Top 10 Easy Aquarium Plants for Beginners
Planted aquariums are very popular nowadays because of their natural beauty and amazing ability to consume the toxic nitrogen compounds produced by fish waste. Many beginners fail to maintain their green leaves after they have tried and failed. After over a decade of growing, propagating, selling and maintaining aquarium plants, our top 10 list of easy aquarium plants has been thoroughly reviewed. They are durable and can withstand a lot.
1. Marimo Moss Ball
This velvety green ball of cladophora alga is known as the “world’s easiest aquarium plant”. The only care required for this marimo ball is to gently roll it in your hands each time you perform a water change. This will ensure that the ball retains its shape and allows all parts of the algae to get light. These balls are very affordable and distinctive in appearance, so many people buy a lot to fill their goldfish tanks. You can even unroll them and wrap them around driftwood to create a miniature tree. Our complete care guide is available here.
2. Amazon Sword
This aquarium plant is well-known for its ability grow big and fill your tank with lush greenery. Lighting and substate are not as important as making sure it gets fed lots and lots of root tabs. The sword’s first purchase will have large, round leaves. These are usually emersed grown, or grown without water. These large leaves become brittle when placed in water. As the plant absorbs its nutrients, they make smaller, longer leaves that are submersed (or underwater) once again.
If these new leaves appear to be yellowing, make sure to give it more root tabs. You can get the sword to grow to the point where it becomes a mother plant. The long spikes will then turn into baby plants which you can plant in other aquariums.
3. Cryptocoryne wendtii
This low-maintenance crypt has been a favorite of ours because it doesn’t need liquid fertilizers or CO2 injection. This slow-growing plant can grow in any kind of light and on almost any substrate. This plant prefers to eat from its roots so make sure to add root tabs to inert substrates at least every three months for best health. Crypt wendtii comes in many varieties, such as green, brown, tropica, and red. Consider adding extra iron to the aquarium water to enhance the color of the leaves.
Like Amazon swords and crypts leaves, they are known to melt back once they’re added to a fresh tank. Don’t toss your “dead” plant if you notice this. You can leave it in the substrate. Once it adapts to your water, it will quickly rebound and produce new leaves.
4. Aponogeton crispus
This low-light plant is a bulb-grown one. It produces long, wavy-edged leaves which flow beautifully in an aquarium. Because they are so easy care for, this species is often sold as a “betta” bulb at chain pet shops. Simply place the bulb on top and it will quickly sprout roots and leaves. Sometimes it goes through a dormant period where, for a couple of months, the larger leaves die back. You can leave the plant in the aquarium and new growth will emerge. For only a few dollars, try out this great-looking plant that grows very fast, gets fairly tall, and can even produce flowers for you.
5. Bacopa caroliniana
If you’re interested in trying stem plants, bacopa is a good beginner option to start with. This is a native of the southern United States. It has a straight, vertical stem, with small, roundish, green leaves. It doesn’t require CO2 injection, but it does enjoy liquid fertilizers like Easy Green. Although it can grow in low lighting, its leaf tips become coppery-red if there is enough iron dosing and high light.
As with most aquarium plants, bacopa is usually grown out of water at plant farms. When you place it underwater, the top will start producing submerse-grown plants, and the emersed leaves below will die. You will notice the bottom half the stem becomes bare and skinny. If this happens, you can simply snip the tops of the stem to make a larger plant. That’s also how you propagate bacopa – as the plant grows taller and taller, just cut off the tops and plant them in a new location.
6. Christmas Moss
Get some Christmas moss if you are setting up a breeding aquarium. Their fluffy fronds look like little Christmas trees and provide excellent cover for baby fish and shrimp. Aquascapers attach them to rocks or driftwood to create the appearance of a moss-covered forest. In order to keep this slow-growing moss looking its best, invest in small algae eaters like amano shrimp and dose some liquid fertilizer to boost its growth.
Want to make your aquarium look like an underwater jungle with very little effort? One plant is all you need – vallisneria. This tall grass-like species can be grown if you give it plenty of root tabs. Once established, you can add fish that are known to dig up and eat plants (such as African cichlids and goldfish) to your aquarium. Check out our vallisneria care sheet here.
8. Java Fern
Both java moss and java fern get their names from the Indonesian island of Java, and while both are very easy to care for, they are quite different in appearance. There are many varieties of Java Fern, such as the narrow leaf, Windelov (or lance) and the trident, but the most well-known type has long, pointed, deeply ridged leaves. Its roots and leaves sprout from the Rhizome, which is a thick horizontal stem or stalk. However, it is important to not plant the Rhizome in the substrate. Instead, most people wedge the plant into the crevices of rocks and wood, and the roots eventually grow tightly around it. For a secure plant, you can also use super glue gel or sewing thread. Follow this article to see step-by-step instructions.
Windelov java fern
Since the roots do not need to be planted into substrate, it mostly absorbs nutrients from liquid fertilizers in the water column. It can be propagated by either cutting it in half or letting one leaf float on the surface. Soon the rows of black spots (known as sporangia) on the leaf will develop into baby plantlets with their own tiny leaves and roots. These plantlets can eventually be detached and planted elsewhere in the aquarium. You can read our complete java fern care guide right here.
9. Cryptocoryne lutea
Cryptocorynes are so easy to use and beginners-friendly, that we added another one to our collection. This species, unlike crypt wendtii has slim, green leaves which add texture and variety to your aquarium. Like most crypts, you can use almost any substrate and any light to make them happy, and no CO2 injection is needed. In general, crypts grow slowly, but give it three months from the day you put them in your aquarium and it’ll soon become one of your favorites. While crypts require more frequent pruning than plants that grow faster, they can last for many years without needing any extra care other than the occasional root tab. For more details, check out our dedicated article on them here.
10. Dwarf Sagittaria
Do you need a simple carpeting plant for your aquascape? The dwarf sagittaria, a grass-like, hardy plant that looks almost like a miniature vallisneria, is very hardy. If you use high light, it stays short and small, but if you use low light, it grows pretty tall to get closer to the light. It can take both liquid fertilizers in water column and root tabs. Dwarf sag can easily spread by sending runners through the substrate. If it spreads to an unwanted area of the tank, just pull out the new shoots and replant them elsewhere.
This curated selection of beginner-friendly plants will give you the best chance for success with your new aquarium.
For any reason you don’t see healthy growth, please consult our free guide on plant nutrient deficiencies.