Our 5 Favorite Aquarium Plants That Everyone Should Try
You may have tried buying live aquatic plants online. It can be confusing to compare the care requirements and difficulties of different species. Aquarium Co-Op aims to provide a well-curated selection of the best, most hardy plants in the hobby. But sometimes it’s nice to speak to someone at the shop and get some recommendations. We interviewed Cory McElroy, our CEO, to learn his top picks and recommend them to everyone.
1. Dwarf Sagittaria
One of Cory’s favorite plants has always been vallisneria, but because it can grow up to 4-6 feet (1-2 m) long, it is more suitable for larger tanks. Another grass-like plant is dwarf sagittaria. It will grow between 3 and 8 cm in high lighting, and 18 to 45 cm in low lighting. Even if one plant is purchased, it can reproduce quickly using underground runners. These will fill in the aquarium’s bottom. Dwarf sagittaria enjoys feeding from its roots, so make sure to provide it with nutrient-rich planted tank substrate or Easy Root Tabs as fertilizer.
Dwarf sagittaria is usually grown emersed (with its leaf out of water) at farm plants. Your order might have large, round leaves that aren’t exactly like the pictures. Not to worry – just remove the plant from the plastic pot and plant the roots in the substrate, making sure not to cover the base of the plant’s leaves. Soon enough the long, emersed leaf will begin to melt and new, shorter, skinnier leaves will emerge. Another way to plant dwarf sagittaria is to place the whole plastic basket inside of an Easy Planter decoration and stick a root tab inside the rock wool. The decoration protects the plant from being uprooted by fish so that it can start growing new leaves and carpeting the ground with little, grassy tufts.
2. Dwarf Aquarium Lily
You are looking for a stunning centerpiece plant that will wow all who visit your home? The dwarf aquarium lily, a bulb plant that grows quickly with reddish-colored leaves and lily pads at the top, is a great choice. It thrives even in low light conditions and is often used as a background plant to cover the rear tank wall with lush foliage.
Aquarium Co-Op will send you a bulb with peat moss if you order your lily. The bulb should be rinsed off and placed on top of the soil. The bulb might initially flounder, but it will eventually sink if it is allowed to soak in the water. In one to three week, the bulb should have a few shoots that form new leaves and roots. If the bulb doesn’t sprout, flip it upside-down. Once the plant becomes large and firmly rooted, make sure to provide plenty of Easy Root tabs or nutrient-rich substrate to keep the lily well-fed. Our care guide for dwarf aquarium lilies contains detailed information.
3. Cryptocoryne Wendtii
The Cryptocoryne Genus, or “crypt”, is very popular due to its low light requirements and slow steady growth that doesn’t need much pruning. Crypt wendtii, a variety of color options, is one of our most popular species. These include crinkly, green and even pink leaves. It can grow to 6-8 inches (15-20cm) in height. Many people use it as a middleground plant depending on the aquarium’s size. Bury the roots while leaving the crown (or base of the leaves) above the ground. Feed it root tabs or enriched substrate to encourage healthy growth, and eventually your crypt may start producing new plantlets from its root base. If your crypt starts melting away, read our article on crypt melt for more help.
4. Pogostemon stellatus ‘octopus’
Pogostemon stellatus ‘octopus’
The spring-green color of this plant is derived from its long, wispy, and elongated leaves. It resembles an octopus whose legs are waving in the water. Although the plant can withstand low light conditions, its uppermost leaves can develop a striking purple color under higher lighting. It grows quickly and tall, just like most stem plants. This makes it a great background plant.
To plant Pogostemon. stellatus, remove any rock wool stems and insert them into the substrate as deep to prevent them getting uprooted. Dose the water with Easy Green all-in-one liquid fertilizer to provide all the nutrients they need to grow well. When the stem tips reach the water surface cut the top 6 inches (15cm) and then propagate them by replanting any trimmings in the substrate. Once you have cultivated a dense forest of Pogostemon stellatus, they become the perfect hiding place for nano fish and baby fry.
5. Anubias nangi
Anubias are well-known aquarium plants, but Anubias.nangi, a newer addition, features long, pointed leaves. This hybrid, which is a cross between A. barteri ‘nana” and A. gilletii ‘nana, typically grows between 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) high and seems to be hardy even compared to other Anubias varieties.
To plant your new anubias, either attach it to driftwood or rock using super glue gel or leave it in the plastic basket to place inside an Easy Planter decoration. A. nangi like all anubias prefers low light and slow growth. A healthy anubias plant has a rhizome (or thick horizontal stem) that grows sideways, sprouting bright green leaves that eventually turn a deeper green color over time. If you have a smaller aquarium and do not want it to get overgrown too quickly, you can’t go wrong with A. nangi.
To get started with your first (or 20th) planted aquarium, browse our selection of live aquarium plants. See real-life images submitted by customers and read reviews about each species. You can also contact us if your plants arrive damaged because of shipping.