The plants are ideal for aquariums; they create oxygen for your fish, keep your tank clean, and just look good. But beware: pet stores are often trying to make money selling terrestrial (land-dwelling) plants as aquatic ones. Although water is good for plants, submerging land plants in water is a bad idea. They will die and rot in your fish tank. Contaminants from the decomposing plant are likely to kill fish. When shopping for aquatic plants, be sure to buy only true aquatic plants. Here are brief descriptions of the plants that pet stores most commonly try to sell as would-be aquatics.
The most popular is the Dracaena Marginata or Drago. Dragon trees look like paintbrushes, with palm-like trunks and pointed leaves sticking out of the top. Your friendly neighborhood pet store usually sells a baby version of this tree, but in the wild they can grow to 16 feet tall. Dracaena Marginata is considered a bamboo plant and it actually needs dry conditions to grow and will die quite quickly if submerged in water.
Another popular poser is Algaonema. This is actually a popular houseplant and is recognizable by its wide, waxy-looking green leaves. The Chinese believe this bodes well, but it could mean bad things for your aquarium. Algaonema should be planted in heavy soil that is moist, not soggy, and dies quickly in water. In addition, they are poisonous and cause a rash in the mouth and throat if ingested by mouth. So imagine what happens when it starts to rot in your aquarium after just a few weeks!
The Brazilian sword, or lily of peace, is another to avoid. The peace lily resembles the Argentine sword, with long, slender stems and a few broad shovel-shaped leaves. This plant actually requires dry conditions to grow. It will take a long time to die in your tank, but it should not be placed with your guppies as it cannot thrive and will begin to die before you even know it. The previous article argued that the Amazon and Argentine Swords were excellent aquatic plants, but just because “sword” is in the name makes it a good plant to live with your fish!
Cherry Hedge and Green Hedge are other land plants that sneak onto pet store shelves with genuine aquatic plants. They will all do well for a long period of time, but they will die after several months at most and should not be submerged in water. Cherry and green hedges look similar. Both are short, bright green and bushy. The Green Hedge has smaller leaves than the Cherry Hedge. These plants are hardy but need dry conditions to grow.
Mondo Grass certainly looks exotic. It comes in the form of a bush and looks like a pile of pale green grass. This is a land plant that needs little care. You simply need very little watering and soil that drains well. Due to its drier needs, Mondo Grass generally takes only two months to die if submerged in water.
Lastly, White and Red Arrowhead are other evil beauties who will doom their fish habitat to extinction. Arrowheads are tall plants with thin stems and arrowhead-shaped leaves at the top. White arrowheads are more of a pale green, while red arrowheads have dark green edges and reddish centers. Their natural habitat is near lakes and ponds, but it is a bad idea to put them in water as they will die quickly.
The need to do proper research before purchasing anything for your aquarium cannot be stressed enough. Also, take care of the right plants, so that they do not become the enemy. Cut them so they don’t grow too big and hide your fish. Limit the tank to two floating plants. Oxygen enters through the surface and having too much plant growth above the fish could suffocate them. Follow the rules, do your research, don’t be fooled into buying a land plant, no matter how many pet store employees say it’s okay, and you’ll have a very healthy, natural-looking habitat.