Dealing with Success

(Unedited version)
Originally appeared in the July 2007 issue of
Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine

Once you have your planted aquarium successfully running you’ll soon find yourself faced with the problems of your success. What to do with the excess plants growing in your tank.

At first it’s simple, you trim your plants and most of the trimmings go back in the tank to create more plants, but eventually you find that your tank is just plain full and there’s no place left to put your trimmings. Congratulations! You’ve reached a new level of success, and those trimmings have real value.

Excess plants and stem plant trimmings can be turned in to trade or cash value. You won’t be able to quite your day job but you can turn some of plant trimmings in to new plants, fish or equipment for your aquarium hobby.


An easy way is to simply trade your plants in to your local fish store. Be sure to check with the owners before bringing plants in. Some stores are relatively open to trades while other stores have policies that don’t allow them at all. Large chain stores usually don’t allow trades but many of the smaller independently owned stores will. Each store has its own policy but I’ve found that those that do offer trades usually will offer you a percentage of the value of the plants in exchange for store credit.

Remember the store is looking for products that will actually sell, so the plants they will accept have to of reasonably good quality. These plants should display nicely. The leaves should be full and lush, and there should be multiple stems in bunches of stemmed plants. A store will usually want several of the same plant rather than just one or two. The more ready the plant is for sale the happier the store will be to work with you. Your knowledge of your product will help also. Know the scientific and common names of your plants and how to spell them, and know what conditions your plant grows best in so the store employees will be able to pass that information on to their customers.

Being polite and doing business at times that the store is less busy will also tend to help make your trades more favorable to the store owners and managers. Remember they are still trying to do business with other customers and you’re trying to sell them something. Your attitude will go a long way in determining what sort of relationship you’ll have with your store. Good relationships with an attentive store staff can be very helpful in getting you the latest information and products, calls when something you might be interested in arrives, better trades, discounts and service.

Sale, Trade or Give to Other Hobbyists

A great way to deal with your unwanted excess plants is give them to other hobbyists. Whether you’re encouraging a new hobbyist to try plants or an experienced fish keeper to fill their bare tanks with plants, getting new people to grow plants is a rewarding way to dispose of extras. Children, schools and friends often have aquariums and are happy to have a few extra plants or fish now and then. Encouraging other hobbyists and watching their delight in seeing their new plants grow can be emotionally rewarding.

Trading plants is a great way to meet other hobbyists and increase your own collection of plants or fish. You can trade with people locally or through the mail. Plants are easily shipped when well packed.

As the aquarium planting hobby has gained in popularity in recent years, local clubs have sprung up around the country. In our local plant group we generally bring in our cuttings and have a free for all, first come first served sort of trade. There’s usually not a problem in getting everyone some of what ever is offered that they’re interested in. In other plant and aquarium clubs live auctions are a fun way to sale plants or fish and buy new ones. In national groups huge quantities of rare and exotic plants can be found in day long auctions.

Another way to sale your excess plants are on auctions on line. Large auctions sites often have plants but smaller specific sites like are another great way to sale excess plants. Of course if you offer plants for sale on auctions you have to research where and how to ship the plants before you actually sell them. It’s often a good idea to buy a few things on an on line auction before you try selling. This way you can earn performance points and learn how the user and what standards are in place before you try to sell your aquarium plants.

Shipping Plants

Whether in trade, sale or as a gift, if you are going to ship aquarium plants you’ll want to know how. Before shipping your aquarium plants, first make sure that the plants you intend to ship are legal. Not only is there a national list of Noxious Weeds, but states have their own lists. Be sure that the state you are shipping from and to allow the transportation of the plants you intend to send.

Ship healthy plants as soon after removal from their original tank as possible. Make sure you’ve advised the person to receive the plants of snails, possible fish eggs, algae or anything else they might want to know about. Also make sure they know the box is coming so they’ll be prepared.

There are many ways to ship your plants. In the past I’ve rolled them in old newspapers, then placed in bags, and I’ve also just placed them directly in to bags. As long as they bag is relatively full so they won’t be jostled too much, it’s easier to just put the plants directly in to the bags. Be sure you use appropriate bags. Those made specifically for shipping and transporting fish are also the best bags to use to transport or ship plants. Be sure to use a good rubber band to secure the top.

