Aquarium Plants have a Multitude of Tasks in Your Aquarium
They produce Oxygen
The single most important element for all organisms is oxygen -- both plants and
animals must have it in order to live. As well as plants and animals, many types
of bacteria also depend on oxygen to breakdown waste materials. They can only do
this when there is sufficient oxygen is available.
Most of the oxygen found in water comes from surface air. Aquatic plants also
produce a portion of the oxygen in your aquarium by a process called
Poorly maintained aquariums are at risk for oxygen deficiency. This can occur
- There is too large of a fish population and not enough aquatic plants
- Filters are dirty which results in muddy bottoms and large accumulations
of food leftovers or dead organic materials
- Poor lighting which prevents the natural process of photosynthesis
- Starving plants caused by poor water conditions e.g. lack of nutrients;
over or under heating.
When an oxygen deficiency occurs you will see fish at the surface of the
water gasping for air. The fish are at the surface because that is the only
place where there is still oxygen dissolved in the water. This oxygen is coming
from the surface air. Oxygen deficiency also causes bacteria to die resulting in
an accumulation of waste products which the bacteria are responsible for
An oxygen deficiency requires radical improvements to your aquarium. You must
think about the lighting, water quality, fish population, and an adequate number
of aquatic plants.
When the aquarium is well maintained it is possible that a surplus of oxygen
develops. This is also a serious problem because water with a high oxygen level
has insufficient nourishment for the plants. If left unattended the water will
balance itself by causing the plants to die off.
This will result in the lowering of oxygen production and also more oxygen
being absorbed by the bacteria which breakdown decaying plants.
Carbon dioxide (CO2)
Carbon dioxide is the most vital plant nutrient. It must be present in
sufficient quantity in every aquarium if you want your plants to thrive. It is
not unusual to see a carbon dioxide deficiency in aquaria. Usually the fish
don’t produce as much carbon dioxide as the plants in your aquarium need.
However, after installing a new filter, cultures of bacteria will start to grow
in it. This is a very good thing. These bacteria are using large amounts of
oxygen and are also giving off large amounts of carbon dioxide. This is exactly
the situation we want.
Even with bacteria cultures, though, a heavily planted aquarium may still need
more carbon dioxide than both the fish and your bacteria cultures can supply.
If that is the case you have to add additional CO2 by means of a CO2 diffuser.
There are plenty on the market to choose from.
Carbon Dioxide Deficiency
If there is insufficient carbon dioxide available to your aquarium plants they
will be unable to produce the oxygen the fish need. They will also fail to
produce enough carbohydrates necessary for their own growth.
If your aquarium is suffering from a lack of CO2 you can take advantage of the
many CO2 fertilization devices on the market. You can even solve the problem by
making your own Fermentation device.
These simple devices use yeast and sugar to produce alcohol and carbon
dioxide. Most of the time fermentation is used to produce alcohol but in this
case we are more interested in the CO2.
CO2 devices only need to be used during the day. At nighttime your aquarium
plants only respire so they don’t need any additional CO2.
Carbon Dioxide or CO2 surplus
Just as with deficiencies, high concentrations of CO2 are also bad for your
aquarium. It usually won’t kill your aquatic plants but it will sure kill your
fish. Luckily, excess carbon dioxide can be easily expelled from the water. It
can be done with an air stone or even vigorous motion of the water.
Water agitation, however, can be a potential problem as well as a cure.
Agitated water is advantageous for your fish, but it also robs your plants from
its most valuable nutrient -- namely CO2. A delicate balance must be maintained
to keep your aquarium in good condition.
In the next article we will talk about the actual process of
Photosynthesis and Respiration of
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