How to Anchor Aquarium Plants? Pros and Cons of Different Methods

How do Aquarium Plants Need to be Anchored. Pros and Cons

Some aquarium plants need to be anchored so that they don’t float around your aquarium. In other cases, they may need to be anchored to make sure they properly root so that your aquarium can have a healthy, thriving ecosystem.

In any case, there are many ways to anchor the plant. For example, we can use a fishing line, superglue, rubber band, cable tie, suction cups, etc. to attach plants to driftwood and rocks.  

This article will dive into why and how your aquarium plants need to be anchored, what methods you can use to properly anchor them, and what problems you might run into when trying to anchor your plants. 

Why do Some Aquarium plants need to be anchored?

The answer to this question depends on the particular plant or situation, for example:

  1. Aquarium plants are lighter than the water of the tank, making them float around instead of staying grounded if you don’t anchor them down.
  2. Some aquarium plants have a weak root system that does not allow them to stay after planting. Therefore, they need time to root properly.
  3. Our aquariums are flourishing ecosystems that are in constant change and motion. Sometimes your fish, crab, or crayfish get larger, or sometimes they have more aggressive tendencies. This can make it difficult for your plants to stay anchored. 

A great way that also saves money and hassle, is to plant your aquarium plants in crevices. Unfortunately, this simple solution may not work sometimes. That is why it is also nice to know some more alternatives.

What are different methods to anchor plants?

You now know why your aquarium plants need to be anchored. Here is a list of methods to do so.

Why and How do Aquarium Plants Need to be Anchored - Use a heavyweight1. Use a heavyweight

Let’s start with the basic one. Try using a heavyweight like a rock to weigh down the base of the plant.

To do this, you’ll want to dig the roots into the substrate, and then place some pebbles or rocks around the stem of the plant. Be careful, the rocks should not damage the stem or roots of the plant.

Pros:
This is a very easy and quick way to anchor your plants.
It’s also inexpensive.
Cons:
It is possible to damage the stem or roots.
Larger or more aggressive fish, crab, crayfish, or even burrowing snails can sometimes dig and disturb your weight. 
It can be hard to use for plants that have thin stems. 
Adding stones or other heavyweights may not look well in particular aquascapes.
Those heavyweights need to be removed after some time. It will require more work.
Can be hard to use in bare bottom tanks.

Weighted down Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)2. Tie the aquarium plants to a weight

You can always try tying the plant’s roots around a weight such as a rock and then cover it in the substrate.

Be sure to tie the roots lightly so you don’t damage the plant. This works best for plants that grow longer and already have more established roots. 

Pros:
This is a more secure way that your aquarium creatures will struggle to disturb.
Aquatic animals usually won’t be able to disturb the plant.
No need to remove the tie. The plant will outgrow and completely cover it after some time.
Cons:
You have to be more careful not to hurt the roots of your plants. 
It will require some skill in the beginning.
At some point, if you decide to remove or relocate the plant, you will pull up a big part of your substrate with it. Sometimes it is better to cut it off instead of pulling it up.

Why and How do Aquarium Plants Need to be Anchored - Wrap the aquarium plants around driftwood3. Wrap the aquarium plants around driftwood

Wood is something that sinks in a body of water. This means that a piece of driftwood would work great to anchor your plants to the floor of your aquarium.

This method of anchoring plants works even if your plant’s roots are not developed. Depending on the driftwood and/or plant you can use either fish line or rubber band.

Pros:
Your aquarium creatures will struggle in disturbing this anchoring system, making it more secure.
Easy to remove or relocate.
Can be used in bare bottom tanks
Cons:
You’ll have to be more careful not to damage your plant roots. 
It will also require some skill in the beginning.

Why and How do Aquarium Plants Need to be Anchored - Keep aquarium plants in their original pot4. Keep aquarium plants in their original pot

Aquarium plants often come in pots. So, instead of taking them out of the pot, you can actually use the pot as a base for your plant to stay grounded to the bottom of your aquarium. 

Although this practice has become pretty popular, I strongly discourage you from anchoring the plants like that! There are way too many downsides.

Pros:
It’s very easy and low maintenance.
It will restrict your plant to grow in a small area. If you need it to keep in one place.
It is very easy to move them around when you need to redecorate. 
Can be used in bare bottom tanks
Cons:
Rockwool is not a good substrate for the plant. It will restrict your plant’s growth rate.
You have less control over how you want your plants to grow. 
Rockwool can damage animals. Fish, crabs, and crayfish will try to nip, chip, and chew it.
Small pots. It will restrict your plant to grow in a small area. If you want to propagate the plant.
Hard to quarantine. There can be parasites and pests in the pots.
This method is not aesthetically pleasing and requires coverage.

