Guppies truly are amazing, and I’ve been keeping black bar endler guppies for many years. I have a heavily planted aquarium, which provides a lot of cover for the guppies and their fry. But what are the plants that provide the best shelter and environment for guppies?
What makes an aquarium plant suitable for guppies?
While it’s possible to keep guppies in an aquarium that does not contain live plants, they really love their live plants. They provide cover and also have many other great benefits on your tank. Live plants are known to clean your water by consuming nitrates, as well as balancing the water parameters.
For keeping guppies, it’s important to add many plants if you’re looking to breed them. And with guppies keeping them is almost always the same as breeding them, so this tip is important. If you provide a lot of hiding spots for the guppies as well as their fry, they’ll live the happiest. Adults are not as tempted to eat their fry when you use live plants to create a lot of protection and cover.
In my experience, guppies swim near the top of the aquarium. That’s why I find it important to add a lot of high plants, as well as a floating plant to the list. This way there is a lot of protection and the fish feel safe to roam around the tank freely. When a pregnant female is about to give birth, the fry stay at the bottom of the tank until they can swim a little better. Therefore, there are some bottom plants as well.
1. Moss balls
The first plant on this list are Marimo Moss Balls, which are the easiest “plants” to keep in any aquarium. They are not really plants, but more a ball of algae. They have a velvet like structure, are relatively inexpensive and have little care requirements.
If you buy a couple of these moss balls, they can provide cover for fry, but their prime function on this list is cleaning the aquarium water. The only care requirement they have is turning them over every time you do a water change, so all the algae in the ball gets roughly the same amount of light.
2. Guppy grass
There can not be a list of plants that are best suitable for guppies without Guppy Grass on it. This plant rightfully deserved its name by offering a lot of protection to fish fry due to its dense leaves. The tiny fry can swim freely while the parents avoid diving completely in the plant.
The plant can be rooted in substrate, as well as just left floating around the tank. It will need some liquid fertilizer to thrive because it’s a fast growing plant. Moderate lighting and no CO2 addition will slow down the growth, but will not harm the plant in any way. Therefore expensive and high-tech CO2 equipment is not necessary.
When you’re looking to provide your guppy fry with the best plant for creating hiding spaces, make sure to get your hands on some stems of guppy grass. It really protects the fry when they’re newly born.
Often sold as oxygen plants for goldfish, Anacharis Elodea, or often called Brazillian Water Weeds, is great at converting toxins to clean your aquarium water. They grow like crazy under the right circumstances, and will leave your aquarium water pristine for your guppies to grow, thrive and breed.
This plant can also be floated, but I would recommend taking a bunch of stems and planting them in a substrate. This way, the Anacharis will be able to grow tall and provide cover for your guppies both near the substrate as well as higher up in the tank.
Care requirements for this plant are easy, as long as you add sufficient liquid fertilizer. The liquid fertilizer I always recommend is called Seachem Flourish, and I’ve created an article on my site where I give you some more in depth information where you can learn about why and how to use it. This page can be found here.
Propagating water weeds is easy! It’s a stem plant which, due to the fast growing rate, needs trimming regularly. If you want to propagate the plant, simply plant the cuttings the same way you anchored the first bunch of stems in the substrate.
4. Water Lettuce
In the introduction I recommended adding floating plants to your aquarium. I’ve read people were recommending duckweed, which I would definitely recommend against. Duckweed has the tendency to quickly take over your aquarium, and it’s hard to remove due to the small leaf size.
Instead, I would recommend adding Water Lettuce, which has giant leaves and grows long roots. The roots that are used to suck nutrients from your aquarium water provide great cover for any guppy that’s swimming near the water surface. While chances that a bird snatches the fish are tiny, the floating plants will still give the guppy a feeling of safety. You’ll quickly notice this as more guppies dare to swim around the tank freely.
Make sure to keep your aquarium water full of nutrients, because the pistia is a quick grower that shoots out runners to grow new plants.
5. Java Fern
One of the most popular plants is definitely suitable for one of the most popular fish. Java Ferns are superb beginner plants that grow tall and lush, without having complex requirements that are hard to meet.
To grow Java Fern, it’s important that you do not bury the roots. I’ve made this mistake, and it’s not weird because the roots look very plantable. However, the roots can start to rot, limiting and potentially killing the plant. Instead, attach the plant to a piece of rock, wood or an aquarium ornament.
Because the roots are not buried, adding liquid fertilizer can be useful as the ferns suck their food straight from the water. However, java ferns are slow growing plants that need low to moderate light. Just the poop of your fish might be able to supply enough fertilizer, just keep a close eye on your plant and look for signs like dying leaves to conclude whether the plant needs more food.
