The quality of the substrate will decide how well the aquarium grass grows. Since sand and gravel are the two most common types of substrates for aquariums, can aquarium grass grow in gravel and sand?
Aquarium grass can’t grow in gravel and sand naturally. However, even if gravel and sand are not the ideal substrates for planted tanks, they can grow aquarium grass. Since neither of them provides nutrients for plant growth, you must compensate by adding fertilizers to grow aquarium grass in them.
Let’s delve deeper into this now.
3 Main Types Of Aquarium Substrates
Fish tanks with a substrate look more natural and attractive than a bare-bottom tank.
The substrate also provides a surface for helpful microorganisms like nitrifying bacteria to grow.
Finally, certain types of bottom-dwelling fish are more comfortable in tanks with substrates.
They can dig and burrow in the soil and feel at home.
There are three main substrate choices for aquariums: gravel, sand, and soil.
- Gravel: Gravel refers to small stones and pebbles of different sizes. It has coarse and larger particles than sand and soil. Gravel is heavier too. Since the particles are separate, water doesn’t move gravel around. However, gravel can have rough and sharp edges that injure fish and aquatic pets. So, you should be very careful when choosing gravel. Look for gravel with soft, rounded edges. Gravel comes in different colors too. So, you can choose from the different varieties to decorate your tank.
- Sand: Sand consists of fine particles that are smaller in size than gravel. The granules are very soft. Since sand particles are very light, they are kicked up and moved around by water. Sand comes in different colors like beige, brown, and black. The granule size also varies according to the variety. Nevertheless, sand has a compact structure as the particles sit closely. It forms a tight layer at the bottom of the tank and creates a natural look. Moreover, sand doesn’t hold water.
- Soil: Aquarium soil is a clay-based substrate. The granules are larger than sand. The particles absorb water and nutrients. Unlike sand and gravel, the soil is an active substrate. This means that it can alter the water chemistry of the tank. There are fewer varieties of aquarium soil than sand and gravel. Nevertheless, it’s the best substrate for a planted tank. Soil provides nutrients that are necessary for healthy plant growth.
Recommended Further Reading:
- Why Does Aquarium Grass Turns Brown? (How To Prevent It?)
- How To Stop Aquarium Plants From Dying? (11 Different Ways)
- Can You Trim Aquarium Grass? (How To Trim It Properly?)
Are Gravel And Sand Suitable For Planted Aquariums?
Gravel and sand aren’t ideal substrates for planted tanks. Neither of them has any nutrients that enhance plant growth.
So, they don’t do anything for your plants.
Another factor to consider is the structure of gravel and sand particles.
Sand has fine and compact particles. These easily move around with water.
So it’s difficult for plants to anchor their roots in this substrate.
Meanwhile, gravel has large grains with round or flat edges.
These large chunky particles don’t bind to the plant roots and hold them in place.
The aquarium soil is the best substrate for plant growth since it carries necessary nutrients that promote the growth of plants.
Nevertheless, gravel and sand don’t hinder plant growth.
You can plant a variety of plants in tanks with sand or gravel as the substrate.
However, since these substrates don’t carry essential nutrients for plant growth, you must add suitable fertilizers.
To anchor the plant in place until it establishes roots, you will also have to use rubber bands and rocks to weigh the plant down.
Furthermore, choosing the right type of gravel or sand helps plants grow better.
Choose gravel with a grain size of 0.1 to 0.2 inches or sand that’s between 0.12 and 2.0 inches in size.
Interesting Further Reading:
- Do Aquarium Plants Need Light? (5 Plants That Survive In Low Light)
- Can Lawn Grass Grow In Aquariums? (Why Not + Alternatives)
- Do Aquarium Plants Need Soil? [5 Plants That Don’t Need Soil]
How To Grow Grass For Aquariums?
Aquarium grass, when grown properly, can create a beautiful carpet effect in a tank.
However, these plants have specific lighting, nutrients, and water needs.
Unless these requirements are met, they will not flourish.
A soil substrate is ideal for growing aquarium grass in a tank. However, you can also use gravel or sand for some varieties.
When using gravel or grass, add a nutrient layer below the gravel to provide essential nutrients for its growth.
You can grow aquarium grass from seeds. However, some varieties grow from cuttings or rhizomes.
Regardless of the type of aquarium grass you choose, the most effective way is to start the grass in an external environment.
Then, transplant them to the tank when they grow into healthy plantlets.
The most popular varieties of aquarium grass are Cuba, Glosso, and Dwarf Hairgrass.
To start your aquarium carpet, it’s best to plant the plantlets or seeds in grids.
You can split the plant into small portions and plant them apart, leaving enough space to spread into a carpet.
Fine powder substrates like sand and gravel can cause root compression.
To prevent this, you can mix the substrate with a powder nutrient medium.
After planting the seeds or plantlets in the substrate, you should monitor them continuously.
Make sure they get enough sunlight and carbon dioxide for optimal growth.
Also, keep track of the water parameters using a suitable test kit. Ensure that everything is conducive to plant growth.
If you observe the leaves turning brown or melting, it can indicate unsuitable lighting or water parameters.
You must identify the problem and fix it promptly to restore your plant growth.
Once the plants pick up their pace of growth, trim them occasionally to keep them looking compact and neat.
Depending on the rate of growth, you may have to trim the grass weekly or every other week.
Fertilizers will improve the growth of your aquarium grass and keep them looking lush and green.
Liquid fertilizers will accelerate root growth and make leaves longer and greener.
To grow healthy and beautiful aquarium grass, follow these steps:
- Select healthy seeds, cuttings, or rhizomes to start your aquarium grass. Ensure that they are free from infections and parasites that can harm your aquatic pets.
- For seeds, plant them in a mixture of peat moss and soil. Then, wait until they germinate and grow into healthy plantlets to introduce them into the tank.
- Add the seedlings into the tank only when they are big and healthy enough to withstand the tank conditions. When the plants have a healthy root system, they are ready for planting.
- Depending on the substrate in the tank, you may have to use rubber bands to anchor the plantlets. You may also want to use fish-safe rocks to anchor the plantlets in place if the substrate tends to shift with water.
- Ensure that the plants receive adequate light for photosynthesis. You may also have to inject carbon dioxide and supplement it with liquid fertilizer to improve plant growth.
- Find what your aquarium grass needs to thrive and make sure to meet these requirements. Avoid overdosing with fertilizer and Carbon dioxide as it can make fragile plants melt.
- Maintain the hygiene of the tank. Poor water quality, build-up of organic waste, and toxins will adversely affect plant growth.
- When cleaning the substrate, take care not to uproot the plant roots.
- Trim the aquarium grass every few days to improve plant growth and make it look more attractive.