Today I want to talk about plants. Why plants are essential to shrimp (and fish) tanks. I will give you my top 5 reasons why I think every aquarium should have plants.
I suppose I should begin by highlighting the fact that the benefits of having plants in your aquarium far outweigh the added maintenance. How is it even possible to compare additional chemical filtration, aeration, hiding places etc. with some maintenance?
Well, in my personal opinion I would say that almost in every situation your aquarium is going to be much better off if you have strong plant growth in it. So without further ado, let us get right into it.
1. Plants Provide the Added Filtration
Plants absorb a ton of things from aquariums that we do not even think of. They absorb so many things like nitrites, nitrates, ammonia, heavy metals, food, and decaying fish, snail and shrimp waste and etc. Plants absorb all of that and can be a really unique form of chemical filtration that is much more effective than things such as carbon. They are one of the essential filters for the aquarium.
It is not a surprise to see that some aquarists are chasing nitrates, ammonia and other things in their water trying to battle it. They try to keep it good and have a stable aquarium but they cannot! Whereas all they need to do is just add plants to the aquarium. Plants would help in that fight. Actually, in most cases, plants will eliminate that battle. As a result, plants will reduce the chances of spreading the disease throughout the tank as well.
Your mechanical filtration can fail and your biological filtration can get disturbed. Even more, if you do not clean your back filters or canister filters you are going have a rise in ammonia. When you have plants, you do not have this problem.
Because plants are constantly feeding on those things and plants just do not stop.
Because of that, some experienced people do not even have filters at all. Plats do all the filtration. Of course, it is a little more time-consuming to do it that way. You will have to do a lot of maintenance on those plants. That is why it is not advisable for the beginners. Nonetheless, it is possible to do so.
In addition, it is very easy to notice when the plants stopped to do their filtration function. You will know it right away because it means that they are dying. They will turn brown and the leaves will start falling apart.
Overall as you can see plants are a great way to add good chemical filtration to your aquarium.
It is always a backup plan if you forget to clean out your filter.
2. Plants Provide Hiding Places for Shrimp
Plants in your tank will give shelter for the shrimp. What I mean by that is if you have a shrimp (for example, after molting) or a baby shrimp that are being picked on or chased, there is only a limited number of spaces it can go and get away in the aquarium.
When shrimp molt or when a baby shrimp are born, you definitely want to have as many hiding places as possible. There is no need to stress them out even more especially after molting. There can be a lot of deaths after that because other shrimp (or fish) bother them. As a result, they definitely can kill them which is not good at all.
If the aquarium is well planted it has numerous hiding spaces and generally will fare much better and be much less stressed out.
3. Plants Help to Aerate the Water
Aeration is the introduction of oxygen into the water. This is another way of creating a better and healthier environment for your inhabitants. Typically in an aquarium to keep the water well oxygenated we try to add things like air pumps and air stones to put oxygen bubbles into the water.
The good thing about plants is that they will aerate the water naturally. It means that you do not have to actually purchase any of that stuff. You can just rely solely on your plants to aerate your water.
As plants photosynthesize they absorb carbon dioxide, which is toxic to fish and they give off oxygen.
With very limited success a well-planted tank will give off probably more oxygen than your air pump will. Also, it is just aesthetically much more pleasing than seeing a wall of bubbles on the back of the tank. It’s just a much more natural way of keeping the water well oxygenated.
You do not have to worry about the air stone and it is a great option.
4. Plants Prevent Anaerobic pockets (Hydrogen Sulfide)
Keeping plans is good for substrate health. The roots will help to break up anaerobic pockets in the substrate. If you are not familiar with what I am talking about when oxygen cannot reach the lower depths of the substrate anaerobic bacteria will form anaerobic bacteria. It will give off hydrogen sulfide gas or (H2S), which is highly toxic in the aquarium.
It can happen in deep substrates that this gas will build up and then bubbles are released into the tank. Which is very toxic to the shrimp. Plant growth will help you battle this and help to break up those pockets.
Secondly, the plant roots will also add structure to the substrate. What I mean by that is if you have ever tried to do an aquascape and try to have nice sloping hills and valleys the root systems of the plants once they get established will help keep that soil in place. So that it does not settle out and flatten out over time.
