Aquarium plants Articles

8 easy aquarium plants

February 8, 2013
Java moss

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner without much experience when it comes to planted tanks or an expert who’s looking for green without having to worry about dying plants and CO2 installations – everyone needs hardy, easy to care for plants sometimes. They are decorative, remove nitrates from the water and provide fish with a place to hide.

No CO2, no extra lights, no specific water values; keep reading for a list of plants that will be able to survive in the hands of the worst plant-keepers and most low tech setups, all while looking just as great as more sensitive plants!

Java moss Taxiphyllum barbieri

Used in aquariums throughout the world for various purposes, this undemanding, hardy plant (pictured above) is the most popular of all mosses available in the aquarium trade. It can provide a hiding place for tiny fry and shrimp, but is also often used for decoration; it can be tied to rocks and driftwood with fishing line or left floating free.

If you’d like to get creative, floating Java moss balls or Java moss covered coconut hides are also a possibility. In terms of light, this moss is very undemanding, and it can survive in a wide range of temperatures and water conditions – even in brackish water. For healthy Java moss, trim it when it gets too thick to keep the lower parts healthy and green.

You can buy Java moss online here. If you’re interested in other easy aquarium mosses, have a look at this article.

Amazon sword – Echinodorus amazonicus, Echinodorus bleheri etc.

Famous for the enormous size it can reach even with low lighting, Amazon sword is most suitable for bigger tanks. This plant is a root feeder, so it might require some additional root fertilizers – simple root tabs are usually enough.

When provided with this, Amazon sword can turn into a ‘monster-plant’ and reach a size of almost 2′ (60cm), and thus makes a great background plant or focal point in the aquarium. If you allow your Amazon sword to grow above the water surface, it might even produce a few flowers.

Microsorum pteropusJava fern – Microsorum pteropus

Ahh, Java fern. Definitely a personal favourite. Although it can take this plant a while to get going in terms of growth, it’s unstoppable once it does! Java fern can survive in almost any aquarium, as it doesn’t require much light or specific water values, and is left alone even by plant-eating fish like goldfish. The only thing it needs to be able to grow into a nice, thick forest is for its roots not to be planted in the substrate; it prefers to be tied to a rock or driftwood.

Java fern is available in many varieties; if you don’t like the regular one, go for Windeløv-, narrow leaf-, trident- or Philippine Java fern. A full Java fern caresheet can be found here.

Vallisneria Vallisneria spiralis, gigantea, etc.

Vallisneria is another plant with subspecies suitable for almost every aquarium, although it may not always be herbivore-safe and will be seen as a snack by some fish species. It can easily adapt to almost any water and light conditions and although it’s not the fastest grower, you will quickly see runners with small new leaves appear around the mother plant.

If the runners are not removed, Vallisneria will form a dense field in a relatively short amount of time, which is great if you want to provide your fish with hiding places.
I’ve kept Vallisneria before and probably will own it again, as it’s very easy to care for and really appreciated by shy fish like bettas and dwarf puffers.

A full Vallisneria caresheet can be found on Aquariadise here and buy you can buy this plant online here!

amazon frogbitAmazon frogbit – Limnobium laevigatum

If you’re looking for a hardy, fast growing floating plant to provide your fish with some shade, look no further! Although frogbit can’t handle harsh lighting or being under water for extended periods of time very well, it’s one of the most popular floating plants – and for a reason.

Frogbit grows very quickly, even in less than ideal water conditions, and its long roots make a great place for skittish fish to hide in. I’d definitely recommend this plant – if you’re prepared to remove a bunch of it every once in a while to prevent the surface from being completely overgrown, that is.

Anubias – Anubias barteri, Anubias nana etc.

Anubias is one of the few plants that actually prefers low lighting, which, along with the fact that even plant-eating fish seem to leave it alone, makes it a great addition to many types of aquariums.

Anubias won’t appreciate being planted in the substrate and does best when tied to rocks or driftwood. It looks especially good in small groups of multiple plants and the broad leaves make a great sitting or sleeping place for fish that appreciate this. Trim your Anubias often by regularly removing some leaves with a pair of scissors to keep it looking good. If you allow it to grow above the water, it may reward you with a lovely white flower as pictured to the side.

You can find a full Anubias caresheet here.

Crypt Wendtii Cryptocoryne wendtii

If you’ve just bought a Crypt, you may be disappointed  to see it seemingly dying within a few weeks. However, there is no reason to be discouraged. Cryptocoryne species are well known for their tendency to shed old leaves and ‘melting’ after being moved and then quickly growing back into a larger plant.

