After my article a few months ago on The Long Term Benefits of a Planted Tank; I have learned a lot more from research and personal experience on the immediate benefits that plants offer your aquarium.
Armed and ready with my water test kits, I carried out various water parameters tests from before I added plants and as I added more plants in the test aquarium one at a time daily.
As water parameters changed and began to stabilise I started to realise the importance of a planted aquarium aside from the aesthetics.
Along with some reading research and a lot of Googling I have come to some conclusions and they are as follows.
Removes Harmful Ammonia
One of the most important things that I would like to share with you is very simple. It is that plants readily take up ammonia from the aquarium water even if there is plenty of nitrates available in the water and enough nitrogen in the substrate. Plants, it seems, have a preference for ammonia and this works out beautifully for your aquarium water chemistry.
This is a heavy one for me with my limited knowledge to explain. But here I am giving it my best shot any way.
Respiratory by fish causes your pH to drop. If you want to know why and you actually care then go Google it.
Respiratory by plants and photosynthesis causes pH to increase. Again; if you want to know why and you actually care then go Google it.
Together, they cause a stabilising effect to your water pH which theoretically could stabilize other water parameter factors.
Plants in your aquarium or even in your pond will almost always inhibit the process of algae growth. Some say this is mainly because of the competition for nutrients where the plants out compete the algae and stop it from growing. Thus using too much of fertilizer will cause algae outbreaks; and others say it is because of allelopathy. Allelopathy is a brilliant, yet theoretical, process. According to my knowledge there has not been enough study on the subject.
You would think that the millions that are generated every year from aquariums all across the world would cause scientists to do in-depth studies on such topics, alas, it is not so.
It is my belief that allelopathy does exist in the home aquarium to a very large extent. This brings more reason for weekly water changes and gravel cleaning as allelochemicals can also seep into your substrate.
If allelopathy is indeed the cause of death to some species of plants in home aquaria and not others, it may give the hobbyist some solace. However, what happens if the pant in question just died because of lack of attention to specific needs? Should the hobbyist now just assume that any plant that does not thrive in his/her aquarium is never going to because of the addition of a different species?
I would say no. You should research the plant species that you are keeping, ensure that the fish are not eating the plant in question and do your required water changes to dilute any allelochemicals and in doing so you can eliminate the theory that allelopathy is to blame for your plant death.
More information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allelopathy
Remove Heavy Metals
Many (if not all) plants use soluble heavy metals in order to grow. It is food. Or rather it is a food source. These metals, depending on their level and potency, could potential cause damage to your fish.
By utilizing plants in your aquarium you basically remove all risk of this ever happening.
Some of the Easier Plants to Grow
When I say ‘easier’ I am obviously comparing to other species of plants that tend to have a lot of requirements that can be difficult to meet.
There is always the obvious things that you will need when growing any kind of plant and that is light and nutrients (food). All plants in the world need light to photosynthesize and the aquatic plants that you keep in your aquaria are no different.
Also remember that you cannot just use any light because plants use a specific spectrum of light from the sun when photosynthesizing which means that you every day light bulbs will not grow your plants as well as specialized lighting or it might not grow your plants at all.
So incandescent lighting is out – your ‘normal’ fluorescent lighting is out as well. You need lighting that contains more of the blue and red ends of the light spectrum in order for your plants, which are green (due to something called chlorophyll – I’m sure you remember that from high school), to photosynthesize (go figure).
Now it may seem a bit odd to some people that I am almost being redundant but the truth is that no matter how many times you can say this to people they just never seem to understand. Therefore my next heading seems adequate.
Without further ado; here is my list:
- Hygrophila Polysperma – Sunset Hygro, Indian Weed
- Hygrophila Corymbosa – Giant Hygro, Narrow Leaf Temple
- Ceratophyllum submersum – Hornwort
- Echinodorus tenellus (Helanthium tenellum) – Pygmy Chain Sword, Mini Amazon Sword
- Vallisneria sp. (Species, for those who don’t know what ‘sp.’ is) – Vall
- Rotala rotundifolia – Dwarf Rotala
- Echinodorus Radicans
- Echinodorus Habrich
Bear in mind that common names vary widely across the world, country, provinces, cities and even little towns. Even my supplier sometimes has no clue what he is talking about!
