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Don't Sell Non-Aquatic Plants for


Bob Fenner


Can you explain the relative lack of sales of live aquarium plants in the United States compared with Europe and the Far East? Do your customers complain of trials and tribulations with growing plants purchased from your store? Ever wonder why the live plant business doesn't seem to "grow" in your area? One prime reason is the lack of possible success the hobbyist, and perhaps yourself, can have with keeping many these plants . They may be unsuitable for growing, living underwater!

Many, often more than half of what's available, so-called "aquarium plants" are suitable for house-plant use or worse, unable to be kept alive except unusual circumstances. "Princess Pine" is one of these; not a "pine" at all but a North American club moss cutting, doomed to turn brown and die. 

An Incomplete List of Non-Aquatic "Aquarium Plants"

Sanderianas: the popular corn plants

Dracenas; light dark, variegated and "compacta"

Spathophyllums: Brazilian(?) swords

"Underwater Palms"

Mondo grass: cheaper by the flat from your local nursery

Purple, silver waffle

White and Pink Lace

Aluminum Plants

Black Pagoda

Dragon Tongue

So-called "Hedges"

Baby doll

Umbrella Pines

Princess Pines

Pongal "Swords"

Prayer Plants: you don't have one with this plant


The names change over time and region, but the end results' are the same; dissatisfaction and dis-affectation with the hobby and the business.

To their credit, some of these species will exist underwater for a period of a few weeks to a couple of months. Also they are tough and unpalatable to plant-eating fishes like barbs and some cichlids and loaches. But all of them doom the prospective plant customer to failure and frustration.

There are many species and hybrids that are available that are suitable and profitable. Check your local Hobbyist Society for popular types and possible sources. Many clubs now have Horticultural Award Programs, much as Breeders Award Programs, for recognizing aquatic horticulturists and disseminating information regarding plant cultivation.

Our advice to the trade is to abandon sales of these unsuitable species, and focus on others truly aquatic. Some of you might argue that this will represent loss of sales and profit in the near future; money made by a close competitor. Think about it; in the long run, in this age of consumer enlightenment, do you really stand to make a substantial profit from this form of rip-off?

At least, such business should be tempered with warnings to the public as to the identity of these "aquarium" plants and their likelihood of success in keeping them. Perhaps these living things could be labeled as decorations?

Consult some of the reference materials right there on your shelves; Tetra's are especially excellent. Let's get with it, promoting professionalism in our industry, and we'll all grow.


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