Adding plants to your aquarium can be a rewarding and fun experience, but if you forget to quarantine, it can end up causing unforeseen and unwanted issues. However, there are some easy measures that can be taken to avoid these problems.
The saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is certainly true in the aquarium keeping hobby. While it's common knowledge to quarantine aquarium fish and inverts, some hobbyists aren't aware of the reasons to quarantine (and disinfect) plants as well. Here's a look at some reasons why:
Snails and Snails Eggs
Generally, the most common reason for plant quarantine is to avoid pest snails. They will often hitchhike on aquatic plants; quite often, if there aren't snails, there are snail eggs on the leaves. As many hobbyists already know, some snail populations can get out of control quickly. While they can eventually be eradicated, it's easier if they're not introduced in the first place.
Dragonfly and damselfly nymphs
Adult dragonflies and damselflies will often lay eggs on plant vegetation. While these may not be the most commonly seen pests on aquarium plants, they are fierce predators and hard to get rid of if they happen to get inside a tank. If they can catch moving prey and fit it inside their mouth, they are going to eat it – this is true for both fish and invertebrates. These nymphs are nonstop hunters, good hiders, and can live for a long time.
Nuisance algae can also show up on plants, and can be a long-term battle to control.
Additionally, pesticides may have been sprayed on the plants, and if so, could still contain residual chemicals that may be unsafe for your tank's inhabitants.
A quarantine period of two weeks or more is recommended.
Alternatively, there are several easy treatments using household products to disinfect your plants. You'll want to be careful the chemicals don't damage the plants; but treatment methods are as follows:
Hydrogen peroxide plant dip
Be sure to use 3% hydrogen peroxide and mix 2-3 ml per gallon of water. Dip your plant in this solution for a maximum of 5 minutes. When finished, remove the plant(s) and rinse well. You may want to prepare a rinse beforehand using dechlorinator at 3x the recommended dosage.
Bleach plant dip
Mix unscented household bleach and water with one part bleach to 19 parts water (5% solution). Dip the plant for a maximum of two minutes. Using gloves, remove the plant and rinse well until the smell of bleach is gone. You may want to prepare a rinse beforehand using dechlorinator at 3x the recommended dosage.
Of course, if you solely use tissue-cultured plants, they are already pest free, and are the exception to the plant quarantine and disinfecting methods listed above. (You can read our blog about tissue cultured plants here).
Overall, plants have many benefits, but can introduce a few unwanted issues. Using quarantine or disinfection for your plants can go a long way in prevention.
Types of Aquarium Snails by Aqueon, which also discusses ""good vs. bad"" snails.
Dragonfly Larvae and Damselfly Larvae- Missouri Department of Conservation