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Do Aquarium Plants Need CO2? (Can you keep them without co2)

You know that there are a lot of benefits of keeping live aquarium plants in your tank.

So you want to keep some live plants in your aquarium. But you are wondering, do aquarium plants need CO2?

Well, in this article I’m going to answer the same question.

I will also tell you:

  • Why do aquarium plants need CO2
  • How much CO2 do aquarium plants need
  • How to provide CO2 to aquarium plants
  • And lastly, I’ll tell you some plants that can do well without additional CO2
Do Aquarium Plants Need CO2? (Can you keep them without co2) image

So, do aquarium plants need CO2?

CO2 is one of the most important elements for the proper growth of live aquarium plants. In the aquarium, plants can get CO2 from the atmosphere and fish respiration. You can also supplement additional CO2 to aquarium plants by injecting pressurize CO2 into the tank.

Why do aquarium plants need CO2?

Aquarium plants or any plant create their own food by the process of photosynthesis.

Plants require Carbon to carry out the process of photosynthesis. And plants get Carbon from CO2. That’s why CO2 is one of the most important elements for the proper growth of aquarium plants.

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How much CO2 do aquarium plants need?

How much CO2 you will need to provide to the plants in your aquarium really depends on the plants you have in your tank.

  • If you have plants that are marked as “easy” then these plants can do well without injecting additional CO2. They can do well from the co2 that they get from the atmosphere and fish respiration.
  • If you have plants that are marked as “medium” then usually it is not necessary to provide additional COP2 to these plants. Again, they can get CO2 from the atmosphere and fish respiration and do just fine. However, if you provide additional CO2 to these plants then they will grow faster and lusher.
  • If you have plants that are marked “advanced” then you will need to supplement them additional CO2.

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Lighting

How much light you are providing to your aquarium plants also comes into play when it comes to providing additional CO2 to your aquarium plants or not.

If you are providing low lighting to your aquarium plants then you don’t need to provide additional CO2 to your plants.

If you are providing moderate lighting conditions to your plants then it is not necessary to provide additional CO2 to your aquarium plants.

However, with moderate lighting conditions, if you provide additional CO2 then the plants’ growth will be much robust and they will grow faster.

If you are providing high lighting to your aquarium but you are not providing additional CO2 then you most likely will cause Algae growth in your tank.

To cope with the algae growth problem you need to provide additional CO2 to your aquarium plants.

You will also need to provide other nutrients such as potassium, nitrate, and phosphate to your aquarium plants to balance the aquarium.

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How to provide CO2 to aquarium plants?

There are several ways you can provide CO2 to your aquarium plants.

Liquid CO2

You can provide additional CO2 to your aquarium plants by adding liquid CO2 such as API CO2 booster or Seachem flourish excel.

This is a very simple method of introducing carbon dioxide in your aquarium.

It is also very easy to overdose CO2 so you have to be careful while adding the liquid CO2 in your aquarium.

How much CO2 you should add is dependent on the brand of liquid CO2 you use and it is generally mentioned on the label.

There are two very popular liquid CO2 brands namely API CO2 booster and Seachem flourish excel. So I’ll tell you how much quantity of liquid you should add in your tank for each brand.

Seachem flourish excel

As mentioned on the labeling of this product, the initial dose should be 5 ml per 10 gallons.

So when you get this liquid fertilizer for the first time you should add 5 ml per 10 gallons of your tank. And you should also add this quantity after you do the weekly water change.

Then on a daily basis, you’ll also need to add 5 ml per 50 gallons.

So if you have a 10-gallon tank then you should add only 1 ml on a daily basis.

Check its price at Amazon here

API CO2 booster

As mentioned on the packaging you will need to add about 1 ml of this liquid CO2 for 10 gallons on a daily basis.

Check its price at Amazon here

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Pressurized CO2 system

You can use a pressurized CO2 system to inject CO2 into your tank.

There are complete CO2 setups available online on Amazon that contain all the equipment or components like CO2 regulator, bubble counter, solenoid valve, etc.

You can check its price here

This CO2 system is more efficient and effective than the liquid CO2 but you will also have to go through the hassle of setting everything up.

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Small passive CO2 systems

There are some small passive CO2 systems like the one that Fluval provides.

Ideally, you should use this system for a small tank (less than 20 gallons tank) because they have very small CO2 cartridge that can hold a very small amount of co2. 

Even when you use it with a small tank, you will need to change the cartridge every month.

Check out the small passive system at Amazon here

DIY CO2 systems

You can also create a DIY CO2 system for your aquarium.

There is also a DIY CO2 system on Amazon as well. Check it out 52 Best Freshwater Aquarium Plants For Beginners (And Care Guide)

5 Easy aquarium plants that can grow without CO2

Now I will share with you some easy aquarium plants that you can easily grow in your tank without supplementing them additional CO2.

