Keeping live plants in goldfish tanks is a challenge because goldfish eat plants as well as protein. Any plant placed in a goldfish aquarium will be tasted. This is why many goldfish keepers have only artificial plants in their aquariums. But keeping both live plants and goldfish in the same aquarium can be done. Plants provide extra oxygen and hiding places for baby goldfish, or fry.
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The best types of live plants for goldfish are those with tough leaves. These plants need to be checked at least once a day to be sure the goldfish have not ripped the plant out of the gravel. "Goldfish: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual" recommends these plants: Java fern, banana plant, water sprite, swordplants, hygrophla polysperma, water wisteria, any freshwater plant species beginning with the name Ludwigia, aponogeton and corkscrew val or Valliseria spiralis. Other species recommended by "Goldfish" include Bracopa carolinia, Cryptocoryne willisil and Lobelia cardinalis.
Never add live plants to any tank that has just been set up. Wait at least six months before adding any live plants. Otherwise, the plants will die in a month due to starvation, even if they are not eaten by the goldfish. "Goldfish: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual" points out that an aquarium under six months old does not have sufficient good bacteria in order to help support live plants.
Because the goldfish may keep eating or uprooting plants, plants need to be replaced often. Keeping a planted tank or plant-only aquarium without any fish will guarantee that replacement plants will be on hand. Goldfish like to eat species such as fanwort, also known as Cabomba. Adding a steady supply of Cabomba may distract the goldfish from the other, tougher plants.
Live plants need different light bulbs than what are normally provided for aquarium lights. Plants need the light on about eight to 12 hours a day. Bulbs need to provide one watt of light for every gallon the tank is. So a 20-gallon tank would need a 20-watt bulb, preferably one labelled for growing plants. Live plants also need liquid plant food added to the tank, as they cannot get enough nutrients to live otherwise, according to "Goldfish."
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