Top 10 Easy Aquarium Plants for Beginners
Planted aquariums are very popular nowadays because of their natural beauty and amazing ability to consume the toxic nitrogen compounds produced by fish waste. Many novices fail to preserve their green leaves from turning brown, despite trying hard. We’ve spent more than a decade growing, propagating and selling aquarium plants. Now we have a list of the top 10 aquarium plants that are easy to keep green and not go bad.
1. Marimo Moss Ball
This is the world’s easiest aquarium orb. It is not a moss or plant, but a naturally occurring ball cladophora (algae) and is well-known. The only care required for this marimo ball is to gently roll it in your hands each time you perform a water change. This will ensure that the ball retains its shape and allows all parts of the algae to get light. They’re quite inexpensive and unique looking, so people often buy an army of them to fill their betta tanks or goldfish aquariums. You can even unroll them and wrap them around driftwood to create a miniature tree. Our complete care guide is available here.
2. Amazon Sword
This is a classic aquarium plant that can grow large and cover your tank with lush greenery. Lighting and substate are important, but so is making sure your fish tank gets lots and lots root tabs. When you first buy it, the sword usually has big, round leaves that are emersed grown (or grown outside of water). These large leaves become brittle when placed in water. As the plant absorbs its nutrients, they make smaller, longer leaves that are submersed (or underwater) once again.
If your new leaves are yellowing, you should give them more root tabs. The sword can eventually grow large enough to be a mother plant. This will create long spikes which turn into baby sword plants that you can plant in other aquariums.
3. Cryptocoryne Wendtii
This low-maintenance crypt is one of our favorites because it doesn’t require liquid fertilizers or carbon dioxide (CO2) injection. This slow-growing plant can grow in any kind of light and on almost any substrate. This plant prefers to eat from its roots so make sure to add root tabs to inert substrates at least every three months for best health. There are many types of Crypt Wendtii, including red, brown, tropicala and tropica. To better enhance the redness of its leaves, consider dosing extra iron supplements to the aquarium water.
Much like Amazon swords, crypts leaves are known for melting back when they’re first added to a new tank. If you see this happen, don’t throw away your “dead” plant! Leave it planted in the substrate, and once it has adjusted to your water chemistry, it’ll quickly rebound and grow new leaves.
4. Aponogeton crispus
This low-light plant can grow from a bulb, and produces long, wavy edges leaves that flow beautifully in an aquarium. This is the most popular species that can be sold at pet shops as a “betta bulbs” because they are so easy to maintain. Just place the bulb on top of the substrate, and watch it rapidly sprout leaves and roots. Sometimes the bulb goes dormant for a few months. The larger leaves will then die back. You can leave the plant in the aquarium and new growth will emerge. This plant is only a few bucks and will grow quickly, get tall, and even produce flowers.
5. Bacopa caroliniana
Bacopa is an excellent choice to begin with if you are looking for stem plants. This is a native of the southern United States. It has a straight, vertical stem, with small, roundish, green leaves. It doesn’t require CO2 injection, but it does enjoy liquid fertilizers like Easy Green. While it can grow in low light, the leaf tips turn coppery-red in the presence of high light and iron dosing.
As with most aquarium plants, bacopa is usually grown out of water at plant farms. The top of the plant will begin producing submerse-grown foliage once it is planted underwater. Meanwhile, the emersed-grown lower leaves begin to fall off. The bottom half of your stem will eventually look like a thin, bare trunk. To make it fuller, just trim the tops off and replant them. You can also propagate bacopa by doing the same thing. As the plant grows taller, cut off the tops to plant them in a different location.
6. Christmas Moss
Christmas moss is a great choice for breeding tanks. The fluffy fronds are reminiscent of Christmas trees and make great cover for shrimp and baby fish. Aquascapers often tie them to rocks and driftwood in order to imitate the look of an overgrown, moss-covered forest. This slow-growing moss can be kept looking its best by investing in small algae eaters such as amano shrimp, and dousing it with liquid fertilizer.
You can make your aquarium appear like an underwater jungle by using very little effort. All you need is one plant – vallisneria. This tall grass-like species can be grown if you give it plenty of root tabs. Once it’s well-established in your aquarium, you can even add fish that are traditionally known for digging up or eating plants (such as goldfish or African cichlids). Check out our vallisneria care sheet here.
8. Java Fern
Java moss, also known as Java Fern, is a plant that grows in the Java island. Although both can be cared for easily, their appearances are quite distinct. There are many varieties of Java Fern, such as the narrow leaf, Windelov (or lance) and the trident, but the most well-known type has long, pointed, deeply ridged leaves. Its roots and leaves sprout from the Rhizome, which is a thick horizontal stem or stalk. However, it is important to not plant the Rhizome in the substrate. Instead, most people wedge the plant into the crevices of rocks and wood, and the roots eventually grow tightly around it. You can also use sewing thread or super glue gel to make sure the plant stays in place, so follow this article for step-by-step instructions.
Windelov java fern
The roots don’t need to be planted in substrate. Instead, they absorb nutrients from the water column. It can be propagated by either cutting it in half or letting one leaf float on the surface. Soon, the black spots (or sporangia) will turn into baby plants with tiny roots and little leaves. These plantlets can eventually be detached and planted elsewhere in the aquarium. Read our full java fern care guide here.
9. Cryptocoryne lutea
Cryptocorynes are so undemanding and beginner-friendly that we had to add another one to our list. The crypt wendtii species is more demanding than this one. However, the slender green leaves of this species add variety to your aquarium’s texture. You can use any substrate and any lighting to make crypts happy. There is no need for CO2 injection. In general, crypts grow slowly, but give it three months from the day you put them in your aquarium and it’ll soon become one of your favorites. Crypts are more difficult to grow and require regular pruning. However, they look great for many years with no special care except the occasional root tab. Check out this dedicated article for more information.
10. Dwarf Sagittaria
You need an easy, carpeting-like plant to add color and texture to your aquascape. Dwarf sagittaria is a hardy, grass-like plant that looks like a miniature vallisneria. It grows taller and smaller if it has high light. However, if it has low light it can stay short and compact. It is a good scavenger for both liquid fertilizers and root tabs. Dwarf dwarf sag spreads easily by sending out runners across the substrate. If it spreads to an unwanted area of the tank, just pull out the new shoots and replant them elsewhere.
You’ll be able to fill your aquarium with these beginner-friendly plants.
For any reason you don’t see healthy growth, please consult our free guide on plant nutrient deficiencies.