Best Freshwater Aquarium Plants: A Guide to Advanced Aquascaping!

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Admit it, plants add the "life" in any aquarium, especially in a freshwater tank. I mean, you can decorate saltwater or a reef tank with corals and rock, but a freshwater tank feels incomplete without plants.

Apart from making your aquarium beautiful, plants can enrich the living condition of the fish and can even provide a good source of natural green food.

So, what are the best freshwater aquarium plants for beginners?

There are a lot of common names, but why are they called the best freshwater aquarium plants? What are their traits? How to keep live plants in the aquarium?

I have compiled a list with characteristics table so that you can understand these plants easily.

Plant

​Type

​Origin

Rating

​Price

Foreground/

Carpeting ​Moss

​South-East Asia

Foreground/

Carpeting ​Grass

​Brazil

Foreground/

Carpeting Plant 

​Cuba

​Shallow Water Aquatic Plant

​Indian Subcontinent

​Semi-Aquatic plant

​Central America

​Fern

​Tropical Africa

​Fern

​South-East Asia

​Aquatic and Semi-Aquatic Flowering Plant

​Central and Western Africa

​Water Bulb

​Sri Lanka

​Water Bulb

​Madagascar

​Water Bulb

​India

Java Moss

Scientific Name: Taxiphyllum barbieri

Java Moss is the perfect carpet or foregrounding option as they are highly unlikely to die, even living in extreme conditions. You will not have to worry about their maintenance after you plant them in your tank.

If you want to speed up the growth, you should maintain a colder environment.

The Characteristics Table – Java Moss

Considering Factors

Traits

Why Should You Plant?

  • ​- ​​Requires zero to a minimum level of care
  • ​- ​​High survivability rate
  • ​- ​​​Typically, freshwater fish avoid eating them​​​​

Lights Requirement

​Low to medium

Ideal Temperature

​70°F to 75°F

Ideal pH Level

​5.0 to 8.0 pH

Placement

​Above the substrate layer

Rooting Requirement

​Rootless

Fertilizers

​Not necessary

Additional Tips

​​Prefers colder water for faster growth

Lilaeopsis/ Brazilian Micro Sword

Scientific Name: Lilaeopsis brasiliensis

If you are looking for a true grass type aquatic plant that will give your tank and nice look and feel, Brazilian Micro Sword should be your go-to option.

This is the only type that can offer the eluding lawn effect. However, you need to be very skilled to use them in your aquarium effectively. 

The Characteristics Table – Lilaeopsis

Considering Factors

Traits

Why Should You Plant?

  • ​- ​​​Creates the “lawn effect.”
  • ​- ​​​High survivability rate
  • ​- ​​​​Short stemmed carpet-like look

Lights Requirement

​High

Ideal Temperature

​70°F to 83°F

Ideal pH Level

​6.8 to 7.5 pH

Placement

​Above the substrate layer

Rooting Requirement

​Buried within the substrate

Fertilizers

​Should be planted on a nutrient-rich substrate, you can add liquid fertilizers too

Additional Tips

​As the caring process is a bit tricky, plant them only if you are skilled enough

Dwarf Baby Tears

Scientific Name: Hemianthus callitrichoides

I personally find the Dwarf Baby Tears as the most beautiful carpeting option in the freshwater environment. It looks like miniature forestland underwater. Also, the lush green color is to die for!

To give the roots a firmer grip, you should create a rooting layer like a piece of rock or wood. You can also base them upon the moss layer.

But beware!

Some fish tend to eat them up!

The Characteristics Table – Dwarf Baby Tears

Considering Factors

Traits

Why Should You Plant?

  • ​- ​​​​Gives a lush emerald look to your tank
  • ​- ​​​​Doesn’t mind occasional nipping as it recovers fast
  • ​- ​​​​​Low to minimum care needed

Lights Requirement

​Medium to high (2 watts per gallon)

Ideal Temperature

​70°F to 84°F

Ideal pH Level

​5.0 to 7.5 pH

Placement

​Above the substrate layer

Rooting Requirement

​Attach the roots with rock or wooden layer, you can add moss to give them a firm attaching base

Fertilizers

​Mineral-rich fertilizers, especially iron

Additional Tips

​Don’t plant them in goldfish tank as the fish will vigorously eat them off

​The Best Plants for the Middle or Background of Your Tank

Water Wisteria

Scientific Name: Hygrophila difformis

Without a doubt, Water Wisteria is one of the most popular aquatic plants. Ask any veteran fishkeeper, they will all agree with me.

