Top 10 Aquarium Plants for Breeding Fish and Raising Fry
If you plan on breeding fish and want to increase the survival rate and growth of the babies, we love using live aquarium plants. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but the foliage serves as spawning sites for the parents to lay their eggs. They need to be fed daily once the babies hatch. The plants also help grow microfauna so the fry can graze. They purify water by absorption of toxic waste chemicals made by fish. The thick jungle of leaves is a great hiding place for young people to escape hungry adults. We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 dense and fluffy plants fish breeders use to raise fry.
1. Java Moss
A pair pygmy corydoras laying on java moss. (Taxiphyllum barieri)
Mosses like java moss and Christmas moss are at the top of the list because not only are they dense enough to provide good cover for baby fish and shrimp, but they tend to attract mulm and microorganisms for them to forage on. Mosses provide a cover for eggs that fish can scatter, with little tendrils which the eggs can stick to. Their branching stems also protect them from predation. Java moss is an excellent choice for beginners as it requires very little light and doesn’t require substrate. You can attach it to a wire grid to make it look like a deep, fuzzy green carpet. Or wrap it around driftwood to give it a natural aged look. Just add a little Easy Green all-in-one fertilizer to keep it growing well.
2. Pogostemon stellatus ‘octopus’
Pogostemon stellatus ‘octopus’ is a fast-growing stem plant that can easily fill up your tank if given enough nutrients and low to medium lighting. Its long, wispy and brightly colored leaves give it its name “octopus”. Over time, the tentacle-like leaf can become dense and block out larger predators.
The original plant was grown from water at the farm, so it may have larger leaves than normal when you receive it. The emersed-grown foliage will eventually swell and the plant will grow new, more skinny leaves, which are used to being submerged under water. Once plants arrive at our facility we begin the process for converting them back to their submerged state. To speed up the conversion of your Pogostemon. stellatus, if it is less than half converted upon arrival, you can lift it up to the surface to allow it more light and carbon dioxide (CO2) from air.
3. Water Sprite
Water sprite, another fast-growing stem plants, is great at absorbing excess nutrients to clean the water for fish. It also helps prevent algae growth. It can be planted in the ground to form a tall, bushy mound of fine, lacy plants for small shrimp and fish to shelter in. When grown as a floating plant, the leaves become much wider with rounded tips, and it grows long, thick roots for fish to lay their eggs and babies to graze on. Like most stem plants, it prefers feeding from the water column and enjoys liquid fertilizers like Easy Green.
4. Guppy Grass
This species originates from North and South America and is so good at breeding fish that it has gained the nickname “guppy grass.” Think of it like nature’s version of the yarn spawning mop. Although it can be planted in the substrate it is often grown as a giant floating mass of plant material by hobbyists. Because the stems produce tightly spaced, short, narrow leaves interlocking with each other, guppy grass is almost impossible to penetrate by adult fish. However, the roots can easily be split and propagated. This makes it difficult to ship and less suitable for high flow tanks.
5. Mayaca fluviatilis
Mayaca fluviatilis, a unique species that provides interesting textures to your planted aquarium, is the best choice. This South and Central American species has very fine, small leaves growing all along its stem, making it look like a yellow-green pipe cleaner. Its fuzzy-looking leaves resemble mosses and are why it is called “stream bogmoss.” The stream bogmoss will quickly grow and provide a great hiding spot for shrimp and baby fish once it is established.
Planting vallisneria, or val, is a great way to add greenery to your aquarium. This background plant looks similar to a tall field or grass. It can grow high enough that it covers the water surface, providing fish security. This plant is easy to care for, requires little light, and can spread quickly. Vallisneria is propagated by sending out runners. Each plant produces a baby plant at its end. The plantlets eventually reach large enough size to be able to send their own runners. Once the val is established and spreads widely, it can withstand the nibbling of fish such as goldfish and African cichlids.
7. Tripartita Hydrocotyle ‘Japan’
We love this unusual plant for its small, clover-shaped leaves and ability to spread its stringy stems along the substrate and hardscape, much like a creeping ivy. It has the versatility to be used either in the foreground as ground cover or draped across driftwood. Unlike many of the other species on this list, it does best in medium to high light environments and would benefit from CO2 injection. Hydrocotyle tripartite Japan’s compact and bushier growth patterns are ideal for hiding baby fish and dwarf shrimp in high-tech aquariums. For propagation, trim off any excess height and replant them in a garden.
8. Bolbitis Fern
Bolbitis, also known as the African water fern, is the most common epiphyte plant sold in aquarium hobby. This is due to its thick, texture fronds. Bolbitis is slower to grow than many stem plants. However, once mature, it can turn into a huge, emerald green shrub which conceals small fish. This tough plant is able to withstand high pH and GH water and can be used in African cichlid, African goldfish and even monster fish tanks. Bolbitis is a branch-like, horizontal rhizome. It should not be covered, so don’t bury it in ground. You can attach it to driftwood, rock or with super glue gel or sewing thread. Our quick guide to planting epiphytes and other types of plants provides more information.
9. Pearl Weed
Although it looks very similar to baby tear, pearl weed has oblong-shaped, longer leaves. Its small leaves and unkempt growth can serve to form a thick jungle for little creatures to reside within. Due to its delicate stems we recommend leaving it in the rock wool that came with the plant and digging a hole large enough for the entire plastic container to be in the substrate. This leaves the fragile roots of the pearl weed intact while the plant converts to its underwater, submerged form. This species grows best in medium to high light and can reach the surface. You can trim it to be a background or midground planting.
Floating plants with shaggy roots and long hair are great for hiding eggs, newborn fish, or other small creatures. Amazon frogbit is one of our favorites because of their round, green leaves that look like miniature lily pads. The roots can reach the substrate all the way and give the appearance of a upside-down forest. Frogbit spreads by sending runners, so it can be easily removed in large numbers.
A dwarf water lettuce alternative is available. It is a floating plant similar to the one described above. Floating plants are fast growing and can absorb harmful nitrogen chemicals from water. They should not be allowed to cover the entire surface of the water. This could cause them to shade the plants below and decrease the level of dissolved oxygen.
These plants can increase the survival rate for fry, which will make you more successful in your next breeding venture. For more tips and tricks on spawning fish and raising fry, browse our collection of breeding articles.