Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Brian Stewart


Big things have small beginnings. Many of us see beautiful pond gardens, stream banks, river sides, or photos and videos of far flung exotic locations, perhaps even aquariums around the world that are lush gardens teaming with life. Seeing such things can inspire the desire to cultivate something similar at home, or in your office. These environments are relaxing, de-stressing, and a great tool to battle depression. These beautiful ecosystems all depend on a delicate balance of waste and consumption. This is where we will get started as it is the foundation to a healthy aquatic ecosystem.

Brian’s 60 gal cube with plants sponsored by Complete Aquatic Systems.


Nitrifying bacteria (We will focus on aquatic species) as we refer to them (Nitrosomonas, Nitrosococcus, Nitrobacter, and Nitrococcus), get their energy by breaking down inorganic nitrogen compounds such as ammonia and nitrite. They convert them to a less toxic nitrate, helping to detoxify the water in their environment.

Ammonia in an aquatic environment is a product of waste and decay. Bacteria species that break down ammonia, such as Nitrosomonas, and Nitrosococcus can be found in soil, sewage, freshwater, and marine environments along with Nitrobacter, and Nitrococcus, where their food is plentiful, and conditions favorable. These bacteria break ammonia down into nitrite, which is then handled by Nitrobacter, and Nitrococcus, which break down the nitrite into a less toxic nitrate through oxidation. This Nitrate will be consumed by plants and algae and reduced through water changes to maintain a healthy aquatic environment. In a freshwater system your focus will be on Nitrosomonas, and Nitrobacter, while a saltwater system would be a fitting environment for Nitrosococcus, and Nitrococcus.


This process takes time to unfold and balance (3+ weeks), has many variables, and is every aquarist or aquatic gardener’s first hurdle. To thrive, these bacteria need an environment with lots of surface area to colonize, and good flow to bring in a continual source of food (ammonia), carry away the waste products(nitrate), and continually supply lots of dissolved oxygen (these guys need to breathe too!). Ammonia must be supplied to get the bacteria going. You can dose ammonia directly or add aquasoil products that tend to release ammonia in the early stages of flooding. You may also choose to add fish from the start. All these things work, and all require close monitoring.

The bacteria will form a sort of slime coat on surfaces in the aquarium as well as the filter media and housing as they colonize. The ideal temperature for our helpful bacteria to procreate at is between 77 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit and they prefer a baser environment with a PH equivalent to or above 7.0. At lower PH levels nitrification slows, and even comes to a stop. Such systems benefit greatly from heavy plant loads, and regular water changes. Bio media can be purchased from a quality retailer for use in your filter system that is designed specifically to cater to these bacteria species for the long-term support of your system. This filter media may be cleaned from time to time by simply running aquarium water, or reverse osmosis/dechlorinated tap water through it.

Be aware! Chlorinated tap water will kill off your beneficial bacteria colonies. Disturbing the media too much may scrape off biofilm which is where the bacteria lives. Use caution when rinsing media not to disturb the surface of the media too much, you may undergo a new cycle, causing an ammonia spike followed by nitrites before things balance back out. This period can be lethal to tank inhabitants. With a bit of caution, mishaps like that can be prevented rather than dealt with.

Brian’s current 60 gal cube layout freshly planted and sponsored by Complete Aquatic Systems.


Give yourself a safety net of sorts. Frequent water changes early on help keep ammonia levels under control so both bacteria and plants get a good start. Start a routine and stick to it. Consistency really helps a tank settle in and grow to its full potential. Planting heavy early on can also help lock up and absorb many excessive nutrients from the beginning, giving your tank a strong, relatively algae free start. There are several great and easily accessible products on the market for introducing nitrifying bacteria to your aquarium. Using such products can speed up cycling and help maintain bacteria colonies over time.


Every aquarist, whether new to the hobby, or advanced with years under their belt, should have a good test kit around for several basic water parameters. When in doubt, whip it out, your test kit that is!  NO3 (Nitrate), NO2 (Nitrite), NH3/NH4 (Ammonia), PH (Potential Hydrogen), GH (General Hardness), and KH (Carbonate Hardness). These tests can yield a lot of valuable information about your water. There are more tests out there for more advanced hobbyists wanting to dial in their nutrient program for planted and reef aquaria. We will revisit some of those tests in a future article.

