The Aquarium Guide

10 Best Freshwater Aquarium Plants for Beginners


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If you’ve never looked at a planted tank before, you’d probably be surprised at just how vibrant and lively the aquarium seems to be.

That’s because the freshwater aquarium plants provide natural filtration for the water, help keep fish healthy, and can even help you breed your fish.

Aquarium plants are used by fish for any number of things, including safety, comfort, food, and reproduction, so they’re vital to any healthy aquarium environment.

You’ll find great resources in a few places online, but here’s a list of the top 10 freshwater aquarium plants that are nearly impossible to kill, and grow quickly in most every kind of water.

Before You Choose

It can be tempting to set up everything in your aquarium on the same day, but in most cases it’s not a good idea.

You’re aquarium needs to go through what’s called a cycling process, where the water quality and parameters and vary widely.

During this time, There are very few fish that can survive. This is why most experienced fish keepers will tell you to wait for a period of time before you put live fish in. Click here to read more about setting up your aquarium tank.

However, plants don’t require this. You’re free to add plants as soon you get the water in the aquarium! Just be sure you have the correct plant tools to avoid harming them while you’re planting.

The 10 Best Aquarium Plants For Your Tank

There are three categories of plants for most aquariums: Foreground, Midground, and Background. Each type requires various types of light, and there are certain setups that make your plants grow much more effectively.

Take a look at the best lighting setups for beginners.

Foreground Plants
Carpeting plants like Java Moss, Willow Moss, and Water Wisteria tend to stay low to the ground and spread horizontally across the floor of your aquarium. Because of this, they make a great foreground plants.

These plants are also excellent for water quality, since they tend to grow very quickly, and thus filter lots of water.

Java Moss

Java Moss, a Carpeting Plant for Freshwater Aquariums

Java Moss is one of the most common plants in a tank. It’s low-maintenance, difficult to kill, and grows quickly.

If you attach it to a rock, it’ll crawl over the surface of your tank. it has been known to float, so it’s best advised to attach it to something to prevent any float-away.

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Dwarf Baby Tears

Dwarf Baby Tears, a Carpeting Plant for Freshwater Aquariums

These are my most favorite carpeting plant. It’s tough, hard-working, and a healthy carpet of DBT looks beautiful in many of the common aquascaping styles.

As a bonus, if they’re producing oxygen, Dwarf Baby Tears have beautiful little bubbles that form on their leaves.

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PS: It has been highlighted to me by Kara Van Kirk in this post that Dwarf Baby Tears might not be suitable for beginners as it requires ideal lighting and CO2. Thanks, Kara!

Dwarf Hairgrass

Dwarf Hairgrass, a Carpeting Plant for Freshwater Aquariums

The aquascaping possibilities are endless with this type of plant. It looks beautiful next to Stone, as well as contrasting perfectly with dark sand or soil.

It’s incredibly easy to grow. So much so that you’ll probably find yourself trimming this quite a bit!

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PS: It has been highlighted to me by Kara Van Kirk in this post that Dwarf Hairgrass might not be suitable for beginners as it requires ideal lighting and CO2. Thanks, Kara!

Marsilea Minuta

Marsilea Minuta, a Carpeting Plant for Freshwater Aquariums

the aqua escaping possibilities are endless with this type of plant. It looks beautiful next to Stone, as well as contrasting perfectly with dark sand or soil.

It’s incredibly easy to grow. So much so that you’ll probably find yourself trimming this quite a bit!

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Amazon Sword

Amazon Sword, a Midground Plant for Freshwater Aquariums

The Amazon Sword is the staple of most aquascapes. It’s easy to maintain, fast-growing, and can be quite beautiful when arranged in the appropriate area.

Note that these can grow quite big (up to 20 inches), so they’re most often planted in the mid-background area.

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Java Fern

Java Fern, a Midground Plant for Freshwater Aquariums

Java Fern is very a very low maintenance plant, and has a unique look that appeals to most aquascapers. Its biggest benefit is its ability to be planted in nearly any area of the aquarium without distracting from the hardscape. It also looks quite good!

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Anubias Nana

Anubias Nana, a Midground Plant for Freshwater Aquariums

Anubias Nana is one of the more appealing midground plants you’ll find in aquascaping. It tolerates nearly any water quality or environment.

With curved stems and large semi-round leaves, it’s a great match for the stone aquascaping present in most aquariums.

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Pygmy Chain Sword

Pygmy Chain Sword, a Midground Plant for Freshwater Aquariums

This plant isn’t often seen in aquascaping. Mostly because it’s very similar to what we see everyday of our lives—grass. It’s useful for placement around hardscapes, and is beautiful when properly trimmed.

However, it’s nearly impossible to accidentally kill it!

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Pogostemon helferi

Pogostemon helferi, a Midground Plant for Freshwater Aquariums

Besides having an interesting name, this is one of the most unique foreground plants available to aquascapers today. It has a striking zig-zag shape in its leaves, and grows in a ‘blooming’ pattern that’s visually appealing in front of hardscapes.

