Want to find out which plants are the best aquarium plants for beginners. Selecting plants that require low light and low CO2 levels will make life easier for you. Too much light will stimulate algae production, and you will have to clean your tank more often. If you have plants that need higher CO2 levels than your tank is producing, you will need to add CO2 to the tank.
I have compiled five lists. The first is a list of the top ten easy to use plants and where to place them in your fish tank. The second lists plants that require both low light and CO2 levels; it is extensive and has been divided by the heights of the plants. The third list provides a list of plants that require low light and medium CO2 levels. The fourth contains plants that require medium light and low CO2 levels. The fifth and final list is a list of plants that require medium light and CO2 levels.
Top 10 Aquarium Plants for Beginners to Create an Interesting Fisht tank
Just because you are at the beginning of your aquarium plant journey does not mean you don’t have to have the best looking fish tank. I have created a list of the top 10 aquarium plants that will give your planted aquarium the best start.
Think of your fish tank as a living and growing work of art. The plants inside your aquarium create the background for your fish to play and interact. The best thing about this artwork is you can change it anytime you want.
The Background of Your Planted Aquarium
The background is the frame of your picture and holds your planted aquarium together. Prune the different aquatic plants to create the horizon you want to display your fish and the rest of your plants too.
This dark green leaf will create a contrasting backdrop to enhance the colors and textures of your other plants. The long, broadleaves will give your fish plenty of hiding spaces. Think of this plant as the trees of your fish tank. Add a few to the sides to enhance the frame of your picture.
Place a few of these tall light green plants in front of the Cryptocoryne wendtii to enhance its color and add the next layer of texture to your background.
Once you have created your frame, you can move to the next layer, the midground or your aquatic masterpiece.
The Midground of Your Planted Aquarium
The midground is the largest part of your fish tank and the area where the fish will spend a lot of their time. Think of the colors of your fish; they remain the stars of the show. You want to add texture, different heights for the fish to interact. They need places to hide away from each other, but you want to see them and show them off.
This dark green leave, is interesting because of its wavy texture, growing up to 10 cm, it will add the next layer of height. Plant this in generous amounts if you have colorful fish. The dark green won’t detract from the colors.
This plant is fun, with its long tentacle-like leaves will grow tall. Unfussy and with the blades being thin, you don’t have to worry about pruning as it will not clutter your tank. The brown color will add interest to your fish tank without competing with the colors of your fish. Plant a few of these around the middle of your tank.
The Ceratophyllum demersum is the best of them all. With its bottle brush appearance and vibrant green color will make any planted aquarium pop. The stems are tall and wide use three or five to create focal points in your aquarium. Pair them with decorations and rocks to add more contrast to the colors.
At this point, you need to create a splash of color with the Cryptocoryne beckettii ‘Petchii’; you will add a dash of violet. Add this plant to groups of greens to the focal point you want to enhance. The leaf shape will blend into the forest of aquarium plants, but the color will give your fish tank depth.
This spiky moss is lower and will create the filler in your forest of underwater plants. Its long thin leaves will keep your tank from looking cluttered; while adding texture and enhance the lighter color against your frame. The height is variable and easy to trim; you can keep it at any height for your fish tank.
The Foreground of Your Planted Aquarium
The foreground of your planted aquarium creates the introduction to the look and finishes the frame you have created with your background. Keep it simple as the eye of the observer is drawn into your forest of aquarium plants.
For the foreground of your fish tank, keep it simple. The Taxiphyllum Barbieri is a grass moss that will create the balance of your frame. Keep it well trimmed for a neat, structured look or grow it wild for a whimsical feel to your fish tank. The green color and soft texture of the plant will introduce the viewer to your fish tank without adding clutter.
Focal points are areas of the tanks that pull people’s attention add an exciting plant or ornament to this, something that will show your personality. Exotic plants behind a decoration will create your picture. Attaching plants to the ornaments will give you the freedom to move it to another location in your fish tank with ease.
Microsorum pteropus ‘Narrow’ is has both color and texture and will enhance both rocks or driftwood you want to add as a focal point. Either attach it to one of the indentations or glue it with Oasis Floral Adhesive or similar product, to any part of the fish tank decoration, hold it for 30 seconds before adding it to your tank.
These ten aquarium plants require low light and low CO2, making them easy to grow and to look after. There are other underwater plants that are a breeze to care for with different colors and textures that will give you a beautiful fish tank.
