Plant and fish tank

An aquaponics system is a combination of raising your fish and growing your plants and vegetables without soil. There are awesome benefits to this for you and the environment, such as decreasing your water usage for your garden, as the plants no longer need nearly as much water with the aquaponics system. Maybe you have never heard of an aquaponics system before, or you are new to learning about it like I am. However, it is definitely worth learning about so you can build your own.

First, the fish tank is a crucial part to this system (and the best part too because you get to have pet fish). Picking your tank means picking the right home for your fish that you raise and take care of. Thus, when picking your fish tank, make sure you know all the important aspects about your future tank and which one is best for you and your system.

Okay, so now that you know to pick the right tank and you are determined to install an aquaponics system, how do you do it? First, you need all the basic requirements.


Basic Necessities

Photo courtesy of @Scot Nelson on Flickr

Most DIY projects are started with either a 55-gallon barrel or a 225-gallon square bin. You can get two standardized food-grade tanks from the recycled food industry. Just make sure there is no chance of toxic chemicals being left in the residue of the bin.

Photo courtesy of @Nicolas Boullosa on Flickr

Your vegetables also need to be kept in some sort of container in order to grow in the soilless environment. One of the easiest ways to build your own grow bed is to build shallow wooden boxes (6 to 10 inches deep), and line them with a pond liner. Don’t forget to start thinking about what kind of vegetables you are going to grow, because they will definitely be fresher than if you keep buying from the store.

Next, you need to insert an inert growing medium. Perlite or fine gravel are good choices. You can even mix together the two if you want to try both.

Photo courtesy of @Aquaponics lab on Flickr

Basically, the plants grow and maintain the health of the tank by filtering out the waste from your fish without the need for fresh water. Thus, you need to be able to connect your fish tank to your grow bed. A pump is needed to circulate the water between the two components to make the system go round. To be even more eco-friendly, you can install a solar-powered pump.

This is where it might get a little confusing/could get you cursing out loud when you are building your system. There are two options for your pump. You can either have it collect the water from your grow bed and transfer it to the tank, or you can place the pump in the bottom of the tank and use it to spread the water over the surface of the grow beds. You will definitely need PVC pipes to distribute the water from the fish to the surface of the grow beds.

Putting Everything Together

GIF courtesy of

If you can, try to set up your system in a sunny space in your backyard. First, try to seed your plants in potting soil just until they are big enough to grow in the bed, and at that point your fish should be producing enough waste to support your plants. There are definitely some things you have to keep in mind and remember to manage once your system is ready.

Once you’ve put the system together, give yourself a high five, not only because you’ve worked to better the planet, but also because you built something that isn’t so easy to do. If you want something to compare your system too, here is a diagram to show you the simplest form of an aquaponics system.

Try building something simple to see how it works, then you can go bigger and better with your aquaponics system when you feel ready. It might seem like a lot of work just to grow plants and vegetables you may already be growing, but there are many benefits to having an aquaponics system.

It will take some dedication and the realization you might not get it right the first time, but it’s worth building a system. You’ll become someone who DIYs their own garden and raises their own fish, and pretty soon you will inspire others to do the same. You will feel accomplished after your build this, and you will know you are doing more with having this system, rather than sticking to your normal backyard garden.

Aquaponics = aquaculture (the raising of edible fish) + hydroponics (growing vegetables and herbs without soil). You may have seen examples of this revolutionary way of growing food in some of the projects featured on Inhabitat. Per square foot, it’s the most productive form of agriculture on the planet, and is a perfect example of a living machine: a self-sufficient assembly of plants and animals that functions like an ecosystem, producing food for people without creating waste products or pollution.

If you’re inspired to try out an aquaponic system instead of a vegetable garden in your backyard this summer, this guide will serve as an overview, giving you all the information necessary to get started. It’s a bit more involved than a typical vegetable garden, but anyone with a little mechanical ingenuity and determination can make it happen. If you feel timid, we suggest starting small to refine your technique before scaling up to a system that can feed the family (if not the neighborhood).

Related: The AquaDesigner Living Fountain Provides a Beautiful Way to Grow Food at Home Year-Round

Basic Components

Every aquaponic system will include the components listed below. There are many options to add on to these and customize the system, depending on your particular circumstances and goals. For example, most people in cold climates will opt to build their aquaponics system in a greenhouse to keep it going year-round.

Image via Milkwood, on Flickr Creative Commons


In theory, a well-tuned aquaponics system can support one pound of fish per gallon of water. When starting out, however, it’s better to plan on stocking one fish for every 10 gallons of water to make sure the system doesn’t fall out of balance (plus the fish will have more space in which to swim).

Most do-it-yourselfers start with either a 55-gallon barrel or a 225-gallon square bin; two standard sizes of food-grade tanks that are fairly easy to come by recycled from the food industry. Just make sure they were used to hold benign things like soy sauce, rather than something toxic that might have left a residue. Aboveground vinyl swimming pools are the top DIY choice for larger tanks.

Image via Wikimedia Creative Commons

Grow Bed

Your vegetables will need some type of water-resistant container to house the soilless medium that they’ll be grown in. There are many products available for this purpose, but there are just as many DIY approaches. The simplest route is to build shallow wooden boxes (6 to 10 inches deep), just like ordinary raised beds for vegetables, and line them with pond liner.

Each bed is then filled with an inert growing medium, such as perlite (which is super light, allowing the beds to be elevated off the ground) or fine gravel from your local landscape supplier (inexpensive, but heavy). Coco coir is the fanciest growing medium available and is often used by professionals for its ability to retain air and moisture simultaneously. A mixture of equal parts of all three products is actually a great formula to try.

You can plan to ferti-gate a growing area up to 10 times the surface are of your fish tank.

Pumps and Hardware

The miracle of aquaponics is that the plants (along with their growing medium) filter out the waste products from the fish tank, allowing them to thrive without ever adding fresh water, while the nutrients in the wastewater are the perfect fertilizer for most herbs and vegetables. Thus, a pump is needed to circulate the water between the two components and to make the self-sustaining system go round. If you choose to install a solar-powered pump, your aquaponics system will be almost entirely self-sufficient.

Pumps and piping are where aquaponics can get a little tricky; if you don’t have basic plumbing and electrical skills, find a friend that does to save on the amount of trial and error you subject yourself to. The pump can either collect the water that drains from the grow beds and put it back in the tank (if the grow beds are below the tank), or it can be placed in the bottom of the tank and used to spread the water over the surface of the grow beds (if they are elevated above the level of the tank).

The beds themselves need a network of PVC pipes on the surface to distribute the water from the fish tank. Drill ¼-inch holes every 6 inches in the pipe and structure the beds with several parallel pipes, each about 12 inches apart. You can plant the a seedling at each of the little holes in the PVC pipe.

There is one more absolutely critical piece of hardware to make an aquaponics system work: you need an aerator to provide sufficient oxygen for the fish.

Related: Back to the Roots’ Aquaponics Kit is a Self-Cleaning Fish Tank that Grows Veggies

The Fish

Tilapia are by far the most common species used in small scale aquaculture systems. They’re a tropical species, however, and need the water temperature to stay between 70 and 90 degrees to stay healthy and grow quickly. They’re used for their tolerance of high stocking densities and less-than-perfect water conditions, plus they have a phenomenal growth rate, reaching a harvestable size of one pound in 6 to 8 months. Thus in a temperate climate, it is possible to stock the tank with fingerlings in May and harvest the ‘crop’ in October.

Catfish are also very amenable to high-density recirculating aquaculture systems and have no problem overwintering in all but the coldest climates, though they only put on growth when the water is warm. Yellow perch are the third most common species used in aquaponics systems, and have the advantage of being able to put on growth in cooler waters.

The Plants

Some food plants are easier to grow in an aquaponics system than others. Basically, anything that is harvested as a leaf—lettuce, kale, arugula, spinach, basil, dill, etc.—responds very well to the nutrients found in fish water and can usually be grown without added nutritional supplements. It is also possible to cultivate species grown for their fruit, such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc., as well as vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini, but these typically require supplemental fertilizers, which are available from hydroponic suppliers.

Putting a System Together

You will need a flat, sunny space to set up your aquaponics system. If you’re not building it inside a greenhouse, you’ll want to get everything together in early spring, so you can stock the fish as soon as the water temperature hits 70 degrees. Stock the fingerlings first and start seedlings in flats of potting soil at the same time. By the time the seedlings are big enough to transplant, the fish should be producing enough waste to support the growth in the grow beds. Incidentally, the vegetables themselves have very little to do with cleaning the water for the fish—this actually occurs in the growing medium, so the water needs to circulate through the grow beds for the sake of the fish, whether there are plants growing in them or not.

Related: INTERVIEW: Eric Maundu on Turning Aquaponic Gardens into an Internet Connected Resource

Management and Fine-Tuning

The aerator needs to run 24/7 to provide oxygen to the fish. The pump that moves water from the tank to the grow beds should be on a timer that turns it on for short periods of time, several times a day. You’ll have to experiment with the frequency and length of watering: the goal is to run it as much as possible to keep the water clean for the fish, but you’ll have to limit it to prevent the growing medium from remaining excessively wet.

