Currently I have an aquarium that has a pebble bottom. Smooth and round pebbles both big and small. I am toying with the idea of introducing live plants to my aquarium. I would like to avoid soil substrate. Will it be possible to grow live plants using just the pebbles?

One of the reasons for considering to have live plants is due to the fish poop that gets in the pebbles. I am hoping that these left over poop after siphoning will become fertilizer for the plants?

  • What minimal and maximal sizes do the pebbles have (very) approximately? Jan 14, 2017 at 20:17

3 Answers 3


Yes! Not only is it possible its a sustainable method of farming! Hydroponics is farming without soil, and aquaponics is hydroponics using fish. On a low level, the fish waste feeds the plants and the plants clean the water for the fish. Here are a lot more details.

If you want to grow food you can eat, lettuce is by far the easiest to use. If you just wanna have some plants in the water, I'd go to your local pet store and ask them what they recommend.


It's definitely possible to grow plants without a soil substrate.
There are even a bunch of plants that don't have their roots in the soil, you'll need to attach them to a rock or a piece of wood. Anubias or a Java Fern for example. I have them both attached to a piece of wood in my tank, and they're growing great.

For other plants it depends a bit on the size of the pebbles you have. In the beginning it's possible that you'll have to hold them down with a rock, or also attach them to something to give them the chance to grow their roots around the pebbles.

However, plants won't really help you solve the fish poop problem though. Some of it will probably be used, but you'll still need to do the 'normal' fishtank maintenance (like water changes). And to successfully grow plants you'll also need to use fertilizer, and/or have clay balls near the roots.

I definitely recommend adding real plants to a fishtank, but I don't think it will help with the problem you're trying to solve.


The plants will not grow well in the pebbles, this is a terrible substrate for plant roots. What you could do, however, is grow the plants in small pots and bury the pots in the pebbles. Put some soil rich in clay at the bottom of the pots, then add sand on top to keep the soil from muddying the water. This won't get rid of the poop problem, though. Add some corydoras to stir up the bottom and a good filter to get rid of the poop when is suspended in the water.

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