Next to all the live plants that I have planted in my substrate, I wanted to experiment with attaching plants to wood and rocks. From experience and common sense, not all plants will be suitable. Therefore I did my research and composed a list.
These plants are suitable to grow on wood and rocks:
- Java Fern
- (Java) Moss
- Hemianthus (Dwarf Baby Tears)
- Bolbitus Heudelotii (African Water Fern)
These plants do not solely rely on their roots to obtain their nutrients. There are however different ways to attach the plants to the objects, and some plants require different parameters to thrive. All this will be in the rest of article for you to read.
If you do not want to read how to attach the plants, you can skip straight down to the list of plants using this button. Just some convenience.
How to attach plants to the wood and rocks
If you are looking for plants that grow on wood and rocks, you are in the right spot. But how do you actually attach these plants so that they do not float away or get loose in other ways. There are several options for this.
The first one is superglue. Yes, superglue. I though that superglue would maybe dissolve or be toxic and kill the fish but neither is the case. There are a couple of precautions you should take in order for this to work.
First of all, make sure the plant and the wood are relatively dry. They should not be completely dry, but you need to wipe them with a piece of cloth for example. Also, make sure the superglue has had sufficient time to dry and stick. I have been impatient in the past and my anubias plants would simply drift loose. This is rather frustrating I can tell you.
So am I sure that regular superglue is safe to use in aquariums? Yes. When superglue comes in contact with water it polymerizes in 30 to 45 seconds. It will not spread in the aquarium and kill all living things in there. All you need to do is make sure you wait around 5 minutes for the glue to properly cure before you put it back in the tank.
So what in what other way can you attach your plants?
The second way to attach plants to driftwood is by using fishing line. This is especially useful when it comes to attaching moss. I know I am already spoiling a couple of the plants that are suitable but that is no problem.
Attaching moss to driftwood is easy. Just spread the moss you a little and keep it in place using fishing line. After a couple of weeks the moss will have itself attached to the wood, and it will grow so much that you can not see the fish line anymore.
As for what fishing line, you can use the cheap and thin ones as there will be no extreme forces that the fishing line should endure.
Also, if you do not want the fishing line in your aquarium it is possible to carefully remove it when the moss has settled in properly. This is because the moss will firmly attach itself to whatever you tied it to. But beware, you will probably feel like a surgeon removing the moss because you do not want to rip everything loose.
Now, let us get into the list of plants that are suitable to attach to wood and rocks. The first three are rather common and in my opinion the easiest to take care of (although I have managed to kill all three in the past). The last two are a little bit more uncommon and require more experience and more effort to keep.
If you have already been doing some reading about this subject, of you already are familiar with some aquarium plants, you have seen this plant before. It is the first one that comes to my mind when someone wants to attach a plant to driftwood, and it is my favorite type of aquarium plant.
Anubias plants have dark green leaves and are extremely sturdy. When I first held one, I almost thought it wasn’t an aquarium plant at all. The thick green leaves are beautiful. Here is a picture of a piece of wood with two big anubias plants attached to it.
In the picture above I am holding an Anubias plant that I have attached to a piece of rock. You can also attach the plant to wood in the same way. I have used superglue to secure it in place.
Anubias has many subspecies
One of the beautiful things about anubias plants are the many choices you have. There are plants with big leaves, but also plants with rather small leaves. Using the different kind of anubias plants you can create an entire aquascape on its own.
Here are some of the most popular subspecies:
- Anubias Afzeli
- Anubias Barteri
- Anubias Nana
- Anubias Gracilis
- Anubias Hastifolia
- Anubias Heterophylla
- Anubias Gigantea
If you are unsure which type to get I would recommend going to you local fish store and see what they have in stock. Because the plant is so popular they will probably have at least one type of Anubias plants in store.
2. Java Fern
The second option, and another extremely straightforward and logical option, is the java fern. The java fern is another easy plant that does well with low to medium lighting. Just like the anubias plant, java ferns prefer to get their nutrients straight from the water and do not rely on their roots/substrate for food.