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Dwarf Sagittaria

Dwarf Sagittaria, a Midground Plant for Freshwater Aquariums

Dwarf Saggitaria is an easily-maintained plant that maxes out at around 4-6 inches, making it perfect for midground aquascapes. Placing Dwarf Saggitaria around stonework or driftwood is an ideal location, giving it a perfect place to root into the wood or stone, and is an ideal complement.

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31 thoughts on “10 Best Freshwater Aquarium Plants for Beginners

  1. Hi!

    Thank you for such a lovely article. I’m a beginner & It’d be really helpful if you could also mention the various prerequisites for each plant & the type of fish that can be placed in the aquarium.

    Warm regards,
    Ash

  2. If you’re a beginner don’t try to use Hemianthus callitrichoides “dwarf baby tears” or POGOSTEMON HELFERI “downoi”. These not beginner plants at all. If your a beginner and not very good with plants in general, stick with ferns, moss, and anubis, and never bury them. Instead tie them to rocks or wood.

    1. How do you tie them to rocks? We are planting everything in the substrate, and I am really struggling with my java moss! Haha! Do you use thread to bunch it together and tie to something? Sorry, no idea!! Thanks!

      1. Hello, This may be a bit old news at this point by the looks of the date posted but I have had great success using Aqua-glue for adhering my Java Moss to rocks and driftwood. This stuff is like underwater super glue and is very inexpensive. The brand that I use is made by Seachem and is called Flourish Glue. It does not hurt any other components in your aquarium and is perfectly fish-safe.
        Regards,
        JZ

  3. java moss, java fern and anubias nana are good plants for a starter aquarium? will they get along nice with all kinds of fishes?
    if not, what are the best fresh water plants (low maintenance and fish friendly) for a starter?
    thanks in advance.

      1. thanks adam. just gotta find theyr names in portuguese and look for a store in portugal that has it….. not easy, things here got very expensive in the last decade and many aquariofilia stores closed down 🙁
        buying online, it gets very expensive to ship out i bet…..

        1. Yup it gets pretty expensive unless you are able to find a domestic online shop. Another way is you could look for others within your area who might be willing to sell their excess. A good place to start would be Reddit – AquaSwap

          1. portuguese folks arent used to reddit, might have better luck among facebook groups. or classifieds websites.

    1. My java moss died instantly even though i have good lighting and plant growth chemicals (for freshwater plants). so I honestly don’t recommend it for beginners, but java fern is a definite yes. I’ve found that you can plant it, tie it or let it float freely in the tank:)

    2. Hello! Marimo moss balls are typically sold in the betta fish section at mainstream petstores. (petsmart petco ect.) Low lighting is what they require; and main care is just squeezing them out every week or so. Note that goldfish may see them as a tasty snack. With freshwater shrimp, moss can help with breeding and overall survival. Hope this helps!

  4. I have a question, can you put bamboo in your aquarium? Also is it better to use the bamboo with Bettas? I have in my 20 gallon aquarium guppies, neon & angel fish. I have my betta in a 5 gallon aquarium.

    1. Hi Shawna, bamboos are not an aquatic plant so it might rot and die if added to your aquarium fully submerge. You might have seen some aquariums with bamboos, those are typically fake bamboos for aesthetic purposes. Hope that helps.

    2. I assume you mean lucky bamboo and not actual bamboo. Lucky bamboo can be planted with the leaves out of water. If planted with the leaves in water it’ll rot.

  5. I want to know if i place a CO2 inside my fishtank, my weeds will grow as they needed however would that harm/effect my fishes? (arvana, Goldfish etc.)

    1. Hi Varma,

      Yes, they can be closed. In fact, there are a number of reasons you should close it. Some of it being prevent heat from escaping, less evaporation and fish can’t jump out.

  6. I have started a 55g heavily planted aquarium, in the past I used once plant food for my 39g and my Panda Cories died within 3 days. My question. Has anyone have this problem? I’d like to give my plants a boost but I’m afraid. By the way, my perimeters were normal when this occurred. Thanks.

    1. Yes, I have. I made a few attempts and fail. My water parameter were fine. Fertilizer and root tab are no use. It is CO2 that works very well but you might end killing your fish.

    2. You don’t need fertilizer. Your healthy fish produce it. I started keeping freshwater tropical fish at around the first grade–with no pump or filter, just very good instruction from my dad. Lots of plants, a few fish. You have to set up the tank for a while before you add fish, then start adding fish very slowly once the plants start growing over most of the tank floor. The fish have lots of safe space and the plants get the best fertilizer possible. It takes patience but the result is very beautiful.

    1. Hi Cholo, all plants require Co2. But I’m sure you know that. =p I guess you meant if any plants do not require Co2 injection. Well, having Co2 injection will help All plants grow faster and healthier. But hardy plants like Amazon sword and java moss can survive (but slow growth) without additional Co2 injected into the water.

      Hope that helps!

  7. Why will plants not grow under my filter? I have a 36 gal. bow front aquarium & plants grow everywhere else but there.

  8. i am a beginner and have a 36 gal set up with sands only without plant growth substrate… what are the freshwater plants recommended? do i need to add a layer of plant growth substrate underneath the sands?

  9. I have a aquarium, I’m a beginner on this field. Is there any plants that can live using the tap water without putting any vitamins or any chemicals on the water to make it alive Thank you

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