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The main factor that attracts people to planted aquariums is the apparent ease of maintenance and how readily plants can grow under a wide range of conditions without much help from the aquarist.
From experience, most aquarium plants will start growing in a few days to a week after placing them in the fish tank. However, how fast they reach maximum size will depend on many variables, including the plant species..
You’ll note that plants like Java fern and anubiaus start growing instantly, albeit establish very gradually. Whereas root based species such as vals, crypts, and Amazon sword plant will take a few weeks to establish new roots before visible growth, but reach an acceptable size fairly fast.
Weed-like aquarium plants such as anacharis and hornwort establish and grow exponentially and can easily take over your tank if not careful.
How fast your aquarium plants grow depends on the species. Some species like anubius take forever to establish, while others will grow like weeds such as anacharis and hornwort.
Other variables that determine how fast your aquarium plant grows including temperature, ph, water hardness, nutrients (CO2, micro, and microelements), and the health of plants before purchase.
See more insight below.
How To Make Your Aquarium Plants Grow Faster
The growth of all plants, both terrestrial and aquatic, depends a lot on the amount of light and nutrients available to them.
Aquarium plants also differ in how fast they grow depending on temperature, ph, and amount of dissolved mineral in the water column, considering that’s where they derive all essential elements they need for development.
As such, the easiest way to make your aquarium plants grow faster is to ensure there is enough supply of light, minerals, and CO2 in your water column or/and substrate.
That said, low-tech, low-light plants are not too demanding and will grow quite rapidly when provided with the most basic environment, but high-light plants quite often need to be supplemented especially with CO2.
In terms of light, aquarium plant species require anywhere from 8 to 12 light hours, with the optimal average being in the 10-hour mark. T5 and T8 fluorescent bulbs are sufficient, but LEDs are the harder hitters by comparison.
A few hours of sunlight will also not hurt your plants and can go a long way in helping you save on power cost. However, note that too much light exposure also encourages rapid algae growth.
To feed your plants and help them thrive and not just survive, using fertilizer is recommended. Ideal regimens help add elements that form building blocks necessary for plant development.
Essentially, aquarium plants consume nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium more, meaning these elements should be supplied in large amounts. While other components like iron, boron, and manganese, commonly called micronutrients, are necessary only in trace amounts
I recommend using root tabs while starting rooted plants that need to be anchored on a substrate. But for floating species or those that you attach on surfaces (driftwood, rocks), you may want to use a flourish liquid fertilizer.
In some instances, you may want to use a target fertilizer such as Seachem Nitrogen or Seachem Flourish Iron if you notice a stand-alone deficiency in your plants. From experience, such deficiencies manifest in various ways, including a change in leaf color, young buds, and foliage dying and falling off, and holes on the leaf surface; see more insight here.
Not all aquarium plants require CO2 dosing for fast development, though a little will go along way in helping most species start.
If you completely fail to supplement your tank, the plants will have to survive on what is released naturally by fish and bacteria inside, which is often inadequate, particularly those plants in the medium and advanced categories.
How Long Does it Take Aquarium Plants to Roots
Most root-based aquarium plants develop initial roots in anywhere from two to several weeks. Of course, if the plants are anchored in a nutrient-rich substrate, roots will establish more readily.
Roots tabs promote superior root development for lush aquarium plants as they supply essential nutrients, including Iron, Potassium, and Carbon via the substrate. As such, new plants get off a strong start while established ones continue flourishing.
New plants also need to be well anchored to establish an extensive root network.
Put down a framework under your substrate that covers the entire bottom of the tank if you plan on cultivating a thickly planted aquarium with rooting plants.
Something like plastic embroidery mesh works well.
However, if you only intend to have a sparsely planted tank, you can use smaller pieces of plastic embroidery mesh to anchor your plants. Also, remember not to add boisterous fish like cichlids in your tank until the plants have well-established roots.
How To Root Your Aquarium Plants Fast
Rooting aquarium plants in the substrate is probably the most common and fastest way to start most species in your tank. However, if you do not anchor them properly, your plants will keep floating and the water and take a long minute to establish.
Growing and rooting your aquatic plants can be just as easy as regular houseplants. You only need to follow a few lighting and fertilizer rules.
To begin with, clean your substrate if you need as you do not want to disturb the plantlets once you add them to your tank.
Another thing you might want to consider is the type of substrate you have because although hardy plants will survive even when anchored in gravel, some species require special aquarium grow sand to thrive.
Even so, if you have no choice but to root your plants in sand, be sure to add root tabs to nourish your substrate rest the garden fails to thrive.
Once everything else is set, remove your new plants from the pots or shipping bags, and place them in a holding container with water. Meanwhile, prepare the area of the tank you want to have them.
Usually, I scoop out a hole in the aquarium gravel or sand about an inch or two deep, which is usually enough to hold the young roots. I then take the plant, place it in the substrate, and cover it up to slightly below where the stem begins.
Only make sure the gravel is not too compact around the roots to allow water and air circulation. Besides, you also don’t want your substrate packed too tightly because it’ll cause unwanted anaerobic pockets in your tank.
In case you get a challenge keeping your new plant anchored in the substrate, try weighing it down with a small rock attached to the plant using a piece of fishing line.
Driftwood and large rocks are also useable as anchors when the plant in question is not a stem species but a creeping or carpet plant that needs to be attached to other objects such as java moss.
Happy fish 🦐🐠 keeping.