Best Plants to Grow Submerged AND Emersed

If you're an avid follower of aquascaping on social media, you've probably observed the emerging trend of aquariums featuring a combination of submerged and emergent growth.

The inclusion of emergent growth adds a dynamic element to the aquarium, allowing it to interact more closely with its environment. Similar to houseplants, the presence of emergent leaves adds a pleasant touch to the room. However, it's important to note that not all emergent plants are created equal; certain plants possess unique adaptability to thrive in various conditions.

To assist you in selecting the ideal plants that will flourish both above and below the water, we have prepared a concise guide.

There is a growing trend among aquarium enthusiasts to incorporate a combination of submerged and emersed growth in their aquascapes. This involves the inclusion of both aquatic plants that thrive underwater and plants that can grow above the water's surface. Obligate emergent plants, like white top star rush and water celery, require their roots to be submerged while their leaves remain above the water for optimal growth. On the other hand, obligate aquatic plants such as Blyxa and hornwort can only survive below the water's surface.

However, what many hobbyists may not be aware of is that a majority of the plants commonly used in aquascaping, especially in high-tech setups utilizing CO2 injection, exhibit amphibious characteristics. These plants possess the unique ability to thrive in both aquatic and terrestrial environments, making them versatile additions to aquascapes. This adaptability allows them to live partially in water and partially on land, providing aquascapers with a wider range of plant choices for their creative endeavors.

Plants such as Rotala, Ludwigia, and Micranthemum exhibit remarkable adaptability with the ability to take on different forms depending on their environment: immersed or emersed.

The term "immersed" is commonly used to describe plants that grow underwater, fully submerged in the aquatic environment. On the other hand, the term "emersed" refers to plants that have successfully grown out of the water, emerging from below the water's surface to establish themselves in a terrestrial habitat.

Some plants, like Micranthemum 'Monte Carlo', maintain a similar appearance both above and below the water's surface, creating a stunning lush green carpet in either environment.

However, there are plants that exhibit such significant differences that they can be challenging to recognize as the same species. Take Rotala Rotundifolia, for example. Its name suggests round leaves, but its underwater form features colorful, pointed, narrow leaves and soft, flexible stems that wilt when removed from the water. In contrast, its emersed form showcases waxy, glossy, round green leaves with more structured, spongy stems.

Harnessing the dimorphism of aquatic plants can be achieved in various ways. For instance, by allowing stem plants to reach the surface under bright lighting conditions, they can pile up and grow above the water, creating a mound of emersed stem tips resembling a small island in the back of the tank.

  • Ideal plant choices for this approach include Rotala H'ra, Nesaea Pedicellata Golden, and Ludwigia Palustris.

Another strategy involves incorporating a specific plant in multiple sections of the tank, including a designated "dry land" area. For instance, Sphaerocaryum Malaccense thrives both submerged in water and directly planted in moist soil, seamlessly blending together and creating a transitional appearance as the substrate slopes upward. With proper trimming, it can even resemble a "bush in the water" effect.

Aquarium mosses, such as Christmas Moss or Java Moss, are also well-suited for this purpose, especially when placed on hardscape elements like rocks or driftwood throughout your aquascape.

  • Keep in mind that mosses, in particular, require a consistently high humidity level when grown emersed.

Here hope that this article has sparked your curiosity and encouraged you to think outside the box when it comes to using aquarium plants. Take the opportunity to explore new possibilities and discover unique ways to showcase plants that you may have overlooked in the past. When brainstorming ideas for your next aquascape, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the diverse appearances that most plants in the hobby can exhibit under different conditions. Embrace these differences and have fun incorporating them into your tank!

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