Live Aquarium Plants (The Complete Guide)

Live Aquarium Plants (The Complete Guide)

live plant in aquarium

Aquariums can have a variety of live plants. These plants vary in size, shape, color, and thickness.

Live plants not only look beautiful but also make the aquarium resemble the natural environment of the fish.

To grow these plants, you need suitable water conditions, good light, plant food, and some time.

Having live plants in your aquarium is enjoyable and gives a professional touch to your hobby.

3 Types of Live Plants

You’ll find three basic types of plants at an aquarium shop.

  • Aquatic Plants: These plants live fully underwater. If you take them out of water, they’ll die. Examples are Sagittaria and pygmy sword.
  • Marginal Plants: These plants live both in and out of water. They bloom and produce seeds when they’re not submerged. An example is cryptocoryne. They need special care, so they’re better for expert hobbyists.
  • Terrestrial Plants: These plants live on land and will not survive if they’re fully underwater. They’re not recommended for home aquariums.

Each plant type has different needs for survival and growth. So, before buying any plant, make sure you know which species you can take care of.

Also, check that each plant is labeled correctly before you bring it home.

5 Categories of Live Aquarium Plants

Plants, like animals, are divided into various categories based on their physical features.

Here are some categories to help you know what kinds of plants you can put in your fish tank.

1. Ferns and Mosses

Ferns and mosses are types of plants that don’t have flowers. They grow from spores, not seeds.

Ferns spread by releasing spores that they store in clusters under their leaves and root-producing stems.

These plants have big leaves that are split into many smaller ones.

They can grow quite large, which can add some nice height to a garden or indoor plant arrangement.

Mosses also grow from spores and can spread quickly. They don’t have real leaves, just green shoots.

You can use mosses to cover up spaces between rocks and other decorations because they grow like a soft green carpet.

2. Floating Plants

Floating plants are types of plants that don’t root themselves at the bottom of an aquarium but float around the top.

They grow very fast, so you need to trim them if they get too dense.

If you don’t do this, they could block the light from reaching the water, reducing the temperature and harming your fish and other plants.

Also, lower plants might not get enough light. Floating plants multiply easily by growing new baby plants or from cut-off parts.

They are useful in breeding tanks to provide hiding spots for young fish.

3. Stem Plants

Stem plants, like Ludwigia and Cabomba, are usually sold in bundles of up to ten.

A tiny weight and tank-friendly material keep them together and shield their roots.

These plants are good for beginners as they grow fast and fill up spaces in your aquarium quickly, giving you good value for your money.

4. Rooted Plants

Rooted plants are types of plants that stick themselves into the ground to get nutrients from both their leaves and roots.

They create new plants by growing thin shoots that split off from the main part of the plant and reroot themselves to form new plants.

Some rooted plants can get quite big, so you need to pick the right kind for your space.

Potted plants are different because they come with a small container around the roots. They’re often grown in very moist places.

With these, you can either put the whole container into the ground or take the plant out and put just the roots into the ground.

It’s better to take out the container so it doesn’t show up when the fish start digging around it.

When you remove the container, you’ll often find several small plants all grouped together.

You can carefully separate each little plant and plant them separately in the ground.

Keep in mind that these plants are still growing, so make sure you leave enough space for them to spread out.

5. Cuttings

Cuttings are small pieces of plants that you can buy from stores that sell aquarium stuff.

They grow pretty fast because they get their food from their leaves. You can group these tiny cuttings and weigh them down in your aquarium until they start growing their own roots.

Once they’re a bit bigger, you can spread them out.

How to Create and Maintain Plant-Friendly Aquarium Conditions?

To make your plants thrive, you have to ensure they have the right warmth, good food, suitable soil, clean water, and enough light.

Here’s some easy to understand advice…

Water Temperature

Just like fish, plants also need a certain temperature to survive. When you’re planning to buy plants for your aquarium, make sure to find out what temperature they need.

