Learning how to plant aquarium plants in pots is important, and not an easy task, but various methods are available to simplify it. Incorporating live plants into an aquarium enhances its appearance and creates a beautiful aesthetic.

Planting Aquarium Plants in Pots

This guide consists of simple steps to help you grow aquarium plants in glass pots, terracotta pots, or any other type. Continue reading to explore more about how to plant aquarium plants in pots.

How To Properly Plant Aquarium Plants in Pots?

To properly plant aquatic plants in pots, you should fill a pot with a substrate, make a hole in the substrate, place the plant in the pot, firmly press the substrate around the base of the plant, add aquarium water to the pot, and place the pot in the aquarium.

1. Fill the Pots With Aquarium-Safe Substrate

Filling a pot with the right substrate is a critical step in planting aquatic plants, as it must not release harmful chemicals into the water and must be safe for aquatic life. There are two popular options – gravel and sand – both with benefits and requirements.

If you choose to use aquarium-grade gravel, you must know how to plant aquarium plants in gravel. Make sure the size is suitable for pots and plants, and the depth is enough to cover the bare root. You’ll also have to ensure the texture is rough, as it helps anchor plants.

However, if you choose sand, fine-grained sand is preferred. You must clean the sand before using it and spread it evenly. Moreover, choosing a substrate appropriate for the size of the potted plants being grown is significant, deep enough to cover roots but not too deep to displace water.

It’s also important to ensure the roots of, for example, the java fern, are properly covered in the substrate to ensure its healthy growth.

2. Make a Hole in the Substrate

The next step is to make a hole in the substrate. You must carry out this step with proper care. The first thing you’ll have to do is to determine the size of the hole needed for the plant roots by measuring the root ball of the plant or estimating the amount of space for the roots to grow.

Hole Should be Deep Enough to Accommodate the Roots

Secondly, choose an appropriate tool for creating the hole based on the size of the hole and the type of substrate, after which you’ll need to dig a small trench in the substrate where the hole will be and make sure it is deep enough to accommodate the roots of the plant. Carefully dig the hole using the chosen tool and keep the edges straight and even.

3. Remove the Plant From Its Current Container

First, carefully remove the plant from its container and maintain the integrity of its roots. It’s essential to have the right tools on hand. These include gloves, a spade or knife, a watering can, and a new container slightly larger than the current one.

Before removal, water the plant thoroughly to ease the soil around the roots and make it easier to handle. Tap the bottom of the container to loosen the soil and gently pull the plant out. If necessary, use a spade or knife to loosen the soil gently.

After removing the plant, inspect the roots, remove excess soil, and prune any entangled or overgrown roots to promote healthy growth. Soak the roots in water for half an hour before transplanting the plant into the new container to help rehydrate the roots.

4. Place the Plant in the Hole

The next step is to place the plant in the hole and cover the roots in the substrate. Begin the process by holding the plant gently by its stem and lowering it into the hole. Make sure that the substrate fully covers the roots.

Be gentle when placing the plant in the hole to avoid disturbing the roots and the surrounding substrate. Take care not to bend or damage the stem or leaves as you lower the plant into the hole. Loosen the roots before planting to allow them to spread out naturally in the hole and make better contact with the substrate.

Once the plant is in place, carefully fill the hole with the substrate to avoid leaving any air pockets. This will help anchor the plant and provide stability as it grows.

5. Firmly Press the Substrate Around the Base of the Plant

You should press the substrate around the base of the plant firmly. It’s important to avoid disturbing the roots or the surrounding substrate as you press down the substrate. Begin by gently filling the hole around the base of the plant with the substrate, taking care not to leave any air pockets.

Pressing Down Substrate Around the Base of the Plant

Then, using your fingers or a small tool, carefully press down the substrate, making sure to cover the roots and the base of the plant. It is important to press the substrate down firmly enough to provide stability and support to the plant but not so hard as to damage the roots or the stem.

6. Add Aquarium Water to the Pot Until It Reaches the Desired Level

The next step is to add aquarium water to the pot until it reaches the desired level. Make sure to use aquarium water that is the same temperature and pH as the water in your aquarium.

Ensure that the level of the substrate is slightly below the rim of the pot, then slowly pour the aquarium water into the pot, avoiding disturbance to the substrate and roots. Reach the desired water level while keeping the water level consistent and stable.

The water level should be deep enough to cover the roots, not the stem or leaves. In stem plants, ensure the water level does not cover the leaves to prevent rot.

Wait a few minutes for the substrate to settle, then use a pencil or chopstick to gently press down on the substrate to release air pockets and repeat until air pockets are gone, and the substrate is firmly packed around the roots.

7. Place the Pot in the Aquarium

The last step is placing the plant pot in the aquarium. Choosing the right location for the potted plants in the aquarium is important for the health and growth of the plants. It’s necessary to consider the size factors such as light, water flow, and temperature when deciding where to place the pots to ensure plants grow properly.

Make sure the pot is level before placing it in the aquarium, then gently lower it into the desired location, making sure it’s not too close to other plants or decorations in the fish tank.

Placing the Plant Pot in The Aquarium

After the placement process is complete, adjust the pot’s location as the live plant grows to ensure proper light, water flow, and temperature. Observe the plant for signs of stress, such as yellow leaves or stunted growth, and adjust the water chemistry, light, or temperature if necessary to help the plant recover.

It’s important to examine the size of the setup and choose species like Anubias nana Petite, which is low maintenance and suitable for small aquariums. You should also learn how to take aquarium plants out of pots in case you want to inspect plants for root damage after a few months.


Planting aquarium plants in pots is, without a doubt, a challenging task, but you can grow aquarium plants in pots by following simple steps. Here’s a summary of what you just read:

  • The substrate must be chosen based on pot and plant size, be deep enough to cover roots, not release chemicals, and be safe for aquatic life.
  • Water the plant to loosen the soil, remove it by tapping the container and pulling, and loosen it with a spade/knife if needed.
  • To place the plant in the hole, hold it gently by its stem, lower it into a hole in the substrate, and ensure the roots are covered.
  • Be gentle and avoid bending or damaging the stem or leaves.
  • In the final step, place the pot in the freshwater aquarium or fish tank in a location that considers light, water flow, and temperature.

Using plants to build a potted aquarium is essential in creating a healthy and thriving aquatic environment for the plants to flourish. We hope you have gained the knowledge to grow aquarium plants in pots. You can check out our guide on how to trim aquarium plants after potting them.


  • https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340934359_Ornamental_Aquatic_Plant_Nutrition_A_Study_on_Qualitative_and_Quantitative_Differences_in_Morphological_Traits_of_Waterwort_Elatine_gratiloides_A_Cunn
  • https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/582518
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