The fish are typically fed as much food as they can consume in 20 minutes three times per day (click here for one of the only suppliers in the country of organic fish food). There are automatic feeders and many other optional components that can streamline and automate the system, which can make the feeding process a lot easier. The key is to start small and simple and to not push the system too hard by overstocking the fish. Overfeeding the fish is the easiest mistake to make and will quickly result in degraded water conditions. Once you have a simple system and an established routine that works for you, build on your success by expanding your system.

Images via , except where credited. Lead image via Kijani Grows, makers of home aquaponics systems

How to Build a Garden Aquarium

The garden aquarium size can be decided based on the quantity of fish you plan for and the availability of space and materials. Choose the type of tank material for the chosen depth; glass is commonly used, but a more expensive acrylic can also be used since it is efficient at insulating the whole system meaning the cost of heating will be low compared to glass.

Source Remaining Equipment

These include filter system to provide adequate aeration for the fish. You also need a timer and LED lighting in addition to having fishing rod more here in readiness for fishing. An ultraviolet sterilizer and water pump are also required to build your garden aquarium.

Set Up the Tank

Step 1: When everything has been made ready, place the tank in the chosen position and fill it with water. Check for leaks then add gravel or a substrate then pile it slightly towards the back of the aquarium so as to form an illusion of distance in the fish tank.

Step 2: Using de-chlorinated water or with adequate chlorine remover, fill the tank mid-level. Place a dish on top of the gravel in the fish tank and fill it with water gently, this will create a minimum disturbance to the underlying gravel.

Step 3: After doing all this, proceed to install the filter and heater. The heater is required for a tropical aquarium to maintain the right temperature. This requires the installation of a thermometer in a location that can easily be read to aid in controlling the temperature.

Step 4: When the basics have been set, it is time to add decorations inside the aquarium. Include some ornaments, rocks or some back pictures on the tank base for additional beauty. If you can, then add some floating plants when the tank is full.


Step 5: The last step is to turn on the heater and water filter and check for optimal functioning of both. Fill the aquarium with de-chlorinated water to the top starting the process of tank cycling.

Adding New Fish to an Outdoor Aquarium

Before adding any fish ensure the aquarium is stabilized. The pH level should acceptable to the fish — the temperature should be standardized to support all the types of fish in the tank. Add the fish a few at a time as you monitor their survival and health before adding more. Putting all of them in the tank may cause you severe loss especially if you have not set the tank and the conditions of the water as required.

Photo by

It is a very engaging job building an aquarium in the garden. It calls for commitment in terms of time and money for it to succeed. However, when designed and set properly, it will be used for years raising fish while making the garden more serene and beautiful with the view of fresh water or tropical fish.

All the mentioned components are readily available at local hardware and gardening stores. They can also be bought at second-hand places including eBay, Gumtree, and Craiglist. It looks very basic but once built this aquarium is very functional and beneficial. Just go get your fishing rod more here as you prepare for the fish to mature.

Ann Katelyn is a homesteader in Alabama who has dedicated most of her life to gardening and botanical study with growing interests ranging from the popular, world-class roses to the rarest and most exotic orchids. She is currently trying her best to become well versed on plants found in desert areas, the tropics, and Mediterranean region. Connect with Ann on Twitter and her website, Sumo Gardener. Read all of Ann’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to our Terms of Agreement and to follow blogging best practices. They are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

If you have never taken a look at a planted tank style of aquarium, you would likely be astonished at just how lively and vibrant such an aquarium appears to be.

That is due to the fact that the plants used in freshwater aquariums provide the water with natural filtration, help to keep your fish healthy, and can also help in breeding small fish.

Aquarium plants are utilized by fish for various things such as comfort, food, safety, and proliferation, so they are indispensable to any healthy and vibrant aquarium environment.

If you are planning to start a planted tank for aquarium but don’t know how or where to begin, take the time to carry out some research.

Most aquarium plants are tough enough to stand against changes in water chemistry and temperature as you become accustomed to maintaining a planted tank, however, some are superior to others.

In this article, we will discuss the 10 best plants for freshwater aquariums available on the market today. If you are new to aquarium planted tanks, these are the best choices to start with.

10 Best Freshwater Aquarium Plants

Keeping aquatic plants in your freshwater aquarium is not that difficult. With a little direction, knowledge, and practice, you will quickly enhance your success rate. There are various aquatic kinds of plants you can choose for your freshwater aquarium.

You have a choice of a variety of aquatic plant when setting up your planted tank. There are some plants that float on the aquarium surface, while there are some that stay rooted at the base. Some are utilized for mid-ground and background.

We will examine the 10 best aquatic plants for freshwater tanks, that all look amazing in your aquarium and have different various purposes.

1. Java Moss

These plants are very popular plants for a freshwater aquarium and are likewise a solid favorite of lovers of shrimp, as they provide extraordinary hiding places for them.

The Java Moss is best appended to ornaments present in your aquarium tanks, such as rocks or driftwood.

To do this, you will have to utilize elastic bands or a similar item to support the live aquarium plant while they gradually get rooted to the ornament.

If you append it to a rock, it will grow outward across the tank’s surface. This plant is well-known to float, so it is best to attach it to something stable that can prevent it from floating away.

The Java Moss plants do enjoy marginally dimmed light. They will thrive in lower light, but be careful if the light is excessively strong or the inverse effect will occur. Brilliant light will stunt Java Moss’s growth and could subject it to the plague of green algae.

It will look fuzzy and green on the ground and endures a temperature of 70°F to 90°F but grows best in about 70°F to 75°F.

2. Amazon Sword

This is an amazing plant for freshwater aquariums. It can be grown in a wide range of conditions, and is surely a standout among the most well-known and easy-to-maintain freshwater plants.

Amazon Swords usually grow very large in the aquarium, so you need to keep this in mind before buying it.

These are good for new users because they survive well with only a low level of nutrients and lighting. However, with the inclusion of liquid nutrient supplement and a high level of lighting, the Amazon Sword will start to grow very fast in your freshwater aquarium.

Amazon Sword plants are generally the first choice of plants for beginners since they can be easily acquired from aquarium stores at a low price.

They originated in South and Central America. However, today they are mostly grown in North America and dispersed to hobbyists.

The Amazon Sword needs direct lighting and temperatures around 72°F – 82°F. These aquatic plants have leaves that look like swords (as its name implies) and they usually grow tall—up to 20 inches tall!

3. Java Fern

Like Java Moss, this is a plant that’s great for freshwater aquariums, that works well with shrimp.

The Java Fern likewise prefers low light, and they grow fine when their rhizome (i.e. the green stems which bring forth the leaves) are attached to an ornament or rock.

If you have larger Java Fern plant, then you can cover its roots with rock, but you must be watchful when you do this in order to prevent the rhizomes from being buried.

Its long, clustered green leaves flourish in 68°F – 82°F water temperature, in low to moderate light, and it serves well both as hiding spots for fish and as a background decoration.

Java Fern is a live plant that is simple to grow in your freshwater aquarium, as they discharge spores from the front part of their leaves when it is time for propagation. These spores will just float about until they discover something to tie themselves to, and afterward, they will grow faster.

The required light and water temperature make the Java Fern a great solution for newbies wanting to attempt freshwater plants. These aquatic plants are not expensive and can often be obtained in a variety of sizes for bigger or smaller aquariums. Java Ferns won’t require any plant-specific substrates or liquid fertilizer supplements.

4. Anubias and Anubias Nana

Anubias and Anubias Nana are two easy-to-keep aquatic plants for your freshwater aquarium. Anubias is usually sold on rocks or driftwood in the aquarium store.

Unlike the Java Fern, this freshwater plant grows slowly. It’s therefore essential to purchase a specimen that already properly fits the size of your aquarium.

Once acquired, make sure you keep the plant above the substrate and don’t cover the bottom of its root in the substrate.

This freshwater plant needs to be in the shady part of the planted tank with an ideal flow in order to prevent the growth of algae on the leaves. The Anubias plant needs only a low level of nutrients and therefore doesn’t require any fluid fertilizer to be added to the water.

Anubias Nana is a variation of anubias with much smaller leaves. It is more appropriate for smaller or Nano aquariums. This plant is difficult to get and usually comes at a higher cost. The greatest advantage of this aquatic plant is the measure of coverage it gives.

If you are breeding fish that love hiding, or require hiding places in your aquarium tank, this is really the perfect plant to get. It doesn’t grow above 6 inches, so you will not have to worry about always having to trim it. It requires 72 to 78°F water temperature and moderate lighting.

5. Crypt Wendtii

Crypts are great plants that are normally displayed in pots in neighborhood fish stores.

Crypts in some cases have a terrible reputation since they “liquefy” quickly upon addition to the planted aquarium.

This is due to the fact that crypts are less resistant to change compared to other aquatic plants in this rundown.

They likewise require a slightly higher amount of light compared to other plants. Hence, they should conceivably be left as an aquarium plant for the marginally advanced aquarist.

In any case, they are a good-looking foreground plant that can be recognized by long slim leaves stretching out from a focal point below the substrate.

However, upon addition to the planted aquarium, it might appear as if this plant has totally dissolved, but the Crypt is only responding to change. As you keep tending it, the crypt will have the capacity to return to full health as it develops its new root framework in the freshwater aquarium.

Another benefit of this plant is that it can be effectively split at the rhizome area and propagated all through the aquarium.

6. Cryptocorynes

These live plants for freshwater aquariums can vary widely in size, color, and shape.

