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Can Aquarium Plants Live in Gravel? (Easy aquarium plants for gravel substrate)

You know that there are a lot of benefits of keeping live plants in your aquarium. So you want to keep some plants in your tank.

But you have gravel substrate. 

So you are wondering, can aquarium plants even live in gravel?

No worries…

In his article, I am going to answer the same question.

Besides, I will also tell you how to grow aquarium plants in gravel so that they will not just barely survive but thrive in your tank.

I will also tell you some best aquarium plants you can grow in your gravel substrate.

So let’s dive right into it.

Can Aquarium Plants Live in Gravel? (Easy aquarium plants for gravel substrate) image

So, can aquarium plants live in gravel substrate?

Yes, there are several aquarium plants that live in the gravel substrate.

However, you will need to provide root tabs to the plants that heavily rely on their roots for nutrients.

How to grow aquarium plants in gravel?

aquarium

There are roughly four steps involved in successfully growing aquarium plants in your gravel substrate.

Substrate

Aquarium plants require a very firm and solid substrate to grow in an aquarium.

You can provide a firm substrate to your plants by using a fine-grained or pea gravel as substrate in your tank.

If you are already using large, clunky gravel as substrate for your tank. Then the way around it is to not insert the roots of the aquarium plants into the substrate. 

But instead, tie its roots to rock or driftwood and then put it on the substrate of your tank.

Besides, the substrate should be at least 2 to 3 inches thick.

Are Aquarium Plants Hard To Keep? (And how to keep them healthy)

Plants

Not all plants can grow in a gravel substrate.

There are certain plants that rely heavily on roots to get the essential nutrients and they don’t have a strong roots system to cling in a gravel substrate.

Usually, these plants do well in a nutrient-rich substrate.

So you should avoid keeping such plants in your gravel substrate tank.

So which plants should you keep in your gravel substrate tank?

You should choose hardy plants that have a very strong, flexible, and fast growing root system so that it can cling into the substrate easily.

I will tell you some of the best aquarium plants you can keep in your gravel substrate later in this article.

Another thing to keep in mind while choosing plants for your aquarium is that plants require specific water conditions to grow and thrive in an aquarium.

So you should only choose the plants that require similar water conditions as the fish in your tank require. So that they can thrive in the same tank.

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Fertilizers

aquarium with fertilizer bottle

Plants require several micro and macro nutrients for their proper growth.

Your freshwater aquarium can provide some nutrients such as Nitrogen, Carbon, etc to your plants. But to get other nutrients as Zinc, Copper, Iron, etc you will need to supplement your plans with fertilizers.

Some plants get nutrients from the water column. Whereas other plants rely on their roots to absorb nutrients from the substrate.

Gravel doesn’t provide any nutrients to the plants.

And when you keep root feeder aquarium plants i.e. the plants that rely on their roots to absorb nutrients from the substrate, you will need to add fertilizers in the form of root tabs so they can absorb nutrients from the substrate.

What is root tabs?

Root tabs are basically capsules that contains small balls of fertilizers.

You need to insert these capsules into your gravel substrate. And the root tabs then slowly release nutrients in the substrate. So the plants can absorb nutrients through the substrate.

How often to add root tabs?

How often you should add the root tabs really depends on the brand that you use.

Generally, how often you should add the root tabs is mentioned on the packaging of the fertilizer.

Unlike liquid fertilizers, you don’t need to add tabs very frequently.

Usually, adding root tabs after every 3 to 4 months is sufficient.

Now, this was all about fertilizing root feeder aquarium plants.

But as mentioned earlier, there are also some plants that absorb nutrients through the water column.

To provide nutrients to such plants you will need to add fertilizers in your tank in the form of liquid fertilizers.

How often to add liquid fertilizers?

How often you should add the liquid fertilizers in your tank is really dependent on the brand that you use.

Generally, you will need to add liquid fertilizer on a weekly basis.

And you should add these fertilizers after the weekly water change.

Root tabs or Liquid fertilizer or  Both?

