How to plant aquarium plants in gravel?

When the word gravel comes to mind, you probably think of building materials or the stuff that crunches under your tires when you pull into a parking lot. However, gravel has other uses! It might surprise you to know this, but many use gravel as a substrate in aquariums. It’s crucial to remember that the plants you purchase for an aquarium must be compatible with the substrate at the bottom of the tank. A substrate serves as the bottom layer of your aquarium. It helps balance water chemistry and the quality of life of all the creatures in your aquarium while adding aesthetic appeal.

In this post, we’ll take you through an explanation of how to plant aquarium plants in gravel, followed by a list of the best plants to grow in the gravel! 

How to plant aquarium plants in gravel?

Once you’ve decided to use gravel as your aquarium substrate, the next step is to place your plants in it! It can seem challenging at first, but we can assure you that it is much easier than you think. 

Here is a step-by-step guide explaining how to do it: 

1. Choose the correct gravel size.

Different gravel size in tank

It might sound surprising, but gravel comes in different sizes. It would be best to choose gravel with grains between three and eight millimeters thick. If the pieces are any bigger, it could suffocate the plant’s roots and prevent growth. On the other hand, if the gravel grains are too small, they will not provide the delicate plant roots with enough strength to stand. As a result, the plant could die. 

2. Layer and prepare the gravel in the aquarium before planting the plants. 

The next step is to prepare the gravel by arranging it in a single layer at the bottom of your aquarium. Gently add the gravel to the aquarium in a uniform layer no thicker than two inches tall. We’re suggesting that you keep the layer less than two inches tall because it will help you clean your aquarium more easily. 

Once you have added enough gravel, add several drops of an aquarium plant fertilizer to the top of the gravel. Next, fill the tank halfway with water. 

3. Fill the aquarium with plants. 

Gently place your plants in the gravel. Ensure that you hold the roots gently when placing them in the aquarium to prevent them from getting damaged. Once the plant is in the gravel, cover the roots with extra gravel to provide them with additional security and help them grow. 

To keep the plants from floating to the top after you fill the rest of the aquarium, you could weigh them down by tying a rope or attaching a rubber band to the plant, just above their roots. 

4. Add the remaining water and fertilize the plants. 

Now that you have added all the plants fill the tank with more water. Depending on the plant species in your fish tank, you might not need to fill it up to the brim with water. After adding the remaining water, fertilize the tank, and you’re all set.   

7 Best Aquarium Plants to Grow In Gravel

Gravel is one of the best substrates for aquarium plants. It prevents bacteria and amoebae from building up and making your fish sick. One of the most significant benefits that gravel offers you is that it allows water to flow more easily through it, thus helping prevent bacteria buildup. 

Here is a list of the seven best aquarium plants to grow in gravel. 

1. Cryptocoryne Wendtii

Cryptocoryne Wendtii

Our first pick is the Cryptocoryne Wendtii. This plant is compatible with gravel and sand and easy to maintain. It is also perfect for aquarium owners who want their tanks to look aesthetically pleasing. It is also generically referred to as Wendt’s water trumpet. It thrives among plants that don’t require high lighting levels and is relatively low maintenance overall. 

Please remember to take note of the following plant requirements. 

  • Growth Rate: Its growth rate is medium to fast. 
  • Max Height: It can grow to a maximum height of 15 centimeters or six inches. 
  • Light Demands: This plant needs low to medium levels of lighting.  
  • Temperature: 73° and 84° F.  
  • CO2 required: It doesn’t require additional CO2. 

Pros: 

  • It is a low-maintenance plant, making it perfect for beginners and aquarium owners on a budget because it does not require special lighting. As a result, you don’t need to purchase any new lights. 
  • It is a slow-growing plant, so you don’t need to prune it constantly. 

Cons: 

  • This plant doesn’t require high levels of lighting. This might not bode well if you have other plants in the same tank that require higher light levels and could cause Wendt’s water trumpet to wither or die.  

2. Amazon Sword

Amazon Sword

Our second pick is the Amazon Sword, scientifically known as Echinodorus grisebachii. We’ve listed this plant at number two because it is low-maintenance in addition to thriving in gravel. This plant is also perfect for people who have limited experience taking care of aquatic plants. It doesn’t require many hours of simulated sunlight and can live peacefully with other plants that require different temperatures. The Amazon Sword is perfect for medium or large-sized aquarium tanks because of its moderate growth rate. We would recommend that you plant it in at least two and a half inches of loose gravel so that it has room to grow. 

