Next time you go to the local fish store (LFS) or pet shop in search of plants for your betta tank, take a moment to see how many of the plants described below are sold as true aquatic plants. Ask the staff whether these plants will survive well and grow underwater…
My bet is that you’ll get the sales pitch, “Oh sure, they’ll be fine
,” in which case you’ll know the staff know nothing about aquarium plants or simply wish to make a sale and don’t care.
Or, if it’s an excellent store, the staff will be honest and tell you: these plants are not intended for submerged growth and will sooner or later die, polluting your tank and potentially leading to ammonia spikes from rotting leaves - and maybe even deaths in the tank.
True aquatic plants like Amazon Sword, Elodea, Anacharis, Anubias and Java Fern all HELP your water by taking up excess ammonia or nitrates. And because they actually like being underwater, they will grow and not slowly rot.
Most of the non-aquatic plants sold for fish tanks evolved in boggy environments and do in fact enjoy growing with their ‘feet’ in the water. But since they are meant to breathe air through their leaves, submersing them means they slowly suffocate, as the submerged roots do not provide enough oxygen to the plants.
These plants do look wonderful in a fish tank and may even survive a few weeks, even months. But they don’t have the necessary biology for underwater growth and WILL die.
Do you really want to risk your fish, for a plant that won’t survive anyway?
If you do have some of these plants, don’t throw them away! Pot them up in soil, do some research on their care and then you’ll have some lovely houseplants to grow beside your tank. Or even IN your tank, as long as you have a riparium, or open-topped tank for the plant leaves to grow out of.. but we all know how bettas love to jump! Perhaps pot-plants are a ‘betta’ alternative.
So here’s a list of plants commonly sold as true aquatic plants, which should never be grown fully submerged. Can you recognise any in your own tank?
Palms of any kind.
Palms do not grow underwater!
There’s a lot of plants in this family. None of them grow underwater!
Here’s a dracaena that bettafish.com member Shadyr grew in her tank. Looks nice, doesn't it? Of course, it died and polluted the tank:
Most bamboo is happy to grow with its roots in water. But it cannot survive being wholly submerged.
Looks like bamboo – but it isn’t! It’s actually another dracaena, and is unsuitable for submerged growth.
Aluminum Plant (Pilea cadierei)
Arrowhead (Syngonium podophyllum)
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum tasson)
Every bit as doomed as the betta is, when grown in a betta vase....
Chameleon Plant (Houttuynia cordata)
Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema simplex)
Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia sp.)
Don't let your pets or children chew this! Its toxins cause severe throat irritation (hence the name). Wonder what it does to fish..
Elephant Ear (Caladium)
Japanese Rush (Acorus sp.)
Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus)
Nerve Plant (Fittonia argyronanta)
Pickerel Weed (Pontederia cordata)
Pothos (Philodendron sp.)
Pothos is far better grown with its roots dangling in a tank and the leaves over the side. It loves growing rooted in water, and fish love swimming through the roots. But don’t put the leaves under!
Prayer Plant (Maranta leucoreura)
Spider Plant (Chlorophytum bichetii)
Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus)
Club Moss (Lycopodium sp.)
Umbrella Plant (Cyperus alternifolius)
Underwater Fern (Selaginella wildenowii)
(never mind the name! it won't survive underwater!)
I hope this is a help!