Another popular plant you’ll be able to find in every aquarium store is any Anubias variety. These plants have beautiful dark green, sturdy thick leaves. They grow slow and therefore don’t have many requirements like bright lights or CO2. They do best in moderate to low lighting.
Just like the Java Fern, this plant does not like its roots buried. Take some fishing line or superglue and attach the rhizome (thick part where the roots and leaves come from) to a piece of aquarium hardscape.
Anubias is one of a few plants that produce flowers underwater. For guppies, the bigger varieties of Anubias plants have large leaves that provide a cover for them. The smaller varieties have tiny leaves that provide cover for the fry. All in all, this is a great plant for any aquarium.
7. Amazon Sword
A classic in our hobby, the imposing tall Amazon Sword plant. This plant is not suitable for small tanks, because it can grow tall and broad. The leaves provide great cover for fish fry and pregnant guppies about to give birth.
Amazon Sword is the informal name for the Echinodorus Bleheri or Echinodorus Grisebachii, both similar varieties of Echinodorus plants. In essence all Echinodorus plant varieties are great for guppies, but I’ve chosen the Amazon Swords because they are affordable, available and grow tall to provide a lot of cover.
These plants are heavy root feeding plants, which means that you need to get some root tabs that you can stick with the roots of the plants in your substrate. These root tabs are a great way to add a bit of fertilization for just one plant. In my experience, you need to add a new root tab every three months.
With enough light and CO2, this plant grows super fast. Without CO2 and in moderate lighting this plant still does great but grows at a slower pace.
A hardy stem plant that grows tall with tiny leaves is called Moneywort. Anchor a bunch of stems of Moneywort the same way you would plant Anacharis, and you’ve got great lush cover for all guppies in your aquarium.
While this plant looks more juicy, you must know that guppies do not eat your live plants. Even if they would nibble on plants, every plant is able to withstand any damage the tiny mouths of guppies could cause.
Moneywort is a great plant that is able to reach the water level quickly with moderate lighting and lots of nutrients. A great feature about this plant is that it’s able to continue growing outside of your tank, which is a great sight.
Just like Anubias, number 9 on the list is an entire genus of plant. Cryptocoryne plants come in many varieties, where one of the most popular ones is called “C. Wendtii”. These plants need to be rooted down in the substrate of your aquarium, and do great without additional CO2 as long as you keep them in moderate lighting.
For guppies, crypts provide the perfect jungle close to the substrate. Whether a female is trying to get out of a man’s sight, or newborn guppy fry is still figuring out what way is up, these plants are great.
To properly grow cryptocoryne, you’ll have to add some form of nutrients to the substrate. This can be nutritious aquarium soil, but if you’re a beginner and just looking to grow one or two plants, root tabs will do the job. Right now I’m growing a lot of crypts in my tank and I’m just adding liquid ferts. That just shows you no plant is 100% root feeding, even if that’s something you’ve heard somebody say.
10. Java Moss
Java Moss is absolutely fantastic when you’re breeding your guppies and you want to provide your fry with loads of hiding spaces. Moss is versatile and grows under moderate to low lighting. You can have a giant ball of moss floating through your tank, but I would recommend grabbing some fishing line and attaching some on a piece of wood.
I would consider moss an absolute must have plant when you’re keeping guppies, especially for smaller tanks. In smaller tanks, adult guppies and fry live in a tight space, and it’s hard for the fry to take cover. Moss can help in this situation.
Java moss is extremely versatile, and this plant is used by both beginner and experienced fish keepers to create beautiful aquascapes. Try adding some moss on a piece of wood and see the way it grows. If you’re keeping moss in good conditions it can grow quite fast, so you’ll be trimming it regularly.
The final plant on the list is another stem plant called Hornwort. It’s a great plant that shows fine details in its leaves. When I first saw this plant, I did not believe this plant did not require bright lighting and CO2. I was happy to learn it’s a beginner plant that you and I can easily grow our own tanks.
The plant does need moderate to high light, but can do well without additional CO2. I do recommend adding additional fertilizer, because it’s known to grow rather fast. If you don’t add extra ferts the plant will try to grow without food and start to wilt.
Do guppies need plants?
The truth is that guppies can survive and do well without having live plants. There are other ways to create hiding spots and cover using fake plants and other ornaments. Without plants, you will not have the additional cleaning benefit that live plants offer, which means you’ll have to do more water changes.
In general we’re always trying to recreate the setting our fish live in in the wild. In nature, there’re many plants growing. I would always recommend going down the live plant road, but in the end, that choice is entirely up to you to make.