These plants are fast growing, need little extra care such as added nutrients and CO2, they can be used singularly or together to form a beautiful and enticing aquascape.
Plants Need Light to Grow (No! Really?)
Let me try to explain why.
The ‘light-dependent reactions’, or photosynthesis, is the first stage of photosynthesis, the process by which plants capture and store energy from sunlight. In this process, light energy is converted into chemical energy, in the form of the energy-carrying molecules ATP and NADPH. In the light-independent reactions, the formed NADPH and ATP drive the reduction ofCO2 to more useful organic compounds, such as glucose. However, although light-independent reactions are, by convention, also called dark reactions, they are not independent of the need of light, for they are driven by ATP and NADPH, products of light. They are often called the Calvin Cycle or C3 Cycle.
The light-dependent reactions take place on the thylakoid membrane inside a chloroplast. The inside of the thylakoid membrane is called the lumen, and outside the thylakoid membrane is the stroma, where the light-independent reactions take place. The thylakoid membrane contains some integral membrane protein complexes that catalyze the light reactions. There are four major protein complexes in the thylakoid membrane: Photosystem I (PSI), Photosystem II (PSII), Cytochrome b6f complex, and ATP synthase. These four complexes work together to ultimately create the products ATP and NADPH.
The two photosystems absorb light energy through proteins containing pigments, such as chlorophyll. (Makes the color of leaves and trees green.) The light-dependent reactions begin in photosystem II. When a chlorophyll a molecule within the reaction centre of PSII absorbs a photon, an electron in this molecule attains a higher energy level. Because this state of an electron is very unstable, the electron is transferred from one to another molecule creating a chain of redox reactions, called an electron transport chain (ETC). The electron flow goes from PSII to cytochrome b6f to PSI. In PSI, the electron gets the energy from another photon. The final electron acceptor is NADP. In oxygenic photosynthesis, the first electron donor is water, creating oxygen as a waste product. In anoxygenic photosynthesis various electron donors are used.
Cytochrome b6f and ATP synthase work together to create ATP. This process is called photophosphorylation, which occurs in two different ways. In non-cyclic photophosphorylation, cytochrome b6f uses the energy of electrons from PSII to pump protons from the stroma to the lumen. The proton gradient across the thylakoid membrane creates a proton-motive force, used by ATP synthase to form ATP. In cyclic photophosphorylation, cytochrome b6f uses the energy of electrons from not only PSII but also PSI to create more ATP and to stop the production of NADPH. Cyclic phosphorylation is important to create ATP and maintain NADPH in the right proportion for the light-independent reactions.
The net-reaction of all light-dependent reactions in oxygenic photosynthesis is:
2H2O + 2NADP+ + 3ADP + 3Pi → O2 + 2NADPH + 3ATP
The two photosystems are protein complexes that absorb photons and are able to use this energy to create an electron transport chain. Photosystem I and II are very similar in structure and function. They use special proteins, called light-harvesting complexes, to absorb the photons with very high effectiveness. If a special pigment molecule in a photosynthetic reaction centre absorbs a photon, an electron in this pigment attains the excited state and then is transferred to another molecule in the reaction centre. This reaction, called photoinduced charge separation, is the start of the electron flow and is unique because it transforms light energy into chemical forms.
Got that? Good, nor did I. The most likely cause is probably that I completely copied and pasted it from Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light-dependent_reactions
Now if I were actually that good, I wouldn’t even bother wasting my time writing this article. Nonetheless, I am now sure that many of you non-believers out there will see now see the light (the pun was intended but I am a cliché, so; No pun intended!).
If you made to the end of this article, kudos to you! It shows that you actually care about planting your aquarium and you should. As stated before, not only is it beautiful but it is also useful to you (saves your time), your fish (keeps them safe) and your water parameters (pH and all that).