1. Amazon Sword

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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 aquarium plant.

This plant is very hardy and easy to care for which makes it an ideal choice for beginners.

How much light does Amazon sword require?

Amazon sword does well under moderate lighting condition. And you should keep the lights on for at least 11 to 12 hours every day.

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

Amazon sword is a tall-growing plant you should keep it in the background of your tank.

Substrate requirements for Amazon sword

You can use any substrate of your choice for planting Amazon sword in your tank.

Amazon sword creates a solid roots system in the substrate that’s why the substrate should be at least 2.5 inches thick.

Fertilization requirements for Amazon sword

Amazon sword is a pretty hardy plant and it can do well without any fertilizers.

But for faster growth, you can supplement it fertilizers in the form of liquid fertilizer as well as root tabs.

Check the price of this plant at Amazon here

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2. Java Moss

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PARAMETERSVALUES
PLANTJava moss
SCIENTIFIC NAMEVesicularia dubyana
FAMILYHypnaceae
CARE LEVELVery easy
LIGHT REQUIREMENTLow to Bright
GROWTH RATEFast
TEMPERATURE59-86°F
pH5.0 to 8.0
HARDNESS60- 240 ppm
PLACEMENTForeground
MAXIMUM SIZE4 inches
MINIMUM TANK SIZE5 gallon

Java moss is one of the most popular plant in the aquarium hobby.

This plant is very popular among aquascapers.

It is also one of the hardiest plants and it is very easy to grow.

Besides, it has very minimal requirements which makes it an ideal choice for beginners.

How much light does Java moss require?

The best part about Java moss is that it can do well in almost any lighting condition.

However, in a non hi-tech tank, you should keep it under low to moderate lighting conditions.

What’s the best place to keep it in the aquarium?

One of the reasons for Java moss’s popularity is that you can place it in several places in your tank depending on what you are trying to achieve.

You can use it as a carpet plant. 

People also commonly tie it to ornaments like driftwood or rock and then put it in the aquarium.

You can also just let it float in your tank. But eventually, it will get attached to any ornament or to the substrate of your tank.

Substrate requirements for Java moss

You don’t need to plant Java moss in your tank so it doesn’t have any particular substrate requirements.

Fertilization requirements for Java moss

Java moss is a very hardy plant and it is very undemanding.

It can do well without any additional fertilizers.

Though for faster growth, you can supplement it with some liquid fertilizers.

Check the price of this plant at Amazon here

3. Anubias

Check more images at Amazon here

PARAMETERSVALUES
PLANTAnubias
COMMON NAMES
SCIENTIFIC NAMEAnubias
FAMILYAraceae
CARE LEVELEasy
LIGHT REQUIREMENTLow-Moderate
GROWTH RATESlow
TEMPERATURE72-82°F
pH6.5 – 7.8
HARDNESS60- 160 ppm
PLACEMENTMid-background
MAXIMUM SIZE11+ Inches
MINIMUM TANK SIZE5 Gallons
PROPAGATIONRhizome Division

Anubias is also one of the most popular plant in the aquarium hobby.

This is a short and slow growing aquarium plant.

It is also very hardy which makes it ideal choice for beginners.

How much light does Anubias require?

Anubias does well under low to moderate lighting conditions.

So you should provide it light anywhere between two to three watts per gallon.

What’s the best place to keep Anubias in an aquarium?

Anubias is a short, slow-growing aquarium plant so you should keep it in the foreground of your tank.

Substrate requirements for Anubias

You can use any substrate of your choice to plant Anubias in your aquarium.

While planting it in the substrate, just make sure not to burry its rhizome, just burry its roots.

You can also tie it to any ornament like driftwood or rock and then put it in your aquarium.

Fertilization requirements for Anubias

For optimum growth, you should regularly supplement liquid fertilizers to Anubias.

Check the price of this plant at Amazon here

4. Java Fern

Check more images at Amazon here

PARAMETERSVALUES
PLANTJava Fern
COMMON NAMESJava Fern
SCIENTIFIC NAMEMicrosorum pteropus
FAMILYPolypodiaceae
CARE LEVELEasy
LIGHT REQUIREMENTLow to Moderate
GROWTH RATELow to Moderate
TEMPERATURE68-82oF
pH6.0-7.5
HARDNESS60-160 ppm
PLACEMENTMid to Background
MAXIMUM SIZE13.5 inches
MINIMUM TANK SIZE5 Gallons

Java fern is another popular plant in the aquarium hobby.

This plant can tolerate a wide range of water parameters which makes it very easy to keep in any aquarium.

Besides, this is a very hardy plant and it is very cheap as well.

How much light does Java fern require?

Java fern does well under low to moderate lighting conditions. So you should provide light anywhere between 1.5-2 Watts per gallon.

What’s the best place to keep Java fern in an aquarium?

