Common Aquarium Plants

  • #1
Thought I'd like to start this thread just to help address the most common aquarium plants encountered in this hobby, to make it much easier for a beginning aquarist (like me, and here I must thank Nutter for guiding me through this process of aquascaping with live plants) to choose plants suitable for their aquarium.

Please note that extra caution should be used when planting a tank containing large apple snails (P. caniculata), medium to large African cichlids, or goldfish, all of which are notorious plant-eaters. Other fish, such as silver dollars, pacus, and some burrowing loaches, should be researched carefully.

Low-light (0.5-1.5 WPG)

Java Moss, Vesicularia dubyana - Mid/Background - This very popular aquarium plant should be attached to ornaments, such as rocks or driftwood. Rubber-banding a starter clump to the desired ornament to assist it to slowly "root" its hapterons to place. This plant actually prefers and flourishes in slightly lower light, as under bright light, it may be plagued with algae. This plant is a favorite of shrimp tanks. Image courtesy of aquamoss

Java Fern, Microsorum pteropus - Midground- Like the Java moss, this low-light plant prefers to have its rhizome (bit of green stem-like projection from which the leaves grow out of) and the mess of brown roots growing from it tied or rubber-banded to a rock, piece of driftwood, or resin ornament. With larger plants, the roots of the fern can be buried in the gravel, but one should take care to leave the rhizome above the surface of the substrate.

The spores on the leaves seem to serve little purpose in the domestic aquaria, instead, the plant propogates with tiny plantlets that grow out of the tips of the leaves. When they grow large enough, the plantlets will break off and free-float in the water until they snag onto something and slowly grow onto it. They may be left free-floating until they are large enough to attach to an ornament like the parent plant. Image courtesy of aqualandpetsplus


Anubias, Anubias nana and other species - Mid/Background- Anubias nana, the dwarf anubias, is the most common plant in the hobby, however, there are many species of larger anubias that can also be explored and tried out in the tank. Anubias should be treated like the Java fern, as its habits and planting methods are generally the same. However, when propogating, the rhizome itself can be cut into large portions when needed. This plant is extremely popular, as its large, rubbery leaves make it almost invincible, even in a tank with hostile inhabitants. Image courtesy of


Cryptocorynes, Cryptocoryne spp. - Fore/Midground - Crypts, as these plants are often called, vary greatly in size, shape, and color. From the pink-leaved petchiis to ruffled-looking wendtii, crypts come in all sorts of varieties. However, these plants are the "next-step" from the Java fern and anubias: they are still low-light, however, are one of the first rosette plants that are encountered in the hobby. They have true complex root systems that must be buried in gravel at least 2 inches deep for smaller varieties, however, the crown (where all the leaves come together) should be kept above the substrate.

Cryptocorynes are quite fragile plants that may suffer "crypt melt" when first introduced into the tank: this is when a sudden change in water parameters shock the plant and cause it to lose most, if not all, of its leaves. However, this is normal and the plant will begin to recover and flourish in a few weeks. They propogate by sending runners: tiny plantlets that are connected by a thin stemlike projection to the mother plant. Image courtesy of, of Cryptocoryne wendtii


Dwarf Lily, Nymphaea stellata - Mid/Foreground - These fragile plants grow very slowly out of a rock-hard bulb. Looking more like arrowheads than real lilies, they are fragile and the stems break easily. When choosing dwarf lilies, it is advisable to buy one that has already sprouted, as to avoid buying a sterile bulb.

Aponogeton, Aponogeton spp. - Mid/Background - Personally, I don't know much about these plants, other than if you manage to get the bulbs planted properly and have them start growing, they're pretty hard to kill, even with poor water conditions. Kinda like anubias.

Medium-light (1.6-3.0 WPG)

Vallisnera, Vallisnera spp. - Background - The vals are tall, grasslike plants that grow from a "bulb"-like crown that looks somewhat similar to that of the green onion. The can often grow tall, and are rather difficult to trim, as the long leaves cannot be cut short lest they die and rot. Therefore, smaller tanks should restrict themselves to smaller species such as the intriguing looking corkscrew val, and stay well away from species like the jungle val that grow up to 20 inches high. Image courtesy of, of Vallisneria spiralis


Water Wisteria, Hygrophila difformis - Background - Water wistera is a bunch plant that is well-known for its interesting leaf shape and looser requirements for lighting. It is rather easy to root, and propagation is as simple as snipping of a 3-4 inch piece of stem and sticking it into the gravel, where it will take root for itself. Image courtesy of


Anacharis, Egeria densa - Background - This is one of the easiest bunch plants to grow. Anacharis is a tall plant whose leaves grow directly out of the stem. When it starts to grow too tall and begins to bend over at the water's surface, all that is needed is to snip off the offending length of stem and replant it into the gravel. Over time, it will take root. Anacharis also functions double as a surface, free-floating plant. After it is cut, the cut area will brown and seem to die, but the plant will quickly send out another extension from its stem, such as a bud of the new plant.

Hornwort, Ceratophyllum demersum - Background - Although this plant is rather messy, shedding leaves mercilessly when subject to sudden water parameter changes, it makes a great "baby saver" for livebearer tanks, as well as a beautifully thick background to many tanks. Like anacharis, hornwort also grows floating at the surface of the water.