There is a lot of debate going on the internet whether you should only supplement your plants with root tabs or liquid fertilizers.

Aur you should provide both liquid fertilizers as well as root tabs to your aquarium plants.

My personal experience suggests, for the best result, you should provide both liquid fertilizers as well as root tabs to your aquarium plants.

And it makes sense because even if the plant is a heavy root feeder it still absorbs some nutrients through the water column. And vice versa.

Besides, you’ll most likely end up keeping both root feeder as well as water column feeder plants in your tank. So you’ll need to add both liquid fertilizers as well as root tabs in your tank.

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Light

Light is one of the most important things plants required for their proper growth.

Plants create their own food by the process of photosynthesis.

And plants require light for the process of photosynthesis.

Besides, light also helps plants to absorb carbon dioxide exhaled by fish in your tank.

Under ideal lighting conditions the plants will thrive in your tank.

If you provide less light i.e. less light than the plant actually requires then the plant will not grow.

On the other hand, if you provide very strong lighting i.e. more than the ideal light requirements then it can cause algae growth on the plant.

So while choosing lighting setup it is is very crucial to know the light requirements of the plants that you are going to keep in your tank.

How much light should I provide to the plants?

How much light you should provide to your plants really depends on the plants.

Some plants do well in low lighting conditions whereas others will do well in moderate to highlighting conditions.

So you should do the research about lighting requirements before keeping plants in your tank.

Besides, consistency is very important.

What I mean by consistency is that you should provide only specific hours of light every day to your plants.

If you are inconsistent and you provide more hours of light to your plants then it can cause algae growth. And it can take several weeks and even months to fix the problem.

On the other hand, if you provide fewer hours of light then your plants will not thrive in your tank i.e. their growth will be very slow.

Thankfully, nowadays there are lighting setups that come with an inbuilt timer.

So the lights will turn on and off at the set time.

You can check out my recommended lighting set up here.

If you already have light then you can use a timer that will automatically turn on and off the light at the set time every day.

6 Tips to Take Care of Live Plants in Aquarium (For Beginners)

Best aquarium plants for gravel substrate

1. Amazon Sword

See more images at Amazon here

PARAMETERSVALUES
PLANTAmazon sword
SCIENTIFIC NAMEEchinodorus grisebachii
FAMILYAlismataceae
CARE LEVELEasy
LIGHT REQUIREMENTModerate
GROWTH RATEFast
TEMPERATURE 60.8-82.4°F
pH6.5-7.5 pH
HARDNESS8-15°dH
PLACEMENTBackground
MAXIMUM SIZE16 Inches
MINIMUM TANK SIZE10 Gallons

Amazon sword is one of the most popular plant in the aquarium hobby.

This plant is very hardy and it is very easy to care for. So it is recommended to beginners.

How much light does Amazon salt require?

Amazon sword does well under low to moderate lighting conditions.

Ideally, you should provide it two Watt light per gallon.

Another thing when it comes to light for Amazon sword is that Amazon sword is very susceptible to algae growth.

So you should not keep it under strong lighting.

Besides, the light should not be on for more than 11 to 12 hours every day.

What’s the best place to keep Amazon sword in your aquarium?

Amazon sword is a tall-growing plant. And it has very wide leaves that grow in all directions.

So ideally, you should keep it in the middle ground of your tank.

You can also keep it in the background of your tank if you have a very large tank (more than 55 gallons)

How to plant Amazon sword in gravel substrate?

To plant Amazon sword in this gravel substrate just bury its roots into the gravel. Over time, it will create a strong roots system in the substrate.

Fertilization requirements for Amazon sword

Amazon Sword is a very hardy plant so it may do well without any fertilizers. It can get nutrients through leftover fish food and fish poop in the aquarium.

But if you want Amazon Sword to look at its best and thrive in your tank then you should supplement it with some fertilizers.

As Amazon sword is a heavy root feeder plant, you should supplement fertilizers in the form of root tabs.

Ideal water parameters for Amazon sword

Amazon sword can tolerate a wide range of water parameters.