These tests are available individually, and as complete kits. They can be found at most brick and mortar, and online retail shops. They will save you time, money, and guess work. It also makes it easier for professionals to answer questions you may have concerning your set up, plants, fish, invertebrates etc. I always personally preferred the liquid regents as apposed to the dip stick variety, but those will give you a good general idea as well. Check back soon for my next article on Filtration and flow.

No Hassle Plants That Make Your Fish Aquarium Look Great

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Easiest Aquarium Plants for Beginners

Besides making your tank look beautiful, plants for fish aquariums are vital to the health and happiness of your fish. Aquarium plants provide natural water filtration and purification, and they give your fish a place to hide, feed, reproduce, or just relax.

If you don’t have a green thumb, or if you simply prefer a low-maintenance tank, use this list of the easiest aquarium plants to choose the next additions to your freshwater aquarium. All five of these plants are beautiful and hassle-free.

1. Water Wisteria

Water Wisteria

Water wisteria (Hуgrорhіlа dіffоrmіѕ ‘Wisteria’) is one of the easiest aquarium plants, yet it offers a variety of benefits. The bright green leaves have a unique, lace-like shape that adds texture to the tank. This is one of the plants for fish aquariums that shrimp and other aquatic creatures love, as it provides plenty of nooks and crannies for them to hide in and explore.

The shape and form of water wisteria’s leaves change according to the conditions of your tank and its age, so don’t be surprised to see it develop different leaves over time.

2. Amazon Sword

Amazon Sword

Amazon Sword (Eсhіnоdоruѕ amаzоnісuѕ) features beautiful, light green, arched, lance-shaped leaves that grow quite quickly. Because of their undemanding light and nutrient requirements, they’re one of the easiest aquarium plants to maintain. The plant is quite versatile, making an outstanding to the background or center of the tank.

Amazon sword is an excellent choice for community fish tanks, but it’s generally not ideal for Oscars, Jack Dempsey, Texas Cichlids, or other roughens, as they may damage the plant.

3. Anubіаѕ nana

Anubіаѕ nana

Anubіаѕ nana is one of the best plants for fish aquariums because its rough texture prevents it from being eaten by herbivorous fish. It’s very hardy and low-maintenance, thriving in most tank conditions. It is one of the easiest aquarium plants to maintain because of its slow growth. The slow growth may also cause it to accumulate a layer of algae, which can be quite attractive.

4. Lace FernLace Fern

Lace fern (Microsorum pteropus) is also known as Windelov fern. It’s another one of the most ideal plants for fish aquariums because fish don’t eat it. This unique plant develops trірlе-ѕрlіt еdgеѕ on еасh leaf, providing a beautiful thick, buѕhу effect that increases with growth. It’s one of the easiest aquarium plants,requiring only a rock or driftwood to latch onto.

5. Cryptocoryne wendtii

Cryptocoryne wendtii
Cryptocoryne wendtii is quite versatile, making an attractive addition to virtually any tank. It’s the perfect plant for adding a splash of color, as varieties include the colors green, bronze, red, brown, and even a pink ‘flamingo’ option, as well as attractive color blends. It tolerates a wide range of tank conditions, as long as they are stable.

Contact Us to Learn More

Just because you’re a beginning aquarist doesn’t mean you can’t have a breathtaking tank. If you’d like more information on the easiest aquarium plants, or you need to place a wholesale order, please message us online. Order plants for fish aquariums from Complete Aquatic Systems today.

Christmas Shopping for Aquariums: Gifts for Aquarium Lovers

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Passionate aquarists are always looking for something new for their tanks. However, with so many options available, finding the perfect gifts for aquarium lovers isn’t always easy. If you’ll be shopping for aquarium lovers this Christmas, here is a list of aquarium gifts that we’ve broken down into categories to make your holiday shopping faster, easier, and fun.