Cryptocorynes comes in a wide range of varieties, yet regardless of what they look like, they are extremely popular with shrimp.

Advanced aquarists consider these plants to be the “next step up” from Java Fern and Anubias. They still enjoy dimmed light, however they require somewhat more care because of their complex roots.

They should be covered at a depth of 2 inches on the rock, however, you should take care to guarantee that the crown (the location of the leaves), is kept well over the rock. It needs 72 to 82°F water temperature and moderate lighting.

You should be watchful with Cryptocorynes as they are very vulnerable. They can encounter what is regarded as the “Crypt Melt” situation, which usually happens when you first bring them into your freshwater aquarium.

What actually happens is the sudden change in the water around them usually stuns the Crypts, and the outcome is that they frequently lose most of their leaves. Do not worry, however; this is very common and never lethal for the plant.

7. Pygmy Chain Sword

This aquarium plant (otherwise called Narrow Leaf) is mostly seen in freshwater. It is a good choice of plant for both a beginner and expert hobbyist.

It is normally kept closer to the edge of the aquarium as it doesn’t grow extremely tall.

In proper lighting, it can grow to be a thick tangle of foliage. In low lighting, it will grow sparsely. It will have the capacity to survive in any lighting conditions and does not demand a fertilizer supplement.

The Pygmy chain sword is widely known as an outstanding plant for beginners since it demands almost no upkeep.

The plant will spread over the substrate (material used to cover the base of an aquarium) voluntarily. The plant can then be permitted to propagate in order to grow over the front elevation of the aquarium, thereby forming a stylish foreground.

Under better lighting conditions, the new leaves that sprout on this aquatic plant will develop a brilliant red color. This dazzling coloration is frequently the centerpiece of the aquarium and prized by numerous aquarists.

This plant is also tolerant of a broad range of conditions. It can flourish in hard or soft water, low or high pH and an extensive variety of temperatures, thereby making it a superb plant for beginners and a preferred choice for every aquarium.

8. Water Wisteria

This species of aquatic plants is also called “Bunch Plants” and they are a popular choice among shrimp-keeping aquarists since they root deeply into the aquarium tank and make pleasant spots for the shrimps to explore and navigate around.

Water Wisteria is particularly well preferred because of the shape that their leaves take, which are generally fascinating. This aquatic plant will flourish in any conditions as long as they root well in the gravel and they have enough oxygen.

Water Wisteria is likewise one of the most easily propagated freshwater aquatic plants. All you need to do is to clip off a healthy long stem. Then, bury it in the gravel about 3 to 4 inches deep in the aquarium while the plant continues the germination process.

Water Wisteria has tall lace-like green leaves that could provide an excellent green carpet-like cover for your aquarium. They spread out broad as opposed to developing tall.

These plants are widely known to grow easily and require minimal upkeep. They require direct light and do well in the temperatures range of around 75 to 80 degrees.

9. Hornwort

Otherwise called Coontail, Hornwort is one of the less-difficult plants to keep in the aquarium. It is commonly sold in pots and floats freely on the surface of the aquarium.

It is exceptionally versatile to changing conditions and has the ability to survive a wide range of temperatures. It is also appropriate for cool outdoor ponds and water tanks.

Hornwort can achieve a length of up to 24 inches. This aquatic plant can be propagated by simply cutting down the stems and giving them a chance to float around. Another way is to replant them in the substrate.

It is a brilliant background plant because it develops to the aquarium’s height. The Hornwort needs a minimal lighting and negligible fertilizer supplement.

In the wild, Hornwort is commonly found in sloppy conditions joined to the substrate or floating freely in water bodies. In the aquarium, either is suitable. Nevertheless, it is highly recommended to plant Hornwort in the substrate.

This allows your lighting to reach the underlying plants. If the plant floats freely on the surface, it can hinder a portion of the light from reaching the underlying plants.

10. Dwarf Lilies

These are extremely delicate plants that grow slowly. In spite of the fact that shrimp seem to like them, they are easily damaged, so it may not be a smart idea to plant dwarf lilies if you have numerous shrimp circling around.

Dwarf lilies look like little-pointed heads, and their tiny stems can break easily. If you wish to have dwarf lilies in your tank, it would be ideal if you could purchase older ones that have been allowed to grow fully.

Then there will be a lower likelihood of breakage and you will additionally abstain from purchasing freshwater aquarium plants that do not have the ability to reproduce.

How to Care for Freshwater Aquarium Plants?

Aquatic plants provide a lot of advantages to your aquarium. While having a staggering visual effect, these aquatic plants circulate air through your water, eliminate impurities and provide a sound habitat for your fish to flourish in.

It has been observed that if you take care of your plants appropriately, algae will not be an issue.

By making use of the guidelines below, you will be able to make an attractive and healthy aquarium that you can enjoy.

1. Choose the Right Plants

Nurturing your plants starts with picking the ones that are appropriate for your aquarium. Ensure the plants you pick are affirmed as underwater plants, meaning that they can survive totally submerged in water.

Examples of aquatic plant species that can be easily grown in aquariums include Anubis, Echinoderms, Anarchies and Lilaeposis (Sword Plants).

Remember that most plants like a pH level of 7 to 7.2. Make sure to check the compatibility of each plant with your fish (because some fish eats plants) and water conditions.

2. Supply the Right Substrate

Aquarium plants require substrate in which to firmly fix their roots. These plants can grow in many kinds of substrate, but about 2–3 inches of laterite surrounded by an inch of gravel would be perfect.

It is possible to keep your plants inside the pots in which they were sold. Nevertheless, planting them in substrate gives a more natural look, and is more helpful for the development root.

>> Best Substrate for Planted Tank

3. Provide the Right Light

Without appropriate lighting, your plants can’t survive. Plants require light for photosynthesis, which is a process in which plants create energy for growth and development.

An additional advantage of photosynthesis is that oxygen is produced for the intake of the aquatic life present in your aquarium.

Full-range, fluorescent lighting is an absolute necessity. Ensure you give your plants about 10 to 12 hours of light each day.

Make sure you replace your fluorescent light bulbs every 12 months, as their intensity tends to fade day by day. If your light bulbs fail into emit full spectrum light, your plants won’t flourish.

>> Best LED Lights for Planted Tank

4. Use Fertilizer for Freshwater Aquarium Plants

You can improve plant development by including an iron-based fertilizer that is safe for the fish. Search for moderate-release fertilizers that are intended to help in freshwater aquarium plants’ development and growth. Never make use of phosphate fertilizer, as algae tend to grow vigorously on phosphates.

Overdosing your aquarium with fertilizer can kill both the fish and the plants in the water. Try not to buy a fertilizer that contains nitrates or phosphates.

It can lead to horrible algae problems. Fertilizers are usually accessible in pelleted and fluid form.


Just a few of the easiest freshwater plants were listed. There are still many more aquarium plants that are appropriate for your aquarium.

All the plant’s list doesn’t need any CO2 addition, elevated lighting or fertilizer supplement. Most will do well to battle algae and flourish in a low-tech setup.

Although able to flourish with low light arrangement, some of the plants can likewise develop well and make use of high light arrangement. When some of these plants are presented to high light, their color intensity changes.

Top 5 Easy Aquarium Plants

Hey everybody, Cory here. I made a video a couple of days ago about what is, in my opinion, the top 5 aquarium plants that are not only beautiful but very easy to grow.

In no particular order, my top 5 easy aquarium plants are:

  • Amazon Swords
  • Vallisneria
  • Pogostemon Stellatus Octopus
  • Cryptocoryne
  • Anubias

1. Amazon Sword

Amazon swords get most of their nutrients from their substrate. They love dirted tanks or soil-type substrates. For swords to thrive, they do need additional nutrients in the substrate such as root tabs. Dirt and soil-type tanks will not need root tabs if you’ve recently set up the tank, but after a month or so you will want to start regularly using root tabs.

What I like to do is pair Eco-Complete with root tabs. Swords are normally grown outside of the water before being sold, so it can be common for them to melt once you add them to your tank. But don’t worry because they will grow back once they adjust to being submerged.

2. Vallisneria

Vallisneria is a long-growing eelgrass that, if given a chance, can grow up to 6 feet long. Val feeds off the substrate as well as the water column, so it is important to fertilize the water column with liquid fertilizers such as Easy Green and also to use root tabs for substrate nutrition.

It can take some time for Vallisneria to settle in, but after around six weeks it will start multiplying rapidly and can easily create a jungle-type look in your tank.

3. Pogostemon Stellatus Octopus

Pogostemon Stellatus Octopus can create a similar jungle-type look if allowed to overgrow. The fine leaves provide great hiding spots for fry and timid fish. This plant benefits more from water column fertilization, but using root tabs will still help it thrive.

4. Cryptocorynes

Cryptocorynes, or crypts for short, are another great and easy aquarium plant. Like Amazon Swords, crypts commonly melt once being added to a new tank but recover quickly once they have adjusted to the water chemistry. Crypts can sometimes be sensitive to drastic changes in water chemistry such as large ( > 75%) water changes but normally come back once they adjust. Aside from those small issues, crypts can be very forgiving and make a beautiful foreground or midground plant.