The unique-looking green leaves and high survivability rate make them an easy choice.

Just make sure to prune them off every now and then. Otherwise, you will end up having a clogged up tank full of them.

The Characteristics Table – Water Wisteria

Considering Factors

Traits

Why Should You Plant?

  • ​- ​​​​​High growth rate
  • ​- ​​​​​High survivability rate
  • ​- ​​​​​​Can survive light to moderate nibbling

Lights Requirement

​Medium to high (2 to 3 watts per gallon)

Ideal Temperature

​70°F to 82°F

Ideal pH Level

​6.5 to 7.5 pH

Placement

​In the back or on the side of the tank

Rooting Requirement

​Buried within the substrate layer

Fertilizers

​Iron-rich fertilizers

Additional Tips

​Prune them off regularly otherwise cover up the whole tank

​2. Amazon Sword 

Amazon Sword

Scientific Name: Echinodorus bleheri

Amazon Sword has beautiful sword-shaped leaves and thus came the name – Amazon Sword. There are two varieties available in the market – one can reach up to two feet in height and the other only about seven to eight inches.

Choose the one that fits your aquarium needs.

The easy care-level makes it a beginner-friendly option.

The Characteristics Table – Amazon Sword

Considering Factors

Traits

Why Should You Plant?

  • ​- ​​​​​​Has deep and long roots
  • ​- ​​​​​​High survivability rate
  • ​- ​​​​​​​Can survive light nibbling

Lights Requirement

​Low to medium (2 watts per gallon)

Ideal Temperature

​60.8°F to 82.4°F

Ideal pH Level

​6.5 to 7.5 pH

Placement

​In the middle or in the back of the tank, don't let it fall under the shadow

Rooting Requirement

​Need at least 3 to 4 inches of the substrate layer

Fertilizers

​Not necessary

Additional Tips

​Thicker substrate layer (4-5 inches) lets the plant thrive

African Water Fern

Scientific Name: Bolbitis Heudelotii

As the name suggests, the African Water Fern is very common along the Congo river basin. This is one of the exotic options that you have.

However, they need extensive care if you want to see them thriving. Also, not every fish can become its tank make.

Large fish like goldfish and koi will chomp them off! Moreover, you should avoid having Pleco in the tank too. It’s one of the best-looking background aquarium plants.

The Characteristics Table – African Water Fern

Considering Factors

Traits

Why Should You Plant?

  • ​- ​​​​​​​Very robust, high survivability rate
  • ​- ​​​​​​​Tall and beautiful looking (can reach 22 inches in height)
  • ​- ​​​​​​​​Exotic and rare

Lights Requirement

​Moderate to high (minimum 3 watts per gallon)

Ideal Temperature

​74°F to 84°F

Ideal pH Level

​6.0 to 8.5 pH

Placement

​In the middle of the tank while attaching to a piece of wood or porous rock

Rooting Requirement

​Has small rhizoids instead of roots

Fertilizers

​Doesn't need many fertilizers but need additional CO2 supply

Additional Tips

Java Fern

Scientific Name: Microsorum pteropus

Java Fern is the most easy-maintenance plant for any freshwater aquarium. Rarely any fish will eat them off, and it looks spectacular.

You will need no additional fertilizers or even care about the temperature.

The Characteristics Table – Java Fern

Considering Factors

Traits

Why Should You Plant?

  • ​- ​​​​​​​High survivability rate
  • ​- ​​​​​​​Can thrive in low light situations
  • ​- ​​​​​​​​Most of the fish avoid eating them

Lights Requirement

​Low, can live happily even in a dark environment

Ideal Temperature

​68°F to 82°F

Ideal pH Level

​6.0 to 7.5 pH

Placement

​In the dark corners

Rooting Requirement

​Don’t bury the roots but leave it on the substrate layer

Fertilizers

​Not necessary

Additional Tips

​Too much java fern can reduce the free-swimming area for your fish

​5. Anubias

Anubias

Scientific Name: Anubias barteri

Anubias is the very definition of a sturdy aquatic plant. However, light and dirty water are the two kryptonite of Anubias.

If you can keep it in the dark place and water clean, rarely anything can kill it off! It’s the true low light aquarium plant.

The Characteristics Table – Anubias

Considering Factors

Traits

Why Should You Plant?