5. Plants actually Help in the Struggle Against Algae
Plants compete with the algae for all the nutrients in the water. Plants are a “higher life-form” compared to algae. Therefore they will out-compete the algae for the same nutrients. The plants absorb excess nutrients such as phosphates. Phosphates are often linked to many forms of algae. Of course, plants will not eliminate all algae from your aquarium. But they will definitely help in this battle. The algae growth will be significantly lowered and it will not be as aggressive in a planted tank.
Bonus. Plants Provide Surface Area for Beneficial Bacteria
Plants have a lot of surface area. It means that you get space for beneficial bacteria to grow biofilm. Which is an essential source of their food.
Unfortunately, with all these benefits you can also get some problems with plants.
1. Maintenance of the Plants
There is no way around it. You will have to learn and do trimming, fertilizing, CO2 injection, and clean them. (Read more about it in my article “CO2 in a Shrimp Tank”.) You will have to master aqua scaping skills unless you want your aquarium to look like an impassable jungle. What substrate is better? What is the right light? These are just some of the problems to deal with and there are more.
Sure, there are also “beginner plants”. They are really easy to maintain but again you have to maintain them. Otherwise, they will die or they will get out of control.
I do not want to scare anybody off because with some practice it will be easy for you. Practice makes perfect. Nonetheless, it will not remove the fact that you have to care for them if you want them to care for your shrimp.
2. Pesticides on the Plants can Poison your Shrimp
Of course, plants from well-known manufacturers have a very low risk of poisoning your tank because they are free of pesticides. Nevertheless, it can happen anyway especially if you bought them from some doubtful source.
These are the signs that the shrimp has been poisoned:
– shrimp becomes very calm or just lying
– it swims to the surface all the time like it is trying to get out from the aquarium
– sometimes they start jumping upwards and sink back down again.
3. Leeches, planaria, snails and etc.
Well, anybody who has been in this hobby for a long period will tell you about that. You will get some of these pests if you buy plants from time to time. That is just because plants are grown in mass production in ponds and all kind of pests cling on. They could be very small and it is almost impossible to notice them in a shop.
Things like that are detrimental to a shrimp tank. Whereas they would not be detrimental to a fish population or a community tank because fish would eat the leeches. In a shrimp tank, it is not possible. That is why in some cases people had to break down their tanks because of leeches or dragonfly nymphs.
Regarding planaria, it can be more difficult to get rid of it even for the fish tank because there are only a few types of fish who can eat them. As for the shrimp tank, planaria is really dangerous for shrimp. It can kill it. You can read more about “Planaria and Shrimps. How to remove them” right here.
Well, actually I do not consider snails as pests. Nevertheless, in some situations, they can be unwelcome. For example, it might be a display tank and the view must be perfect. Unfortunately, again, you will not know that they are on the plants until they are hatched. You can read about “Benefits of Snails for a Shrimp Aquarium” right here.
4. Plants can Bring some Algae to your Aquarium
Besides competing with algae plants can also bring them to you. Sounds unfair, right? Anyway, you have to know that Blackbeard algae, Brown Algae, Green Dust Algae, String algae etc. basically every type of algae that you can think of plants can come with them.
Can You Prevent all These Cons? Yes. Quarantine and Sterilization!
It is a good idea to quarantine plants. Even though most people do not say that, you should or most people do not even say that quarantine is a good option. Nevertheless, it is better to play safe. By doing so you will remove all threats to your shrimps.
These are my top 5 (plus bonus) reasons why every aquarium should be a planted aquarium. It is a great form of chemical filtration. In addition to this, plants will oxygenate the water in your aquarium. They will also provide hiding places for the shrimp. They are waging a never-ending war against algae.
Besides all these positive effects on your eco-system, plants will give your aquarium a more natural look. Because it is more natural the shrimp are going to be more comfortable. It is more like the real environment so their stress level is going to be significantly lower. Shrimp clean the plants and it makes the plants healthier.
Overall it is a great symbiotic relationship between plants and shrimp.