You can keep it in a cold water aquarium as well as a tropical aquarium.

That being said the ideal temperature range for Amazon sword is between 60-82° F.

iIts pH tolerance range is between 6.5 to 7.5 and the water hardness tolerance range is between 8 to 15 DH.

Check the latest price of this plant at Amazon here

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2. Jungle Vallisneria

See more images at Amazon here

PARAMETERSVALUES
PLANTJungle Vallisneria
COMMON NAMESJungle Val, water celery, tape grass or eelgrass
SCIENTIFIC NAMEVallisneria Americana
FAMILYHydrocharitaceae
CARE LEVELIntermediate
LIGHT REQUIREMENTMedium
GROWTH RATE Fast
TEMPERATURE65° – 85° F
pH 6.8 – 8.0
HARDNESSModerately Hard to Very Hard
PLACEMENTBackground
MAXIMUM SIZE6 feet (2 meters)
MINIMUM TANK SIZE10 gallon

Jungle Vallisneria is a hardy aquarium plant.

It can survive in diverse water conditions. So you will have a better chance of success with this plant even if you are a beginner.

How much light does Jungle Vallisneria require?

Jungle Vallisneria is not very light-demanding.

It can do well in low lighting. And it can also grow in moderate to high lighting conditions.

Under low lighting, its growth will be very slow. Whereas under high lighting conditions, it will grow very fast and it can easily overtake your tank.

Ideally, you should keep it under medium lighting conditions, anywhere between two to three Watt per gallon.

What’s the best place to keep Jungle Vallisneria in your tank?

Jungle Vallisneria is a tall-growing plant that can grow as tall as 6 feet.

Besides, this plant grows at a very fast rate.

So the ideal place to keep this plant in your tank is the background of your tank.

What’s the ideal water parameters for Jungle Vallisneria?

Jungle Vallisneria can tolerate a wide range of water parameters.

You can keep it in a cold water aquarium as it can tolerate temperature as low as 65° F. 

And you can also keep it in a tropical aquarium as it can tolerate temperature as high as 85° F.

Besides, its pH tolerance range is between 6.8-8 and it does well in moderately hard to very hard water.

How to plant Jungle Vallisneria in gravel substrate?

To plant Jungle Vallisneria in your gravel substrate, just insert its roots into the substrate and overtime it will create a strong root system in the substrate.

Fertilization requirements for Jungle Vallisneria

Jungle Vallisneria is a heavy root feeder aquarium plant. So you should supplement it fertilizer in the form of root tabs.

For Jungle Vallisneria, choose fertilizers that is rich in iron.

Check the latest price of this plant at Amazon here

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3. Anacharis

See more images at Amazon here

PARAMETERSVALUES
PLANTAnacharis
SCIENTIFIC NAMEElodea
FAMILYHydrocharitaceae
CARE LEVELEasy
LIGHT REQUIREMENTModerate
GROWTH RATEFast
TEMPERATURE60-82° F
pH6.5-7.5
HARDNESSKH 3-8
PLACEMENTBackground
MAXIMUM SIZE6 to 8 inches
MINIMUM TANK SIZE10 gallon

Anacharis is a fairly popular plant in the aquarium hobby. It is one of the best oxygenating plants.

This plant is also known by other names such as Brazilian waterweed, Egeria, and Brazilian Elodea.

This plant can do well in diverse water conditions. And it is very easy to maintain that’s why it is one of the recommended plants for beginners.

How much light does Anacharis require?

Anacharis does well under moderate lighting conditions.

Under low lighting conditions, it is most likely going to die. On the other hand, under the highlighting condition, you will notice green hair algae growth on the plant.

So Ideally, you should keep it under moderate lighting conditions. And provide it 2 Watts light per gallon.

What’s the best place to keep Anacharis in your tank?

Anacharis is a tall-growing plant that can grow as tall as 8 inches.

So ideally, you should keep it in the background or midground of your tank.

How to plant Anacharis in gravel substrate?