Most aquarium plants are tropical, which means they need warm water. If they’re kept in cold water, they won’t live for long.

When you’re buying these tropical plants, check if they’re kept in warm water at the shop. If not, they might not last long in your home aquarium.

Aquarium Substrate

Substrate is the material where plants grow their roots. This is usually fine gravel or coarse sand about 1-2 inches deep.

This material lets water pass through so plants can get nutrients. It also gives plants room to grow their roots.

You can learn more about substrates over here and here.


Filtration is a process that helps keep your aquarium clean and healthy for both plants and fish.

When dirt and junk build up on plant leaves, it blocks their pores and prevents them from growing properly.

To avoid this, clean the leaves gently with a soft toothbrush that’s only used for your aquarium.

If the water in your tank gets too dirty, it can block light that the plants need to grow.

You can solve this problem by changing the water and cleaning it regularly.

While filtering the water, try to avoid creating too many air bubbles. These bubbles can push out the CO2 that plants need.

A power filter or canister filter are good choices for a tank with lots of plants.

Also, too many bubbles can disturb the fish and ruin the look of your tank. So, if you’re using bubble generators, don’t let them create too many bubbles.

Try to keep a balance with just a couple of slow streams of bubbles from the filter and generators.


Feeding your aquarium plants is important because tap water doesn’t have all the nutrients they need.

You can get tablets and liquid feeders from your pet shop to give your plants these nutrients. Just place them in the gravel near the plant roots, ideally after changing the water.

Another option is to use a plug with a plant cutting in it, which feeds the plant continually. Just bury the plug in the gravel.

Remember, don’t use regular plant fertilizers because they have too much phosphate, which is harmful to fish.


Tropical plants need light all day to grow well. They should get at least 8 hours of light daily. Tanks with plants need more light than tanks with only fish.

But, fish won’t mind a bit more sunlight. However, some plants like the Amazon sword and Java fern like less light.

Make sure to know what light each plant needs before buying. You can use a special light for plant growth.

This gives the right light plants need. You can also control the light with a timer. This keeps the light the same each day.

If you have different plants with different light needs, you can place taller plants to give shade to shorter plants that need less light.

Other Supplements

Plants need iron to make chlorophyll, which is crucial for their growth through a process called photosynthesis.

So, it’s important to add an iron supplement to your plant tanks. You can buy this supplement online from websites that sell aquatic plants, or from some fish stores.

9 Benefits of Live Plants in An Aquarium

Live plants in an aquarium have many benefits.

  1. They provide a safe place for pregnant fish to hide from aggressive mates.
  2. They offer shade and cooler temperatures during hot weather.
  3. They shield small, young, and timid fish from bullying by other tank inhabitants.
  4. They give a safe place for delicate and long-finned fish, protecting them from becoming food for others.
  5. They improve water quality by absorbing nitrates from the substrate and their leaves.
  6. They release oxygen into the water, which is good for your fish.
  7. They condition the water by removing carbon dioxide and sulfur substances, and by hosting bacteria that help remove other waste.
  8. They prevent algae growth by using up excess nutrients in the water, which algae also need to grow.
  9. They make their own food and release oxygen, which is especially beneficial for your fish. At night, they do the opposite, absorbing oxygen and releasing CO2, similar to the breathing process of your fish.
  10. Some fish eat the plants, so they can be a source of food.
  11. Your fish’s colors will look brighter in a tank with plants, and they’ll act more confidently because the plants make them feel safe.

A Note on Artificial Aquarium Plants

If you decide to use fake plants in your fish tank, don’t overdo it with the colors. Artificial plants are available in all sorts of colors.

If you put too many bright and different colors in the tank, your fish might get scared or confused. This might stop them from breeding or make them hide.

Even if these plants aren’t dangerous, their bright colors can stress your fish. So, use some self-control when choosing the colors of your artificial plants.

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