Live aquarium plants have very specific needs. For the beginner I would highly recommend artificial plants your first year. Even with live plants’ benefit of reducing carbon monoxide and utilizing nitrates as well as being beautiful and adding oxygen to the water, they can be a lot of work. If they are not cared for properly they will die and contribute to water quality issues.
Artificial plants have a lot of design varieties to choose from. The more expensive artificial plants for your aquarium will look like real plants and give the added effect of having plants in your aquarium with out all the work and possibility of fouling up your water.
Live aquarium plants cannot be kept in saltwater aquariums but you can add corals, artificial plants and algae. For freshwater aquariums the most common kind of live aquarium plants will fall under the categories of “Floating Plants” and “Rooted Plants”. We will stick with the best plants for a beginner’s freshwater aquarium.
Before you go out to buy any plants for your aquarium you need remember that they are a living thing just like your fish. Each species of live aquarium plants has specific temperature, substrate, lighting, feeding and maintenance requirements you need to consider. You also want to make sure the plants are compatible with the fish in your aquarium.
Floating plants float around the top of your tank and do not root themselves in the substrate. You do not have to be concerned about the type of substrate your tank has with floating plants. This type of plant usually grows very quickly so you really need to make sure to prune them on a regular basis or risk blocking out the light that is generated by your aquariums hood. Loosing the proper lighting in your aquarium can lead to a lot of problems. Floating plants are great for a spawning tank because it gives the young (fry) plenty of places to hide to avoid becoming a bigger fish’s dinner.
Rooted plants do not float at the top of the tank but root themselves in the substrate of your aquarium. They receive their nutrients not just from their leaves but also the substrate that they are planted in. It is also very important to remember that rooted plants will grow and to plan to give them plenty of space in your aquarium.