Aquarium Plants Requiring Low Light and Low CO2 Levels
The list below contains aquarium plants that require low light and CO2 levels. I will guide you on how you can use it in your planted aquarium. Including some plants, you can use in an open-top fish tank. You can allow plants to grow taller if you prune less. Some flowering aquarium plants will add splashes of color to the top of your planted aquarium.
Aquarium Plants that grow between 3 to 5cm in height
Although these plants grow to the same height, these plants are used in different parts of the fish tank. You can add any of these to your aquarium with the confidence they are easy to maintain. We want to create functional art, not work.
You may want to have an open-top aquarium and want a little greenery to encourage your fish to come to the top. The Limnobium laevigatum is a floating plant with a medium growth rate suitable for open aquariums. The leaves span is between 5-15 cm wide. The long delicate roots protect surface fish and are an indicator of the nutrient level of the tank.
The Anubias ‘Petite’ is rhizomatous with a slow growth rate. They are adapted to have small leaves and a rhizome of 5-10 cm. The branches of this plant create dense groups. This plant can be attached to stones or other decorations. Don’t be put off by the slow growth rate; art takes time. The growth rate means less pruning.
The Lilaeopsis brasiliensis is a stolon with a slow growth rate. A highly textured plant that can be kept at different heights in your fish tank will give you the freedom to create different heights without clutter. You can use it in the foreground or the background but will get lost in the frame of the tank. High density can be used as a ground cover when planting, give the plant space to allow it to spread.
Aquarium Plants that grow between 3 to 10 cm in height
Aquarium Plants that make excellent ground cover growing between 3 to 10 cm.
The Taxiphyllum barbieri is a moss with a medium growth rate. Hardy plants willingly grow on various surfaces and provide a hiding place for small fish. Don’t overlook any of the mosses. Easy to grow and use either to fade into the background or to create a focal point.
Taxiphyllum or Spiky Moss has a medium growth rate. With a lot of deep green branched shoots and a spiky surface will make a beautiful carpet. This moss is one of my favorites, brilliant color, and just changing the pruning schedule of one plant will create a different look in your fish tank.
Aquarium Plants that grow between 5 to 10cm in height
Aquarium Plants that require low light and CO2 levels that grow between 5 to 10cm in height. This size plant is versatile; keep them short if you use them in your foreground, but in the midground, you can keep them longer.
If you use splashes of color, sparingly will not detract from your fish but enhance your living aquarium, and the Bucephalandra sp. ‘Red’ is a dull red. It is a Rhizomatous with a slow growth rate and is easy to grow. The leaves can be dark green or dark red. The size of the blade is between 2 and 4 cm wide with wavy edges.
Anubias barteri var. nana is a Rhizomatous with a slow growth rate. A small hardy flowering plant with a rhizome between 10-15 cm. This aquarium plant has fresh green color and an exciting leaf creating an excellent foreground backdrop. You only need a few of these plants with its wide leaf span and grouping if you want a simple fish tank. To add more levels in your aquarium, simply keep them trimmed at different heights.
Cryptocoryne albida ‘Brown’ is a Rosulate with a slow growth rate. This plant has narrow, red-brown leaves between 1-3 cm wide and up to 15 cm long easy to combine with other plants. Another favorite because of its unique texture and color is fascinating. The thin leaves don’t give the fish many places to hide away from you while adding to the interesting background.
Helanthium tenellum ‘broad’ is carpeting with a slow growth rate; this plant is easy and undemanding. Although this plant didn’t make my top ten, if you want to create a mysterious fish tank, this is a good choice, and the fish will love the other places for it to hide.
Aquarium Plants that grow between 5 to 20cm in height
We only have one of this type of plant that forms part of our list for aquarium plants for beginners. I like this one too, it gives you many height options and can be used in the background for less pruning or midground for more texture.
Marsilea hirsuta is carpeting with a medium growth rate. Leaves similar to a four-leaf clover. The leaves may change over time and is a creepy or runner plant. I love this one for the foreground and midground. It is a creeper and will frame your tank if you want it to create and high carpet in the midground. Easy to replant in different parts of your tank
Aquarium Plants that grow between 5 to 30cm in height
There is only one plant that makes this list for us, but with its color and texture, we only need one.
Ceratophyllum demersum is a stem plant with a high growth rate. The leaves close together with lateral spikes. This one can be used in either the midground or the background of your planted aquarium. It will create a dramatic contrast in either place, keep it taller in the background and prune more often if you are keeping it as your midground plant.