Crypts do well in low-light settings and although they grow quite slowly a huge bush can form over time in stable conditions. We keep them in our tropical living room tank and love it; they have formed a huge forest and have reached the top of the tank.

Cryptocoryne is availble in many different varieties including the red form pictured to the side and a dwarf form that can be used as a carpeting plant. You can find a full Cryptocoryne caresheet here and buy Cryptocoryne online here.

Anacharis Egeria densa

Another one of my personal favourites! In The Netherlands, we call it ‘water pest’, and for a not without reason; it grows like crazy. Anacharis can be left floating, but grows fine when planted as well – the parts bought from the store usually die off quite quickly, but they are replaced by fresh, live leaves. If you own herbivorous or omnivorous fish, growing Anacharis in a separate aquarium can provide you with a steady amount of (free) healthy fish food, but the plant looks great in planted tanks as well and can help compete with algae because it grows so quickly.

You can buy anacharis online here.

Amano Shrimp

Amano Shrimp by cahalane on Flickr

Note: Aquarium plants should never be released into local lakes or rivers. Doing this can cause damage to natural habitat and native species might be outcompeted for nutrients, light and space. If you have to get rid of unwanted plants, you can sell them, destroy them, give them away or dispose of them properly. Composting is also a great option.

When provided with the few requirements they need, all of these plants can thrive – and if you do accidentally kill one, there are always other species on this list to try.

You can buy many of these plants and their more rare varieties online from Amazon.

Happy plant-keeping!

Cover photo: Kevin & Gregg’s Fishtank 1973 by pkmousie

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  • Reply Bre October 10, 2016 at 3:11 am

    Since its been awhile I don’t know rather or not you’ll reply but in a big enough tank could all these plants do well in the same tank?

    • Reply Mari October 10, 2016 at 12:31 pm

      Not all of them, no, but most can. Vallisneria likes a higher pH and harder water than the rest 🙂

  • Reply Youmi Hapsari May 9, 2016 at 10:39 am

    This is what i’m looking for. I always struggle with the plant cause most of them need high maintenance. Thank’s mate

  • Reply blucanary January 3, 2016 at 9:06 am

    I’ve had java ferns before, and they have always died
    i dunno why

  • Reply andi setiadi December 19, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    yup they are fairly easy to maintain
    and Anubias Nana is one of the more appealing midground plants you’ll find in aquascaping

  • Reply steve November 30, 2015 at 5:24 am

    what is a root tab thanks

    • Reply Mari December 3, 2015 at 8:04 pm

      Root tabs are small tablets that can be placed near the roots of plants that require a little extra iron to help them grow much faster and larger. Seachem tabs have great reviews.

  • Reply sunil October 26, 2015 at 11:33 am

    I want to buy amazon sword …I have gravel substrate and no co2 product and no fertilizer…so can it survive?

    • Reply Mari October 26, 2015 at 12:04 pm

      I think so! Although I would definitely invest in some cheap root tabs if you’re going to be at the aquarium store or ordering aquarium stuff anyway 🙂

    • Reply jessica November 15, 2015 at 8:46 pm

      Yes it will survive. ..i have a low light aquarium without co2, and no root tabs…i bought it with just 6 leaves and they started to die so i just pulled the leaves that were dying and surprise new leaves grew now after 2 months i have a beautiful amazon sword with more than 16 leaves and all without special care just turn on the light when i come back from work at 6pm and turn it off when i go to sleep at 9-10pm thats all

  • Reply Grassnake7 September 19, 2015 at 4:45 pm


    Recently I brought a tyre track eel, and intending to setup a new aquarium for it. What plants will be good for it and easy to manage?
    Also, can these plants work in a sand substrate or is it better to buy some that’s on a bit of wood?


    • Reply Mari September 24, 2015 at 8:56 am

      Hi! Wow, that must be a huuuuuge tank! In these 100+ gallon tanks I would go for larger plants like Amazon swords, large anubias varieties and vallisneria. Amazon swords and vallisneria work on a sand substrate, anubias should be tied to rock or driftwood.
      Good luck! 🙂

      • Reply Grassnake7 September 24, 2015 at 5:40 pm

        Can I put amazon sword in a basic sand substrate and expect to just grow / survive?

