Top 5 Midground Plants to Balance Your Planted Aquarium

Top 5 Midground Plants to Balance Your Planted Aquarium

When creating a planted tank, the type of plants you choose and where they are placed can make a big difference in the overall appearance of the aquarium, especially once the plants have grown in. For the most balanced tanks, taller plants are placed in the back while shorter plants are located at the front. But the dramatic height difference between the two isn’t always visually appealing. This is why aquascapers use midground plants or medium-sized plants to create a visual transition from the shortest plants in the foreground of the aquarium to the tallest plants in back. This creates a more natural-looking and visually balanced aquascape as the plants appear layered or stacked.

These images show the difference. The photo on the left uses a short carpeting species in the foreground of the tank and a tall stem plant in the back. They are both visually attractive by themselves. However, the stark height difference creates a shadow in central tank which draws the eye to that area. The photo to right features similar plants: one in front is a shorter carpeting species and the other in the background are tall stemmed plants. In addition, this tank includes plants of medium height in the middle. It gives off a more balanced appearance because the eye is gently drawn from the front to middle, and the back to the tallest plants. It also appears more natural as plants grow mixed together in nature.

Planted aquariums with no midground plants (left) versus with midground plants (right)

Let us help you get started by introducing you to the top five categories of midground plants that can enhance the beauty and appeal of your aquarium.

1. Anubias Plants

Anubias plants

Anubias nana (or Anubias barteri var. nana) is a very moderate-sized Anubias plant, making it an ideal plant for the midground of any aquarium. The plant prefers to be attached with wood or rock. These plants are typically placed in the middle area of any aquarium. Anubias can be grown via a horizontal stem known as a rhizome, which sends its leaves up. Even under low light, a full and bushy growth pattern can be expected. Medium-sized leaves provide the perfect transition from small plants in front to tall plants in back and add a cozy place for shrimp and small fish to take cover. Anubias golden and Anubias silver coin are all similar-sized Anubias species.

2. Java Fern

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

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

If you are looking for more variety, java fern ‘Windelov’ offers a bit more texture due to the lace-like tips of its leaves. It is a compact plant that can be used as a centerground plant in smaller aquascapes.

3. Cryptocoryne Plants

Cryptocoryne plants as midground plants

The different color varieties of Cryptocoryne wendtii – such as tropica, green, reddish bronze, and even pink – are excellent midground plants due to their compact growing pattern and moderate leaf size. They make a great transition from the foreground of the aquarium to the back because they are medium height yet quite leafy once they’re well-established. The perfect visual spice for any aquarium is their wavy, crinkled leaves texture and many color options.

Crypt lucens

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

4. Baby Tears

Micranthemum umbrosum

The larger baby tear plant makes a great middleground plant. It will need to be trimmed often to keep it neat. The delicate stems are complemented by the round, green leaves. This plant will look bushy and short if the tips are removed and replanted. Baby tears will grow to the surface if it is left alone. However, if kept pruned, its dainty, round leaves provide a beautiful midground texture.

5. Dwarf Chain Sword

Helanthium tenellum

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

Aquarium Co-Op’s goal is to offer a well-curated selection of aquatic plants that can grow well for hobbyists. Take a look at our complete selection of midground plants and get some ideas for your next tank.