Ceratophyllum demersum 1.jpg

Cabomba, Cabomba caroliniana - Background - Very much like the hornwort, cabomba has very fine leaves arranged in attractive fan-shaped clusters. However, cabomba rarely grows floating, and insists on being rooted into the gravel. It grows rapidly under medium to high lighting. Image courtesy of

Red-leaf Ludwigia, Ludwigia repens - Midground - This plant requires medium to high lighting, and becomes weak and brittle under lower light. It has rather stiff stems that branch off into numerous leaves. Regular trimming keeps it bushy and prevents scraggly growth, and larger stems that are cut off can be replanted.

Ludwigia repens 4.jpg

Other bunch plants - Back/Midground - Bushier plants such as rotala and bacopa find their places in a sheet in the back of the tank, while larger, more robust ones could be situated in the midground. Generally, they are often placed in large bunches or clumps, and most of the time, reasonably-sized cuttings can be replanted and left to take root in the substrate.

High-light (3.1-4.0 WPG)

Amazon Sword Plants, Echinodorus bleheri - Background - This plant, although being rather hardy and easy to keep, should only be attempted in very large tanks, as it can easily grow to 2 feet high and 3 feet wide, unless a smaller variety is desired. It also requires bright lighting, otherwise, the leaves will become discolored and deteriorate. This huge rosette plant shares some characteristics with cryptocorynes, including its planting method and similar way of propogating with runners. Image courtesy of

Micro Sword, Lilaeopsis braziliensis - Mid/Foreground - One of the few plants that look well in the foreground of the aquarium, the micro sword is not a true Amazon sword plant. Instead, it is far more grasslike and grows to only 6 inches high. However, to get the real "carpet" feeling of this plant, it should be grown in large tanks. The plant propogates by spreading its root complex through the substrate of the tank, and slowly enlarging its own mass of leaves by adding on leaves and stems bit by bit. Simply carefully tearing off a clump is good enough to propogate it.

Japanese Marimo Ball, Cladophora aegagropila - Midground - These intriguing-looking plants are not really plants at all, but a type of algae! However, they won't spread all across the tank like those darned diatoms will, instead, they just grow around a little clump of clay-like substrate trapped in the core. They become magnets for bits of debris and dirt in the tank, so a bit of rinsing in tank water may help. Propogating is simply ripping the moss ball into pieces and throwing them unceremoniously into the tank. They'll take time to become round, of course.

Cladophora aegagrophila 1.jpg

Surface Plants: The lighting needs for surface plants is mostly immaterial, as they grow so close to the light source anyways. These are mostly used to shade low-light plants in a high-light aquarium. Of course, then comes the problem of getting them to stay floating directly abovet he desired target, but I'll let you figure that out yourself.

Duckweed, Lemna minor - Surface - The "minor" in its name really is what distinguishes this plant: it's reputedly the smallest fruiting plant yet. Sadly, while it grows fast and spreads like a weed, a lot of fish, even those harmless-looking tetras you bought last week, like to eat them. As well as ducks, although you'll probably have bigger problems if you find those in your tank.

Lemna minor 1.jpg

Amazon Frogbit, Limnobium laevigatum - Surface - This beautiful plant actually grows from a "crown" floating in the water, with both a long root system and real leaves coming off "stems", unlike the duckweed. The leaves are also much larger and more attractive. Amazon frogbit sends off tiny runners that can be removed carefully from the mother plant when they grow to a decent size. Image courtesy of

Note: Many of the plants listed here, including cambomba, anacharis, and duckweed, are highly invasive noxious weeds. Please check with your state standards and regulations before importing them for your aquarium.

Disclaimer: I am not perfect. I do not assure you that all this information is accurate. I do not assure you that any of this information is accurate. As with new plants, research is always the key. Oh, and by the way, if a duck somehow finds its way into your new aquarium, this isn't my fault. Especially since I already warned you in the duckweed section.
  • #2
A nice little read there Elodea. I really like the disclaimer: " I do not assure you that ANY of this information is accurate". LOL.
  • #3
Good morning Elodea

Thanks for the write up. I'm sure members will find it very helpful.

Just as a reminder, if you have copied any of your information, be sure to give credit where credit is due to prevent plagiarism.

Thanks again!

  • Thread Starter
  • #4
Thanks for the reminder, Ken.

I didn't copy it off any sites, I dug all of it out from the back of my brain where I store all the things Nutter tells me. ;D

Oh, and I did get some information from liveaquaria,, and.
  • #5
Thanks for all the info. Going to put my reply in here so it will be stickied in my responses. Planng a planted tank in the near future.
  • #6
Thank you VERY much Elodea! I'm going to be going to a planted tank soon too, and this was so helpful!!!
  • #7
Great job Brian
  • #8
Great job Brian

Dude, it was Elodea that wrote this. Guess your mind is drifting like mine is. ;D
  • #9
Dude, it was Elodea that wrote this. Guess your mind is drifting like mine is. ;D

Nope, my mind is not drifting - according to the info Elodea = Brian ???

Just as Nutter = Graeme
  • #10
Nope, my mind is not drifting - according to the info Elodea = Brian ???

Just as Nutter = Graeme

Ha. Looks like my mind is the one drifting. I guess that's what happens when your dealing with someone called Nutter...
  • #11
How about pictures of the various plants also?
  • Thread Starter
  • #12
A nice little read there Elodea. I really like the disclaimer: " I do not assure you that ANY of this information is accurate". LOL.

Gotta encourage research, ya know. ;D

Ok, updated the thread with pictures. Tragically, I'm only allowed to used 10 (instead of the original 18), so...?

I'll post the rest of the pictures on a separate post soon.

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