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Plants for a fast moving stream tank?

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#1 Hecklad

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  • Ooltewah, TN

Posted 31 January 2020 - 08:57 AM

I have a 20 gallon stream tank with a few rainbow darters. My powerhead is pretty strong but I am interested in sprucing it up with a few plants. I am not familiar with plants in general so I do not know if there are any that could do well in that kind of tank environment. Anyone have any suggestions? 

#2 Chasmodes

  • NANFA Member
  • Central Maryland

Posted 31 January 2020 - 11:29 AM

I put Vallisneria americana (aka water celery or jungle Vallisneria) in my tank recently but it's too soon to tell how they'll do.  I think that the conditions are right for the tank, because I have a decent light for my 75g, plus, I have a pretty high bioload, so plenty of nutrients for the plants in the tank.  I read that this plant does well with average lighting, and no need to dose CO2 like you might for more delicate plants.  This plant grows pretty tall, so you might want to trim them when they get long, unless you like the shady cover that they provide.  I picked up mine from a LFS, because it is tough for me to find this time of year in the wild.  It does grow in our rivers in Maryland, so it fits my biotope.  We will see in a few weeks how it does.  Check back.  That said, it was pretty cheap to buy, so, for me, it was worth a shot.


I'd like to add Heteranthera dubia (water stargrass).  I heard it does well in aquaria as well without having to do much but provide nutrients (either fish waste or dose ammonia).  But, I have to wait until the summer to collect some.  As far as I know, they don't sell that in the local stores.  


For now, the Vallisneria will do, because I need something to help control the algae until I can catch a central stoneroller for my tank.

Kevin Wilson

#3 swampfish

  • NANFA Member

Posted 31 January 2020 - 07:48 PM

I agree with Chasmodes on the use of Vallisneria americana. I have seen it numerous times in the strong current of streams and spring outflows. Vallisneria spp. prefer higher pH water, preferably a pH of 8.0 or above. Water stargrass is also common in streams. Both can handle a wide range of temperatures from the 30's to 70's degrees F. 


Hornwort, Ceratophyllum spp., and elodea, Elodea densa, are both common at the edge of strong current in streams. However, what is sold in aquarium fish stores as elodea is typically Egeria, a plant whose natural habitat is stagnant waters and slow-moving streams. 


I am currently growing many species of plants (about 20), mostly tropical in origin, in my aquaria without added carbon dioxide. However, I conserve the carbon dioxide in the aquaria by avoiding water surface movement. That is problematic in a darter tank with a strong current. Reduce the amount of carbon dioxide loss by directing the flow towards the lower part of the tank and perhaps placing rocks as baffles to direct the flow away from the surface.   


The other concern is that typically rainbow darters are kept in colder water, and most plants sold in aquarium fish stores are tropical. They will either not grow or die in water in the 60's degrees F or lower. The plants listed above, including Egeria, can handle the colder temperature typical of a rainbow darter tank.


Phil Nixon

#4 JasonL

  • NANFA Member
  • Kentucky

Posted 31 January 2020 - 11:20 PM

I’ve got a couple of tanks with lots of live plants including various species of Val, Anubias, and Java fern.   Current doesn’t seem to be much of an issue for them once they became established.  Think lighting and substrate are much bigger concerns for live plant success.

#5 WheelsOC

  • NANFA Member

Posted 01 February 2020 - 08:34 AM

Willow moss can be tied to rocks or wood with cotton threads. It's supposed to be found in flowing waters, from what I've read.

#6 minorhero

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  • Maryland

Posted 02 February 2020 - 02:15 PM

Any grass like plants will likely do fine. But you must have conditions that are capable of sustaining plants. Meaning you need light, nutrients, and carbon. Having an appropriate substrate is also important. There are a LOT of ways of going about making this happen. But probably the easiest is to use either dirt capped with sand for substrate or aquasoil (either capped with sand or by itself) and a light powerful enough to grow your desired plants and on a timer. Then adding an all in one fertilizer like ThriveC once a week.

Lots more information needed to make it work but not sure if this is a road you want to go down or how far down you are willing to go down it.

If still looking for plant suggestions then also consider sagittaria subulata (either dwarf or giant forms) for an easy native plant that doesn't grow as crazy large as Val. If you have good light you could also consider dwarf hair grass as another easy native though not quite as easy as the sag.

#7 NotCousteau

  • NANFA Guest
  • Minnesota

Posted 11 February 2020 - 05:05 PM

Val does great in a fast moving tank. The long leaves really help further show the speed with their growth and movement. I think it looks outstanding as the only live plant located in the back section of a long stream tank. Good luck.

#8 El Todd

El Todd
  • NANFA Member
  • Silver Spring Md

Posted 18 July 2020 - 04:33 PM

I'm late to this thread but I've been having pretty good luck with Justicia Americana. It occurs naturally in riffles in temperate US climates. For me it seems to grow big and healthy or stay small and healthy depending on the parameters. I can't find any information about it in regards to aquarium use, so I'm just going off my own observations of it in the aquarium over the last 8 months.

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