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Planting the aquarium

A selection of live plants available from Aquatic FanaticAfter setting up your aquarium you might want to add a few plants. Plants make an attractive addition to any aquarium and can be used to hide unsightly wires, uplift tubes or heaters. Live plants had the advantage of helping to lower the nitrate levels (see maturing the tank). You may be tempted to go straight ahead and plant your aquarium as soon as it is set up but it is recommended that you wait at least 24 hours. This will give you time to check that all your equipment is working correctly and that the aquarium doesn't leak. If the worst comes to the worst at least you won't have the hassle of negotiating all those carefully laid out plants while you adjust your filter/heater! This 24 hour waiting period also allows time for the water to settle at the correct temperature. 

Plants, like fish, are tropical and therefore the water temperature has to suit both. Check which temperatures your plants will tolerate (just as you would with fish) and how large they will grow. In a small aquarium you might want to avoid certain plants as you will have to constantly cut them back. Eventual height is a deciding factorMore live plants at Aquatic Fanatic for where in the aquarium it should be planted. Smaller plants and carpet-forming plants belong in the foreground with the plants getting progressively larger the nearer the back of the aquarium. Specimen plants, make a good focal point and can brighten up the middle ground. When buying plants always look for healthy leaves and when you get them home unpack them carefully. Allow yourself plenty of time for planting as planting them individually will help them thrive. Make sure there is enough space between each plant to allow the light to reach the substrate and plant in staggered rows so that from the front it looks like a wall of plants. You can plant in amongst your rocks and wood. A small cryptocoryne placed in front of a rock or some java fern attached (this can be tied on easily with black nylon thread) to a section of bogwood creates an eye-catching view. 

Carbon dioxide (CO2) reactor - available from Aquatic FanaticIn order for the plants in the aquarium to remain biologically active, reduce waste products and produce oxygen they must receive optimal care. This includes pruning and thinning out the plants and regular additions of plant foods or fertilisers. Plant growth can be given a boost by adding a Carbon Dioxide (CO2) reactor. This is a system that injects a small regular amount of CO2 into the aquarium and as they rise to the surface they are absorbed by the water. The plants absorb the CO2 and covert it into oxygen which they release back into the aquarium. Plants growing out of the water will convert CO2 faster than the plants in the water. Caution should be used with these systems as it is very easy to overdose with improper use.

Artificial plants, though not to everybody's taste, do serve several purposes.  If you have particularly inquisitive or large fish they could easily uproot live plants, the artificial variety tend to be more difficult to dislodge due to their large anchor plates. 'Planting' couldn't be easier, just press the plate into the substrate to hold it inA small selection of artificial plants available from Aquatic Fanatic position. Some artificial plants come complete with both anchor plate and suction clips which help to secure to the substrate and the side glass.  Plastic plants are often made from many sections, this allows you to pull them apart and recreate them at the desired length. To give a more natural appearance, group two or three of the same variety but vary the heights. Silk plants are another option to consider, until quite recently the only silk plants on the market were silk reproductions of houseplants and not true aquatic plants. This is no longer the case and most aquatic retailers will have them in stock. Some fish keepers will use artificial plants in conjunction with live plants to give extra cover or use them temporarily whilst waiting for their live counterparts to 'thicken up'. Perhaps the biggest advantage artificial plants have over live plants is that you can remove them from the aquarium and give them a quick scrub to clean them up!

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