        • Reply Mari September 24, 2015 at 9:31 pm

          Sure! And if it doesn’t, some cheap root tabs like these should usually fix any problems, my Amazon swords grew very well this way 🙂

          • Grassnake7 September 26, 2015 at 1:43 pm

            Thanks for the help.

            Are you familiar with Limnophila aquatica or Limnophila hippuridoides?
            Are these easy to keep? I’ve very often had artificial versions of these and was wondering if live ones would look nicer, my artificial ones become full with gunk after awhile.

          • Mari September 26, 2015 at 6:18 pm

            No, I don’t have experience with them as I haven’t ever really kept stem plants. Limnophila aquatica is very easy and you should have no problems with it. The other plant requires a bit more light, but is still not considered super challenging!

          • Grassnake7 September 26, 2015 at 6:21 pm

            Thanks for the information!

            Going out tomorrow to LFS, might see if I can get a plant or two and try them out 🙂

          • Mari September 26, 2015 at 6:23 pm

            Sounds good! Let me know how you liked them 🙂

          • Grassnake7 September 26, 2015 at 6:24 pm

            I just hope they’ll stay alive! 🙂

        • Reply Carranneh November 4, 2015 at 1:31 pm

          I have swords in my gravel and my sand tanks. They do ok in he gravel. They do phenomenally well in the sand. Both tanks have a few root tabs.

  • Reply Gregg Martin August 24, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    I enjoyed the article and it gave me much food for thought. I was told by a shop keeper to try the liverwort, Monosolenium tenerum , as an easy starter for a cool water tank. It has not died, but in 6 months has grown little. Unruly, I keep it in a folded aluminum cage made from an outdoor grill, and it has only just protruded from it. This in a 15 gal. tank with lots of water movement and oxygen content. It gets some natural light and 10-12 hours of a T8 full spectrum. Anyone with success or suggestions?


    • Reply Mari August 25, 2015 at 5:45 pm

      I’m not sure what you mean by the aluminium cage, but I did some reading up on this plant as I don’t have any experience with it at all and it seems very interesting! It’s supposed to be pretty easy to grow in a huge range of conditions, unlike its more common cousin Riccia, so I’m not sure whats going wrong for you! You may want to ask around on an aquarium plant/aquascaping centered forum. 🙂

  • Reply Andy June 18, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    I’ve heard many people say that Amazon swords are easy to maintain but I personally had a very bad experience with these plants. I have been trying these plants from the past one year. They remain stable for 3 weeks and after that the leaves slowly start melting and they become transparent. New leaves never grow. I’ve planted more than 100 amazon swords in the last one year and lost all of them except one plant which is doing really well. I have no clue that why this one plant is growing crazy while all the remaining have died. I am using a good substrate, enough lighting (2 watts per gallon) and a Co2 injection as well. Am I missing something?

    • Reply Mari June 18, 2015 at 9:20 pm

      Oh dear, sorry you’re having trouble with your Amazon swords! Mine always did great, even in an empty abandoned tank with the lights off. Do you use root tabs? Those are usually recommended for Amazon swords. That’s the only thing I can really think of. Good luck! 🙂

  • Reply Kareston Markley June 13, 2015 at 5:26 am

    I’ve heard that java moss does well in flowing water, making it ideal for use as a filter flow diffuser. I’m planning on getting a mesh (like you would for carpeting java moss) and putting that in front of the out-flow of my filter. Is the thing about java moss liking flowing water even true? Do you think my plan will work? Thanks!

    • Reply Mari June 17, 2015 at 7:00 pm

      That’s a pretty interesting idea. Java moss is indeed known for liking flowing water, but I’ve never heard of using it to battfle a filter. I think it could work though! Let me know how it works out. 🙂

  • Reply Andrew B February 11, 2015 at 3:43 am

    Would the amazon frogbit oxygenate the water? And would it give off any algae for my fish?

    • Reply Mari February 19, 2015 at 9:46 pm

      It grows quite quickly and would make a good oxygen plant, although if you let it cover the surface completely it may block oxygen from entering the water. Plants cannot give off algae, but if any algae forms naturally it may do so in the roots. 🙂

  • Reply Mindi Angeli December 20, 2014 at 5:58 am

    My husband just got me a 27 gallon cube tank with really bright led lighting. We are keeping a tank full of glo fish and using the blue LEDs a lot due to wanting to see the true colors of the fish any suggestions on the best type of plant for my tank

    • Reply Mari December 21, 2014 at 1:46 pm

      I can’t tell you much about the best type of plant for your tank, but the ones listed here will all work well and are not difficult to take care of. It mostly depends on your personal preferences and what you think looks best!

