New fish hobbyists will surely encounter the term aquarium pearling plants as they discover more about customizing their aquariums and making a better environment for their fish.

In this article, we go on a deep dive to learn just what aquarium pearling plants are, why they are essential, and how you can incorporate them into your aquascapes.

Pearling plants are a great way to improve the health and beauty of your aquarium. After all, when it comes to tank decor, functionality and aesthetics are two of the most valuable things aquarium hobbyists focus on.

You want fish tanks that are not just beautiful to look at but healthy and conducive for the growth of your fish as well. Here, we spill the beans on the basics of pearling plants, plus how to spot false pearling and true pearling in your tank.

First up, What Are Pearling Aquarium Plants Anyway?

Pearling plants is a collective term that refers to any tropical plant species able to hyper photosynthesize while fully submerged in freshwater tanks. These plants take in sunlight and carbon dioxide and turn them into much-needed oxygen for your fish to breathe. You can think of pearling plants as super oxygen generators.

Pearling plants are also called such because their extra amounts of oxygen are released in tiny pearlescent bubbles. These air pockets are often found on the edges of stems or the tops of leaves, making them shimmer.

Why Are Pearling Plants Important In a Tank?

Pearling plants are not just pretty additions to a planted tank. They are also accurate signifiers of a healthy and safe environment for your tropical fish.

Plants that show true pearling indicate that several factors like water temperature, light exposure, and carbon dioxide levels are all in abundance. There is so much good stuff in your tank that the plants in it make treasured pearls of oxygen return.

Planted tank experts will almost always brag about their pearling plants because they know they aren’t just amazing to look at but great for their aquarium inhabitants as well.

– So If My Plants Aren’t Pearling, They Aren’t Healthy?

While pearling is an excellent indicator of a plant’s overall health, the absence of pearling doesn’t mean that your plants are unhealthy. Perfectly healthy plants might not pearl at all.

For example, some plants with thin leaves are unlikely to pearl because the oxygen they convert from CO2 escapes too easily. Similarly, sick plants are also unlikely to pearl because they will not process enough CO2 to turn into strings of oxygen bubbles.

– How Can I Tell False Pearling From True Pearling?

It’s easier to spot true pearling plants once you have a good grasp of what false pearling looks like.

There are three types of false pearling:

  • The first type of false pearling occurs because of dissolved gases that are no longer level with the air and pressure in the tank. That is, there is a difference in temperature and air pressure in your tank, thus resulting in tiny spheres of air. These dissolved gases then become the bubbles that amateur aquarium hobbyists sometimes mistake for true pearling.

The bubbles from this type of false pearling can often be found just below the water’s surface or clinging to rocks, roots, and other decor items in the tank.

  • Next up is the kind of false pearling that occurs due to disruptions in your tank’s water level and quality. Tanks that have filters and aquifers can also produce small strings of bubbles.

This kind of false pearling may also be a result of a quick water change. These pearls, however, are nowhere near the true pearling that comes from photosynthesizing plants.

  1. Lastly, the third type of false pearling occurs when plants in a tank sustain damage to their stems or leaves. This pearling is also referred to as streaming or leaking. Think of the damage to the plants as wounds that leak oxygen, thus leading to the formation of bubbles. This is considered false pearling because the produced pockets of oxygen, no matter how pretty to look at, came from plant damage instead of hyper photosynthesis.

On the other hand, true pearling takes place when all of these three conditions are met:

  • The tank

    being used is a planted tank

Planted tanks are fish tanks that have a moderate to heavy amount of aquarium plants in them. The more plants there are in a tank, the higher your chances of witnessing the beauty of true pearling. This means that plants with single but large plants are unlikely to witness pearling because the oxygen saturation level won’t be enough.

  • The tank has enough access to light and nutrients needed for photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis, or the method by which plants turn CO2 into oxygen, can only occur when there is enough light and nutrients for plants to use. Therefore, planted tanks in sunny or well-lit areas are more likely to see plant pearling than tanks in dark rooms.

  • The tank’s surface is rarely disturbed.

Water surface disruption hinders pearling plants from releasing oxygen bubbles. Tanks that are left undisturbed for an extended period of time are more conducive to plants that are hyper photosynthesizing.

What Are the Easy Pearling Plants I Should Know About?

Naturally, there are some plants that are easier to pearl than others. One important thing to remember is that hardy, fast-growing stem plants can be quicker to pearl compared to soft plants and take a lot of time to grow. Below are three examples of plants that are relatively easy to pearl in tropical tanks.

– Anacharis densa

Aquarium hobbyists seek out Anacharis densa for its dark, tough stem and lush appearance. This plant is easy to grow and hardly requires any extra maintenance. Its many small leaves provide the perfect perches as a pearling plant. This plant is known for being beginner-friendly.

– Bacopa caroliniana

The Bacopa caroliniana is another plant that has earned a positive reputation with beginner hobbyists through the years. Though it grows at a slow rate, its bold leaves and low-maintenance nature make it a favorite for aquascaping. In addition, the Bacopa caroliniana’s hardy, long stem and its tiny purple flowers are made even more eye-catching when it begins to pearl.

– Mayaca fluviatilis

While the Mayaca fluviatilis is on the soft and bushy spectrum of tank plants, it is easy and quick to grow. It does not require as much light as plants and will continue to thrive in low to medium light tanks. These features of Mayaca fluviatilis, coupled with its many leaves and multiple stems, make it a glorious sight to behold when hobbyists succeed in making its pearl.

What Are the Disadvantages of Making My Tank Plants Pearl?

Now that you’ve read a great deal about what makes pearling plants amazing, you might be wondering if there is any downside to all of this.

While plant pearling is certainly aesthetic and a surefire way to know that your tank plants are doing well, it can also be disadvantageous in the following situations:

  1. If you’re a complete beginner to the fishkeeping hobby, you might become stressed with tracking your tank numbers as you wait for your plants to pearl. You’ll be monitoring your tank’s CO2 levels, temperature, and light exposure daily.
  2. Planted tanks exposed to high levels of light are prone to an overgrowth of algae, making your tank challenging to clean. It also makes your water look murky.
  3. Intentionally helping your plants to pearl will cost you a lot of time and money. You’ll be faced with a myriad of different fertilizers that you’ll want to add to boost your tank plants’ health, for example. There are also tools like drop checkers, N and P test kits, and multiple vitamins. If, in the end, you don’t get as many of those bubbles as you had envisioned, the whole endeavor might leave you frustrated.

The Last Word on Plant Pearling

Here’s a summary of pearling plant basics:

  • Pearling plants are aquarium plants that release excess oxygen in the form of beautiful bubble strings.
  • There are several differences between false pearling and true pearling.
  • True pearling plants require an abundance of light, CO2, and nutrients.
  • Some of the easiest tank plants that can be expected to pearl are fast-growing stem plants.
  • True pearling plants are not only pretty to look at; they supply your tank with copious amounts of oxygen too.

Many planted tank hobbyists rightfully brag about their beautiful pearling plants. The strings of bubbles that congregate on the tips of lush, green leaves make aquariums more mesmerizing. Plus, there’s the fact that pearling plants are plants in excellent health.

Your aquarium inhabitants will no doubt benefit from being neighbors with such healthy fauna.

Now that you know the basics of pearling plants, you should be able to incorporate them into your tank with confidence.

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