Having some lush green plants in your fish tank is one way to add interest, colour, and also contrast to the lovely colours of your fish. However, having plants in your fish tank isn’t just aesthetically pleasing. Live plants are an important part of your aquarium’s eco-system, and even fake plants serve a very important purpose.
I can’t think of any breed of fish where plants are of no benefit to them.
In this article, I am going to discuss the benefits of having plants in your aquarium, the best beginner plants to go for, and whether guppies will eat the plants in your tank.
Benefits of a Planted Aquarium.
It is very rare to come across a fish tank in that just has fish in it and nothing else.
The main benefits of having a planted tank are:
It is an important part of your tank’s eco-system.
I love National Geographic’s definition of an eco-system:
‘An ecosystem is a geographic area where plants, animals, and other organisms, as well as weather and landscape, work together to form a bubble of life.’
Our fish tanks are tiny little eco-systems compared to the natural ones ‘out in the wild’, but they are just as important. It is the circle of life in our own little glass box.
Plants help control nitrogen levels, by consuming ammonia and nitrates. They also provide much needed oxygen in the tank. This all helps maintain the quality of the water that your fish need.
They provide shelter.
Having a planted tank provides your fish with much needed shelter from other fish.
Having guppies in a planted tank is highly recommended. We all know that guppies are also known as millionfish as that is approximately how many offspring they produce, don’t we?
It is essential that guppy fry have somewhere to hide from their hungry parents (and other fish in the tank). I know from experience that not many fry make it to maturity, unless you separate them. It is really down to whoever is the best at hiding lives the longest.
They look good!
Having a planted tank looks much better than just having a tank with water and a few fish in! They can also help show the colours of your fish off better.
Aquascaping is a massive thing for some hobbyists, and you only have to look online at some of the amazing set ups people have created.
There are also people who don’t actually add fish to their tanks, they just put plants in!
What do Guppies Eat in Their Natural Habitat?
Guppies are omnivores, which basically means they will eat anything plant or meat based.
In their natural habitat, guppies will feed on things like tiny shrimp, diatoms (which is basically tiny bits of algae), bloodworms, aquatic insects and bugs, and insect larvae. In fact, their love of insect larvae led to a crazy initiative in India to release guppies into bodies of water everywhere to help reduce mosquitoes, therefore reducing malaria. It didn’t go quite to plan though…
What is the Best Food to Give Guppies?
It is very easy to replicate most of what guppies eat in the wild for your pet guppies, apart from the malaria filled insect larvae, of course.
I feed my guppies good quality tropical fish flakes first and foremost. The flakes have all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that tropical fish need, so this is the most important things to give them.
I also like to give my guppies these freeze-dried bloodworms as a treat. Don’t forget you need to soak them in a little aquarium water for half an hour first to re-hydrate them before feeding them to your guppies.
Instant baby brine is also a great treat for them. This must be kept refrigerated though or it goes disgustingly off!
The key is to make sure your guppy’s diet is varied so they are getting their essential nutrients from different sources.
Do Guppies Eat Plants?
Guppies are omnivores so will eat food of both plant and animal origin. However, they are more likely to pick at any tiny specs of algae on aquatic plants, rather than the plant itself.
Best Plants for Guppies.
The main benefits for guppies being in a planted tank are for shelter and good hiding spots.
Pregnant guppies will tend to hide themselves away from time to time, usually to get away from the male guppies who will still want to chase them.
My female guppies will hang out in and around my plants when the males are annoying them.
The plants help as a place of safety for guppy fry as well, as it makes it harder for them to be eaten when hiding in them.
The following are all good choices for planting in a guppy tank:
Java fern should be attached to something rather then put into the substrate, a piece of rock or driftwood would be perfect for them. They have quite long leaves, and can grow up to approx 30cms if not regularly trimmed. They are very hardy and just need some light to help them grow.
Java moss is more spindly than java fern and only grows to around 10cms. It is more likely to grow outwards rather than upwards. Java moss will grow over rocks and wood. It is best not being placed directly under your lights as that will encourage algae to grow all over it.
Hornwort is one of the best plants for beginners as it is the easiest thing to grow. You would have to be particularly rubbish to kill off a hornwort plant!
It can be used as a floating plant, or can be put into your substrate.
Hornwort is a great hiding place for guppy fry as they can get right into the middle of the plant, away from any hungry mouths.
Guppy grass isn’t just for guppies. It is suitable for any tank as it is great for removing toxins from your water. It grows very quickly and can be used as a floating plant, attached to something, or put into your substrate!
Anacharis (also known as elodea) is basically a waterweed, and grows at about the same rate as one! It is very hardy, can grow many feet if left to its own devices, and is a lovely, bright green colour, so always brings a lovely pop of colour to your tank. It’s another great hiding place for guppies as well.
Cabomba is another popular choice for hobbyists. It is planted into the substrate but is best being weighed down at first until the roots have found something to attach themselves to. This is another plant that can grow very tall if left unattended so you will need to cut this back regularly to keep it under control.
Anubias Nana grows slower than the previous plants I have mentioned, which may come as a relief to you! People refer to this plant as a plastic plant due to the appearance of their large, thick leaves. It only grows to around 10cms and provides lots of hiding places underneath their big leaves for any guppies that want a few minutes to themselves.
Whilst guppies aren’t known for eating plants in their fish tank, they do often nibble at any small bits of algae on the leaves.
Plants provide much needed shelter for female guppies to get away from enthusiastic males, as well as lots of different hiding spots for guppy fry.
I hope this article has helped you. If you are still undecided about putting live plants into your fish tank, maybe start with something like hornwort, which is super easy to look after, and then go from there. Your local aquarium should have a good selection of aquatic plants, and will be able to give you advice on what they think is best as well.
Video on How To Set Up a Fish Tank with Live Plants.
This video from Irene at Aquarium Co-op walks you through how to set up your fish tank with live plants. It is well worth a watch.