It’s best to leave some air in the bags, but for short and extreme situations, you can compress the bags and ship them pretty much flat. I’ve done this when trying to get a lot of plants back in a small piece of carry on luggage. Remember the plants were only in these conditions for less than 12 hours, and for regular shipping I would leave air in the bags. On the other side, make sure the bag isn’t too filled with air. You don’t want it like a balloon or it may pop under different air pressure changes that may occur in shipping. You want your bags to be mostly full but to have some give.

I like to ship plants and fish in Styrofoam boxes, but a well packaged regular cardboard box can be used to ship plants as long as it’s well padded and the destination and trip won’t be too extreme in temperature. The insulated boxes do add piece of mind and I would recommend them when possible. Make sure appropriate padding is used. Air filled bags, bags filled with packing peanuts and bubble wrap are all good for packing around plants. Make sure they aren’t too tightly packed or too loosely packed. You don’t want to squish them or have them flying around the box.

Remember that unlike fish, in most cases plants can be shipped without water, as long as the leaves are damp and the plants are in good plastic bags. This makes them much easier to ship. Usually priority mail is an inexpensive and appropriate way to ship your plants. You may want to check the postal web site and call your post office first to check on guidelines.

But don’t dump your plants!

There are many ways to give your excess plants away, trade them for new plants or just sale them, but sometimes none of these options may work for you. Then what should you do? If you can’t get your extra plants to other aquarists in some way then the only thing you can do is destroy the plants. They must be thrown away in such a way that they won’t be able to get in to your local natural landscape.

Several aquatic plants have made it on to the Federal Noxious Weed list. These plants have found their way in to natural ecosystems where they weren’t originally. This has become a major problem both in this country and around the world. Sometimes animals or plants have been released by governmental agencies with particular purposes in mind; sometimes they come from ponds or gardens and escape unintentionally in to the wild. And sadly sometimes animals or plants are released by misguided owners.

People may sometimes think that their unwanted pets or plants can be set free to take care of themselves. Unfortunately what usually happens is the released organism either dies because it can’t cope with the wild surroundings or the organism finds that it likes the new surroundings very well and since there are no natural predators it becomes invasive.

Invasive plants and animals destroy local ecosystems, driving out or killing the native inhabitants. They also cause damage to economic interests. Particularly in the area of aquatic plants there are problems with water ways becoming clogged or even interfering with hydroelectric plants. Floating invasive plants can cover natural waters keeping sunlight from plants below, which die off. Eventually they can even cause oxygen depletion and fish deaths.

I’ve been happy lately to see several retail pet suppliers posting notices on their web sites and even on the plastic bags that fish and plants are carried home in, reminding people to never release their pets or plants. Remember to never release plants or animals in to the natural environment. For more information you can check Habitattitude at

Added Bonus of the Aquarium Plant Hobby

Once you get to the stage where your excess plants are a problem, you can really pat yourself on the back for being a successful aquatic gardener. Having extra plants to give away, sale or trade is really an added bonus. While you won’t get rich on your extra plants they are a nice way to meet fellow hobbyists, share, and trade for new plants, and get a little extra cash for your hobby.

Welcome to the Jungle | Into The Forest | The Creepy Crawlies | A Clearing in the Thicket | Algae Eaters for the Planted Aquarium
North American Natives | Why things go wrong Pt 1 | Why things go wrong Pt 2 (Algae) | Algae Eating Shrimp | Lo-Tech Tanks
Welcome to the Fish Room | The Stemmed Plants | Mosses | A Livebearer Biotope | Planted Tank Social | The Genus Hygrophila | Cyanobacteria
Easy Plants | What I Did Last Summer | Decorations in the Planted Tank | Botany-An Introduction to Plant Biology | Botany-Anatomy of a plant
Botany-How Plants Work | Easy Rosettes | Going High-Tech | Floating Plants | Dealing with Success | Bringing the Outside In | Vallisneria
Hair Algae | Flowering Aquarium Plants Part 1 | Flowering Aquarium Plants Part 2 | Liverworts in the Aquarium | Elements of Design
Planted Aquarium Maintenance | More Mosses | Invaders | Ferns in the Aquarium | Setting up a Planted Aquarium
Seaweeds of the Pacific Northwest | Proserpinaca | Hardware for the Planted Aquarium | Rotala | Neocaridina Shrimp | Lo-tech Tank Tips

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