Aquarium Plants that grow between 10 to 15cm in height
Cryptocoryne beckettii ‘Petchii’ is rosulate with a medium growth rate. The leaf is fluted and about 10-15 cm long olive-brown with the violet underside. These colors may vary. This plant is a good one to add pops of interest without adding too much color, but use it with care in places to create focal points if it enhances the fish tank decoration. Or keep it trimmed low to create a focal piece on its own.
Anubias barteri var. angustifolia is rhizomatous with a slow growth rate and is a hardy plant with long, narrow leaves. This plant makes a good filler plant and, with a slow growth rate, can be used effectively in a neatly planted aquarium.
Aquarium Plants that grow between 10 to 20cm in height
These plants can be used in the midground if you keep it low, or the beginning of the background if you want to have less pruning to do.
Hottonia palustris is a stem plant with a medium growth rate. With lots of curved fanning shoots of light green leaves. It needs frequent pruning to keep it growing well. This plant adds a pop of color even if it is green, and with a widespread leaf span, you only need a couple to keep if you want a darker fish tank. To have a lighter aquarium spread this around. The color will enhance many of the colors of fish, especially dark fish.
Bucephalandra ‘Kedagang’ is rhizomatous with a slow growth rate with long, narrow, dark green leaves between 1 and 2 cm wide and about 6 cm long. This plant is stimulating but will fade into the background paired with light or bright colored fish to make the fish stand out.
Lagenandra meeboldii ‘Red’ is rosulate with a slow growth rate. The leaves are broad between 4 and 8 cm and 6-12 cm long and need space to grow. The colors vary from dark green, violet, and pink. This plant is the best for a quick color pop. For a 55-gallon fish tank, I wouldn’t use more than 3 of them and keep them in an odd number.
Microsorum pteropus ‘Narrow’ is rhizomatous with a slow growth rate. With narrow leaves, this plant is attach to rocks and other decorations in your aquarium. A slow growth rate will give you a lot less work, an exciting plant to attached to different decorations in your fish tank.
Aquarium Plants that grow between 10 to 30cm in height
Unless you have a deep tank, use these plants in the background of your tank as they are tall. With the different heights, you can create any shape horizon.
Cryptocoryne wendtii is rosulate with a medium growth rate. Dark in color with a plain background will create the trees of your fish tank. Use a limited number in the beginning and build up as you go along if you don’t want to create a cluttered aquarium.
Ludwigia palustris is a stem plant with a medium growth rate. The stalks grow to the length of between 2 and 4 cm wide, and cutting will encourage density. The richness of this color will enhance any area but only pick a few of these. This plant is a breeze to cultivate and can be added to different areas.
Bacopa caroliniana is a stem plant with a slow growth rate and is usually between 3 and 4 cm wide. The best part is that these plants do not need much attention. Remove any damaged leaves. A great plant and can be used in generous amounts for a lighter fish tank or sparing to create pops of color in a darker one.
Aquarium Plants that grow between 15 to 30cm in height
These plants are plentiful for beginners to choose from, but for variety in your aquascape, don’t use too many plants that have the same height unless they occupy a different part of your fish tank.
Microsorum pteropus ‘Trident’ is rhizomatous with a slow growth rate. The trident has narrow leaves that splits into three parts. With the color and shape of this plant, you can create an enchanted forest for your fish to play in with the thin narrow-leaf, plant as many as you like to develop a magical fish tank.
This plant can be used as a filler plant; Hygrophila ‘Siamensis’ is a stem plant with a high growth rate. A Hardy plant with light green dense leaves. Pinch shoots to keep the plant underwater or add this to open aquariums.
A great plant if you want to create diversity and not add too much color. Cryptocoryne undulatus ‘Red’ is rosulate with a medium growth rate. This plant is tolerant of changing conditions, but this may affect the appearance of the plant.
Echinodorus ‘Reni’ is rosulate with a medium growth rate. The rosette of the plant is usually between 15-25 cm wide. Depending on the light in the aquarium, the color may vary. This leaf will add different colors. A few plants scattered in shadier areas and others in brighter parts will give you various colors using the same texture.
Rotala rotundifolia is a stem plant with a medium growth rate. This plant is compact, bushy, and undemanding, and depending on the light will produce different colors. This plant will add extra color and create texture for your planted aquarium.
Anubias barteri ‘Coffeefolia’ is rhizomatous with a slow growth rate. This plant is a creeping rhizome with variable leaf color depending on the conditions within the environment. Bright color and height will create a light, colorful background.