  • ​- ​​​​​​​Very hard to kill
  • ​- ​​​​​​​Magnificent looks
  • ​- ​​​​​​​​Low maintenance

Lights Requirement

​Low, thrive in darker situations

Ideal Temperature

​72°F to 82°F

Ideal pH Level

​6.0 to 7.5 pH

Placement

​Place it on the substrate under the shadow of a larger plant

Rooting Requirement

​Don’t bury the roots but leave it on the substrate layer

Fertilizers

​Doesn’t need any

Additional Tips

​Keep the aquarium clean, Anubias will die in dirty water

Beckett’s Water Trumpet

Scientific Name: Cryptocoryne beckettii

Wouldn’t it be great if your aquatic plants bloom and let you see magnificent white flowers? Beckett’s Water Trumpet can offer you such pleasure being one of the flowering aquarium plants.

The low to medium care level also makes it a perfect freshwater option.

The Characteristics Table – Beckett’s Water Trumpet

Considering Factors

Traits

Why Should You Plant?

  • ​- ​​​​​​​Produces beautiful tube-shaped flowers
  • ​- ​​​​​​​Versatile, can co-habit with any kind of plant and fish
  • ​- ​​​​​​​​Unique coloration combination (green and brown)

Lights Requirement

​Low

Ideal Temperature

​73°F to 83°F

Ideal pH Level

​5.5 to 8.0 pH

Placement

​In the middle or in the background

Rooting Requirement

​No specific requirement

Fertilizers

​Not necessary but will get benefitted from iron-rich fertilizers

Additional Tips

​Should be used in a medium to a large tank

Aponogeton Ulvaceus Bulb

Scientific Name: Aponogeton ulvaceus

Very few plants can live in both the saltwater and freshwater condition, and Aponogeton Ulvaceus Bulb is one of them.

The best part is that you will not have to worry about light, temperature, or fertilizers. I think this is one of the easiest to grow plants on my list today. It’s one of the fast-growing aquarium plants.

The Characteristics Table – Aponogeton Ulvaceus Bulb

Considering Factors

Traits

Why Should You Plant?

  • ​- ​​​​​​​Has long beautiful 30 cm long leaves
  • ​- ​​​​​​​Very tolerant, can survive in both saltwater and freshwater
  • ​- ​High growth rate

Lights Requirement

​Light independent, can live in low to high light condition

Ideal Temperature

​72°F to 82°F

Ideal pH Level

​6.5 to 7.5 pH

Placement

​Middle to the background to the tank

Rooting Requirement

​Shouldn't be fully buried in the substrate

Fertilizers

​Not necessary but will get benefitted from fertilizers

Additional Tips

​Prune regularly as it can easily surpass one feet height

Dwarf Aquarium Lily

Scientific Name: Nymphaea stellata

As the name suggests, Dwarf Aquarium Lily is a very tiny plant that can reach up to five inches in height!

The exotic looking plant comes from India and will dazzle you with multicolored triangular leaves.

The Characteristics Table – Dwarf Aquarium Lily

Considering Factors

Traits

Why Should You Plant?

  • ​- ​​​​​​​Amazing green, red, and pink coloration
  • ​- ​​​​​​​Has a manageable height of 5 inch
  • ​- ​​​​​​​​High growth rate

Lights Requirement

​Moderate to high

Ideal Temperature

​72°F to 82.4°F

Ideal pH Level

​5.5 to 82.4 pH

Placement

​Foreground to midground, anywhere you prefer

Rooting Requirement

​Shouldn’t be fully buried, only ¼ of the root should be buried within the substrate layer

Fertilizers

​Not necessary but will thrive with fertilizers

Additional Tips

​The plant might die and rot in colder water

The Best Freshwater Aquarium Plants Guide

Aquarium Plants Care for Beginners 

Adding aquatic plants on your tank brings in tons of boon for your fish and the overall aquatic environment. But your responsibility doesn’t stop just after planting the plants.

If you stop giving them proper care, sooner or later, they will die out.

Sad, I know!

Don’t worry, offering proper care to your freshwater aquatic plant is not that hard. All you need to do is to follow a few simple guidelines.

Let’s check them out –

1. Choosing the Right Plants

 Before you plan out the caregiving strategies, make sure that you have the right plants in your aquarium.

You can keep two types of plants in the aquarium –

 I. Fully-aquatic

 II. Semi Aquatic

How can you know whether a plant is fully-aquatic or semi-aquatic? There are plenty of ways of identification. Here is the simplest way.