Why and How do Aquarium Plants Need to be Anchored - Keep aquarium plants in other containers5. Keep aquarium plants in other containers

Instead of keeping aquatic plants in the original container with the rockwool or any sponge-like material shipped with the plant, we can use clay, ceramic, or even a standard terracotta pot.

Basically, this is a great alternative option, that is pretty easy to do as well. However, unlike the previous method, this time we can provide our plants with everything they need without serious negative consequences.

The main benefit is that we can give out plants the right substrate that will suite their needs. For example:

  1. Nutrient-rich substrate for heavy roof feeders.
  2. Sand or gravel for plants that do not require organic substrate.
Pros:
It’s very easy and low maintenance.
We can provide an ideal substrate for the plant.
Easy to fertilize, easy to add root tabs when needed.
We can choose pots of the right size that won’t limit the growth rate.
It will restrict your plant to grow in a small area. If you need it to keep in one place.
It is very easy to move them around when you need to redecorate. 
You will have control of how you want your plants to grow. 
Can be used in bare bottom tanks
Cons:
It will restrict your plant to grow in a certain area. If you want to propagate the plant.
Some aquarium plants may require large pots. Therefore, this method may not be aesthetically pleasing for some tank setups.

Why and How do Aquarium Plants Need to be Anchored - Get some aquarium plant anchors6. Get some aquarium plant anchors

Believe it or not, you can buy plant anchors!

These are flexible strips, usually made of lead, that can be tied to your plant that holds down.

Aquarium plant anchors are great when do not have time or if you are worried that you can damage the plant by using other methods.

All you need to do is just wrap the soft metal strips around the plant to create an anchor keeping your plants in place. Do not worry, these strips are very easy to bend. You can easily do it with two fingers.

Pros:
This option allows you to have the most flexibility for controlling the growth of your plants.
Can be used in bare bottom tanks
Easy to do. It almost does not require any skill.
Safe and effective way to anchor plants.
Safe and non-toxic to aquatic animals.
These strips are soft enough to be cut into many pieces.
Cons:
This is one of the more expensive options for anchoring your plants. 
This method is not aesthetically pleasing and requires coverage.

Link to check the price on Amazon

Why and How do Aquarium Plants Need to be Anchored - Use seashells and glued rocks as aquarium plant anchors7. Use seashells and glued rocks as aquarium plant anchors

Seashells: Aquarists often use seashells as decorations. However, we can also use them as aquarium plant anchors.

However, to do that we need to make a hole in the shell. For that, we can use a drill or simply scratch it over some hard surface until we have a hole in it. The edges can be sharp, so be careful with that.

Insert the stem of the plant into the hole – this is it.

Glued rocks: Almost the same we can do with rocks. Don’t worry, you won’t have to drill the rocks. Just use an aquarium safe glue and glue them together so there will be a hole between them. It should not be a tight fit, so it will damage the plant when you start squeezing through it.

The good thing about glued rocks as plant anchors is that you can create any type of structure you want.

Drilled rocks: Another option will be to drill through rock. However, you will need a drill for that.

Important: The holes should be big enough to give the plant enough room to grow. Remember, as your plants grow bigger, the stem gets thicker too.

If the hole is too big – use substrate to fill the gaps. It will hold the plant until it attaches on its own but will not harm the plant.

Pros:
Looks very beautiful.
This option allows you to have the most flexibility for controlling the growth of your plants.
Can be used in bare bottom tanks.
Easy to relocate.
Safe and useful to aquatic animals. Seashells provide a calcium source for snails, shrimp, daphnia, etc. It is natural.
It is natural.
Cons:
Requires seashell or rocks.

 

Attaching Java Moss to mesh. Propagation

8. Use Nylon and Stainless Steel Mesh

Nylon and stainless steel mesh are also a way that you can use to secure your plants.

Aquarium plants that act as a carpet or mossy base to your tank’s bottom, can use mesh to cling and grow onto.

If you are using nylon mesh, you’d have to weigh the stretched nylon by weights on the cover of your tanks, but this can be done with heavier rocks. 

Pros:
Excellent for more mossy plants, allowing them to flourish and grow.
Can be used in bare bottom tanks.
Great way to propagate plants.
Allows to create amazing aquascapes
Cons:
It’s a bit more of a hassle to set up the nylon on the floor of your aquarium or you will need a stainless steel mesh. 
Limits the choice of plants that can be anchored this way.