Microsorum pteropus is rhizomatous with a slow growth rate. This plant can be attached to aquarium decorations and is a hardy plant. With dark coloring and thin, tall leaves add texture to your planted aquarium.
Microsorum pteropus is rhizomatous with a slow growth rate; this plant can be attached to aquarium decorations. You can use the dark color to contrast light wood or decorations in your aquarium. With added height will break a brighter aquarium too and create a focal point.
Aquarium Plants that grow between 20 to 30cm in height
These will create the background of your fish tank. Depending on the color and texture, your choice will create an overall look. If you want a bright fish tank, select light green plants, and for a darker atmosphere, use darker shades of green.
Echinodorus bleheri is rosulate with a high growth rate. This plant is undemanding and hardy. Trim the lower leaves to promote growth. For a light aquarium, this green is an excellent choice for background with vast leave expanse a little will go a long way.
Egeria densa is a stem plant with a high growth rate. This plant creates a balance in the aquarium and prevents algae. The color may vary depending on the conditions within the fish tank. Prune lower and damaged leaves. Great for texture and to enhance color.
Great for texture and to enhance color. Hygrophila corymbosa is a stem plant with a high growth rate. This plant is undemanding with bright green, wide, and long leaves.
The bright, fresh green plant will create a fresh look. Hygrophila difformis has a stem between 5 and 12 cm wide with a high growth rate. This plant helps prevent algae and is an indicator. If the leaves lack color, the tank needs fertilizer.
Vallisneria americana ‘Asiatica’ is a stolon with a high growth rate with its twisted leaves that contrasts other plants around it. It needs space to grow but creates a bright look and adds a lot of texture.
Echinodorus ‘Ozelot’ is rosulate with a medium growth rate. The rosette is between 20-40 cm with black spots on the leaves. This plant is undemanding and is suitable for beginners. The one in the image is green, but there are other variants you can choose from depending on the color you want to add.
Echinodorus ‘Rosé’ is rosulate with a medium growth rate. New leaves are pink with red-brown spots and is an undemanding plant for a subtle light splash of color in areas with added layers of texture.
Vallisneria nana is a stolon with a medium growth rate. This plant has narrow dark green leaves, creating a mystical appearance. The thin stems keep your fish from hiding around it. The grouping and texture are not suitable for fish tanks you want neat and tidy.
Aquarium Plants Requiring Low Light and Medium CO2 Levels
The plants listed below are hardy and easy to keep, but beginners to aquarium plants may struggle to keep CO2 levels where they need to be. There are few of these plants suggested for beginners; the heights have been added to the description.
Sagittaria subulata is a stolon with a high growth rate and grows to be between 5 and 30cm in height. Undemanding forming a compact group and mayflower. This plant is excellent with dark fish or to add color in a dark and texture in the light displace and can be used in an open fish tank.
Cardamine lyrata is a stem plant with a high growth rate and grows to be between 20 and 30cm in height. This plant will look great as part of a forest tree in a light, bright aquarium.
Heteranthera zosterifolia is a stem plant with a high growth rate and grows to be between 20 and 30cm in height. This plant becomes bushy between 6 and 12 cm wide. If allowed to spread to the surface, this plant may flower. This plant is perfect for light or open fish tanks.
Hygrophila polysperma ‘Rosanervig’ is a stem plant with a medium growth rate and grows to be between 20 and 30cm in height and is an undemanding plant. The width of the plant is between 5 and 8 cm. Although pink, in the beginning, it can turn green if you see green leaves trim immediately to keep the plant pink. This plant is prone to a virus that will not affect other plants but will turn its leaves white. In any color, it is excellent for adding color and texture. The broadleaf span gives your fish enough place to hide without hiding them away.
Aquarium Plants Requiring Medium Light and Low CO2 Levels
Increasing the amount of light of your aquarium will encourage the growth of algae, wait for the other plants in your tank to be established before adding more light to your aquarium. The plants listed below are between 20 and 30cm in height. These plants are exotic, but as a beginner, select one of these options with care.
Cabomba aquatica has a stem between 5 to 8cm wide with a high growth rate. Prune any broken leaves. With a thick texture, a bit of color will create a good midground plant to contrast against crabs or other critters at the bottom of the fish tank.
Hygrophila costata has a wide stem and a high growth rate. Its leaves, narrow and grow to about 10cm. Brilliant for fresh and a whimsical planted aquariums.
