Recently, I have returned to using live plants in my wild betta tanks. My reasoning for this is twofold, and basically all comes back to my long-term goal of 'hands-off' fish keeping.
Firstly, as I am now using aqua soil as a substrate in all my wild betta tanks, I require something to uptake excess nutrients from the water column. Secondly, live plants can essentially take on the role of biological filtration in tanks where conditions are not conductive to the growth of beneficial bacteria.
In an uncycled tank, the only way to remove potentially toxic ammonia is through very frequent water changes. Unfortunately, unless your source water is very close in chemistry to your tank water, changing out water constantly can cause potentially harmful swings in parameters.
However, fast growing species of aquatic plants (particularly floaters and stems) can be exceptionally efficient absorbers of ammonia. In fact, if your tank has enough actively growing plant mass, you may never see a spike in ammonia levels. This process is often referred to as a 'silent cycle' as the plants take on the role that the biological filter would otherwise occupy.
While all this sounds great, there is one major hurdle wild betta keepers face when trying to grow live plants, and that is tannins.
Tannins are terrific for wild bettas, but not so great for plants. Tannins can have an affect on light penetration, so the darker your water is, the less light can penetrate to the bottom of the tank. This is bad news for fast growing stems, which often show poor growth or may die back completely without good lighting.
Nonetheless, you can solve this problem by floating light-loving plants at the surface of the tank. These will act as your main plant mass, and uptake excess nutrients like ammonia and nitrates.
In places where the light isn't as strong, less demanding plants can be used. The often slow growth of 'traditional' low-light plants, means they don't do much in the way of nutrient uptake. However, I've found live plants invaluable at creating cover in tanks with particularly aggressive inhabitants.
I am a huge advocate of using live plants in aquariums. They not only have aesthetic value, but also help create stability in uncycled tanks.
I think stability really is the key to healthy fish, particularly if like me, you are dealing with sensitive or wild-caught individuals.
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, I currently keep and breed a number of species from the coccina complex.