5. Anubias

Anubias are last on the list but are my personal favorite along with crypts. Anubias are slow growers but extremely hardy and forgiving. In fact, it can be a challenge to kill this plant just because it’s so hardy. For this reason, Anubias make great low-light plants as well as good plants for tanks that don’t receive additional fertilizers.


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Starting a planted aquarium in your home can be an engaging and rewarding hobby.

Since you may not be willing to invest in the full setup that high intensity light plants need, a low light aquarium is a great way to get your feet wet without spending too much up front.

For the purpose of this guide, plants that require 3 watts per gallon of light or less are what I consider to be low light plants.

With so many choices of aquatic flora and fauna, how does a beginner choose the right plants? We’ve created a comprehensive list of the top 30 low light aquarium plants, ideal for beginners and experienced fish-keepers alike.

Because each aquarium (and aquarist!) is unique, there is no “one size fits all” plant species to select for your aquarium.

For that reason, this list includes a handy scoring system which ranks each plant based on their light level required, level of care required, and compatibility with other plants and fish.

Additional Reading: 5 Best Planted Aquarium Lights on the Market


A Few Supplies That You May Need

While none of the species on our list require too much additional care, these products may be helpful (especially if you want to attain good growth in a low light environment!)

  • Root Tabs: Root tabs are small, nutrient-packed discs placed under the substrate to help with nutrient levels. I highly recommend Seachem Root Tabs. I’ve found these to be the best on the market.
  • Liquid fertilizer: Liquid fertilizer should be used more sparingly than root tabs, as it can tend to cause algae outbreaks. That said, Seachem Flourish is great for propelling growth in aquarium plants that don’t root into the substrate.
  • Seachem Flourish Excel: Typically, heavily stocked planted tanks require expensive, complicated CO2 systems. Seachem Excel, though, helps deliver all the same benefits without expensive setups. I would really recommend picking up a bottle, especially for low-light setups.

I know we are talking about “low-light” setups here, but I also highly recommend the NICREW Classic LED Light to anyone looking for a cheap, effective light. It is definitely the best deal you can get for your money.

Keep in mind that each of these products should be used sparingly. In any planted aquarium, it’s important not to over fertilize.

But low light aquariums are especially prone to algae because most low light aquarium plants grow slowly. But algae can easily outpace their growth, leading to problems down the road.

Special Considerations

If its your first time growing low light aquatic plants, you’re in luck! Each of the plants here are fairly easy to care for. They need little in the way of fertilization, lighting, CO2 supplements, and are generally hardy as far as water conditions are concerned.

  • When choosing and arranging your plants, think in terms of background, midground, and foreground elements. Tall plants like African Water Ferns or mature Java Ferns make great background plants. Middle height plants like Cryptocoryne or Anubias balance out the edges of the scene as midground plants. And your foreground is home for smaller, sometimes creeping plants like Rotala.
  • Ease up on the fertilization in a low light tank! With some exceptions like Hornwort, most of the plants here are not the fastest of growers. Adding too much in the way of nutrient growth can cause explosive algae growth if your plants can’t uptake it all at once.
  • Additional research on the specific care requirements of your plants are important. pH is critical to proper plant health; plants like Marimo Moss balls do well in slightly alkaline water (pH 7+), while others like Java Fern prefer more acidic pH climes (pH below 7).

30 Best Low Light Aquarium Plants for Beginners

Here are a few species of low-light aquarium plants that we recommend for beginners:

1. Java Moss (Vesicularia dubyana)


Java moss is a very common moss that grows naturally on rocks and trees in tropical climate zones. It lacks roots, meaning that the moss can float through the water to gain any nutrients it needs.

However, it will also attach itself to aquarium décor or substrate. Java moss is characterized by its tiny oval shaped leaves, which are useful for obscuring unattractive aquarium equipment such as filters.

The moss will easily adhere to any porous surface, making it perfect for décor.

Java moss is a slow grower but requires little additional attention as it filters the nutrients it needs directly from the water through its leaves. Size can vary greatly; the moss can be molded into various shapes or used in a mat, so the size is up to you.

Just know that it can get out of hand if not kept well groomed; other aquatic moss species like Christmas Moss may suit your needs better if you prefer something more tidy.

  • Light level required: Low, but more light can be provided to encourage growth. Too much light will lead to overgrowth.
  • Level of care: Beginner
  • Compatibility: Excellent. Makes great cover for small fish, invertebrates, eggs, and live young. Prefers being attached to rocks and other hard surfaces and does not root well in gravel.

2. Green Hygro (Hygrophila polysperma)


The green hygro is a rapid growing stem plant with long leaves, which may vary from green to brown to red depending on the lighting provided. This plant prefers a substantial substrate in order to anchor its roots, so make sure to pick out a good planted aquarium substrate. In order to prevent browning, only low lighting should be used. Due to the prolific growth of the green hygro, it is considered a weed and is prohibited in some states. Check local laws before acquiring the green hygro for your aquarium. The green hygro is a prolific plant and can get out of control when it’s especially happy with a setup. CO2 boosts can also help it along but aren’t strictly necessary.

  • Light level required: Low, browning will occur with overlighting. Rapid growth will occur even in very low light.
  • Level of care: Beginner-Intermediate
  • Compatibility: Good, but must be pruned often in order to prevent it from taking over. Avoid using in tanks with goldfish, as they will likely over-feed on the plant and kill it rapidly.

3. Sunset Hygro (Hygrophila polysperma ‘Rosanervig’)


The sunset hygro is a close relative of the green hygro, with the main difference being the coloration of the leaves. The sunset hygro has red-pink leaves with white veins. Like the green hygro, it must be pruned often with pruning scissors or simply pinching off new growth by hand. In addition, in order to maintain the bright red hues of its leaves the water must contain appropriate levels of iron.
Both red and green varieties are great indicator plants in a low light aquarium. If nutrient levels or other issues arise, they tend to drop their leaves, signalling a problem.

  • Light level required: Low-moderate light.
  • Level of care: Beginner-Intermediate
  • Compatibility: Good, but must be pruned to avoid taking over the tank.

4. Rotala Rotundifolia


The rotala rotundfolia is a recognizable aquarium plant known for its pink coloration and narrow rounded leaves which, when allowed to grow to the surface of the water, will cascade downward in a bushy growth pattern.

This plant is another example of a rapid growth plant which requires the proper lighting to achieve optimal coloration. Like hygros, it must also be pruned often in order to avoid overgrowth. Rotalas generally do not exceed 6” in width, but will continue to grow vertically and climb the sides of the aquarium.

It’s worth mentioning that while Rotala Rotundifolia will tolerate and even thrive in a low light aquarium, it only shows its pink hue when given brighter lighting.

  • Light level required: Moderate. Too-low light will result in yellow-green leaves. Can flourish as a low light plant as long as sufficient micronutrients are provided.
  • Level of care: Beginner-Intermediate
  • Compatibility: Good, but must be pruned in order to avoid prolific growth.

5. Rotala Indica


Rotala indica (Indian Toothcup) is closely related to the rotundifolia, with only a few minor differences. The indica has more rounded leaves which tend to stay green regardless of lighting conditions, while only the stem of the plant presents a reddish hue. Both species can be planted individually or in a small bunch, but will require heavy pruning. Additionally, the indica does not require as much light as the rotundifolia in order to maintain its coloration, nor does it grow as quickly.

  • Light level required: Low.
  • Level of care: Beginner-Intermediate.
  • Compatibility: Good, but must be pruned in order to avoid prolific growth. And requires less light compared to Rotala rotundifolia.

6. Hornwort (Ceratophylum demersum)


Hornwort has a unique foliage pattern which gives the plant its nickname of “Coontail”. Leaves grow outwards in numerous shoots which give the appearance of a bushy tail. The hornwort is bright green in color, and does not have true roots meaning it does not require a solid substrate. It will attach itself to objects in the aquarium, or may float freely in the water. Hornwort grows quickly and provides a good habitat for newborn fish.

  • Light level required: Low-moderate
  • Level of care: Beginner
  • Compatibility: Excellent

7. Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus)


The java fern is a versatile, ideal plant that prefers low light aquariums. Java ferns are slow to grow at first, but will gradually begin to spread across the aquarium, eventually attaining a height of 12-14” and a width of approximately 6”. The leaves of the java fern can vary greatly across varieties, and are generally long and thin. Java ferns can thrive when anchored to the bottom of the tank by gravel, or by floating in the tank, where it will eventually find an object to anchor its roots to. The java fern is a hearty plant that does not require special lighting, but should not be subjected to overly harsh lighting.

  • Light level required: Moderate to Low lighting
  • Level of care: Beginner
  • Compatibility: Excellent

8. Parrots Feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum)


Lush green foliage with a unique texture makes the parrot’s feather stand out among aquatic plants. Parrot’s feather is popular for its use as a shade and hiding material for aquatic animals. Like hornwort, this plant tends to float in the water, but can be anchored using a shallow substrate.

  • Light level required: Moderate to high, which can be achieved by having the aquarium close to a window in addition to the use of low lighting within the tank.
  • Level of care: Beginner
  • Compatibility: Excellent, especially with goldfish, guppies, and minnows.

9. Moneywort (Bocapa monnieri)

The moneywort is a creeping plant known by many names and commonly used to add to the color of the aquarium. The moneywort has small, oblong leaves bright green in color that grow upwards along sturdy stalks. Shoots of moneywort are often planted close together to create contrast amongst other plants. Moneywort tends to grow vertically, achieving heights of approximately 6-8”.

