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How to Keep Aquarium Plants Alive Before Planting? (3 Easy Ways)

You know that there are several benefits of keeping live aquarium plants in an aquarium.

So you bought some live aquarium plants for your tank.

But for some reason, you are you’re not able to plant them right away in your tank.

So now you are wondering, how do you keep live aquarium plants alive until you plant them?

No worries…

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

So, how to keep aquarium plants alive before planting?

To keep live plants alive for a few days or a week, you should put the plants into a bucket containing water. Or you can wrap them with paper towels and wet the towel with water. 


2 Easy ways of keeping live aquarium plants alive before planting

Now I will elaborate on both the ways of keeping the live plants alive until you plant them in your aquarium.

1. The bucket method

To keep the live plants alive for a few days and even weeks before planting them in your aquarium, you can put them in a container that could be a bucket or any other food-grade container filled with water.

Now the water you’re going to add in the container should be treated especially if you are going to use normal tap water.

You should treat the tap water with a dechlorinating agent such as Seachem Prime. You can buy it at Amazon here.

Treating water is important because normal tap water contains chlorine. So if you keep the plants in normal tap water and then pull them out and plant them in your aquarium. Then the chlorine deposited on the plants will get introduced in your aquarium which is harmful to the fish in your aquarium.

You should also add a little bit of liquid fertilizer into the water so the plants can get nutrients.

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Use water from your aquarium

Ideally, you should use the water from your aquarium to add to the container.

This water will not contain any chlorine as you may have removed or treated the water before adding it into the aquarium.

And it also contains fish waste which is actually nutritious for the plants and it helps them to grow.

After putting the plants into the container, put the container near a light source so that the plants should get some light.

Now at this point, you don’t need special light i.e. the light that is specially made for the growth of plants to put on the container.

You just need to expose the plant to some light so that it can continue its photosynthesis process and stay healthy until you plant it in your aquarium.

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For how much time will the plants stay alive?

For how much time your plants will stay alive in the container is really going to depend on the plant.

If you’ve got hardy plants like Anubias then such plants can live for a couple of weeks in the container.

On the other hand, sensitive plants can last for a few days in the container.

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2. The paper towel method

The second method of keeping live aquarium plants alive until you plant them in your aquarium is by wrapping them with paper towels and then wrapping them with a newspaper. And then wet the newspaper with water by sprinkling water on it.

You can also use a hair spray bottle if it is handy.

The main flow in this method is that you will need to regularly spray the water on the newspaper. And you will need to change the newspaper every day to keep the live plants fresh and alive.

Another flow is that as you are wrapping the plants they will not be getting any light and nutrients.

So ideally, you should use this method if you have hardy plants.

People have kept some hardy live plants like Anubias alive for 4 to 5 days using this method.

If you want to keep the plants alive for more than this period then you should use the above “bucket method”. It is very convenient and plants will live for a longer time.

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How to prepare plants to plant in the aquarium?

Before planting the live aquarium plants in your aquarium you will need to prepare them.

First of all, you should remove any rubber bands and wood wool from the plant.

Now to remove any harmful pathogens, parasites, snails, insects, etc from the plant you should soak the plant in a mild bleach solution (approximately one tablespoon for a gallon of water).

Or you can soak the plants in antiseptic solution i.e. hydrogen peroxide solution.

You should soak the plants for at least half-hour.

After one hour, pull out the plants and rinse it under running tap water and then put it inside a bucket containing the dechlorinated water overnight.

The next day your plants are ready to plant in your aquarium.

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In vitro plants

The storage method for in vitro plants is different from the method we use to store normal potted aquarium plants.

How to store in vitro plants before planting them in aquarium?

Keeping in vitro plants alive before planting them in an aquarium is very simple.

After receiving the package, first of all, you should check the cup containing the plant is not damaged during concert transit.

If it is damaged and then it is most likely has come in contact with microorganisms which can spoil the plant.

Once you’ve made sure that the cup is not damaged then you should not open the cup until you are going to plant it in your aquarium.

You should store the cup in temperature about 20° Celsius or below that.