Why and How do Aquarium Plants Need to be Anchored - Glue aquarium plants9. Glue aquarium plants

When using glue, you have to make sure that it is waterproof and can be used in aquariums. Make sure it has a cyanoacrylate component. Cyanoacrylate super glue is probably the most common aquarium safe adhesives used in the hobby.

You also need to be careful, so you will not get glue on any of the leaves.

  1. Before using glue, prepare the plant by cleaning it. Clean the roots with your hands. If it is a new plant in the pot, remove as much of the plant rockwool.
  2. Use a paper towel to dry the plant roots. They do not have to be completely dry. Wet is enough.
  3. Spread a thin layer of glue on the driftwood or
  4. Press the plant to the glue and hold it for about 30 – 60 seconds.
  5. You can put it into the tank.

If the process takes you more than 5 – 10 minutes, spray the plants with water to prevent them from drying out.  

Pros:
Easy to do.
Can be used with any plant.
Can be used in bare bottom tanks.
Cons:
It will restrict your plant to grow in a certain area. If you want to propagate the plant.
Need some practice so you won’t glue the plant to your fingers.
Plants can be relocated only with the item they are glued to.

Tip: If you glue your fingers – to get super glue off your fingers, you need to use warm water and simple ingredients such as cooking oil and lemon juice. Another way is to use nail polish remover to dissolve the glue.

Why and How do Aquarium Plants Need to be Anchored - Use aquarium suction cups10. Use aquarium suction cups

The name of this method is self-explanatory. Take aquarium suction cups and tie plants to them.

Pros:
A super easy option that is inexpensive and keeps your aquarium a blank canvas.
Can be used in bare bottom tanks
Easy to do. It almost does not require any skill.
Cons:
It will restrict your plant to grow in a certain area. If you want to propagate the plant.
We can do that only with plants that have strong stems.

11. Plastic cable ties and Two-Way Lock Nuts 

Instead of stones, we can use two-way lock nuts. The process is straightforward and will not require any skill to accomplish.

  1. Take adjustable plastic clam and insert it through a two-way lock nut.
  2. Insert the pointed end of the cable into the locking piece (the square head of the tie).
  3. Wrap the length of your cable tie around the plant that you wish to anchor.
  4. Tighten your cable tie to make a binding tight.
Pros:
Easy and fast to do.
Can be used in bare bottom tanks
Does not require any skill.
Easy to relocate.
Cons:
This method is not aesthetically pleasing and requires coverage.
You will need two-way lock nuts and cable ties.

 12. Use crevices

A great way that also saves money and hassle, is to plant your aquarium plants in crevices.

This is a great way to make an interesting environment, and it works well with having multiple healthy surfaces for your ecosystem. You can try wrapping the plant’s roots around a rock, or something else that decorates your tank. 

Problems with Anchoring Your Aquarium Plants

Take into consideration that there are multiple reasons why you might struggle with anchoring your aquarium plants. Here are a few things to watch out for. 

  • Strong Water Flow

Sometimes even the aquarium’s filtration system can cause strong currents and can create a nuisance of a problem for anchoring the plants.
Check to see if your water flow is on its higher level and try turning it down. 

  • Unhealthy plants

If you have a sick plant that doesn’t have strong roots, it’s not going to stay anchored. Be sure to check for nice vibrant colored plants when purchasing. 

  • Borrowing or digging fish

Borrowing fish (like Loaches, Plecos, Cory catfish, Eels, etc.) will dig into the bottom of your aquarium. This can lead to uprooting your plants and cause them to float around. 

  • Aggressive Fish

Some fish literally pull the plants out of the ground. They can even damage the roots and kill the plant in the long run. You’ll want to use a heavy-duty anchoring system for these sorts of fish.

  • Snails, Crabs, and Crayfish

Many freshwater snails (for example, White Wizard snails, Hairy snails, Assassin snails, Mystery snails, Rabbit snails, Malaysian trumpet snails, etc.) may spend hours buried in the substrate. Unfortunately, this can lead to plant uprooting. 

As for the freshwater crabs and crayfish, you will have to do your research. There are many species that should not be kept in planted tanks because they can eat, cut, and uproot almost everything in the tank (for example Cherax destructor, Red claw crayfish, Procarambus Clarkii, etc.).

Note: On my blog, you can find detailed articles on these and many other species.  

In Conclusion

Generally, if planting them more thoroughly does not work, you’ll always want to anchor your aquarium plants so that they grow properly, and so they don’t float around your tank willy-nilly. 

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