  • Light level required: Moderate.
  • Level of care: Beginner
  • Compatibility: Excellent, thrives in most aquarium environments.

10. Brazilian Pennywort (Hydrocotyle leucocephala)


The leaves of the Brazilian pennywort are light green and bean shaped branching from vine-like stems. Like many others, this plant can be kept as a floating plant or can be rooted to the substrate. The pennywort is a rapid growth plant that must be pruned often, but is worth the effort as it is a very attractive plant and can be used anywhere within the aquarium.

  • Light level required: Any, but low is sufficient to hinder overgrowth.
  • Level of care: Beginner
  • Compatibility: Should not be included in tanks with goldfish or cichlids, as it can be a relatively delicate plant.

11. Crypt Wendtii


Crypt wendtii is a highly variable plant species which can exhibit brown, red, or green leaves in various textures and sizes. Generally, the leaves are long with waved edges, and the leaves can reach lengths upwards of 18”. The crypt wendtii is a popular plant due to its versatility and may be used as a focal point within the aquarium.

  • Light level required: Thrives in any lighting conditions.
  • Level of care: Intermediate. Highly sensitive to changing conditions within the aquarium.
  • Compatibility: Good but should not be included in tanks with cichlids who may tear up the leaves.

12. Crypt Balansae


The leaves of the crypt balansae are long and thin with unique ruffled edges. The plant tends to form in dense clumps which provides suitable hiding places for aquatic animals.

This plant is a relatively slow grower, but is worth the effort for the unique texture and appearance. C. Balansae makes a great mid to background plant.

  • Light level required: Moderate-High light.
  • Level of care: Intermediate. Highly sensitive to changing conditions within the aquarium.
  • Compatibility: Good but should not be included in tanks with cichlids who may tear up the leaves.

13. Crypt Spiralis

Another of the Crypt genus, the crypt spiralis displays long thin leaves which form loose spirals as they grow up to 24” in length. The leaves of spiralis are slightly thicker than the other Crypts, and while it grows slowly it will still tend to sprout shoots throughout the aquarium.

  • Light level required: Moderate.
  • Level of care: Beginner-Intermediate. Highly sensitive to changing conditions within the aquarium.
  • Compatibility: Good but should not be included in tanks with cichlids who may tear up the leaves.

14. Guppy Grass (Najas guadalupensis)

Guppy grass got its name due to its utility as a “nursery” plant for baby guppies. It has thin green leaves that grow in dense clumps. This plant tends to float in the tank and will grow steadily.

For sheer flexibility, it’s hard to beat Guppy Grass. Whether you want to root it, let it float, use low light or high, the plant will thrive in any sort of aquarium!

  • Light level required: Any; low is sufficient.
  • Level of care: Beginner.
  • Compatibility: Excellent, especially for baby guppies!

15. Anubias Barteri


Anubias barteri has large arrow or heart shaped leaves that are bright green in color and have rippled edges.

This plant stays relatively small, approximately 6” in height and 5” in width. It is a slow-growing plant with hearty, tough leaves that are bitter and unpleasant for most plant eating fish and invertebrates.

The broad leaves tend to encourage algae growth, however. Pairing Anubias with algae eating fish and invertebrates will help keep these showy plants looking their best.

  • Light level required: Low-moderate light.
  • Level of care: Beginner.
  • Compatibility: Excellent; hearty enough to withstand even the most plant-loving of aquarium dwellers.

16. Anubias Nana


Anubias nana is the smaller relative of A. barteri, though both species have large leaves relative to the overall size of the plant. Nana is a low, bushy, slow spreading plant which attaches itself to driftwood or other objects in the aquarium. Like barteri, it features arrow shaped leaves, and the plant stays relatively small.

Anubias species make great additions to aquariums with plant eating fish. The large, rubbery leaves are quite bitter and tough; few fish and invertebrates will bother an establish Anubias plant.

  • Light level required: Low light.
  • Level of care: Beginner.
  • Compatibility: Excellent; hearty enough to withstand even the most plant-loving of aquarium dwellers.

17. Pelia (Monosolenium tenerum)


Though Pelia is visually quite similar to a moss, it is a distinct plant which serves different purposes from most mosses. Unlike moss, Pelia does not attach itself to structures and grow rapidly in thick mats. Pelia sinks naturally, and can be allowed to free float or can be anchored down using netting or fishing line. Pelia is commonly used for aquascaping, and is a popular choice due to the unique structure of its shoots.

  • Light level required: Low-Moderate light.
  • Level of care: Beginner-Intermediate.
  • Compatibility: Moderate. Should not be included in tanks with rough or schooling fish, which may easily damage the brittle Pelia.

18. Waterwheel Plant (Aldrovanda vesiculosa)


The waterwheel is among the most exotic of the aquatic plants discussed thus far. It has been likened to an aquatic Venus fly trap, an appropriate comparison due to the small carnivorous traps at the end of each whorl (or “spoke”) of the plant. The waterwheel feeds on aquatic insects, and tends to free-float on the surface of the water in order to “hunt” for its prey.

  • Light level required: Moderate to Full.
  • Level of care: Intermediate-Advanced.
  • Compatibility: This plant requires a diet of meat, supplied through daphnia, insects, snails, tadpoles, mosquito wigglers, etc. This must be considered prior to introducing the plant to an aquarium.

19. Bacopa (Bacopa caroliniana)


Another classic aquatic plant, the Bacopa is recognizable by its oblong leaves which grow opposite each other, creating a “ladder” up each stalk. The Bacopa varies in color from bright greenish-yellow to brown, and it must be provided with a sufficient substrate to take root in. It is a slow growing plant which can reach up to 12 inches in height.

  • Light level required: Low-Moderate.
  • Level of care: Beginner.
  • Compatibility: Excellent.

20. American Waterweed (Elodea canadensis)


Elodea is a fast growing long stemmed plant which takes well to being floated or rooted in substrate, and provides sufficient cover for small fish.

The elodea can be seen commonly growing naturally in ponds and lakes in North America. It is a food staple for many aquatic animals such as ducks, turtles, beavers, etc.

However, it is considered an invasive species in some states, so local laws must be consulted prior to introducing this plant to an aquarium.

Vegetarian fish absolutely love Elodea for its soft leaves and rapid growth.

  • Light level required: Low light.
  • Level of care: Beginner.
  • Compatibility: Good, but many fish and aquatic animals seek out elodea as a main food source. Should not be included in tanks with fish who feed on soft plants, unless the plant is being provided as a food source!

21. Micro Crypt (Cryptocoryne petchii)

Like the crypts described above, the micro crypt is a slow growing plant with thin, long leaves which feature ruffled edges. The micro is the smallest of the crypt varieties, only attaining a full size of a few inches in height.

Like other dwarf crypts, C. petchii inhabits swift flowing, shady streams in Sri Lanka. While slow growing it’s also quite hardy and undemanding.

Many crypts can be purchased as bulbs in pet stores, which allows you to properly establish a healthy root system for your new plants over time!

  • Light level required: Low light.
  • Level of care: Beginner.
  • Compatibility: Good but should not be included in plants with cichlids who may tear up the leaves.

22. Red Ludwigia (Ludwigia repens)


The Red Ludwigia is a favorite for the bright red foliage it displays in the proper lighting. It is a stem plant which grows quickly and requires regular pruning. Often, large groups of shoots are planted together. It is commonly included in the foreground of aquariums and it easy to maintain once planted in substrate.

As a North American native, Red Ludwigia is tolerant of cooler water temperatures as low as 65 degrees but prefers things on the warmer side, from 75 to 80 degrees. Once well established and given occasional feedings, it takes on a ruddy color on the underside of its leaves.

  • Light level required: Moderate; too low light will cause loss of leaves and diminish the color.
  • Level of care: Beginner.
  • Compatibility: Excellent.

23. Marimo Ball

Marino Balls (source)

Commonly mistaken for a moss, the Marimo is actually a strain of spherical algae which grows outward radially, naturally forming a ball shape. These low light aquarium plants grow very slowly, but are incredibly easy to care for and have long lives. They are a favorite for their unique appearance, and are commonly used as décor.

Marimo Moss Balls prefer some current to maintain their shape. In low light aquariums without powerheads or strong filtration, they may flatten out over time. They also prefer cool, clean water, similar to the pristine ponds they originate from. Overfertilization can kill these somewhat sensitive aquatic plants.

  • Light level required: Low light to avoid browning.
  • Level of care: Beginner.
  • Compatibility: Excellent, but monitor to ensure that the fish are not overeating the marimo ball and disturbing its growth. Popular choice for betta tanks, should not be used in goldfish tanks.

24. African Water Fern – (Bolbitis heudelotii)

African Water Fern (Source)

African water ferns are a robust plant with long stalks are delicate dark green leaves. The fern grows very slowly, but can grow up to 16-18”. African water ferns anchor themselves to rocks, bark, or substrate, and will naturally tether themselves.

African Water Ferns are great low light plants but do prefer supplemental feeding and CO2 on occasion for the best growth.

  • Light level required: Low-Moderate.
  • Level of care: Beginner.
  • Compatibility: Excellent, especially when paired with algae-eating fish or shrimp.