However, it is not recommended to store the in vitro plants in the refrigerator because the temperature in the refrigerator may be very low.

Also, in the refrigerator, the plants may not get sufficient light if not at all.

If you’ve got tropical aquarium plants then you can store them in temperature up to 80° Celsius.

The cup of the in vitro plants contain nutrient medium which provides the plants all the essential micro and macronutrients they need to stay healthy and alive.

But the plants will not be able to take advantage of these nutrients until they get light.

So you should provide them bright light. Keeping the cup below any artificial light source can do the work. 

You should avoid keeping it in contact with direct sunlight. Because this will rapidly increase the temperature inside the cup and which can cause the death of the plant.

Ideally, you should store the in vitro plant cups under bright to moderate lighting and in an air-conditioned room.

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For how much time the in vitro plants will stay alive?

For how much time the in vitro plants will stay alive in the cup is really going to be dependent on the plants.

If you have slow-growing aquarium plants like Cryptocoryne or Moss in the cup then these plants consume the nutrients present in the nutrient medium very slowly. So they can stay alive and healthy for a longer time in the cup.

Slow growing aquarium plants can live for several weeks in the cups.

On the other hand, if you have fast growing plants such as steam plants in the cup then these plants consume nutrients out of the nutrient medium very rapidly.

So they will not be able to get nutrients for a longer time. And thus they will not be able to live and survive for a longer time in the cup.

The fast growing aquarium plants can also grow so rapidly that they sometimes outgrow the container cup and the cup lead will pop off.

Besides, how much time it already took for the cups to reach your home also comes into play while deciding how much time the plant will stay alive in the cup.

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How to prepare in vitro plants to plant in your aquarium?

One of the benefits of in vitro aquarium plants is that they don’t contain any harmful pathogens, snails, parasites, etc.

So unlike potted plants, you don’t need to soak them in bleach or and in an antiseptic solution.

You can directly plant them in your aquarium.

However, if you want to be on a safer side then you can soak them in dechlorinated water for about an hour or so and then plant them in your aquarium.

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How to plant aquarium plants in your aquarium?

This video very well explains how to plant different types of potted plants and in vitro plants in the aquarium.

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How to keep aquarium plants alive after planting in aquarium?

Basically, aquarium plants require three things to survive and thrive in your aquarium.

  1. Proper light
  2. Proper substrate
  3. Sufficient nutrients

Now let’s talk about each one in detail.

Proper light

Plants require light to carry out the process of photosynthesis.

It is basically a process by which plants prepare their own food.

Now every plant has different light requirements.

So while choosing plants for your aquarium, you should know the light requirement of the plant. And then you should provide the ideal lighting to the plant.

Basically, there are three types of plants when it comes to light.

1. Low light aquarium plants

These are the plants that require low light.

If you are using a fluorescent light then you should provide light anywhere between 1-2 Watts per gallon. Or light Between 15 to 30 micromoles if you are using LED light.

2. Medium-light plants

Medium-light plants are the plants that do well under moderate light.

So, to such plants, you should provide light between 2-4 Watts per gallon if you are using fluorescent light.

Or light Between 35 to 50 micromoles if you are using LED light.

3. High light aquarium plants

These plants require bright light.

So you should provide them at least 3-5 Watts light per gallon if you are using fluorescent light.

Or light more than 50 micromoles if you are using LED light.

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Advice for beginners

If you’re a beginner then I encourage you to not plant high light aquarium plants in your aquarium until you get some experience in the hobby.

Because usually, these plants are very demanding.  And along with high light, you’ll also need to provide them a lot of nutrients as well as inject CO2 in the aquarium.

Almost all the plants have some range of light that they can do well.

For example, Java moss can do well in low light as well as in high lighting environment.

So in this case, you will need to provide light to the plant according to the nutrients you are going to provide to the plant. I’ll talk about the nutrients below.

I recommend Fluval plant spectrum 3.0 LED light. This is is a very reliable light and it comes with all the functionalities that you ever need.

However, it is a bit expensive. You can check out its price Amazon here.