Please remember to take note of the following plant requirements. 

  • Growth Rate: Its growth rate is medium. 
  • Max Height: It can grow to a maximum height of 16 inches. 
  • Light Demands: This plant needs medium to high levels of light. 
  • Temperature: 72° and 82° F.  
  • CO2 required: It doesn’t require additional CO2. 

Pros: 

  • It is perfect for beginners and people with tight schedules because this plant does not require much maintenance and care. 
  • It thrives in a wide variety of temperatures. 

Cons: 

  • It grows at a moderate rate, which could be a challenge to deal with if you have a small aquarium tank. 

3. Red Tiger Lotus

Red Tiger Lotus

The Red Tiger Lotus is our third pick. Its scientific name is Nymphaea zenkeri. This plant is in the top three of our list because, just like our two previous recommendations, the Red Tiger Lotus is perfect for growing in the gravel. It is also low-maintenance at the same time. If you would like to grow lotus flowers, we’d recommend that you don’t submerge the entire plant in water. 

This plant is lovely to look at, thanks to its beautiful red leaves shaped like arrowheads. While this plant grows quite quickly, it is relatively easy to take care of. Please note that if you bury the Red Tiger Lotus roots too deep in the gravel, they will start to rot over time. At the same time, you must plant the roots at least two inches deep into the substrate. 

Please remember to take note of the following plant requirements. 

  • Growth Rate: Its growth rate is moderate to fast. 
  • Max Height: It can grow to a maximum height of 20 inches. 
  • Light Demands: This plant needs medium to high levels of light. 
  • Temperature: 71° and 82° F.  
  • CO2 required: Additional C02 is necessary, but this plant can thrive without it. 

Pros: 

  • Thanks to its quick growth rate and tall stems, the red tiger lotus is perfect for taller fish tanks. 
  • It is ideal for people who live in warm places since this plant thrives in warmer climates. 

Cons: 

  • It grows pretty fast, which means that even though it is low-maintenance, you need to prune it quite regularly. 
  • Suppose you don’t infuse your water with fertilizer often. In that case, this plant will die because it needs lots of extra nourishment to survive. 

4. Anubias

Anubias

Next up on our list is the plant Anubias. These plants belong to a plant species called Araceae, and one can typically find them in parts of West Africa. They have thick and broad leaves and usually grow in riverbeds and marshy land. One of the most exciting features of this type of plant is that it thrives in gravel and other hard substrates. They are also straightforward to care for, which means that if you have an inflexible schedule or a limited budget, this plant is perfect for you! 

This plant responds to light positively, which means that its leaves get larger when exposed to higher levels of light. However, it is essential to note that it doesn’t need lots of light to thrive and that its growth rate is slow. 

Please remember to take note of the following plant requirements. 

  • Growth Rate: Its growth rate is slow.  
  • Max Height: It can grow to a maximum height of 16 inches or 40 centimeters. 
  • Light Demands: This plant needs low levels of light. 
  • Temperature: 72° and 82° F.  
  • CO2 required: This plant does not require additional levels of CO2. 

Pros: 

  • Since this plant’s leave can grow to be quite large, you could buy a few Anubias plants and fill your tank with them to make your aquarium care much more manageable. 
  • They don’t require high levels of light. 
  • They also don’t require additional fertilizers or carbon dioxide injections, making them low-maintenance plants. 

Cons: 

  • Since these plants don’t require additional CO2 injections or fertilizer, they might not thrive in an aquarium with other plants and creatures that require the same. As a result, they could die. 

5. Vallisneria

Vallisneria

Suppose you have ever wanted your aquarium to look like a garden submerged in water. In that case, you need to plant some Vallisneria as soon as possible! Vallisneria, which is many refer to as eelgrass or tape grass, is one of the fastest-growing underwater plants that thrive wonderfully in gravel. Unlike java fern plants that one cannot plant under a substrate, eelgrass takes root quickly and grows fast. If you live in a tropical or warm country, this plant is perfect for you. It’s a great plant to fill space in a tank with very few plants. We would highly suggest that you plant it around the perimeter of your tank or at regular intervals that need a little extra greenery! 