25. Coffee leaf anubias – (Anubias barteri v. ‘coffeefolia’)

Coffee leaf anubias (source)

The coffee leaf anubias is known for its oblong rippled leaves which spread out from the plant, growing wide rather than tall. The young leaves are a mocha brown that eventually transforms to the dark green Anubias are known for.

Like other Abubias species, Coffee leaf anubias tend to grow quite slowly, and should not be planted into the substrate as burying the rhizome usually kills the plant.

All Anubias species prefer being anchored to driftwood, rocks, or even filter piping! Simply take a rubber band and secure the young Coffee Leaf Anubias; by the time the band decays, the plant will be securely anchored!

  • Light level required: Low light.
  • Level of care: Beginner.
  • Compatibility: Excellent, especially when paired with algae-eating fish.

26. Duckweed


Duckweed (Lemnaceae) are a contentious plant. It does incredibly well as a low light aquarium plant because it sits directly at the surface of the water to soak in light. And thanks to its abundant growth and ability to tolerate nearly any water conditions, it will form a green carpet reminiscent of some Florida swamp in your tank. The benefits are that it acts as an incredible nutrient sponge, soaking up organics that would otherwise fuel algae and other undesirable growth.
Some aquarists pair duckweed with submerged plastic plants or extreme low light tolerant plants like Java Moss or Java Fern.. The duckweed creates shade, a beautiful natural look, and works as a biological filter. Just bear in mind that if you decide to get rid of it, you have to be incredibly thorough or it can regenerate from even a single remaining plant!

  • Light level required: Low
  • Level of care: Very Easy
  • Compatibility: Great nutrient sponge and algae control plant; beware it’s propensity to grow out of control!

27. Banana Plant (Nymphoides Aquatica)

Banana Plant –

Banana Plants are not as hardy as some of the other plants here because they actually prefer moderate lighting. However, they work well in low light aquariums due to their banana shaped root appendages. These specialized tubers hold extra nutrients for lean times, which the plant will tap to create a lilypad-like leaf that will shoot to the surface for optimal light exposure.
While brighter lighting will encourage the Banana Plant to create more underwater foliage with an attractive purplish red shade, it will quickly send up a number of lily pad leaves if kept in a low light aquarium.

  • Light level required: Low-Moderate.
  • Level of care: Easy
  • Compatibility: Suitable for all aquariums; beware of snails as they love to consume the fleshy tubers, which kills the plant.

28. Water Wisteria (Hygrophila Difformis)

While Water Wisteria will grow well in a low light aquarium, be aware that its growth form varies depending on the lighting. It takes on a broad leafed form to maximize light exposure until moved into a high light environment, where it transforms into a fine, almost feathery leafed plant that looks like an entirely different species!
Water Wisteria is slightly more demanding in terms of nutrition, preferring supplemental CO2 and fertilization to achieve optimal growth.

  • Light level required: Low-High.
  • Level of care: Intermediate
  • Compatibility: Great and takes on different appearances based on light and nutrient levels.


Photo by David J. Stang

A slow growing stem plant, Lemon Bacopa prefers being planted in small groups where it will work its way to the surface and even produce a small purple flower. The crushed leaves have a distinctly lemony scent, hence the name. Easy to care for and not requiring much in the way of lighting or supplemental feeding, Lemon Bacopa is one of the finest low light aquarium plants in the market.
Lemon Bacopa is incredibly easy to propagate; simply take a cutting and insert it into the gravel. Within a few days, the new shoot will sprout roots that will work its way into the substrate as a new plant.

  • Light level required: Low-Moderate.
  • Level of care: Easy
  • Compatibility: Fits well in most tanks; has a pleasant smell when crushed!

30. Peacock Moss

Taxiphyllum sp. “Peacock” is a relative newcomer to the exciting world of aquatic mosses. WIth a slightly blue-green coloration and a tidy growth pattern similar to a miniature pine tree, Peacock Moss is a hardy, yet attractive alternative to Java Moss as a low light aquarium plant.

While just as hardy, it does grow somewhat slowly, meaning it takes far less maintenance to keep looking good.

Peacock Moss does appreciate occasional fertilization and even CO2 if kept in a fully planted aquarium. Peacock Moss is also a cooler water low light plant, preferring temperatures no higher than 75 degrees.

  • Light level required: Low
  • Level of care: Intermediate
  • Compatibility: Tidy compared to Java Moss; low light is essential to this shade-dwelling aquatic moss.

Final Thoughts

Picking out a good mixture of low light aquarium plants is a very important step for beginners.

By following our all-inclusive guide, aquarium owners of any skill level should be able to set up a diverse, compatible flora ecosystem is their tank.

Even though most of the species we have covered in this guide have relatively low-light requirements and tend to be easy to keep alive, remember to always take proper care of your aquarium.

Weekly or bi-weekly water changes are a must, especially for those who decide to keep plants.

With the proper care the a good set up, your planted aquarium will thrive for years to come!

Starting with aquascaping is simple. Like other interest, it takes some time, dedication and extensive research study. The following write-up aims to depict the basic understanding related to aquascaping, from establishing the straightforward principles and policies of visual building and configuration, to introducing the fundamentals of developing an aquascape, developing on the best well-known kinds of grown fish tanks and, of course, supplying useful tips and pointers regarding aquascaping make-up and also design.

What is Aquascaping?

The craft of aquascaping has ended up being increasingly prominent over the last few years. A detailed interpretation of the term explains aquascaping as ‘undersea gardening’, entailing methods of setting up, enhancing and also organizing a set of aspects– marine plants, rocks, driftwood, rocks, etc– as if it comes to be visually pleasing to human assumption.


Yet, setting apart from fundamental gardening, aquascaping includes a much longer as well as perhaps harder path of growth. Allow’s encounter it, enthusiastic aquarists recognize that fishkeeping is more than just expanding fish and also fish tanks do not only present one’s passion in lovely and fascinating types of aquatic organisms.


Once fish tanks have actually become part of our residences, they turn into our satisfaction, they emerge in our everyday discussions, and also they meet our covert desires by enabling us to ceremony our imagination and also creativity.


Besides the growing element of aquatic cultivation, including the physiology, trimming, ecology and aquarium upkeep, aquascaping also indicates facets regarding design and design, which extent beyond the boundaries of the aquarium itself.


It’s not an easy job to acquire the excellent aquarium, but once you have actually chosen to obtain right into it, aquascaping could be enjoyable, very difficult and satisfying.

Basic Aquascaping Principles

The whole aquascaping procedure may appear challenging to achieve, however it’s not as hard as it looks if you adhere to a basic set of concepts.


Like when it comes to any kind of creative growth, aquascaping dedicates greatly to a dependable knowledge resource and depends heavily on your creative imagination. Getting the excellent equilibrium between efficiently used clinical concepts as well as imagination is possibly the hardest to attain.

Below is a couple of requirement one has to take into consideration prior to even thinking about beginning with aquascaping:


Simplicity– Aquascaping is about preference as well as generally, less aspects is a lot more. Extremely typically people are tempted to integrate as several kinds of plants as feasible, assuming that this would ensure a great visual variety, but most of the moments the outcome is the other.


Range– Maintaining it easy does not mean using one type of plant just. Also if your intention is to develop a theme, you do not want your aquascape to look boring. Keep in mind, imagination plays a crucial role in aquascaping!


Proportion– It’s very important to offer a feeling of harmony to your container, so try to have as much open space as filled area. Stay clear of making use of just big fallen leave plants due to the fact that they draw from the percentage and depth of your aquascape.


Persistence– Aquascaping can become aggravating, be sure of that! So prepare to deconstruct and rebuild if there’s something you don’t like concerning your aquascape. The more you experiment, the far better you will certainly get at it.


Lights– Among one of the most important pieces of aquascaping tools, with critical impact upon the health and wellness and also development of the aquascape plants, the lighting is considered to be the functioning heart of an aquarium.


Water Filters– As their name states it, the objective of water filters is to remove excess food, the fish’s waste, unsafe chemicals and decomposing raw material within the aquarium. There are 3 standard methods you can filter water: mechanical, biological and also chemical, and a lot of water filters on the marketplace involve a combination of two of them.


Carbon Dioxide– The CO² systems might be slightly pricey, however they are vital for the development of plants. No plant grows without CO², period. Those who are really enthusiastic regarding aquascaping believe for the long-term and understand that buying a good CO ² system allows them to grow their plants to their full possibility.


Liquid plant foods– Consider plant foods as of vitamins and minerals your body has to stay hearty and strong. Relying on the lights as well as Carbon Monoxide ² systems of the aquarium, there are 2 kinds of fertilizers you can use to maintain it healthy: macronutrients and trace elements. They both should be dosed correctly to develop an appropriate aquatic atmosphere.

Substrate– Aquascape plants feed not only via their leaves, they additionally feed with their roots, which makes a proper option of aquascaping substrate extremely important. Depending upon the plants you intend to expand (little foreground, tall background etc) the ideal substrate will ensure their correct dimension, growth as well as shade.


Hardscape products (driftwood and also rocks)– You know exactly how you say about a person that she’s stunning because she has a remarkable bone framework? This is what ornaments stand for in aquascaping. The plants are insufficient to safeguard the aesthetic of an aquarium.


You need to include rocks, timber, crushed rock etc, make them look as one-of-a-kind as possible, and organize them in an uncommon yet eye-catching means. Hardscape products are the vital components which make sure the design as well as layout component of the whole aquascaping process.

