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Emersed vs. Submerged-Grown Aquatic Plants for Aquascaping

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Emersed vs. Submerged-Grown Aquatic Plants for Aquascaping


Aquascaping is an art form that combines creativity and biology to create stunning underwater landscapes within aquariums. Central to this art are aquatic plants, which play a pivotal role in achieving the desired aesthetic and maintaining a healthy aquatic ecosystem. Among the various techniques for cultivating aquatic plants, two prominent methods stand out: emersed and submerged growth. In this blog, we will delve into the differences between these two approaches and explore their advantages and disadvantages.

Emersed Growth: Above the Waterline

Emersed growth refers to the cultivation of aquatic plants above the waterline. This technique involves planting the aquatic species in a substrate or terrestrial soil, allowing them to grow partially or entirely outside of the water. Emersed growth is typically achieved in specialized setups like paludariums, where the water level is lower, or by growing plants in containers with a moist environment.

Advantages of Emersed Growth:

  1. Versatility: Emersed growth allows for a wide range of plant choices, including species that may not thrive fully submerged. This opens up opportunities for unique and exotic plant selections in your aquascape.

  2. Better Control: Emersed growth provides better control over growth rates, nutrient uptake, and plant health. It allows you to monitor plants more closely and make adjustments as needed.

  3. Pest Management: Emersed setups are less susceptible to some aquatic pests, such as algae and snails, as these organisms primarily thrive in submerged environments.

  4. Easy Propagation: Many aquatic plants grow faster and are easier to propagate when emersed, making it simpler to create lush and vibrant aquascapes.

Disadvantages of Emersed Growth:

  1. Limited Aquatic Aesthetic: Emersed growth may not provide the same underwater aesthetic as fully submerged plants. It can be challenging to blend emersed plants seamlessly with submerged ones.

  2. Specialized Setup: Maintaining emersed growth requires specific conditions, such as higher humidity levels and consistent lighting. This can be more challenging for beginners.

Submerged Growth: Below the Waterline

Submerged growth is the more traditional method of cultivating aquatic plants entirely submerged in water. This approach is commonly used in aquariums and aquascaping because it mimics the natural habitat of most aquatic plants.

Advantages of Submerged Growth:

  1. Aesthetic Appeal: Submerged growth offers the quintessential underwater garden appearance, with plants swaying gracefully in the water, providing a picturesque aquatic landscape.

  2. Compatibility: Submerged plants seamlessly blend with other aquatic life, such as fish and invertebrates, creating a harmonious ecosystem.

  3. Stable Environment: Aquatic plants adapted to submerged growth are well-suited to the aquarium environment, making it easier to maintain a stable and balanced ecosystem.

  4. Natural Filtration: Submerged plants contribute to the biological filtration of the aquarium, helping to remove excess nutrients and maintain water quality.

Disadvantages of Submerged Growth:

  1. Limited Plant Selection: Submerged growth limits your plant selection to species adapted to underwater conditions. Some unique or exotic species may not thrive in this environment.

  2. Algae Competition: Submerged setups are more susceptible to algae growth, which can compete with aquatic plants for nutrients and light.


Both emersed and submerged growth methods have their unique advantages and disadvantages when it comes to aquascaping. The choice between the two depends on your specific goals and preferences as an aquascaper. Emersed growth allows for greater plant diversity and precise control, while submerged growth provides the classic underwater aesthetic and a more natural environment for aquatic life. Ultimately, a well-balanced aquascape can incorporate elements of both methods to create a captivating underwater world that is both visually appealing and biologically thriving.

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