Aqua Plants Vs. Garden Plants
What are the differences between aqua plants and garden plants?
- Nutrient absorption
- Gas exchange
If you’re just starting out with aquascaping, then you may have to deal with certain misconceptions regarding your materials. You may think that it’s fine to use garden or terrestrial plants for your aquarium instead of buying a set of aquatic plants. However, not all plants thrive in the same conditions. When choosing between aqua plants vs. garden plants, you need to make sure that the plants you’re using are suitable for aquatic purposes.
Let’s say you’re trying to test out your theory that garden plants will work just as well in any other aquarium as they do on land. Don’t be surprised to find that your plant will have wilted even just after several hours of putting them on display in your aquarium. Although the plant may be able to stand for a few moments just after planting them, they’ll ultimately rot and die because they’re not in the right kind of habitat.
In order to make the most out of your aquascaping projects, it’s important to understand the key major differences between terrestrial and aquatic plants. Continue reading to learn more.
As the name suggests, the habitat is one of the most prominent differences between land (garden) plants and aquatic plants. Aquatic plants are usually found in environments where there is a high water content. Meanwhile, land plants are generally found tethered to a type of soil in order to survive.
Despite this, aquatic plants may have similarities in their appearance when they’re compared with garden plants. But it doesn’t stretch out beyond this fact. There are, however, plants that are suitable in both aquatic and terrestrial environments, such as mangroves, sponge plants, or bald cypress.
As for the garden plants, there are typically many kinds of plants that you’ll encounter, such as emersed, submerged, floaters, and algae. The categories are respective to where in the aquarium will these plants be suitable for and best cultivated in.
Submerged plants are typically rooted directly to the substrate on the floor of the aquarium. Emersed or emerged plants are also rooted on the aquarium floor, but they need constant exposure to sunlight, which is why their vegetation is mostly found above the water.
Emersed plants should not be conflated with floaters or floating plants that are not attached to the substrate. Instead, they have exposed roots which absorb the nutrients they need to grow. Finally, algae are those which don’t have roots or stems. Naturally-occurring algae can grow in your aquarium, but they may also be commercially available in the form of the peacock fern, weeping moss, and the like.
Both aquatic and garden plants absorb their nutrients through a process called photosynthesis. You may have already encountered this term throughout your research, but it’s simply the method by which plants process water and carbon dioxide in order to produce food, cultivate, and facilitate oxygen release.
With this in mind, aquatic plants are able to more easily absorb the nutrients because of the water medium surrounding them. Garden plants need to be tended and taken care of more frequently because they need nutrients coming from land and water (which may be scarce, given the habitat they’re in).
Both aquatic plants and land plants have been able to adapt to their environment in order to develop special features when it comes to carbon dioxide absorption.
Water plants, for example, have been able to thrive in low CO2 environments through the help of a storage system inside them. These sort of act as “reserve CO2” especially during times of low CO2 levels in their habitat.
While for garden plants, CO2 levels may be abundant in the air, they need to make sure that they’re not losing too much water when they’re absorbing carbon dioxide. This process is made possible through the pores, or stomata.
In aquariums, the process of CO2 or gas exchange generally takes place at the surface of the water. Your livestock may be able to survive for up to two days in still water, but there are several indicators telling you that your aquarium is not getting enough oxygen. Your fish may be coming up to the surface more frequently to “gasp” for air or their gills may be moving more rapidly.
In these cases, installing water pumps or water filters can create better circulation for the aquarium. These may ultimately be beneficial not only for the fish, but for your plants as well.
Land plants tend to grow much bigger than their aquatic counterparts, simply because there are fewer factors that inhibit their growth. Think about it: the growth of your aquatic plants may be limited, depending on environmental conditions such as nutrient level, CO2 absorption, lighting conditions, and even the size of the tank.
Land plants aren’t really limited by their environment because of the large open-air space that’s capable of producing wider and bigger leaves — but presence of nutrients and size of the pot may also affect this.
Similar to the growth size, the growth rate for aquatic plants may also differ depending if the conditions above are satisfactorily met. You also need to make sure that you’re doing the right cutting and pruning techniques to maintain a healthy plant, for both aquatic and land varieties.
When it comes to considerations between aqua plants vs garden plants, there’s no doubt that aqua plants are much more suitable for your aquarium. They have certain requirements that are distinct from land plants. For example, they’re able to survive better in adequate water conditions that are receiving ample nutrients in the tank — something that you won’t find across commercially-available garden plants.
As said before, you can incorporate garden plants into your aquarium, but don’t expect them to live for more than a few hours. Aquatic plants are still the best and most ideal choice to create beautiful aquatic environments.
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