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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
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!





Dracaena

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:





Bamboo

Most bamboo is happy to grow with its roots in water. But it cannot survive being wholly submerged.





‘Lucky bamboo’

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!
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I ought to add that terrestrial (land) or bog plants that have been grown submersed can take a while to get used to being potted. They'll likely lose all their leaves - and may die - but don't throw them out right away! Very often they'll soon send out new shoots better adapted to growing in air, and you'll have a nice house plant!

Please feel free to add to this list - and add a picture! I got all mine from Wiki Commons, so there's no copyright issues. :)
 

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Nice list but I have never seen any of those before. Someone should add to the list the not so aquatic plants that petco sells in a tube to the list.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Tikibirds, I know they sell several of the plants on that list - they tend to look a bit different when under water a while.

I have never been to a Petco (thank goodness) but here's some plants I know they sell that are not true aquatics:

Borneo Sword (Chinese Evergreen)
Aqua Fern (Trichomanes Javanicum)
Giant & Dwarf Papyrus (Cyperus)
Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon)
Dracaena
Peace Liliy (Spathiphyllum)
Peacock Fern (Seliginella, not the same plant as 'peacock moss', which IS aquatic)


Apparently the worst offenders are often in the 'plant packs' they sell..
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Yup, I'm very sure. Do keep an eye on it. It -will- go yellow/rot sooner or later unless the majority of the leaves are out of the water. (I've kept those exact dracaena in pots - they got to about 6ft tall..)

What Wikipedia says about Lucky Bamboo (a dracaena):

"Often in large chain pet shops it will be sold as an aquatic plant. While it will live for months like this, it will eventually rot unless the sprouts are allowed to grow above the surface."

The variegated kind in the tank pic probably won't last as long as the lucky bamboo..

Also -- basically, it's safe to say that anything variegated (green with pale/yellow spots or stripes) is not aquatic. I don't think there are any true aquatic plants with that leaf colouring..
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Hygrophilia (I think) one species is green with pink veins, under the right lighting.
You're right there, too! I also found an apparently? rather rare Rotala that is also variegated, and also needs the correct lighting to bring it out. And a cryptocoryne sp., too, though that is also amphibious, rather than purely aquatic.

I'll bet the Petco ones aren't any of those, though. :p
 

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Shoot! I bought some Mondo Grass. Luckily, my betta doesn't jump and has open air above his tank so the bamboo has been doing well for months and hopefully the grass will, but if it starts to rot I'm going to toss it. Arizona is too hot for plants that need humidity and I'm not risking my fish- I love him. (Oh, and I know he doesn't jump because I used to have a jumper and had a mild heart attack every time it was time to change his water. Bo, however, has only jumped once when I tried to scoop him up with a net. He landed on the counter and was promptly set in clean water and observed for half an hour. His fin hurt for 13 hours and he hasn't jumped since.)
 

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I just got nailed with an Aqua Fern from Petco, complete with assurances that it would be just fine in my tank. I sent a complaint to corporate. It's a $2.50 plant, but it's the principle of the matter. Now that I think I've located another source of aquarium supplies, they won't get another nickel out of me.
 

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Oh hey thanks, it was fun. :)

And you're right! Mind, anubias is also amphibious, in that it will grow both submersed and emmersed (just roots in water).. but yes, perhaps that's an exception. I wonder if there's any others?
Hemianthus callitrichoides (sold as Dwarf Baby Tears sometimes) is another one of these. It grows better emersed, but does well submersed after given the chance to establish itself. It's virtually impossible to find in the USA due to the fact that it's collected in Cuba, but is much easier to find here in the EU.
 
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