting environment. If you want plants but don't want to spend too much time looking after them, get the ones that are suitable for your water conditions and the way that your fish use the tank.

I hope that's of some use and has given you some things to consider.  :)

Offline Sue

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Re: real plants? or ornaments
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2017, 10:10:12 AM »
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This is the thread Littlefish was thinking of

Some fish need the cover provided by plants, whether real or fake. For example, most south American fish come from rivers that have plants in them, and also land trees overhanging the river. This latter is another aspect as these fish also do much better with plants floating on the tank surface.

As Littlefish mentioned, I have plants attached to decor. This is because every plant that I've tried that roots in the substrate dies. I finally discovered that java fern thrives in my tanks. This plant has another advantage that fish don't like it so they don't eat it. At one time, I had nothing but java fern in my tanks, growing on both wood and plastic ornaments. But other people's tanks looked so much better than mine so I tried other plants.

Before you give up on plants completely, why not give this type of plant a try. They are slow growing plants which means they don't need intense light or added CO2. They just need a weekly dose of liquid fertiliser. I use Seachem Flourish, the one that has nothing else in the name. And I dose at half the strength the bottle says because I have slow growing plants rather than a rampant jungle.

Javae fern - I have both standard java fern and the prettier windelov variety
Anubias - I have several different species
Bolbitis heudeloti - a lovely fern like plant
Bucephalandra - there are several different species, I have B. maia
Hornwort. This doesn't attach itself but I loop the stems round branches of wood to anchor it. It can also be used as a floating plant.

I currently have water sprite floating on the surface among the strands of hornwort. I have tried other floating plants. Water lettuce and Amazon frogbit didn't last long. Salvinia natans was killed off during a heatwave. Even duck weed didn't last very long in my tanks  :o But so far, touch wood, the water sprite is doing well.

I have come to realise that I will never be able to have the plants that other fish keepers have; my tanks will never look as nice as theirs with the variety of plants they have. But my fish are quite happy with their slow growing plants on wood.
This type of planting does have another advantage. When cleaning the tank, you don't risk catching a plant and uprooting it. You just move the whole thing out of the way  ;D

Offline MarquisMirage

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Re: real plants? or ornaments
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2017, 07:24:04 PM »
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... the thing I have spent the most money on is plants. They just don't last. they turn brown and look messy, they uproot and float on the surface, or they get eaten.

Lots of good advice already.  Just wanted to add for plants floating off you can use plant weights.  You can get a lead strip weight cheap and I use these.  Stem plants are worst for this.  Individual stems can be weighted and placed or bunched together.  Another thing I tried was to plant two weeks before starting a cycle with low flow to allow some root growth.  It wasn't too effective for keeping plants in place but they did grow nicely.  There's a lot of trial and error and guessing involved.

I think plants are worthwhile but they take a lot more work than the care of the fish does.  They're expensive if you try and fully plant the tank but after doing this myself I decided to go with small pots of the plants and letting them grow in.  Plant propagation becomes an important feature.  I've lost many individual plants on the way but have yet to lose a species.  Admittedly I am blessed with almost ideal water conditions out of the tap for the vast majority of plants.  Even then I consider myself an adequate plant person and definitely not an expert.

Offline fcmf

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Re: real plants? or ornaments
« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2017, 10:41:05 PM »
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It's probably worth experimenting with some of your tanks ie rather than converting all four from live plants to silk plants or other hardware, just try making one free from live plants and see how you get on - maybe start off with silk plants only rather than buying other additional decor.

I do empathise with the situation, as I converted from a "silk plant only" tank to a "live plant" tank and I've gone through a lot of plants in the 13-14 months since doing so, find that the filter clogs up easily and it has made no difference to my water quality (I've been fortunate enough to have had low nitrate levels of <20ppm +/- live plants). However, I'm persevering for the foreseeable future as I'm determined to improve my very poor live plantkeeping skills. What I have found works is:
* plants grown on decor (for me, anubias has lasted well as has bucephalandra, but java fern and bolbitis haven't);
* thick-leaved plants (will add details of these tomorrow)
* root tabs (much better than the liquid fertiliser which makes negligible difference)

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