Elemental rules concerning aquascaping aesthetic construction as well as setup

Aquascaping could be a kind of art where imagination and creative thinking play a necessary duty, yet mastering the foundation of this process is primary if you wish to be successful. Step is very important in nature, and aquascaping makes no exemption.


You want your tank to not just please your eye, but make it question in the appropriate locations. You desire your fish to feel comfortable; you desire your plants to expand to their full capacity. You could do all that by following a collection of really mathematical rules. Yes, before being wonderful, unpredictable and diverse, nature is mathematical.

Imagination as well as creative thinking

Building your own aquascape is the ideal chance to establish your creativity as well as imagination complimentary. Beginning by doing your research, explore just what others have done and try out brand-new things.


The procedure of production is a consuming act, but the reward is more than satisfying. Keep in mind: you should adhere to the standard guidelines as well as concept of aquascaping, however in the long run, it is your work, your tank, your imagination, you must be the very first to like it.

Balance and shape

Do not strive to obtain proportion in your storage tank! Nature isn’t best and that’s exactly what makes it lovely. Avoid putting big pieces of hardscape product in the centre of the aquarium. It will certainly make whatever around look the same, removing from the charm of the whole piece.


The very best aquascape forms are the ones following a smooth contour. There are a number of structure designs in this regard:

The concave format-– higher on either side and lower in the center, this format uses the impact of open space in the center.

The convex shaped format-– plants are cut lower on either side as well as greater in the middle, which is very great visually as well as could be acquired with rocks making a mountain looking scape.

The triangular setup-– higher on one side, lower on the various other, this kind of layout develops extremely balanced visuals.


However, do not really feel constricted by these standard shape configurations! It’s far more vital to let your creativity do its thing and experiment as high as possible. Follow your guts as well as listen to just what your very own eye tells you. Be certain and also enjoy while doing so!

How you can produce point of view

1. Choose the ideal history

Unless you put your aquarium in the center of a space, you should absolutely offer it a history Several of one of the most common products for aquascaping history include timber, cork, adhesive foliage or simple paint.


The role of the background is to hide the wall surface, tubes and cable televisions as well as to help develop in-depth perspective.

2. Find the appropriate equilibrium in between foreground, middle ground and also background.


A great balance between these three could give an excellent visual viewpoint to the tank. Use rocks and driftwood in the midground to create the perception of hillsides or higher ground. To get some extensive, make use of reduced growing plants in the foreground and also try some pieces of timber protruding to the surface in the background. The last arrangement must make your aquascape look unified.

3. Select an all-natural looking substrate


Depending upon the plants you mean to grow in your storage tank, you need to choose all-natural looking gravel. The substrate functions as a base for the entire aquarium and you do not desire it to look artificial.

4. Choose the right plant pigmentation as well as size


Growing the tank is really tough, but rather fun. Ensure you start with the prime focus of your aquarium, continue with the lowgrowing and also midgrowing plants and, at the end, with the greater ones.


It is far better to grow teams really dense also, the much more items, the greater the possibilities to capture origins as well as create. Use plants with various colors and also sizes, as it will aid you create comparison and indepth point of view as well as will assist your tank look more natural.

Advised fish

Most people currently desire what fish they wish to place in their aquariums. When it pertains to aquascaping, getting the ideal kind of fish is a delicate choice, since there are lots of factors that need to be considered.


There is no particular guideline, but you have think about their behavior, their breeding cycles, swimming habits and so forth. You ought to stay clear of fish that would certainly interrupt your aquascape.


The most typical types of fish are small and normally education (tetras, Australian rainbow fish etc) because they have good bright colours and also they make the container look bigger.

Aquarium maintenance

It’s insufficient to build an incredibly looking aquascape. Maintaining it tidy as well as secure for the plants and also fish could be as tough.


Successful aquascaping really is depended upon things you do after you’ve set up your container, things like routine trimming as well as waterchanging, consistent plant trimming, appropriate balancing of light, CARBON DIOXIDE as well as nutrients.

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Aquascaping for Beginners: 10 Helpful Tips

Reading Time: 10 min

When transitioning from regular fish-keeper to aquascaper, there are some things to keep in mind. Aquascaping is an art in itself and it goes beyond just keeping an aquarium at home.

While starting out with aquascaping, beginners tend to get overwhelmed with the extra planted aquarium information they have to go through. So we’ve put together 10 helpful aquascaping tips that will guide beginners and make their entry into the aquascaping world a little smoother.

1. Get to Know Your Aquatic Plants and Fish

There are more than 200 discovered aquatic plants today. You don’t have to study all of them but just a few. The ones that are more likely to be used in a planted aquarium.

Aquatic mosses like Weeping moss, Java moss, Peacock moss and Stringy moss, Fissidens fontanus, Riccia sp. Dwarf, Bucephalandra sp., Hemianthus callitrichoides Cuba, Eleocharis; these are some of the most popular aquatic plants used in aquascaping. So you should start with them.

Go to your local pet store or aquascaping shop and buy them. At this stage don’t think about any aquascaping ideas, just plant them in your aquarium and study them.

See how they acclimatize in your planted aquarium, try to determine their light and CO2 needs, watch how they grow day by day.

Grab an aquascaping book.

Head on to our aquatic plants database and learn more about them. Or grab a book, there are lots of good ones out there:

  • Sunken Gardens: A Step-by-Step Guide to Planting Freshwater Aquariums
  • Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants
  • Ecology of the Planted Aquarium: A Practical Manual and Scientific Treatise
  • 101 Best Aquarium Plants (Adventurous Aquarist Guide)
  • Aquarium Plants (Mini Encyclopedia Series for Aquarium Hobbyists)

Freshwater Tropical Fish Acceptable for Your Aquascaping

Regarding tropical fish, surely you know by now which species are more suited for your future aquascapes. Big american or african cichlids will disturb your hardscape and quickly unroot or even eat your aquatic plants as soon as you introduce them into your planted aquarium.

Go for small schooling type of fish, like Least rasbora, Strawberry rasbora or Mosquito rasbora, all three from the Boraras genus. Very small tropical fish which are perfect for nano aquascaping setups.

Strawberry rasbora.

Enjoy larger fish? Choose the peaceful Pearl gourami (Trichopodus leerii). They look stunning in groups of 5 or more. Make sure you give them plenty of space (at least 50 litres for 2-3 fish and 100+ liters for bigger groups).

Pearl Gourami looks great in groups.

Among cichlids there are though some acceptable species to use in your planted aquarium.

The Ram cichlid (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) is a colorful fish and very peaceful compared to other cichlids and won’t pick on your plants.

The Freshwater angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare) and Discus fish (Symphysodon) are great choices for large planted aquariums of 250 liters and more.

Freshwater Angelfish – Pterophyllum scalare

Other freshwater tropical fish that go well with planted aquariums and are heavily used in aquascaping today include the following:

  • Ember tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae), a small fish belonging to the Hyphessobrycon genus
  • Cardinal tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi), very popular tropical fish from the characin family
  • Rummy-nose tetra (Hemigrammus rhodostomus), a cute tetra fish which grows up to 5 cm in length
  • Green neon tetra (Paracheirodon simulans),with it’s gorgeous blue color that creates a great contrast with the green of the plants
  • Three-lined pencilfish (Nannostomus trifasciatus)

2. Find Out More About the Aquarium Water Parameters & Chemistry

Don’t go for the chemist status here, but some basic knowledge about your aquarium water chemistry will only help you in the long run.

Here are the main water parameters and chemistry details you must remember:

Nitrogen Compounds

There are 3 main elements to measure: Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate. All 3 play a major role in the Nitrogen cycle, or how it is commonly referred to as Cycling your aquarium.

Ammonia (NH3) results from nitrifying bacteria breaking down aquarium waste like uneaten food, fish excrement and rotten plant leaves. After the aquarium is fully cycled, ammonia should never be detectable.

Nitrite (NO2) is the product of the second stage in the nitrogen cycle. With the help of the Nitrosomonas bacteria, the ammonia is broken down into nitrites. While not as toxic as ammonia, make sure you don’t get values higher than 0 ppm as even a 0.5 ppm reading can be harmful to your fish.

Nitrate (NO3) is the 3rd and last stage in your aquarium cycling process. The bacteria responsible for converting nitrites into nitrates are called Nitrospira and Nitrobacter.

Detecting nitrates in your planted aquarium is quite common, and this nitrogen compound is less toxic to your aquarium fish. Nitrate is also the main cause for algae blooms and green aquarium water.

To lower your nitrates amount do weekly large (50% or more) water changes.

Water pH Value

Your aquarium water (H2O) is composed of hydrogen and oxygen molecules. A neutral pH value of 7.0 means that the water contains an equal amount of hydrogen ions (H+) and hydroxide ions (OH-).

pH is always changing and its two other states, acid and alkaline, are determined by the increasing of the number of hydrogen ions (acid water – low pH) or increasing the number of hydroxide ions (alkaline water – high pH).

Frequent variations in the aquarium water pH value can result in higher stress levels for your fish or even death. Generally, a pH range of 6 to 8 is tolerable and acceptable for most fish species.

The aquarium water pH scale.

Water Hardness (GH)

The general water hardness value (GH) in your aquarium is determined by the concentration of dissolved calcium and magnesium minerals.