Note: Some live plants have a limited shelf life in their containers. If you plan to do holiday shopping early, please contact Complete Aquatic Systems before ordering live plants or other perishable aquarium gifts. We’ll help you decide the best time to buy your gifts.

Natural Aquarium Decor

Natural aquarium decor is one of the most failsafe gifts for aquarium lovers. Aquarists constantly look for new ways to spice up their tanks. Natural decor is a welcome addition because it gives tanks a feeling of life, unlike artificial tank decorations that are made from colored plastic.

Gift Suggestions:

Java moss aquarium plant decoration Due to its versatility, Anubias on a suction cup (pictured) is a one of the best gifts for aquarium lovers. It can be attached anywhere on the tank’s glass to create a unique, multidimensional appearance.

Plants on a half tube provides aquarists with several different species on one attractive coco husk. The species are Anubias, Bolbitis, and Microsorum pteropus. The half tube provides diversity for the tank, giving fish a place to play or seek shelter.

Plants on a ring are great for adding variety and texture to a tank. Fish can swim through the ring, which features a wide range of plants from the Anubias, Bolbitis, and Microsorum pteropus species.

Aquatic Plants for Beginners

If you’re shopping for someone who is just getting started in the world of aquariums, you don’t want aquarium gifts that are difficult to use. We’ve compiled a list of gifts that even the most novice aquarists can enjoy. These gifts don’t require difficult techniques or technical expertise.

Gift Suggestions:

Anubias Sp. in driftwood combines the best of plants and driftwood to create a versatile, beautiful tank decoration. Because it arrives ready to be placed in the aquarium, it’s a great gift for aquarium lovers who are just starting out and want to see results fast. Design-A-Vine Java moss plant

Driftwood is always a safe bet, as it can be used in virtually any tank, with great ease. Our carefully selected driftwood doesn’t float or discolor the tank, so you can order with confidence.

Design-A-Vine (pictured) is a unique product that allows for fantastic customizations. It features Java moss attached to a bendable rod that can be shaped to the user’s specifications. This makes a great gift for beginners who are interested in customizing their tanks.

Aquatic Plants for Experts

These gifts for aquarium lovers should be saved for experienced aquarists. They require significant technical knowledge and experience in the field. Some of the products may also have specific tank requirements. If you aren’t sure whether a product will be the right fit, please contact our product specialists for help making a selection.

Gift Suggestions:

Alternanthera reineckii is a gorgeous, red plant that is perfect for blending with green foliage. For the plants to thrive, they require nutrients in thе form оf rооt tabs or lіquіd fееdѕ. This plant is one of the best aquarium gifts because of its small size that makes it suitable for all tank sizes.  green aquatic with tendrils

Crinum calamistratum (pictured), also known as “African onion plant”, is a popular background plant for large tanks. It is ideal for clear saltwater aquariums and brасkіѕh aquariums with low ѕаlt concentrations. The plant makes a fine gift for aquarists whose tanks have herbivorous fish, as the fish won’t eat the leaves. This is also of the best gifts for aquarium lovers, because once it starts flowering, it doesn’t stop — the gift that keeps on giving!

Rоtаlа rotundifolia, or “dwarf rotala,” is a popular plant among seasoned aquarists, making it one of the safer aquarium gifts for experts. It provides tanks with a gorgeous, blood-red hue, and the tips of the stems have spikes that produce flowers. The plant starts out green and reddens as it ages.

Pond Plants for Spring

Many aquarium buffs also enjoy maintaining ponds by adding special plants. This why we’ve included a variety of plant bulbs that make wonderful gifts that can be used in spring. Unlike tube plants that come packed in water, dry, packaged bulbs have a long shelf life, allowing them to last a few months until it’s time to introduce them to a pond.

Gift Suggestions: water lily tuber ready for planting

Nymphaea solfatara (pictured), also known as “orange and yellow water lily,” is one of the best gifts for aquarium lovers who have ponds that could use a splash of color. This is a live water lily tuber that is packaged with coco fiber and a net bag, so all you need to do is place it in a pond and watch it grow.