They don’t even do well with their roots buried, and thrive when attached to something like driftwood. The wood will make sure that the fern stays in the same place.
To attach a java fern to a piece of wood, you can use superglue of fishing line to tie it to the wood. With java fern you do not have a study rhizome as a base to glue the superglue so I would go with fishing line for this plant. It depends on how big the plant is. For small ones, try and use superglue first.
There are a variety of java ferns available, but your local fish store will most likely only have the “Microsorum pteropus” in stock. This is the most common type in the hobby. Other varieties that you might encounter are the trident java fern or something like a “petit” java fern with smaller leaves.
If you java fern is not doing well, it might be because you have too much current, you have buried the roots, there is too much intense lighting or there are no nutrients in the water. In general this plant is rather easy to take care off.
To be completely honest with you, I struggle in describing all the possibilities you have with moss. First off, there are different kind of mosses available in our beautiful hobby. The most popular hand down is java moss but there are so many other types.
Again, here is a short list:
- Willow moss
- Weeping moss
- Flame moss
- Mini Taiwan moss
- Christmas moss
- Peacock moss
- Taiwan moss
- Cameroon moss
- Star moss
- source of this list
With all these different kinds of moss, but also with just java moss, there are many different things you can do. Attaching to driftwood is definitely one of them.
To do this, take fishing line and tie the moss to the driftwood. At first, it will not look as beautiful as you imagined it would be, but it needs time. Over time, the moss will grow and find its way.
4. Hemianthus (Dwarf Baby Tears)
The previous three options were the mainstream options that most likely are readily available in a fish store close to you. These two options are a bit less popular, but still definitely work.
This one, called ‘dwarf baby tears’ is a plant that only does well with high lighting and the right nutrients. Only get this plant if you know you can provide it with this.
If the plant is not getting enough lighting, it is going to grow up instead of creep around like it is supposed to do. This really is a plant that requires a high tech aquarium to grow.
Now I know this is little information compared to the other plants in the list, but that is because I still need to learn a lot about this. There are many videos on youtube about this plant, so I will link one that I found useful.
5. Bolbitus Heudelotii (African Water Fern)
The African water fern is yet another aquatic plant that grows from a rhizome. The rhizome can easily be attached to something like a rock or a piece of wood. You can do this using the superglue I talked about earlier.
Note that rhizome plants like the Arican water fern or Anubias do not do well when they rhizome (the thick part at the base of the leaves) is buried in substrate.
The African Water Fern is a plant that I can not wait to get my hands on for one of my own aquariums. Up until now I have not been able to find it in my local fish store. I have read a lot about this plant online, and it seems to be an easy to care for plant that does not require additional CO2 and high lighting.
If you own this plant, I would love to know your experience. Is it a hardy plant? Does it do well under low to medium lighting? I have read that it does, but I would love to know from someone’s experience.
Fertilizing these plants
Because these plants are attached to wood and rocks, they are not root feeders that need to be grounded in nutrient rich substrate. Instead, they get their nutrients from the water they are in.
So if you want to fertilize them, you need to add a good liquid fertilizer to your aquarium water. I recommend one specific liquid fertilizer, go to this page to learn all about it. You definitely need one to keep your live plants happy.
Additional Relevant Knowledge For You
I hope you have found the information you can for. That is the entire goal for me, provide you with everything you want to know. Now what I can also do is give you even more information that I think is relevant for you.
If you are looking for plants to attach to wood or rocks, you might also be interested in my article called “8 aquarium plants that do not require substrate”. Which has a lot of overlap with this article but also provides some additional plants.
A second article of mine that I would find relevant if I were in your position would be this one called “Do live plants actually clean water?” where I go into detail why live plants can be extremely beneficial for your aquarium.
If you do have substrate and are looking for easy plants that do not require CO2, that this article here may be just right for you. These are 6 of the most popular and easy to care for aquarium plants that are out there on the market.
Watch this video
Thank you so much for reading!