Gently pull out a plant out of the water. If the branches fall downward and lucid, they are fully aquatic. On the other hand, if the stand tall defying the force of gravity, the plant is a semi-aquatic one.

Moreover, a good aquatic plant should thrive even living underwater, completely submerged.

Wait, there’s more!

Make sure that the plant can live comfortably with the fish. Both of them should thrive at the same pH level. Most of the aquatic plants prefer living in a 7 to 7.2 pH level.

​2. Having the Right Substrate Is a Must

Obviously, you will not have typical soil underwater, it’ll cloud the water. So, you will rely on the substrate level for the nutrient supply and holding the roots down.

That being said, having the right substrate layer will play a dramatic role in your aquascaping strategies.

Having 2-3 inches of laterite as the substrate level with an inch of gravel is a smart solution. You can try getting a more advanced substrate layer from any reputed brand.

But simple laterite works pretty fine for me.

You can try using the same pot that comes with the plant from the store. But it will ruin the natural look.

3. Don’t Forget About the Lights

If you are planning to have plants in the aquarium, you must install a good lighting setup. You can’t just rely on the natural sunlight as the sole source of light for your aquarium.

To help the plants with the photosynthesis process, you should provide them 10 to 12 hours of constant light. So, artificial aquarium lighting is a must.

Also, consider the optimum level of light supply for each plant. Not every plant will need the same quantity of light. Set the light supply according to the species of the plants.

Also, make sure that the light setup can provide full-spectrum light while focusing on the red and the blue light.  

More: The Best LED Refugium Light

4. Do you Have the Right Fertilizer?

Not every kind of freshwater aquatic plant will need additional fertilizer. Some can live strongly without the supply of additional fertilizer.

However, you will see drastic changes in the growth rate of the plants if you use the right fertilizer.

I would suggest you use a fertilizer that is rich in iron. 

Also, you should avoid using phosphate-based fertilizers as they encourage algae growth.

**Warning**  

Never use too much fertilizers, it might kill both the fish and the plants. Always stay within the allowed limit.

5. Control the Algae Outburst

When you do normal gardening, you need to take care of the garden weeds. Consider the algae as the garden weed of the aquarium. You can never keep the algae growth at zero.

They will find their way if nutrients and plants are living in your aquarium.

Why are algae so bad for an aquarium?

They will compete with the plants for nutrients and light.

The best way to control algae growth is by having herbivorous aquatic animals like Amano shrimp or Nerite snails. They will eat off the algae and also enrich the aquatic ecosystem.

If this method doesn’t work, you can take even a more drastic measure – using algaecides. Algaecides comprise of antibiotics and various chemicals. It will certainly kill off the algae but can damage your plants and fish too.

So, be careful.

6. Adopt Regular Aquascaping Strategies

Aquascaping is more than a technique – a habit. Think of gardening, you need to take constant and regular steps for your garden to bloom. You need to take similar measurements when it comes to aquascaping.

For example, you should prune the plants regularly so that they don't grow too fast, covering the top layer of the water. If it happens, the rest of the plants and the fish will not get enough light.

Then, you need to remove dead leaves and branches from the water; otherwise, it will increase the level of nitrogen in water by decomposing. As a result, it will increase the volume of toxins like ammonia and nitrates.

Also, you need to change 25% of the water regularly.

As you see, these are some of the common activities, nothing out of the ordinary.

How to Plant Aquarium Grass Seeds?

You shouldn’t sweat too much as planting aquarium grass is quite simple, and you can't mess it up easily. 

Follow these simple steps –

  • - Prepare a germination bed with wet soil cake (you might use natural fertilizers)
  • - Spread the seeds evenly in the soil bed
  • - Wait a few days (5 to 30 days) until grass germinate and grow out of the soil
  • - Now, use forceps to pluck out the grass babies one by one
  • - Insert the baby grass within the substrate level using the forceps
  • - Maintain straight lines while inserting the young grass

    Voilà! Your aquatic grass plantation is done.

    Conclusion

    As there are two categories for best freshwater aquarium plants, there will be two types of "winner plants." Obviously, Java Moss is the winner of the foreground carpeting grass section. They are very easy to plant and maintain.

    Then, in the “plant section,” there are two winners – Water Wisteria and Amazon Sword. Both of them earned the title for being robust and having a high survivability rate.

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