So the cheap best alternative is Nicrew classic LED Plus.

This light is very cheap and effective. You can check its price at Amazon here.

It doesn’t come with all the functionality inbuilt. However, it has a couple of extensions that you can buy separately to get all the functionalities.

For example, one of the extensions provides the functionality to increase or lower the light intensity which you will find very useful as you get some experience in the hobby.

This is the functionality consider essential for any light aquarium light.

You can check out the extension at Amazon here.

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Plants require a substrate for two reasons:

  1. To get nutrients
  2. To stay in place in the aquarium

Substrate for nutrients

There are several root feeder aquarium plants that absorb the essential micro and micronutrients from the substrate.

So ideally, you should plant them in a nutrient-rich substrate.

However, you can plant them in sand or gravel substrate but then you will need to add root tabs into the substrate to provide nutrients to the plants. 

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Substrate for staying in place in the aquarium

There are several aquarium plants that are not root feeder aquarium plants. And they get most of the nutrients through water column.

However, to stay in place in the aquarium you will need to bury their roots or stem into the substrate.

For such aquarium plants, you can use any substrate of your choice whether that is sand or gravel.

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Sufficient nutrients

Plants require nutrients just as we do to survive and grow.

Plants require several macronutrients such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

They require these nutrients in larger quantities.

Besides, plants require several micronutrients has as zinc, copper, iron, magnesium, etc

They require these micronutrients in small quantities.

Your aquarium naturally provides some of these nutrients to the plants.

However, to provide all the essential nutrients, you will need to supplement your plants with fertilizers.

I recommend Seachem flourish fertilizers.

You can use Seachem flourish liquid fertilizer to feed water column feeder aquarium plants.

You can check the price of the fertilizer at Amazon here.

If you have heavy root feeder aquarium plants in your tank then you can use Seachem root tabs to provide nutrients to the plants through the substrate.

You can check out Seachem root tabs at Amazon here.

Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to nutrients for the live aquarium plant is that you should provide the nutrients according to the light you’re providing to your live aquarium plants.

For example, in our previous case of Java moss, if you are going to provide low light then you should not provide a lot of nutrients to the plant i.e. you should not add a lot of fertilizers in the aquarium.

However, if you provide high lighting conditions to the Java moss then you will need to provide it more nutrients to take advantage of the light. Or else algae will take advantage. And you will end up with algae in your aquarium.

So basically, you need to find the balance between the light and the nutrients you provide to the plant.

This is where the functionality of increasing and lowering the light intensity comes in handy.

Because if you notice any algae in your aquarium then you can lower the intensity of light. This will help to keep algae in control in your aquarium.

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How do you replant aquarium plants?

You can easily replant stem aquarium plants by cutting the stem of the plant from the upper part of the plant.
Then remove the leaves at the bottom of the stem to plant it into the substrate.

You can also replant rhizome aquarium plants by cutting the rhizome. And then plant the rhizome where you want to keep the plant in your aquarium.

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Can I plant aquarium plants straight into gravel?

Yes, you can plant aquarium plants straight into the gravel.

Before planting the plants just make sure to clean them to remove any harmful parasite, pathogens, or snails from the plants.

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So basically, there are two ways to keep the plants alive before planting them in your aquarium.

The first is keeping them in a bucket containing water from your tank for dechlorinated tap water.

Another way is to wrap the plants with a paper towel and then with a newspaper.

Then wet the newspaper with water spray.

If you have got in-vitro plants then you just need to provide bright light and keep the cup containing the plant in temperature below 20° C. 

I hope you found this article helpful.

If you do, please share it.

Happy aquascaping.

Photo of author
Prathmesh Gawai
He is the main author and editor at Aquagoodness.com. And he loves to share helpful information on aquarium and/or fishkeeping hobby. Prathmesh has over five years of aquarium and/or fishkeeping experience. Currently, he has a Betta fish tank. He has written hundreds of articles on various aquarium fish species and on fish tank maintenance over the last five years. Connect with him on YouTube here. Learn more about him here.

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