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How to Plant Aquarium Plants in Gravel

Are you thinking of a cheap way to enhance the look of your fish tank or aquarium? Do you want to make it appear more natural and appealing?

One option you might want to consider is adding substrate to your tank. If you’re interested in doing so, you should learn how to plant aquarium plants in gravel.

Most of us know gravel as small stones that accumulate in stream channels like rivers or beaches. Many new and even experienced aquarists prefer gravel over other aquarium substrates because it is inexpensive and available in different colors.

Gravel is usually the substrate that many first-time aquarists choose because it’s inexpensive and comes in a variety of styles.

Planting Aquarium Plants in Gravel

To plant aquarium plants in gravel, prepare the following materials:

  • Gravel: Your best bet is to buy gravel from a local pet store or aquarium shop. Don’t use those from a nearby home improvement store! More often than not, commercial gravel is too big for the fish tank. Look for gravel that’s around three to eight millimeters thick. Larger gravel tends to prevent the roots from growing.
  • Water: If you got the water from the faucet, you may add a water conditioner to eliminate the chlorine.
  • Fertilizer: Liquid fertilizer is your best option as it is the easiest to incorporate in the water tank.
  • Plants: Most aquarium plants generally grow well on gravel. But certain plants thrive on this substrate. Some of these are Anubias, Bucephalandra, Dwarf Sagittaria, and Red Tiger Lotus.
  • Rocks: Get several river rocks as these can help in securing the base of the aquarium plants.
  • Superglue: Make sure that it is pure cyanoacrylate.
  • Zip tie: If you don’t have super glue, you may also use a zip tie for anchoring the aquarium plants.

Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Clean the gravel

Start by cleaning the gravel. If you intend to use colored gravel, you should boil it first before adding it to the aquarium.

This is to remove any toxins that might kill the fish. It can also prevent the aquarium plants from thriving.

Step 2: Place gravel into the tank

Once you have cleansed the gravel, you can gently place it into the tank. Avoid pouring the gravel as you might scratch the bottom of the aquarium.

You should aim to layer the tank bottom with two to three inches of gravel. This way, there would be enough room for the fish and plants in the tank.

place gravel into the tank

Moreover, three inches of gravel as a layer of the substrate should be enough to securely anchor the plants.

Avoid going beyond the three-inch recommendation as too much gravel can encourage dirt accumulation in the tank.

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Step 3: Pour water into the tank

Add water into the tank. Fill it halfway with water.

Step 4: Fertilize

Improve the chances of the aquarium plants thriving in the gravel by fertilizing the water.

For best results, refer to the fertilizer packaging for the appropriate dosing.

Ideally, you should fertilize the tank every 2 weeks to get the most out of the plants.

Step 5: Place the plants

planting aquarium plants in gravel

Now let’s proceed to the fun part, which is placing the plants into the tank.

Begin by placing foreground plants like Dwarf Sagittaria and Bucephalandra in front of the tank.

Plants like Anubias work best as the middle-ground plant. You should place them along the sides of the tank.

Finally, place the tallest plants like the Red Tiger Lotus against the back of the tank. This would also keep the filter tubes of the aquarium from being prominent.

But you might ask: “how to anchor aquarium plants in gravel?”

One way to do so is to place river rocks on the gravel. Then get the super glue and put a small dot of it on the rock.

You should then press the base of the plant on the glue. Hold it for at least 30 seconds.

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Another way to anchor the plants on a river rock is to tie it. Fasten the root of the plant to the rock using a zip tie.

Step 6: Add more water

Once you’ve anchored the plants and are satisfied with the look of your tank, you may now add more water as you see fit.

How to Plant Aquarium Plants in Gravel

Other Helpful Tips

Aquarium plants planted in gravel would thrive if exposed to simulated sunlight. Aim to provide at least 8 hours of lighting to the aquarium plants.

To do so, you may place a fluorescent bulb on top of the aquarium. Refer to the size of the tank in determining the amount of lighting.

A 10-gallon tank typically needs 15 watts while a 40-gallon aquarium requires 60 watts.

You should also make it a habit to trim the aquarium plants. This would not only keep the tank clean but also prevent algae buildup.


Gravel is a popular substrate for aquariums. Not only is it cheap, but it is also quick to set up.

You can add up to 3-inches deep of gravel to the tank. Pour water halfway into the aquarium and then fertilize it.

You may now start placing the plants in the tank. To ensure that the plants are held in place, you may anchor them using super glue or zip ties.

Once done, you can add water as you deem fit. As you may have realized, learning how to plant aquarium plants in gravel is easy.

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