Live lily bulbs give any pond a classic look. The bulbs are perfect for ponds, but they also make outstanding aquarium gifts, too. Each package includes two to three bulbs of the Nymphaea lotus “green” species.

Nymphaea albida, or “white water lily,” is another iconic pond plant that instantly adds a touch of elegance to decorative ponds. The lily has a gorgeous, yellow center and lovely, white petals. This pond plant is also great for indoor water gardens. It provides a delightful fragrance.

Quality Aquatic Plants

Whether you need to order a few aquarium gifts or place a large, wholesale order for gifts for aquarium lovers, Complete Aquatic Systems is great place to shop. We carry top-quality plants that are grown in non-toxic, germ-free, pest-free environments. By operating our own labs, we have complete control over our products. Enjoy unparalleled quality at a budget-friendly price.

Contact Us Today

Finding gifts for aquarium lovers isn’t always easy. You want to be certain that the gift is compatible and appealing. This is where Complete Aquatic Systems comes in. We are a second generation, family-owned and operated business, with decades of experience in the aquatic plants industry. If you need product information or help making a selection, contact us today.

How You Can Control Algae Growth On Plants In Your Aquarium

stripped fish among aquatic flora
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Algae is an all-too-common problem in aquascaping, which is why constant vigilance is important in order to keep giant algae blooms at bay. Not only can algae blooms be tough to clean, they can also be harmful to your aquarium plants and animals. So, if you’re interested in reducing algae growth, follow these tips and find your tank’s natural balance.

Stop Overfeeding

Overfeeding fish is easy to do. While feeding time may be an aquarium hobbyist’s favorite time to interact with fish, overfeeding can stimulate aquarium algae on your plants. With excess fish waste due to overfeeding, your water’s nitrate and phosphate levels will increase, leading to blue-green and red algae that can be detrimental to the entire ecosystem in your aquarium. To avoid this, stick to recommended food quantities at regular intervals, and be sure to remove any uneaten food.

Continue reading “How You Can Control Algae Growth On Plants In Your Aquarium”

Acclimating Fish In Your Aquarium With Plants

man holding fish in bag of water
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Once you have an aquarium set-up, adding fish to the mix can be quite fun. However, while you’ve carefully set up their future home, you need to make sure it is a safe and easy transition for any new fish. The last thing you want to do it acclimate your new pets incorrectly, which can lead to shock and stress. We have two options to effectively acclimate your new fish with your existing aquarium with plants and other fish.

Use the “Floating Method”

When you purchase a new fish or many schooling fish, you will take them home in a plastic bag from the pet store. The “floating method” entails leaving the fish in the bag, and placing the bag inside the tank and letting it float in the aquarium water for fifteen minutes, so the water in the bag becomes the same temperature as the water in the tank.

Continue reading “Acclimating Fish In Your Aquarium With Plants”

Everything You Need To Set Up A 20 to 25-Gallon Aquarium Tank

aquarium with multiple aquatic plants
Reading Time: 3 minutes

A 20-25 gallon tank is the perfect starter aquarium size. Contrary to popular belief, larger tanks are actually easier to maintain than smaller aquariums. So, if you’re setting up a tank of this size, take some time to read our list of eight items you need to set up a 20-25 gallon aquarium.

Aquarium Stand

After you’ve chosen your 20 to 25-gallon tank, you will want to choose an aquarium stand that can support the tank and meshes with the decor and space of the room in which you will setup the 25-gallon fish tank. You’ll want to place the tank and stand away from direct sunlight, windows, and air vents or radiators.

Continue reading “Everything You Need To Set Up A 20 to 25-Gallon Aquarium Tank”

Choosing the Right Aquarium Plants For Your Set-Up

fish swimming near aquatic plant
Reading Time: 3 minutes

When planning out your aquarium, it’s important to choose plants that not only make your tank more visually appealing and ecologically sound, but flora that will ultimately benefit your fish.
Choose the most appropriate plants for the size of your tank and the type of fish you have. To that end, we have six great pairs that are proven combinations to make your aquarium a vibrant and thriving environment.

