Can You Grow Amazon Sword in Sand?
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We all agree that live plants can breathe life into any aquatic setup. Just as we agree that sand is equally great at improving the aquarium’s esthetics.
But is there a way to mix the 2 together?
Today, we will discuss the Amazon sword and whether you can plant and grow it in sand. Doing so will come with several challenges along the way, given that sand isn’t exactly ideal for plants.
Is Sand Good for Amazon Sword?
Sand isn’t particularly good for any aquatic plant, including the Amazon sword.
That’s because sand comes with several downsides:
- Lacks nutritional content – Unlike soil, sand doesn’t provide plants with any nutrition. So, you will need to fertilize the substrate regularly to make sure that the plants remain healthy and properly fed. Root tabs are great options in this sense.
- Extreme compaction – Sand particles are very small and get extremely compacted when wet. And a tank is a very wet environment. The extreme compaction will suffocate more vulnerable plant roots, preventing adequate nutrient intake and killing the plants eventually. This is a problem for most aquarium plants, but Amazon sword can handle it, given proper assistance along the way.
- Anaerobic pockets – Anaerobic pockets are common in sandy substrates. These occur due to the sand’s compaction, preventing water from circulating between the particles. As a result, interior pockets will form, housing ammonia-producing bacteria. This will lead to the danger of your plants popping the ammonia pockets with their roots and experiencing ammonia poisoning as a result. A different danger comes with substrate-digging fish that can burst the pockets and release the concentrated ammonia into the tank.
- The danger of liquid fertilizers – Many people avoid rooted plants for sandy aquariums. This allows them to circumvent the previous 3 problems I’ve mentioned, but it creates a different one – the need for liquid fertilizers. Floating plants require liquid fertilization since they lack a rooting system. So, they extract their nutrients straight from the water column. The problem is that excessive use of liquid fertilizer also creates the ideal environment for algae to bloom.
All these downsides aside, you can make sand work. And if there’s any plant that could adapt to a sandy substrate, that has to be Amazon sword.
What Sand to Use for Amazon Sword?
There isn’t a type of sand specifically made for Amazon sword, but there are sand types meant for aquarium use only.
Here are the fundamental factors to consider when choosing the right sand for your planted tank:
- Neutral pH – This is a key point because not all sand types are made equal. You should look for aquarium sands-only, specifically marketed as being pH neutral. Avoid everything else, including sand available near you, either from a river, a beach, etc. These types of sand contain impurities and minerals that will increase the water’s pH beyond what your fish and tank plants can take.
- Grain size – Aquarium sand comes in a variety of grain sizes, depending on your aquascaping goals and the aquatic life you’re housing. Depending on the grain size you’re going for, you will face different challenges. In essence, the smaller the grains are, the higher the risk of ammonia pockets and root compaction. The larger the grains are, the higher the risk of fish ingesting and choking on the grains and the lower the sand’s ability to hold down nutrients. When it comes to the Amazon sword, I suggest going for smaller particles at first and seeing how your plants fare. If they seem to have difficulties growing, or lose their coloring, maybe their roots are getting compacted. At this point, just switch to a larger-grain type of sand.
- Avoid artificial coloring – Aquarium sand is typically safe for aquarium use, obviously. But this isn’t a universal rule. Some colored sands contain chemicals that may release gradually into the environment, poisoning your aquatic life, fish, and plants alike. I would go for plain aquarium sand, with no colorants, dyes, or any other beautifying elements. This doesn’t mean that all colored sand is dangerous, but you should at least keep the risks in mind.
This being said, there are quite a handful of types of aquarium sand, depending on the brand and overall specifics.
I suggest researching the market thoroughly before committing to a specific type.
How to Plant Amazon Sword in Sand?
The planting process depends very much on the type of sand you’re getting. If the sand is made of extremely fine and light particles, your plant may require additional anchoring support.
Otherwise, it will simply unearth itself and start floating around. Which isn’t ideal for rooted plants in general.
So, if you need to anchor your Amazon sword, consider the following options:
- Connect it to surrounding elements – You can use a string of nylon to tie your Amazon sword’s stem to driftwood, rocks, or any other decorative element nearby. This will provide the plant with some traction against water currents and keep it in place until its roots take over.
- Use various crevices – If you have a rocky setup, you can use the existent crevices to keep your plant in place. You simply insert the stem through the crevice, insert the root into the sand, and make sure it’s stable.
- Use rocks and pebbles – This is nothing but the old way of keeping the plant in place via weights pressing on the substrate around it. The concept is as easy as it sounds – you plant the Amazon sword in the substrate and place several rocks and pebbles around the stem. The added weight should keep the plant in place and prevent unearthing. The resulting structure will also protect the plant against substrate diggers that could disturb the plant’s rooting system. This is a greater danger in sand aquariums since sand is easier to dig and disturb than soil or other substrate types.
- Stem weights – Stem weights also make for a viable option. You only need to tie some lead or ceramic weights onto the plant’s stem using a nylon mesh. The weights will keep the plant down after burying its roots, providing long-term anchoring.
Any of these methods should prove useful in keeping your Amazon sword anchored until its roots are strong enough to take over the task.
How to Feed Amazon Sword in Sand?
The words you’re looking for are root tabs. These are essential for all sand-planted plants due to the sand’s poor nutritional content. Root tabs will provide your Amazon sword with consistent nutrient intake.
Now, you’re probably aware that root tabs won’t last forever, and you will need to add more and replace the old ones over time. The Amazon sword requires one root tab every 6 weeks during its ‘juvenile’ period.
This is when the plant is still young and newly planted, so its roots haven’t developed to their full potential yet.
The same plant will require approximately 5-6 tabs per month 3 months later when the rooting system has developed properly. This feeding frequency is only specific to nutrient-devoid substrates like gravel and sand.
If you were to plant the Amazon sword in soil, you wouldn’t need as much nutrient supplementation.
How Much Sand Should You Use for Growing Amazon Sword?
You should consider a substrate depth of at least 2 inches. Preferably 3 inches to make sure that the plant has plenty of root support.
I recommend aiming for 3 inches not only due to the extra root support but because it minimizes the risks of unearthing.
Your Amazon sword will have more room to plant its roots deeper, providing them with extra anchoring strength.
Even so, you should avoid aggressive substrate diggers like African cichlids, or plant feeders like plecos or goldfish, since these have a taste for Amazon sword.
Large and fidgety fish species like the Oscar are also forbidden because they risk damaging the plants with their larger and wiggly bodies.
Sand is obviously not the best choice for Amazon swords or any aquarium plant for that matter. But I understand why you’d prefer sand.
It’s nice-looking, easy to clean and maintain, and will create a natural-looking environment, which is always a plus.
It’s not ideal for plants, but you can make it work with proper preparation.