Limnophila hippuridoides is a stem plant with a medium growth rate and can be between 6 and 10cm wide with green leaves and a red-violet underside. This plant adds color to your background, and with the width, you only need a few of them. Contrast with bright, fresh greens.
Ludwigia repens ‘Rubin’ is a stem plant with a medium growth rate. This plant has dark red leaves and is between 4 and 6 cm wide and is not demanding. A great plant to create a focal point at the back of the fish tank and looks stunning paired with the Cabomba aquatica.
Aquarium Plants Requiring Medium Light and Medium CO2 Levels
Higher light levels will encourage algae growth. If your fish tank does not produce enough CO2, you may have to add some. There are few plants at this range recommended for beginners, and the heights are listed in the description.
Shinnersia rivularis ‘Weiss-Grün’ is a Stem plant with a high growth rate and grows to be between 10 and 30cm in height and up to 10cm wide. The leaves have white veins on them, but colors may vary depending on the conditions within the habitat. A great looking plant can be used either as a bright light forest or if kept trimmed lower will create a rousing midground.
Echinodorus ‘Red Diamond’ is a Rosulate with a medium growth rate and grows to be between 15 and 20cm in height. Light helps the red color of the leaves develop. You can manage the amount of intensity of the color of this plant by adding more light once your plants are established. If you want a color pop or add brightness, but if you’re going to blend it into its surroundings, expose it to less light.
Cyperus helferi is a Rosulate with a slow growth rate and grows to be between 20 and 30cm in height and between 15 – 25 cm wide. Fresh and vibrate with a pretty leaf and great plant to create a background forest.
Be selective about the types of plants you purchase
There are many different plants on the market stick to plants that require the same light and CO2 levels, and you will create a stable environment. It is a good idea for beginners to stay in the low light and low CO2 range, it makes caring for your tank easier, and with the variety of colors and textures, you can create any type of aquascape you like.
For less pruning, select plants with a slow growth rate, but remember when planting how much space the plant may require later. You can remove the plants and use them in another fish tank or keep your own aquascape garden.
As your skills and understanding of the levels of the various elements within your tank change, you can move to more delicate plants and fish. The fish are the stars of the show and select a background that suits your fish. For bright colored fish, use a dark background with pops of color for darker fish bright, fresh greens, and splashes of color will do the trick.
Remember to clean or quarantine any new additions and be selective where you buy your plants. Add a small amount of fish tank water to the quarantine tank. If you are worried about a snail breakout and you have a hardy plant, keep the plant in quarantine for two months and pop in a few pennies to kill snails.
Also read – Self Cleaning Fish Tanks That Actually Work
FAQ’s on Aquarium Plants
How Do You Secure Live Plants in An Aquarium? There are two ways to secure live plants in an aquarium:
The first is: planting the roots into the substrate (soil) of your aquarium the same as with terrestrial plants. The second use to attach plants to a decoration or rock in your aquarium. You can push it into a hole or indentation and secure with a string until it takes hold or glue it with oasis florist glue.
How to Keep Aquarium Plants Alive? By supplying the three elements, a plant needs light, food, and CO2. Select plants that your fish tank supports naturally. If you have a low light fish tank and don’t want to add CO2 select the plants that meet that criteria, i.e., low light low CO2 plants, and remove plants that don’t. Test your nitrate levels often and add fertilizer if you need to. Add more fish to create more CO2 if that element is low. You can read our article on how to care for freshwater aquarium plants to find out more.
How To Keep Algae Off Aquarium Plants? If algae is growing on your aquarium plants, you do not have a balanced ecosystem. Add more plants, and decrease the number of hours you expose your aquarium to if you keep the light on for 8 hours, drop it to 6 hours per day. Decrease the plant food supply by increasing the nitrate filtering of your fish tank and reduce the amount of fertilizer you are using. Wait a few months to see if the problem clears up before you clean your plants.
Also read – Best 20 Gallon Fish Tanks for Beginners
Hi there! I’m Richy, the founder of AquariumStuffs. Since I was young, and had my very tiny plastic fish bowl, I’ve been passionate about fish and aquariums. I went to school to earn a Bachelor’s of Science in Marine Biology, and have continued to educate myself and share my knowledge in this field. For almost 20 years, I’ve been obsessed with collecting and learning about everything to do with fish keeping and aquascaping. My goal with this site is to bring all that I’ve learned – the principles, how-to guides, and more – to you. Learn about the art and science behind aquariums, and let me simplify each process around building a sustainable home for your fish through this blog.