Emperor Tetras do really well in planted aquariums. It can be very rewarding to see these fish living in an environment which mimics their wild habitat.
Why should you add live plants? What is it about them that the tetras like? Are there any plants in particular you should look to add to your Blue Emperor Tetra tank and why?
Do Blue Emperor Tetras like real plants in their tank?
Emperor Tetras love live plants. In their natural forested habitat, they are surrounded with banks filled with reeds, grasses and all different types of aquatic/semi-aquatic plant life which shrouds the waterways and streams.
Tetras feel most comfortable when they have lots of live plants to go and hide within.
In the wild, Tetras spend the majority of their time living amongst plant life. They are not cave or rock dwelling fish, and are near the bottom of the food chain, meaning that open water is a scary place for them.
Plants provide the ideal cover for Tetras and is a necessity if you want your Blue Emperors to really settle and feel comfortable in your fish tank.
Plants also provide several other benefits, such as additional filtration and oxygen production.
How do you know which plants are suitable for Blue Emperor Tetras?
Emperor Tetras are from forested areas within South America where the flora grows wild into the river banks. These areas are tropical and rarely drop below 15C/59F, with average annual temperatures sitting around 24C/75F.
This means that Emperor Tetras need to be kept at warm temperatures that match their natural habitat.
Plants also have similar temperature needs, and plants which are from coldwater areas struggle to survive in warm water and vice versa.
Adding coldwater plants like European lily pads and aponogetons usually doesn’t work, as the plants struggle to survive at tropical temperatures for extended periods of time, and need to be kept cool.
Choosing tropical aquarium plants at your local fish store is your best option for selecting plants to add to your Tetra tank, as these are often suited for tropical environments and can live at warmer temperatures.
What plants do Blue Emperor Tetras eat?
Blue Emperor Tetras do not eat live aquarium plants. They do not have the tools to shred up and destroy healthy plant leaves and have little interest in consuming them.
They may nibble at leaves occasionally, or be seen eating dead or rotting leaves, but if your plants are being destroyed in your Emperor Tetra tank, it is unlikely that they will be the culprit; something else is likely causing them to die.
How to choose plants for an Emperor Tetra tank
Selecting the right plants means knowing what to look for in a healthy aquarium plant – you need to look for key signs that show if a plant is going to make it in your tank.
A lot of what may be perceived as a “dying” plant is often misunderstood, and certain signals plants give off are usually misinterpreted by aquarists.
A healthy plant will have a good root system. When you buy most aquarium plants, this is what you should be looking for:
- White, clean roots that are well established.
- Thick and accompanied roots with sprawling appendages.
Certain plants have certain nutritional requirements, and deficiencies can affect them in different ways.
In most plants, a nitrogen deficiency will cause the leaves to become yellow. Over time, a malnourished plant will melt back and die. Having a couple yellow leaves is okay, but if the whole plant is yellow, unfortunately, it is likely to die.
Melting leaves aren’t always a bad sign however, and many plants like Cryptocoryne will melt as a natural process of adjusting from being grown in air to being placed under water.
It is the roots which are the best indicator for a plant’s health, and that is what you should focus on the most when choosing your live plants.
The best plants for Blue Emperor Tetras
Taller plants are usually the best for Emperor Tetras, as they like to stay in the middle to upper regions of the tank. Plants with tall stems or long, broad leaves are best.
For spawning purposes, Emperors also like lots of cover on the ground in the form of mosses and small densely packed, leafy bushes.
A tall, grass-like plant which spreads under the substrate and grows up to the surface tall and proud.
This plant is great for backdrops where the Tetras can swim through the reeds and conceal themselves as they would in the wild.
Jungle Val can grow quite fast in some tanks though, so be sure to prune it if you don’t want it to take over. It can be an aggressive plant when it comes to competing with other plants for space to spread its roots.
Very similar to Jungle Val, this plant grows like grass but doesn’t get quite as tall, just about reaching the mid section of the tank, reaching about 5” inches tall.
This plant carpets and will form a dense sheet of tall grass which the Tetras can hide amongst.
This plant can grow quickly, and should be pruned regularly if you don’t want it to overtake your tank, but it needs to be fed with fertilisers and root tabs in order to stay healthy.
A species of tropical Aponogeton native to Madagascar, this plant is great for Emperor Tetras as it grows tall and has large, broad leaves.
It adds something different to a planted aquarium with its wrinkled leaf texture and bronze hue.
The plant grows from a bulb, which is to be planted into the substrate where it will burst into growth with the leaves growing all the way up to the surface.
What plants should you avoid putting in a Blue Emperor tank?
Like any tropical aquarium, you should avoid adding plants which you find from your local outdoor ponds and waterways. Wild plants that you find from public bodies of water can cause all types of problems if added to your tank.
Typically, streams, ponds and rivers in public spaces are heavily polluted with all kinds of things that people throw into them; plastic litter, chemicals, old car parts, rusty metal.
A plethora of different poisonous things are thrown into rivers by irresponsible people, so it is best not to introduce all that to your tank by taking wild pond plants and dumping them into your tank.
You never know what that plant has been in contact with.
Do Blue Emperor Tetras need live plants?
No, Emperor Tetras do not need live plants in order to be kept in a fish tank, although adding live plants brings several benefits.
Plants will filter and clean your water, removing toxins like nitrates, soaking up excess minerals and preventing calcium build up, producing oxygen, providing cover and creating an environment for infusoria to grow.
It is not an essential requirement to add plants to your Tetra tank, but they will make your life as a fishkeeper much easier, and your Tetras will appreciate a planted tank much more.