Top 5 Midground Plants to Balance Your Planted Aquarium


Top 5 Midground Plants to Balance Your Planted Aquarium

It is important to choose the right plants for your tank and place them in the best places. This will make the aquarium look more attractive, especially after they are established. For the most balanced tanks, taller plants are placed in the back while shorter plants are located at the front. However, the stark height differences between them is not always visually appealing. To create a transition between the tallest and the shortest plants, aquascapers use middleground plants or medium-sized plant to make the aquarium look balanced. The plants look layered or stacked, creating a natural-looking aquascape.

The difference can be observed in the images below. In the photo at the left, you can see a shorter carpeting species in its foreground and a taller stem plant at the back. The plants are both visually appealing by themselves, but the striking height difference casts shadows in the tank’s middle and draws the eye there. The photo to the right shows similar plants. There is a short, carpeting species in the front and taller stem plants in the background. The tank also has plants that are medium-high in the middle. This gives the tank a more balanced look as the eye is drawn gently from the front to center and then up to the highest plants at the back. This also appears natural, as plants can be found mixed together in nature.

Planted aquariums with no middleground plants (left), versus those with midground plant (right).

To help you get started, let us introduce you to our top 5 categories of midground plants that will enhance the beauty of your planted aquarium:

1. Anubias Plants

Anubias plants

Anubias nana (or Anubias barteri var. Anubias nana is a medium-sized Anubias species, which makes it a great choice for the aquarium’s midground. This plant’s uniqueness is its preference to attach to rock and wood, which are often placed in the middle of an aquarium. Anubias Nana grows from a horizontal stem, called a Rhizome. It will send its leaves upwards. You can expect a bushy and full growth even in low light. Medium-sized leaves provide the perfect transition from small plants in front to tall plants in back and add a cozy place for shrimp and small fish to take cover. Anubias golden, Anubias copper coin, Anubias teafolia, and Anubias green coffee are other Anubias species of similar size that can be used in place of Anubias.

2. Java Fern

Narrow leaf java fern (left) and Windelov java fern (right)

Java fern (Microsorum pteropus) is always an excellent addition to any planted tank. In terms of tank placement, java fern is well suited as a midground plant due to its medium-sized leaves and the fact that it loves to be attached to wood and rocks just like Anubias species. Although it will make a strong visual impact, its bright green leaves won’t completely shade the aquarium plants.

Java fern ‘Windelov,’ which has lace-like tips on its leaves, offers more variety. This java fern is smaller than the standard Java fern and can be used in small aquascapes as a middleground plant.

3. Cryptocoryne Plants

Cryptocoryne plants as midground plants

Due to their small growing patterns and medium-sized leaves, the different Cryptocoryne Wendtii color options – including tropica, green and reddish-bronze – make excellent midground plants. They make a great transition from the foreground of the aquarium to the back because they are medium height yet quite leafy once they’re well-established. Their wavy, crinkled leaf texture and different color variety options add the perfect visual spice to any aquarium.

Crypt lucens

Cryptocoryne Luzens is a gorgeous, narrow-leafed crypt that doesn’t grow more than a few inches when fully grown. Overall, this plant seems underused, but it makes an ideal midground plant in aquascaping. It isn’t as large as other crypt species and its delicate texture transitions from the tank’s front to the back can be attributed to its slim leaves. The plant appears to be thick grass or reeds once it’s grown in.

4. Baby Tears

Micranthemum umbrosum

The larger baby tear plant makes a great middleground plant. It will need to be trimmed often to keep it neat. The delicate stems of this plant are surrounded by round, green leaves. The plant will appear bushy and shorter if it is cut off at the tips. Baby tears will grow to the surface if it is left alone. If kept trimmed, the delicate, round leaves can provide a lovely midground texture.

5. Dwarf Chain Sword

Helanthium tenellum

Dwarf chain sword, or pygmy chain sword, is always a great choice because it is one of the easier grassy plants that grows quickly to create a lawn-like appearance. It is able to fill in any gaps in the aquarium, and it can grow to several inches in height without needing trimming. This makes it an excellent choice for the middle of most medium-sized aquariums. It is a taller and wider-leafed species than the foreground species of micro sword or dwarf hairgrass. This makes it able to visually transition between the shorter, lower-growing species at the front of the tank and the taller, more established species at the back.

Aquarium Co-Op’s goal is to offer a well-curated selection of aquatic plants that can grow well for hobbyists. Explore our entire collection of midground plants for more ideas on your next planted tank.