A low amount of these minerals makes the water soft (0-50 ppm) while higher concentrations cause the water to become hard (450+ ppm).

The aquarium water general hardness chart.

Water Carbonate Hardness (KH)

KH is the measurement of dissolved carbonate and bicarbonate ions in your aquarium water, and is usually known as the buffering capacity.

The KH value is directly related to your water’s pH, and will determine its variation. A higher KH results in a more stable pH value, but when KH drops, so does your pH.

That’s why when having trouble with low pH values in your aquarium water, you should also check for KH levels.

The aquarium water KH in relation with the pH.

Phosphate Compounds in Your Planted Aquarium

Phosphate is a result of the mineralization of waste matter from within your planted aquarium including dead plant leaves, bacteria, fish excrement, uneaten food etc.

You should strive to keep phosphate levels in your planted aquarium at no more than 2-3 ppm. Higher levels will promote algae growth.

Chlorine / Chloramine

Chlorine is a chemical element that water companies use to disinfect tap water. Both chlorine and chloramine are harmful to your fish so you should always neutralize the water before aquarium use.

You can easily get rid of chlorine by keeping the water in an aerated bucket as the chlorine airs out quickly.

Chloramine, which is a compound of chlorine and ammonia, is harder to get rid of as it won’t air out even if you age the water for weeks.

Seachem Prime is water conditioning product that help in removing chloramine from your tap water making it safe for your aquarium fish.

Use Seachem Prime to get rid of chloramine.

3. Learn the Basic Aquascaping Design Principles: Rule of Thirds and Focal Points, Golden Ratio and Contrast

Aquascaping may be a form of art in which imagination and creativity play an essential role, but mastering the backbone of this process is elementary if you want to be successful. Measure is very important in nature, and aquascaping makes no exception.

You want your tank to not only please your eye, but make it wonder in the right places. You want your fish to feel comfortable; you want your plants to grow to their full potential.

You can do all that by following a set of truly mathematical rules. Yes, before being wonderful, unpredictable and diverse, nature is mathematical.

The Rule of Thirds in Aquascaping

The rule of thirds is a great composition technique and refers exactly at how we can use imaginary guidelines so that we know how to place certain elements within our scape in such a way that we are able to control what the eye of the viewer sees.

In order to understand how the rule of thirds works, try depicting an image as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines.

The Rule of Thirds applied to Aquascaping.

The purpose of these imaginary lines is actually to locate the intersection points of the grid, where you can establish the focal point of the image.

A focal point is an invisible visual mark which anchors the viewer’s gaze first and from which the viewer’s eye can glide towards other points of interest, making the viewer’s experience more interesting, captivating, relaxing and pleasing.

Placing the focal point in the middle of your tank would take away from what is happening around.

Aquascaping and the Golden Ratio

Simply put, the golden ratio is a special number obtained by dividing a line into two parts in such a way that if you divide the longer part by the smaller part the result is equal to the whole part divided by the longer part.

This special number is approximately equal to 1.618.

In both art and mathematics as well as in nature, the golden ratio is strictly connected with the creation of a focal point. In aquascaping, this would be the point the eye is directed towards at a first glance.

Aquascaping and the Golden Ratio.

Contrast in Your Planted Aquarium

Contrast in aquascaping is a very important thing to keep in mind. There are 2 types of contrast which you can easily apply for you planted aquarium:

Contrast of Size

Think of an Iwagumi layout, the contrast between the size of the rocks (Big) and the size of the aquatic plants used, usually carpeting plants (Small).

Contrast in size can easily be attained in an Iwagumi Aquascape.

Contrast of Color in Aquascaping

This is an easier type of contrast which you can apply to your own aquascapes. For example: the color contrast between the brown (light or dark) of the aquarium driftwood and the green of the aquatic plants.

Or think how the green of the plants stand out against the grey of the rocks. By far the greatest color contrasts are made between a lighter and a darker color.

There is a good number of color combinations you can try and the easiest way to find out what works best is to sketch it or draw it on a piece of paper, which we’re gonna talk about later in this article.

Color contrast in Aquascaping.

The most renowned styles of aquascaping make use of the rules described above. Whether we are talking about the Nature Aquarium, Iwagumi or Dutch style, they all start with the setting of focal points by implementing the golden ratio rule and then creating a strong contrast.

4. Learn From the Aquascaping Masters

We all have heroes in our lives, personal and professional alike. They inspire and drive us to move forward with our passion.

Unmistakably, in the art of aquascaping, the greatest master is Takashi Amano. The creator of the Nature Aquarium, Amano was a true pioneer in the aquascaping world.

With a true innate passion and japanese precision, he created some of the greatest planted aquariums the world have ever seen.

His final creation, Florestas Submersas, a giant U-shaped nature aquarium located in the Oceanário de Lisboa, Portugal, is a true testament to his great vision and craftsmanship.

George Farmer visiting Amano’s last creation.

With the rise of social media, is very easy these days to keep track of and follow prominent figures in aquascaping like:

  • Filipe Oliveira @faaoaquascaping: Portuguese aquascaper Filipe Oliveira has enough years under his belt to make him a prominent figure in the aquascaping world. Filipe is best known for creating the Tree Aquascape Style, giving him the nickname Tree Man.
  • Oliver Knott @ok_aqua: Needing no introduction, Oliver is a veteran German aquascaper with decades of experience, who now hosts aquascaping workshops and events all over the world.
  • George Farmer @georgefarmerstudios: George is a professional aquascaper from the UK and a regular youtuber. A former military man, he gave it up to follow his passion and he’s now influencing and educating people from around the world with his vast experience in the aquascaping field.
  • Jurijs Jutjajevs @juri_js: professional aquascaper from Germany with over 20 years in the aquarium hobby. He is now a full-time self-employed aquascaper, social media manager for Tropica, podcaster and youtuber. We recently did an interview with him, check it out here to learn more.

Get to know more people involved in aquascaping by reading our article about 15 Aquascaping Profiles to Follow on Instagram.

5. Don’t Get Discouraged by Aquarium Algae

Briefly defined, aquarium algae are a distinct group of aquatic organisms that have the ability to carry out photosynthesis and should naturally occur in your planted aquarium.

It will happen sooner or later and we all went through the agony of trying to understand what went wrong in our planted aquarium.

But instead of taking the angry approach and giving up aquascaping altogether, make an effort to figure out the main causes of algae growth in your planted aquarium and the best ways you can prevent it from happening.

Green hair aquarium algae.

Some of the main causes for algae growth getting out of hand in your planted aquarium include:

  • Aquarium is not fully cycled
  • Your planted aquarium is overpopulated with fish
  • You are overfeeding the fish which results in ammonia spikes
  • The light is too bright or you keep the light on for too long
  • Water is high in nutrients
  • Aquarium is placed in direct sunlight
  • Not doing enough water changes

How to deal with aquarium algae

6. Sketch Your Aquascape on Paper First

Like an architect who creates blueprints first, before laying out a house, you should take the same approach with aquascaping.

The best thing about sketching your next aquascape is that you can make as many mistakes as you want, which will be easily repaired by using an eraser.

As opposed to laying out your hardscape and then deciding that you want to replace one stone with another and by doing so disturbing the aquasoil.

So grab a piece of paper and pencil and start sketching your next aquascape layout BEFORE heading towards your aquarium.

Draw your aquascape first.

7. Don’t Overstock Your Planted Aquarium

In aquascaping you should always keep your focus on aquatic plants rather than the fish.

And at the start of a new aquascape is always better to have more plants than fish, especially long stem plants, which have a higher growth rate which will help in absorbing the extra nutrients from the water.

Overstocking your planted aquarium will only lead to extra nitrites and nitrates being accumulated in the water making it a suitable environment for algae blooms.

8. Join Online Forums and Attend Aquascaping Workshops

Head on to the internet and do some google searches for aquascaping websites and blogs. You’ll find plenty.

Browse aquascaping forums and join in the conversation. There are lots of people there just starting with aquascaping and others more experienced. There’s a lot to learn.

Good aquascaping forums to start with:

  • Aquascaping World Forum
  • Aquascaping Forum
  • The Planted Tank Aquascaping Forum
  • Aquatic Plant Central Aquascaping Forum

Acquire some hands-on experience by attending local aquascaping workshops run by the prominent figures in aquascaping today, like Filipe Oliveira, Oliver Knott, George Farmer and Jurijs Jutjajevs.

Aquascaping workshop done by Filipe Oliveira.

9. Visit Your Local Aquascaping Shop for Inspiration

Many aquascaping shops have their own nature aquarium galleries. Go ahead and plan a visit and take in the live inspiration.

And while you’re there, ask the shop’s staff for advice regarding your own aquascaping setup, algae problems and tips about technical equipment.

Make a shopping list and find out how much would cost you to build your first nature aquarium, or improve the one you already have at home.

Green Aqua Nature Aquarium gallery and store.

10. Don’t Use a Built-in Flash When Doing Aquarium Photography

When taking photos of your planted aquarium make sure to not use the build-in flash from your camera.

If your flash shoots from in front of your aquarium then you will see reflections in your photography. So it’s better to use an external flash unit which you can position so as to shoot from the top of your planted aquarium.

Photo of a nano aquascape.

Check out our article about how to take better photos of your planted aquarium.

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