Java fern is a tall-growing plant that can grow as tall as 13 inches. So depending on the size of your aquarium, you should keep it in the mid-ground or background of your aquarium.

Substrate requirements for Java fern

Java fern doesn’t draw nutrients through the substrate. So you don’t need to provide it nutrient-rich substrate. You can use any substrate for planting it in your tank.

You can also tie it to any ornament like driftwood or rock and then put it inside your tank.

Fertilization requirements for Java fern

Java fern is a very hardy plant and it can grow well without any additional fertilizers.

But if you want to encourage faster growth then you should supplement it with some liquid fertilizers.

Check the price of this plant at Amazon here

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5. Jungle Vallisneria

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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 one of the fastest-growing aquarium plants.

This plant can survive in a wide range of water parameters so it is relatively easy to keep in an aquarium.

How much light does Jungle Vallisneria require?

Ideally, you should provide medium lighting conditions to Jungle Vallisneria.

Though it can survive and do just fine under low lighting condition as well.

On the other hand, under highlighting conditions, it will grow very fast.

So in your low tech planted tank, you should keep it under moderate lighting conditions anywhere between 2-3 Watts per gallon.

What’s the best place to keep Jungle Vallisneria in an aquarium?

Jungle Vallisneria is a tall-growing plant and it grows at a very rapid speed.

It can grow as tall as 6 feet. So ideally, you should keep it in the background of your tank.

Substrate requirements for Jungle Vallisneria

You can use any substrate of your choice whether that is gravel or sand for planting Jungle Vallisneria in your tank.

Fertilization requirements for jungle Vallisneria

For the best results, you should regularly supplement it with iron-rich fertilizers.

And you should use liquid fertilizers for this plant.

Check the price of this plant at Amazon here

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FAQ

Can you have a planted tank without CO2?

Yes, you can have a beautiful planted tank without CO2. To create a beautiful planted tank without CO2, choose easy aquarium plants, and provide low to medium lighting conditions to the plants.

Besides, you should also do the regular maintenance of the tank and supplement high-quality fertilizers to the plants.

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Do air pumps add CO2 into water?

No air pumps don’t add CO2 into water. They add oxygen in the water of your aquarium. And air pump can actually cause CO2 loss due to the surface agitation.

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Where should CO2 diffuser be placed in aquarium?

You should place the co2 diffuser where there is water flow so that the co2 will get distributed throughout the tank and it will not get wasted.

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How long should I run CO2 in my aquarium?

You should start CO2 one hour before you turn on the light in your aquarium. And you should turn off the CO2 one hour before you turn off the light in your aquarium.

And you should run the CO2 for about 8-10 hours every day.

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Do aquarium plants produce CO2 at night?

Yes, aquarium plants produce CO2 at night.

Plants respire just as we do. But they exhale oxygen during the day time or when they get light to create their own food by the process of photosynthesis.

And during the night time, they inhale Oxygen and exhale Carbon dioxide.

That’s why if you are running CO2 in your tank, you should turn it off during the night.

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How can I add CO2 to my aquarium naturally?

Even when you don’t add any additional CO2 in your tank, your tank naturally contains some CO2.

Besides, the fish in the aquarium also exhales CO2 in the tank.

If you want to add CO2 in your tank then you can create a DIY CO2 system for your tank.

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Will adding CO2 reduce algae?

Yes, if the light intensity in your aquarium is high then adding CO2 can help to reduce algae.

Though there can be several other causes that may be causing algae growth in your tank such as poor water circulation, insufficient surface agitation, poor tank maintenance, etc.

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Can you overdose CO2 in aquarium?

Yes, you can overdose CO2 in aquarium which can be deadly to your fish.

So you have to balance the CO2 and O2 level in your aquarium.

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Is CO2 bad for fish?

Yes, if you have a very concentrated amount of CO2 in your aquarium then it can cause O2 depletion which is bad for your fish.

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Can I grow dwarf Hairgrass without CO2?

Yes, you can grow dwarf Hairgrass without CO2. But without CO2 the growth will be much slower.

Besides, if you are not providing CO2, just make sure not to provide high lighting to dwarf Hairgrass because it can cause algae growth.

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Conclusion

So, in a nutshell, aquarium plants make their own food by the process of Photosynthesis. And Carbon is a very essential element for the process of photosynthesis. 

Aquarium plants get carbon from carbon dioxide. That’s why plants need CO2 for their proper growth.

Now, plants can get carbon dioxide naturally in the aquarium through the respiration of fish in the aquarium and there is also carbon dioxide present in the water naturally.

So, for 90% of the aquarium plants you don’t need additional CO2.

But if you want to encourage faster and lusher growth of plants then you can consider adding CO2 in your aquarium.

I hope you found this article helpful.

If you do, please share it.

As always, happy aquascaping!

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