TOPIC: live plants

Q: I'm upgrading my betta bowl. So, is it possible to have too many plants in your betta tank? I was thinking a 5 - 10 gallon tank with a FOREST of plants in it. And what plants are ok to use with your betta, and what will harm him?

Question submitted by Beau, Calgary - Canada

OK Beau, this is going to be a vegetarian column today LOL. Today we are going to talk about plants and bettas. I think it is great you want to provide your bettas with a larger planted tank. So here are a few helpful pointers to help you make the right decisions. 

Live plants are $$$$ expensive. So it is important to pick the right ones right off the bat. Otherwise you are throwing money out the window. 

When it comes to plants this has been my experience:

  • Betta love plants. They like hiding in them as well. Too many plants in your tank will make it near impossible to visually enjoy your fish. Balance is of the essence here.
  • Even the most beautiful plants can be annoying to Mr. Betta if there are so many of them he can't swim around. So make sure to leave plenty of space for him to frolic!
  • Plants, when healthy can clean up the water and provide a healthier environment for your fish. However when they start shedding or dying they can create a huge mess. Hence live plants are not only pricey, they are also high maintenance. (two bad strikes). You will have to commit to doing regular upkeep on your tank to make sure your plants are always in prime condition. I would recommend getting a book - you're gonna need it LOL.
  • Will a live plant hurt the betta? No. All aquarium plants are safe. However some plants are better than others in terms of how sturdy they are, how much they shed, how much light they need. Your fish store can point them out to you.
  • Live plants can come in pots (potted) or bare roots. The later will need to be shoved into the gravel. Potted plants are usually more expensive but usually also last longer. To me the pots look ugly so I would want to burry them in the gravel so they cannot be seen: Make sure you have enough gravel depth to cover the pot! 
  • Important thing to think about: Will your tank be heated? Some plants do well in a heated tank while others will fall apart in a matter of days making a horrific mess >:[]. Let the fish store know your current betta tank water temperature so they can advise you on the right plants for you.
  • Also some plants require high light and you will need to place a special bulb in your tank fixture to provide them with their daily requirement, otherwise they will die and (guess what) yes, you have guessed right: make a horrific mess :).
  • Many plants will also need to be fertilized if they are to do well. There is a solution you can buy at the fish store for that. (No, it's not the same as the one you use for regular house plants silly!! :P)

Now a day all my tanks are bare and my plants are plastic. We breeders do that because it is easier to maintain and sanitize the tanks that way. Since we move bettas from tank to tank, and a tank can see as many as 4 spawns a year, we sanitize often. With a live plant set-up, sanitizing becomes complicated: you will need to break down the tank, bake all the gravel and rocks and throw away all the plants (goodbye money invested in them AGH). (it hurts). LOL 

A live plant can become carrier of bacteria so once contaminated it must be discarded.

Having said that, I once upon a time had nice planted tanks and the bettas did like it. Live plants are soft and will not tear the fins like plastic plants can. Live plants grow and change and even reproduce (cute). Honestly, I did like them. Do I miss them? Not much, I am too lazy for them LOL and they were too much extra work on such a large scale. But for one tank I would do it. I remember I especially enjoyed Amazon swords. These looked great and did well even with a regular light bulb situation. Eventually they would die but I would get a good 6 months or so out of them.

amazon sword.JPG (81500 bytes)At left you can see an Amazon Sword plant I successfully kept for about 6 months in a 1 gal jar. The set up included one betta. "Spiky" lived on my desk at work and liked his plant. He used to sleep on the top leaf :). It's true that Amazon Sword plants have leaves shaped like betta hammocks LOL.  How cute! Eventually (as you can see) the plant took over the jar. (so I had to start trimming it regularly).  

Well for what it's worth this is my 2 cents. Note that I am not a big expert on aquarium plants and although I had a whole bunch of different ones back then,  that was 6 years ago and I can't even remember what I had for breakfast yesterday so... so you are best asking your local fish store for more assistance. (wait... it's coming back to me... I had Hawaiian bread with a hot chocolate. Yop, that was it).