A flourishing aquarium doesn’t just include a variety of fish but also plants that can significantly improve the aquarium’s aesthetic and water quality. The right plants can also provide a more natural, comfortable environment for your fish. So, it’s essential to choose the right plants for your planted tank.
Think about the kind of aesthetics you want your planted tank to have. This will require you to choose the right plants to match the design you have in mind. You should also ensure the plants you choose are compatible with the environment and fish you have.
Keep reading as I discuss everything you need to know about choosing the right plants for your planted tank.
Select the Right Plants for Your Aquarium
When selecting the plants for your plated tank, you need to consider the length of the plant and where it’ll sit in your aquarium. I also find it helpful to consider the type and intensity of light, CO2, pH, and temperature levels that plants require.
It’s essential to also think about what kind of color, shape, and texture of plant you want — and what will best suit your aquarium. Finally, ensure the plants you choose are compatible with the fish you have.
Below I explain what you should do to help you choose the right plants for your planted tank.
Determine the Length of the Plant
Aquarium plants are commonly categorized depending on their length and where they sit in a tank. Here are the most common categories:
- Foreground plants. These are also known as carpeting plants, as they sit close to the aquarium floor.
- Middleground plants. These plants grow to a medium length and can help make a seamless transition between the foreground and background plants.
- Background plants. These are the longest plants in your aquarium. They work best at the back of the tank and grow pretty fast.
- Floating plants. As their name suggests, floating plants sit close to the top of the water and have their roots facing down into the aquarium.
To choose the right plants, consider where you want your plants to sit in your aquarium. For instance, to create a visually appealing backdrop, I would choose a selection of background plants.
Determine What Light Type Your Plants Need
Another essential factor to consider when selecting a plant is the type of light it needs. Some plants have particular lighting needs, and it’ll be essential to match their needs to the kind of light you have.
For instance, the Java Fern doesn’t need much light and would do well in darker spots in your aquarium. If the rest of your tank plants need plenty of light, you may want to skip getting the Java Fern.
Meanwhile, if you want to install corals into your aquarium, you may need to get metal halide lighting.
So, when choosing your plants, think carefully about the kind of lighting you have or are willing to invest in your aquarium.
Check the PH and Temperature Requirements
Aquatic plants rely on specific water conditions to thrive. Most aquatic plants need a pH between 6.5 and 7.8 and a temperature between 74°F and 80 °F.
However, you may want to double-check the pH and temperature requirements of the plant and think about whether you can adapt your tank to suit the plant’s needs.
Consider Adding CO2 To Your Tank if Necessary
Most aquarium plants don’t need additional CO2 but will thrive with the CO2 levels naturally in your tank. However, some plants need higher levels of CO2. You may also need to inject additional CO2 into the water if your tank has medium to high lighting levels. You can watch the YouTube video below to guide you:
When choosing plants for your aquarium, ensure that the CO2 levels will help them thrive.
Plants That Suit the Fish You Have
It’s essential to make sure the plants you choose are compatible with the kind of fish you have or want. Experts agree that the best fish for a planted tank is small or medium-sized. I find that it’s better to have carnivorous fish so they won’t try to eat or dig up plants.
Here are some of the best fish for planted tanks and the plants they’re compatible with:
- Discus and angelfish. These are popular fish for planted tanks as they’re carnivorous and less likely to try to eat your plants. They thrive in environments with flat-leaved plants like the Amazon sword as they lay their eggs on them.
- Guppies and mollies. These small fish thrive in aquariums and planted tanks. They enjoy environments with plants like Micro Swords and Java Moss as they use them to hide. However, you may not want to pair them with soft-bodied plants as they may try to eat them.
How To Select Plants for an Aquascape
If you’ve successfully created and maintained a planted tank, you may be ready to take the next step and create an aquascape.
To select plants for an aquascape, think about the aesthetics you want to create and visualize it before constructing. Choose different lengths of plants along with different colorations and avoid overcrowding the space.
Visualize the Aquascape
When planning your aquascape, think about what kind of aesthetic you want to create. Look up images of natural as well as constructed aquascape. It may also help to sketch out the kind of aquascape you want.
Once you’ve done that, select plants that’ll help you fulfill the aesthetic, ensuring enough foreground, middle ground, and background plants. You may also consider balancing out different shades of green and add in a few red plants.
Don’t Overcrowd the Aquascape
While it may be tempting to add in a wide range of plants, introduce just a few plant species into your aquascape at a time. I find that this helps better control the aesthetic direction my aquascape is taking and fix any mistakes.
Some of the Easiest Aquarium Plants To Grow
When you’re ready to populate your planted tank, start with plants with the lowest maintenance. The easiest aquarium plants to grow are Java Fern, Cryptocoryne, Vallisneria, Java Moss, and Amazon Sword.
The Java Fern is a low-maintenance plant that thrives in a variety of different types of water. It’s typically a vibrant green and makes a beautiful addition to any aquascape.
This JavaOnLava Java Fern (available on Amazon.com) comes in a black lava stone, making it easy to install in any aquascape.
Cryptocoryne is a foreground plant that grows to a maximum of 6 inches tall. It can survive in most water conditions but needs a significant amount of light.
There are several variants of the Cryptocoryne, including the Cryptocoryne Lutea, the Cryptocoryne Tropica, and the Cryptocoryne Wendtii.
You can order all variants of the Cryptocoryne Assorted Tissue Culture Cup Freshwater from Amazon.com; these plants come in an ice or heat pack allowing them to survive the trip.
Vallisneria is a tall plant excellent for the background of a planted tank. They’re rooted plants and are easy to grow and nurture. They may do better in environments with higher levels of CO2.
You can order these 2 feet (0.6 m) tall Jungle Vallisneria Rooted Plants (available on Amazon.com), inspected and approved by the USDA.
Java Moss is a great foreground plant and can be used to create an aqua ‘lawn’ on the floor of your planted tank. A variety of fish, including rainbow fish and tetras, will lay their eggs in java moss to protect them from predators. Java moss will thrive in most aquariums.
I recommend getting this 25-inch (63.5 cm) lawn of Java Moss (available on Amazon.com) and use it as the base of your aquascape.
Amazon Sword is commonly available across pet and aquarium stores. They’re popular plants because they’re large and lush, adding characters to aquascapes. The Amazon Sword leaves are relatively soft, so Pscards, Jack Dempsey, and Goldfish may damage them.
You can easily get the Amazon Sword – Echinodorus Bleheri (available on Amazon.com) and delivered to your door.
To choose the right plants for your plated tank, consider the aesthetics of the planted tank you want to design. Choose the right length and color of plants accordingly.
You should also consider the kind of fish you want and ensure that the plants you choose are compatible with the fish. Take the time to consider all your options to make an informed selection.
- Aquarium Info: Aquascaping
- Aquarium Care Basics: Amazon Sword Plant
- Aqueon: Aqua Plants Basics
- Animal World: Selecting and Planting Plants
- Build Your Aquarium: Planted Aquarium Fish
- Merriam Webster: Aquascape
- Modest Fish: Java Fern
- NT LAbs: Guide to Aqua Scaping
- TFH Magazine: Vallisneria
- The Aquarium Club: Java Fern
- More Aquarium Co-Op: Do you need to use CO2 in your Plated Aquarium