28-11-2021, 18:21
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When novice aquarists set up their first aquarium, they usually buy different plants that catch their eye and plant them wherever there is room to spare. However, if you want to take your planted aquarium to the next level, consider using some proven design techniques. A good rule of thumb is to plan your aquarium in layers from front to back so that the lowest plants are in the foreground and the tallest plants are in the background. This arrangement ensures that all of your beautiful plants will be visible from the front. To help you get started, let's talk about the seven basic categories of foreground plants that are no taller than 7 cm.

1. Cryptocoryne

Cryptocoryne parva (front left) versus Cryptocoryne lutea (front right)

The lower plants in the genus Cryptocoryne (or "crypts" for short) are some of our favorite foreground plants because they grow slowly and don't require constant pruning. C. parva and C. lucens are two species that do not reach great heights and do well in low light conditions. As a rosette plant, all leaves grow from the base of the plant. Plant the roots of the plants in a nutritious substrate and do not submerge the crown. Do not disturb the bushes. Once they have taken root, the plants will release young sprouts on their sides, with small stubs. You can leave them attached to the mother shrub or carefully separate them to transplant them elsewhere in the aquarium.

2. Herbaceous plants

Arlequin rasboras floating on a lawn of dwarf grasses

If you want to recreate a beautiful green "lawn" in your aquarium, consider plants with narrow, grass-like leaves. There are usually several individual plants growing in the same pot, so carefully separate them and plant them individually in the substrate to give them room to grow. Like crypt plants, they grow best if you bury the roots and leave the foliage above the substrate. If you provide nutrient-rich substrate or root feeders, they can spread quickly, forming horizontal stolons or shoots with a small sprout at the end, eventually forming a long chain of "grass."

As with regular lawns, some stoloniferous species can grow quite tall, so you may have to trim them with scissors or use light adjustments to keep the lawn thicker and lower.

One of the smaller, grass-like plants includes dwarf grass (Eleocharis acicularis), which looks almost like little tufts of green needles. Since they have very thin leaves, plant the plant around the perimeter of the aquarium in small groups.

Lilaeopsis brazilis (Lilaeopsis brasiliensis) has slightly wider leaves than dwarf grass, but it should also be planted in a grid of small tufts. It is sometimes thought to grow more slowly than other stolocetaceous plants.

Finally, Helanthium tenderum (Helanthium tenellum) has even wider leaves and can therefore fill the substrate quite quickly. It can become taller than other herbaceous species and may be more suitable as a foreground plant for medium to large aquariums.

3. Epiphytic plants

Decorative dwarf shrimp with anubias nana petite

Epiphytic or rhizomatous plants are often recommended to newcomers because they do well in low light and require no substrate to grow. Smaller species in this category include the very popular Anubias nana petite and the rarer bucephalandra "green wavy." They have a thick horizontal stem, called a rhizome, with leaves that grow upward toward the light and roots that go down toward the ground. This rhizome must not be covered or the plant may die, so many aquarists attach them to rocks or snags with a thin thread.

4. Staurogyne repens

Staurogyne repens is a lovely foreground plant with a thick stem and bright green oblong leaves. It becomes a bit thin and elongated in low light, so provide it with medium to bright light to make it shorter and more compact. When S. repens becomes too tall, simply cut the top off of it.

5. Carpeting

Dwarf baby tears (Hemianthus callitrichoides 'Cuba')

Most foreground plants can be used as groundcovers, but to get a very thick "carpet" where the substrate is not visible, we recommend using carpet plants with lots of tiny leaves that can form a dense, low-growing mat.

Hemianthus callitrichoides 'cuba' are often used in aquascapes because they have some of the smallest leaves found in aquascapes, but they tend to require bright light and CO2 feeding to look their best.

Micranthemum 'Monte Carlo' (Micranthemum tweediei'Monte Carlo') has a similar appearance, but its leaves are slightly larger. Because these carpet plants have very short and weak roots, we recommend planting them in a substrate with mineral wool attached. You can plant the fork whole in one place or cut the mineral wool into 1 cm squares and insert the clumps as a mesh. Over time, the plants will develop into a lush mound of small green leaves spreading across the substrate.

6. Hydrocotyle tripartita 'Japan' (Hydrocotyle tripartita)

Hydrocotyle tripartita "Japan"

This unique aquarium plant grows like a creeping vine with trefoil-shaped leaves, perfect for recreating a picturesque field of clover in your aquarium. You can let it grow in the foreground as a groundcover plant, or train the delicate vines to grow in a hardy landscape. When you first take this stem plant, submerge the base of the stem as deep into the substrate as possible to keep it from floating away. Feed it with fertilizer in the water and substrate, and once it gets too tall, you can trim off the tops and transplant it back into the propagation soil. The plant does best in medium to strong light and provides excellent cover for small fish and shrimp.

7. Mosses

Javanese moss

Mosses are similar to epiphytic plants because they too have rhizomes that don't need to be planted in the substrate. Many aquarists attach them to hardscape to create the look of an overgrown forest, but you can easily stick them to small rocks to form bushes in the front of the aquarium. To create a moss-covered carpet, tie them to rectangles of stainless steel or plastic needlework netting with fishing line and place them on the substrate.

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