Unlike some of our other recommendations, this plant requires frequent pruning due to its quick growth rate.  

Please remember to take note of the following plant requirements. 

  • Growth Rate: It grows at a medium to fast rate.   
  • Max Height: It can grow to a maximum height of 17+ inches, depending on the type of eelgrass you purchase. 
  • Light Demands: This plant needs medium to high levels of light. 
  • Temperature: 68° and 82° F.  
  • CO2 required: This plant does not require additional levels of CO2. 

Pros: 

  • Eelgrass is perfect for an empty tank that needs more plants to fill space or add aesthetics. 
  • It is ideal for people who live in warm countries and need weather-appropriate greenery in their fish tanks. 

Cons: 

  • This plant grows quickly, which requires regular and constant pruning. It is pretty high-maintenance, so you need to keep a close eye on its growth levels to prevent it from growing too tall. 

6. Anacharis Elodea

Anacharis Elodea

We’ve saved some of the best plants to grow in gravel for the end of our list! Our sixth pick is Anacharis Elodea, or water weeds, known generically. These plants come from South America and are some of the more adaptable and versatile aquatic plants available. If you want a fuss-free plant that doesn’t require a specific temperature to thrive in, then water weeds will be right up your alley. They are simple to care for and don’t have many requirements that take a particular time out of your day.  

Please remember to take note of the following plant requirements. 

  • Growth Rate: It grows at a fast rate.   
  • Max Height: It can grow to a maximum height of 17+ inches, depending on the type of eelgrass you purchase. 
  • Light Demands: This plant needs medium to high levels of light. 
  • Temperature: 68° and 82° F.  
  • CO2 required: This plant does not require additional levels of CO2. 

Pros: 

  • These water weeds will ensure that your aquarium remains oxygenated. 
  • They can endure various water conditions, so they don’t require special fertilizers or additional CO2 injections. 

Cons: 

  • This plant does not stop growing, which means that you need to trim it regularly as it can grow up to six feet tall if you aren’t careful. 

How to Set Up an Aquarium with Aquatic Plants in Gravel?

At the beginning of this article, we walked you through a step-by-step process explaining how to plant aquarium plants in gravel. However, setting up the aquarium before planting the aquatic plants might not be something you know how to do. 

Here’s a quick step-by-step walkthrough for you: 

  1. Purchase LED lighting, gravel, a filtration system, carbon dioxide supplements, and a filtration system. 
  2. Clean the tank to remove any lingering dirt or dust. 
  3. Fill the tank with a few inches of fresh water, taking care to ensure that the tank is level on whatever surface you’ve placed it on. 
  4. Install the filtration system using the instructions provided on its packaging. 
  5. Rinse and thoroughly clean your gravel, then layer it in the bottom of your fish tank. 
  6. Plant the aquarium plants. 
  7. Fill the rest of the tank with water. 

How to Fertilize the Plants in Aquarium?

You can fertilize the plants in your aquarium by purchasing a light to help them photosynthesize. Depending on the plant species you have, you can also inject additional CO2 into the tank to help them fertilize. You can also use various iron fertilizers. 

Tips to Grow Aquatic Plants in Gravel

Here are three tips to help you grow aquatic plants in gravel: 

  1. Weigh your plants down with anchors like rubber bands or ropes to prevent them from floating to the surface of the tank. 
  2. Be mindful of the types of plants you purchase. Some plants do not have the appropriate root structures to thrive in gravel, so you need to buy plants with flexible roots. 
  3. Ensure that your water quality works with the type of plants you have. 

Buying Guide

Buying gravel for your aquarium is simple. You need to keep two factors in mind: 

Cleanliness and Size

The size of the gravel you purchase directly affects the cleanliness of your tank. If you have a fish tank with small gravel pieces, there’s a good chance that the tank will be much harder to clean. Therefore, choose gravel that is easier to clean while remaining conducive with the plants and creatures you have. 

Wrapping Up

This guide walked you through a large amount of information on growing aquarium plants in gravel. From walking you through an exhaustive list of plants to a buying guide, we made sure to cover it all. Growing aquatic plants in a substrate like gravel might sound strange and feel intimidating, but we can assure you that it is easier than you think! All you need to do is remember that your plants must grow and live in gravel, and the gravel must be easy to clean! Once you’ve figured out how to plant your aquatic plants in gravel, everything will fall into place.

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