How To Use Floating Plants For A Bare Bottom Tank
The use of gravel or sand as a bottom-lining substrate for aquariums has been a staple of aquarium culture for years, but recently interest has sparked in using floating plants for a bare bottom tank design. These tanks eliminate the need for expensive and time-consuming gravel cleaning and make it easier to control the nutrient flow within the water of the tank.
Bare bottom tanks eliminate the possibility of uneaten food and fish waste collecting underneath the gravel or sand substrate, where it will rot and pollute the water. Bare bottom tanks also helpfully allow for higher water flow rates. Once the nitrogen cycle complications are taken care of by having your tank cycled properly, using floating plants in your setup can help you enjoy the benefits of plants in your aquarium without the disadvantages of gravel.
The primary arguments against floating tanks are that they tend to look unnatural and can be difficult for certain species to adapt to. The lack of plants can leave some species nervously trying to find a hiding place. Also, without a substrate to hold onto, waste can collect in the water if not vacuumed and filtered often enough.
Why Use Floating Plants For A Bare Bottom Tank?
While most of the beneficial bacteria in a fish tank make their homes on the aquarium filter, where a continuous flow of oxygenated water let them filter the waste and complete their part of the nitrogen cycle, the remaining nitrate still needs to be accounted for. Thankfully, these plants tend to absorb more nitrate than other plants, and a healthy population of these plants will help reduce the need for constant water changes.
As an added bonus, most free-floating plants are very easy to care for and get along magnificently with a wide variety of fish. A few examples of useful floating plant species that should be considered for any bare bottom aquarium are as follows:
• Tropical Hornwort. Ceratophyllum Submersum is a phenomenally easy, fast-growing floating plant that thrives in waters with a pH range between 5-8, at a temperature of 10-30 degrees Celsius. Hornwort is one of the easiest plants to manage: if you toss it into the water, it will situate itself naturally and need little-to-no care after that.
•Dwarf Water Lettuce Pistia stratiotes is an easy care fast growing small sized floating plant that does well under bright light. It reproduces by sending out runners that create baby plants that are easily separated at any time. Remove discolored or yellow leaves which will induce new growth.
• Marimo. Aegagropila linnaei, also known as Marimo, which is Japanese for “ball seaweed” is a rootless algae colony that can attach itself to rocks or other tank décor. Marimo can also float around freely within the tank. This particular plant is highly prized for its unique, beautiful appearance: small-to-medium balls of green plant material that make any tank look superb.
• Java Moss. Taxiphyllum barbieri is not actually a free-floating plant at all, and it will attach itself to just about anything within the tank. One of the best ways to realise the use of this plant as a free-floater is to give it a thin wire net to attach to on the interior of the tank and then let it attach to that. It is a popular choice because it provides food to newborn fry.
• Anacharis. Egeria densa is a very hardy plant that grows extremely quickly in a wide variety of conditions. These plants can grow as rooted plants or be kept as floating ones. In both conditions, they provide very useful benefits to the quality of the water as well as the appearance of the tank.
Adding in a healthy number of these floating plants can help structure your bare bottom tank and give you a clean, easily maintained tank without you needing to worry about periodically cleaning the accumulated dirt beneath the gravel or sand.
How to make floating plants look great in a bare bottom tank
One of the most common arguments against using a bare bottom tank is made by aquarists who do not like the unnatural look of a bare bottom tank. Thankfully, floating plants such as the ones named above can help to create a luxurious-looking underwater environment in an otherwise barren tank.
Since there is little-to-no substrate along the bottom surface of the tank, it is likely that waste will collect along the bottom. Normally, this requires frequent, simple cleaning with an aquarium vacuum cleaner. Even with this solution, however, It is recommended that bare bottom aquarists paint the bottom of the tank a dark colour such as brown or black.
Bare bottom tank aquarists have to clean their tanks less often than those with substrates lining the bottom of their tanks. Many of these aquarists, however, report that waste collects so quickly that they rarely get to enjoy a perfectly clean bottom unless they use a powerful mechanical filter that will collect up the waste matter. Adding a layer of paint to the bottom can help maintain a clean appearance in combination with beautiful and well-kept floating plants for a bare bottom tank.