  • Reply Chinmoyee November 25, 2014 at 5:57 am

    Have got really excited after seeing ur post. Thanks..
    I want to know which of these would also not need a substrate..

    • Reply Mari November 25, 2014 at 10:28 pm

      Java moss, Java fern and Anubias don’t need substrate!

  • Reply Alvin Yao September 27, 2014 at 10:51 am

    HELP!!!!! Anubias plant dieing!!!! It was attached to driftwood when I bought it, and the leaves were already yellowing. I cut off the the yellow parts of the plant, and It seemed to be doing fine. After a snail invasion, I removed the anubias, exterminated the snails, and while exterminating the snails I kept the anubias in a stainless steel container, with its leaves out of the water, roots and rhizome under water. It still seemed fine. After the snails where removed, I trimmed off any yellow bits again and moved the plant back into the aquarium. A few days later it started yellowing again, and large brown blotches started appearing on its leaves. The water temperature currently is 20 degrees C. When I first placed the plant in, It was 16 degrees C.

    • Reply Mari September 27, 2014 at 12:08 pm

      Although I don’t have much personal experience with Anubias so I can’t tell you for sure, I think yours may just be recovering from the shock of being moved twice and having its leaves out of the water. Unless you really don’t see any new growth appearing at all, I think it will grow back to normal in a while. This could take a few weeks though!

      • Reply Alvin Yao September 27, 2014 at 1:06 pm

        also, do you know if iron supplements would help it grow faster as well? The anubias attached to driftwood was very expensive, so I would be heartbroken if it died.

  • Reply Hilari May 20, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Going plant shopping today with this list in hand for my newly purchased 55 gallon. Very excited! Thank you so much for this simple, precise list!!!

    • Reply Mari May 21, 2014 at 7:20 pm

      So great to hear this list was helpful to you! You should be able to make a beautiful aquascape with these plants.

  • Reply peter April 30, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    I found it very helpful I new to keeping fish thank you so much

  • Reply Art February 22, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. My mother was a grade school teacher, and we always had aquariums when I was growing up. Now I have two little boys, and we are starting our first aquarium (10 gal). We are waiting for the water to cycle, and I’m already dreaming of second larger tank. These suggestions for plants are just what I was looking for.

    • Reply Mari February 23, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      So glad to hear this was helpful to you! These plants will definitely do great in a 10 gal. Good luck! 🙂

      • Reply Art May 10, 2014 at 6:30 pm

        Update a few months later: Initially, I got java fern and anubias nana for my 10 gal. tank (6 tetras and 3 cory catfish) because it has low LED lighting. I’m so happy. They are really doing well. I was spurred on and decided to try water wisteria. It’s not on your list of beginner plants, but I’d read that it grows fast and easily. I also read that it may look different if grown in water as opposed to partially submersed and that it may need nutrients. My purchase included 4 pieces, so I decided to put 2 in the tank and 2 in a covered glass jar (like a terrarium). Unfortunately, they didn’t do well in the tank, but flourished in the terrarium. I’m going to try adding root tabs to the water, but I still may not have enough light. It may end up being a failed experiment, but I’ve enjoyed watching the plants grow and the fish seem to like them too 🙂

        • Reply Mari May 13, 2014 at 12:31 pm

          Thank you for the update, I love hearing how things worked out. Glad the java fern and anubias worked for you! I don’t have personal experience with water wisteria, although I know it’s supposed to be a pretty easy to grow. Curious to hear how it does with some root tabs! Those can really make a difference.

          • Art August 10, 2014 at 4:23 am

            Well, I didn’t know my anubias nana was going to bloom! That is so cool! The root tabs seemed to be good for my water Listeria, but it was also good for a brown algae that developed. Now it seems the Listeria is getting soft at the bottom and might melt away.

          • Mari August 10, 2014 at 3:46 pm

            Yes, anubias do bloom when grown in the right conditions! For your other plant problems you may want to ask the members on an aquascape forum, they have much more experience with this sort of thing than I do. Good luck!

  • Reply imran July 11, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    now that i have an ide on what to get, i dnt have to worry about co2

    • Reply Mari July 11, 2013 at 6:05 pm

      Yep! Adding CO2 isn’t necessary with these plants 🙂

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