Betta Splendens (also known as Betta Fish) & Nymphoides aquatica (also known as Banana plant)

Banana plants have leaves like little lilly pads that will float on top of the water and complement Betta Fish nicely. Because they leave enough space for the Betta to get some air at the top of the tank, the Banana plant provides an attractive atmosphere.

Continue reading “Choosing the Right Aquarium Plants For Your Set-Up”

‘Fish Stress’ And How You Can Care For Fish In Your Aquarium

Goldfish at feeding time
Reading Time: 3 minutes

While it seems like they may lead an idyllic life unbothered from the dangers of the open ocean, fish can actually suffer from stress in an aquarium. Fish stress can alter the behavior of your fish, making them less outgoing and possibly decreasing their life spans. We’ve identified seven different causes of stress in fish, and we’re letting you know what you can do about it.

“Bully” Fish

Are you noticing that one fish is hiding in the top corner of the aquarium? Stressed fish tend to hide towards the top of the tank to gulp in more oxygen. Maybe you’ve added a new fish to an established fish community, and you want to help the new fish adjust to its new home. Care for your aquarium fish by quarantining any bully fish in a separate tank or an in-tank chamber.

Continue reading “‘Fish Stress’ And How You Can Care For Fish In Your Aquarium”

5 Aquarium Plants That Don’t Require Substrate

five submersed aquarium plants
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Whether you have an aquarium full of fish or you’re just starting out, there can be a lot to manage. From water balancing to acclimating your fish correctly, it can be a bit overwhelming. So, if you can cut out a step, then consider introducing underwater plants to your aquarium that don’t require substrate. As a loose term for the bottom layer of material in your tank, substrate is often used to increase the amount of beneficial bacteria. However, as with the introduction any foreign object in your tank’s water, substrate can also affect your aquarium’s water quality and can react chemically with other elements. If you’re interested in cultivating an underwater environment without it, we’ve identified five aquarium plants that don’t need substrate.


Hornwort is a plant that is quite easy to care for. It can thrive in almost any lighting condition, and does well in either soft or hard water conditions (pH 6.0-7.5). Hornwort also grows quickly, and can reach lengths of 2 to 6 feet. As it can be floated in the water, Hornwort is an ideal aquarium plant that doesn’t need substrate. Because of this, Hornwort makes a safe hiding place for small fry (baby fish) in large tanks with adult fish. In a new aquarium, or one with water quality issues, Hornwort aids with filtration since it’s capable of soaking up nitrates and handling ammonia spikes.

Continue reading “5 Aquarium Plants That Don’t Require Substrate”

A Beginner’s Guide To The Symbiotic Relationship Between Plants & Fish

submersed aquatic plants
Reading Time: 3 minutes

We all need oxygen to breathe, and if you have ever been in a forest, you know that places with more trees have healthier air. While fish tanks are vastly different environments, the same principle holds true for aquariums that have live plants. The addition of live plants makes the water cleaner by removing waste and releasing oxygen. In short, aquariums with live plants tend to have healthier fish than those without. So, what contributes to this symbiotic relationship? Let’s take a look at some of the ways that plants and fish benefit one another in aquariums.

What Your Fish Get From Plants

Beginners should add live aquarium plants to their tanks as they significantly enhance any fish’s well being. Rather than being in a big empty tank where fish only have water from edge to edge, plants create a sense of fullness and life in an aquarium. Fish gain a home or hiding place when they nestle into the leaves of the plants you provide. This can also create a sense of dimension and space from your fish’ perspective as they’ll have more elements in their physical environments with which they can engage, swim through, and dodge around.  

Ambiance aside, underwater plants benefit fish in one more crucial way: greater oxygen levels in the water they breathe. As plants take in the carbon dioxide that fish breathe out, they use it as energy and release oxygen as their waste product, aiding the filtration process in an aquarium.

Continue reading “A Beginner’s Guide To The Symbiotic Relationship Between Plants & Fish”