Before planting Anacharis into the gravel substrate, cut off all the leaves from the stem up to 2 inches from the bottom. And then insert the stem into the gravel about 2 inches deep.

Fertilization requirements for Anacharis

Ideally, you should provide both liquid fertilizers as well as root tabs for the proper growth of Anacharis in your tank.

Ideal water parameters for Anacharis

Anacharis can tolerate temperature as low as 60° F so you can easily keep it in a cold water aquarium.

And it can tolerate temperature up to 82° F so you can keep it in a tropical aquarium.

Besides, its pH tolerance range is between 6.5 to 7.5 and the water hardness tolerance range is between 3-8 KH.

Check the latest price of this plant at Amazon here

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4. Italian Vallisneria

See more images at Amazon here

PARAMETERSVALUES
PLANTItalian Vallisneria
COMMON NAMESItalian Vallisneria
SCIENTIFIC NAMEVallisneria spiralis
FAMILYHydrocharitaceae
CARE LEVELEasy
LIGHT REQUIREMENTModerate
GROWTH RATEModerate to Fast
TEMPERATURE72-80℉
pH6.0-7.5
HARDNESS4 - 18°N
PLACEMENTBackground
MAXIMUM SIZE11.81 - 21.65 inch
MINIMUM TANK SIZE10 gallon

Italian Vallisneria is a very hardy plant. This plant doesn’t require a lot of attention that’s why it is recommended to beginners.

Besides, this plant is very cheap as well.

How much light does Italian Vallisneria require?

Moderate lighting conditions are sufficient for the growth of Italian Vallisneria.

But for fast growth, you will need to provide it high lighting conditions.

What’s the best place to keep Italian Vallisneria in your aquarium?

Italian Vallisneria is a tall-growing plant that can grow as tall as 21 inches.

It grows relatively fast. So Ideally, you should keep it in the background of your aquarium.

Ideal water parameters for Italian Vallisneria

The ideal temperature range for Italian Vallisneria is between 72 to 80° F.

Its pH tolerance range is between 6-7.5 and the water hardness tolerance range is between 4 to 18° N.

How to plant Italian Vallisneria in gravel substrate?

Planting Italian Vallisneria in gravel substrate is a very simple process.

You just have to insert its roots into the gravel substrate.

Over time it will send runners and create a very complex roots structure into the substrate of your aquarium.

Fertilization requirements

Italian Vallisneria is not a very demanding plant and it can do well without any additional fertilizers.

But if you want to encourage fast growth and to make Italian Val look at its best in your tank then you should supplement it with some fertilizers.

As Italian Vallisneria is a heavy root feeder aquarium plant, you should provide it fertilizer in the form of root tabs.

Check the latest price of this plant at Amazon here

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5. Ludwigia repens

See more images at Amazon here

PARAMETERSVALUES
PLANTLudwigia Repens
COMMON NAMESLudwigia repens, Ludwigia repens Rubin, Red repens, Ludwigia sp. Weinrot, Red-Leaf Ludwigia, Creeping Primrose-Willow
SCIENTIFIC NAMELudwigia repens
FAMILYOnagraceae
CARE LEVELEasy
LIGHT REQUIREMENTLow to very high
GROWTH RATEModerate to Fast
TEMPERATURE60- 86oF
pH5 - 8
HARDNESSVery soft to hard level
PLACEMENTBackground
MAXIMUM SIZE7-19 inches
MINIMUM TANK SIZE10 gallon

Ludwigia repens is one of the most popular red aquarium plants in the hobby.

This plant features colors ranging from deep green to deep red.

It is also very easy to care for so you can easily keep it in your tank even if you are a beginner.

How much light does Ludwigia repens require?

Ludwigia repens can do well in any lighting condition.

But if you are going for its red coloration then you will need to provide it high lighting conditions.

Under low lighting conditions, it will feature green color.

What’s the best place to keep Ludwigia repens in the tank?

Ludwigia repens is a tall-growing plant that can grow as tall as 19 inches.

Under ideal conditions, this plant can grow pretty fast.

