How to Plant Aquarium Plants in Gravel?

Aquatic plants have existed for millions of years.

They are very different from land plants, especially due to their extensive root systems and the way they absorb nutrients from their environment.

Aquatic plants are either partially or completely submerged underwater. Aquatic plants are the go-to décor for aquarium fanatics.

Well, oftentimes, you might find your aquatic plants dying in your aquarium.

While there could be several culprits in charge of that, one of the main causes is the substrate used.

A substrate is an underlying layer or bed found at the bottom of an aquarium or fish tank. A substrate can be of any material like sand or gravel. Gravel is most popularly used as a substrate in aquariums.

Planting and Growing Aquatic Plants in Aquarium Gravel

Aquarium or aquatic plants are plants that give freshwater fish tanks a beautiful and natural look.

It is necessary to add a substrate at the bottom of the aquarium for various practical reasons, alongside making it look aesthetically appealing.

These aquarium plants are used for the same reason. Since gravel is the most widely used substrate, these aquarium plants have to be embedded into it.

Planting of these aquarium plants promotes the absorption of ammonia and helps create a favorable environment for fish as well as their babies.

These plants are capable of growing pretty well in gravel such as pea gravel. Pea gravel is also used for landscaping.

Yes, these plants can be grown in the gravel but first, there are certain things that need to be taken into account; for example, which plants are to be used in the aquarium, what kind of lighting is needed and how will the plants be fertilized?

Gravel size between 3-8 mm thick is recommended for aquarium plants as large gravel tends to block root growth, whereas small gravel can easily damage fragile plant roots.

It is also widely suggested by plant experts that substrate soil should be mixed with gravel.

The plants can also be planted into small aquatic pots that will allow you to choose your own preferable gravel size and shape.

The cleaning process is very essential to remember when merging substrate soil with gravel.

The soil mixed with gravel is required to be replaced after a while in order to replenish and recharge the nutrients.

In case you embed the soil with gravel in the aquarium, you may face problems as when you vacuum the gravel, you might end up vacuuming the soil along with it.

If you use small pots for your aquatic plants, then you won’t have to clean up the soil.

However, you should consider replacing these pots occasionally.

Best Aquarium Plants to Grow In Gravel

Choosing the best plants that can be planted in an aquarium is one of the most interesting parts of the process.

One of the best plants you can use for your aquarium is the hair grass plant.

It is one of the cheapest plants available and is great at flourishing the environment at the bottom of the aquarium.

The hair grass plant has several stems that need to be discarded slowly to avoid damage to roots.

Each stem should be planted at least half an inch apart. Take your time planting these as it will ensure that your plants get a beautiful finishing.

It will take a few months only to have a completely balanced aquarium.

Potted plants are great for aquarium plants rooted in gravel substrate since they are plants with roots wrapped in wool.

These plants can be planted with the pots, but the pots can also be removed for easier growth.

The planting process is executed by making a small hole to accommodate the plant and adding gravel at the sides.

This will help make sure that the plant is allowed to grow in the aquarium without any restrictions.

How to Set Up an Aquarium with Aquatic Plants in Gravel

Setting up an aquarium is an exciting task once all the must-have materials are at your disposal.

Using a substrate that is designed for the sustenance of plants is the only way to make your aquarium last longer by keeping it healthy.

The gravel should be layered only two or three inches above the floor of the aquarium for great results.

The next step is adding fertilizers to the gravel, but don’t add the plants just yet. This gives the plants a boost and helps them reach their full potential.

It is then recommended that the aquarium be filled midway with water before adding the plants to it.

Growing aquarium plants in gravel is easy, but the roots and bulbs should be carefully placed in gravel and covered from the sides to make sure that they grow properly.

Accessories and decorations to beautify the aquarium further such as colorful rocks or a treasure chest can also be placed to create a personalized touch before the tank is filled with more water.

Pea gravel is highly recommended to be used as a substrate in the aquarium. The gravel should not be too thick or too thin as that might hinder plant growth.

Chunky aquarium rock gravel isn’t a very good substrate choice for your tank. It is basically designed for easy cleaning and waste coverage.

It also shifts very easily and tends to have a non-porous surface. This can prevent the biological matter from sticking to it.

Since most aquatic plants require stability for growth and survival, shifting gravel can result in constant uproot and tipping of the plants.

Additionally, the roots of the plants are also easily removed when the fish tank is being cleaned, making it unfavorable for aquatic plants.

A variety of visually appealing plants demand a firm substrate for ideal growth that can be achieved by purchasing a finer quality of substrate gravel.

Gravel coated in epoxy should be avoided at all costs as it may not work suitably with the fish tank.

In case you’ve used the wrong type of gravel and aren’t in favor of removing it before you initiate the planting, try using the anchor method.

This method is conducted by anchoring plants to driftwood and suction-cupping them to the bottom of the aquarium.

It becomes easier for you to scoop up the large rock gravel around you decoratively.

Related article: How Long Should You Boil Driftwood for Your Aquarium?

Aquarium plants require a minimum of eight hours of simulated sunlight per day. Also, the maximum recommended exposure time is around twelve hours.

Exposing them to sunlight for a longer or shorter period of time can hinder their growth.

Fluorescent bulbs are a great option to cover the entire spectrum and prove to be a secure option for plants.

The amount of light required for aquarium plants to grow efficiently depends upon the size of the tank. A ten-gallon tank would probably require a 15-watt tube.

As the size of the tank increases, the amount of light required by the plants will increase too.

How to Fertilize the Plants in Aquarium

The Aquarium needs to be fertilized, especially if gravel is being used as a substrate for the plants.

Fertilizer is necessary for the health and longevity of the aquarium.

You can mix the fertilizer with the gravel and then plant the aquatic plants, or you can use liquid fertilizers.

This can be done by adding a full cap of the fertilizer for every 40 liters of water.

It provides the organic carbon required by plants and also helps lower the pH levels that are considered toxic by plants.

Tips You Can Use to Get Plants to Grow in Gravel

Here are some additional tips to help you grow your plants in gravel to make your aquarium healthy and beautiful.

  1. Opt for hand aquatic plants that have more flexible root structures.
  2. Anchor plants. Keep the plants in place by using anchoring techniques so that they don’t float away in case the gravel is disturbed.
  3. Get additional substrate in the form of finer gravel material and embed it at the bottom of the fish tank. You can then easily put the large gravel on the finer one to give it more volume.
  4. Make sure the water quality is conducive to growing the plants.


Planting the aquarium plants is the easy part; maintaining them, however, requires time, patience, and consistency.

You should trim the aquarium plants embedded in gravel as this will add to the beauty of the aquarium.

The fish tank should also be kept clean at all times by vacuuming the gravel or replenishing the tank water.

Getting rid of any algae buildup is also necessary so that it doesn’t end up consuming all the nutrients required for the plants.

To avoid this from occurring, place herbivorous aquatic life in the tank.

Now that we have discussed the main points, you’re all set to put-up your own amazing aquarium by using gravel as a substrate and aquatic plants to make it more visually beautiful.

Just remember to properly plan before you set out to do anything as that will avoid any potential harm to the fish.

This is how you can develop a beautiful, nurturing environment for both the plants and the fish.

Happy Aquarium Planting!

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