Oliver Knott: Preparing aquatic plants
How to prep your aquarium plants

The aquarium plants available in the trade are cultivated following different methods. In this useful video Oliver Knott explains how to unpack potted and InVitro aquarium plants and how to properly prepare them for planting. He also covers different plant groups such as stem plants, epiphytes or rosette plants like cryptocorynes.

Preparing potted plants

First of all Oliver Knott demonstrates on a Cryptocoryne how an aquatic plant is taken out of its plastic pot and how the rock wool enclosing its roots is best removed. At first the roots growing out of the pot are clipped with a pair of plant scissors (in the video Oliver uses the Aqua Rebell Short Scissors Curved). The plant is then taken our of the pot and freed from the rock wool it was cultivated in. Chunks of it can be removed manually. Afterwards the remainders of the rock wool can easily be shaken off in some water - as demonstrated in the video.

The special case of stem plants

Aquatic stem plants, such as the classic background plants (Rotala, Ludwigia etc.) can be prepared especially easily. There is no need to painstakingly remove the pot, rock wool, or, if you have bunches of plants, the lead tape or clay ring - just cut off the plant directly above the pot or clay ring.

cutting stem plants

Only the cut-off upper part of the plant is used in the aquarium or aquascape. After a few weeks, the stems will have sprouted new roots which anchor the plants securely in the substrate.


Most epiphytes used in the aquarium hobby are ferns, Anubias and Bucephalandra. These plants have a very pronounced stem system, the so-called rhizome. It should not be damaged during preparation or planting by bruising, so please be careful. Those plants shouldn’t be shoved into the substrate but placed onto driftwood or stones. You can find helpful tips on how to fix those plants in the article "Planting aquarium plants".

fixing an epiphyte

When removing the pot and rock wool, please proceed as described in the paragraph “Preparing potted plants” further above.

In Vitro plants

In Vitro plant

In Vitro plants, or plants from tissue culture, are cultivated under sterile conditions in small beakers containing a nutrient solution that, depending on the manufacturer, may be liquid or slightly firmer. This nutrient medium can be easily removed under running water or in a water bath.

Rinsing an InVitro-plant under running water

If any residue remains on the plants: the gel won't do any harm in your aquarium.
To facilitate planting with tweezers, bigger clumps can be split up into several smaller portions.

Planting HCC with tweezers

For more tips on the preparation of aquatic plants, please refer to the more detailed article in our Aquascaping Wiki. We have also got an article worth reading covering the differences between potted plants and plants from tissue culture as well, which offers a lot more background information.