So Ideally, you should keep it in the background of your aquarium

Ideal water parameters for Ludwigia repens

Ludwigia repens can tolerate a wide range of water parameters.

It can tolerate temperature as low as 60° F, so you can easily keep it in a cold water aquarium.

And it can tolerate temperature as high as 86° F, so you can easily keep it in a tropical aquarium.

Besides, its pH tolerance range is between 5-8. And it can do well in very soft to very hard water.

How to plant Ludwigia repens in gravel substrate?

Planting Ludwigia repens in gravel substrate is very simple.

You just have to insert its roots into the gravel substrate.

Just make sure that you are inserting its roots at least one inch deep into the substrate.

Fertilization requirements

For proper growth and red coloration, you should regularly supplement it with fertilizers.

Ideally, you should supplement it with both liquid fertilizers as well as root tabs.

For best results i.e. a deep red coloration, you should also supplement it with additional CO2.

Check the latest price of this plant at Amazon here

Besides these plants, there are several other live aquarium plants that you can keep in your gravel substrate aquarium. I have written a detailed article covering all these plants in this article.

FAQ

faq image

Can I mix gravel and plant substrate?

Yes, it is totally fine to use a mixture of gravel and plant substrate in your aquarium.

There are two ways you can mix gravel and plant substrate:

  1. The first way is pretty simple, you just mix them together and keep it as a substrate in your tank.
  2. You can also first add the layer of the plant substrate. And then on top of that, you can add a layer of gravel.

The plant substrate will keep plants in place and the gravel substrate will keep the lightweight plant substrate in place.

Once you have set up the substrate, when you add water, the water will remain blur for a few days.

After a few days, the water will get cleaned by the carbon filter of your tank.

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Can Amazon sword plant grow in gravel?

Yes, Amazon sword can grow in gravel. Gravel doesn’t provide any nutrients to plants. 

Amazon sword is a heavy root feeder so you will need to feed it root tabs if you are going to plant it in gravel substrate so that it can get nutrients for its proper growth.

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Will Java fern grow in gravel?

No, Java fern will not grow in gravel substrate.

If you have a gravel substrate in your tank and you want to keep Java fern in your tank then the way around it is to tie its roots to a small rock and then put it on the substrate of your tank.

This way the roots can absorb the nutrients and the plant will thrive in your tank.

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Can Vallisneria grow in gravel?

Yes, Vallisneria can grow easily in gravel substrate.

Vallisneria plant such as Jungle Vallisneria and Italian Vallisneria has a very good root system. These plants can easily cling their roots in gravel substrate.

Though you should provide them fertilizers in the form of root tabs so that they can get essential nutrients from the substrate.

Are Your Aquarium Plants Dying? Here’s what to do.

Can I plant aquarium plants straight into gravel?

Yes, there are several aquarium plants that you can plant straight into the gravel substrate of your aquarium.

I have made a list of the best aquarium plants that can grow in gravel substrate. Read it here.

Are Your Aquarium Plants Turning Brown? Here’s what to do.

Do aquarium plants grow better in sand or gravel?

Between sand or gravel which one is best for the plants really depends on the plant.

For example, some plants like Java fern, Anubias can do well in sand substrate. Whereas plants like Amazon sword, Ludwigia repens, Asian ambulia can do well in gravel substrate.

However, the problem with sand is that it can cause anaerobic pockets to build up in the deeper level of the substrate that contains harmful toxic hydrogen sulfide gas.

Over time, this gas will build up and it can get released into your tank which can be harmful to your fish.

If you are going to use sand substrate then the way around this problem is to use plants that have strong roots structure which will break down the substrate.

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Conclusion

In a nutshell, there are several aquarium plants that can easily grow and live in gravel substrate.

To make the plants grow fast and thrive in your tank you will need to supplement these plants with fertilizers.

To the heavy root feeder plants, you will need to fertilize with root tabs. Whereas to the water column feeder plants, you will need to fertilize them with liquid fertilizers.

I hope you found this article helpful.

If you do, please share it.

Happy planting!

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