Trust me when I say that a goldfish will happily eat most aquarium plants available to us. I’ve been to the shop many times to purchase new plants for my goldfish, and this can get quite expensive. Therefore I’ve compiled a list of plants that are great for a goldfish aquarium and cross checked this list with many other fishkeepers.
Why would you even want to add live plants to a goldfish aquarium if you know beforehand that they will try to eat them? Well, there are many benefits. Live plants clean the aquarium water by taking out nutrients from the water, but they also provide shelter for your fish. In nature fish live with many plants and we are trying to replicate this in our aquarium.
While Hornwort has fine and detailed leaves that look like they could taste great in a salad, most fish do not like the taste of it. That’s great, because this means that the goldfish will pretty much leave them alone.
The fish will eat the fresh new growth, but because Hornwort is a fast growing plant it still gets the chance to grow in your tank. Hornwort does great in many different situations and can thrive in a variety of different water parameters. It needs medium lighting and can be planted in the soil or kept without soil as it does not rely on its roots for nutrients.
To propagate Hornwort, replant the cuttings when you are giving the plant a trim and it will happily continue to grow.
2. Moss balls
Adding a bunch of marimo moss balls to a goldfish aquarium is a great way to add live plants without providing overly expensive food. The moss balls will not get eaten and do not require any difficult extra measurements to care for. They do well in low light, are not that expensive and in my opinion look pretty.
This is a plant that you will not find in most of my other aquarium plant lists, because it’s not an aquarium plant, it’s a houseplant. While this plant will not survive underwater, we can take vines and hand them in a way the bottom part is submerged in our aquarium. You will quickly see some roots appearing, and in this way the plant can benefit from the nutrients in the aquarium.
Combining plants with an aquarium this way is called “aquaponics” and is a popular way of having houseplants clean your aquarium water for you.
Anubias plants are extremely popular and widely available aquarium plants, chances are you already know or even have them yourself. The plant grows thick green leathery leaves that can survive many things, including goldfish.
It’s a slow growing plant but a great way to add live plants to your goldfish aquarium. Anubias plants do well under low lighting and because they grow slowly they do not need much additional care like nutrients or CO2. Make sure you do not bury the roots of the plants but instead attach the plant to a piece or rock, wood or something else to weight it down.
5. Amazon Swords (Echinodorus Bleheri)
If you plant Amazon Swords in a well balanced aquarium with enough light and nutrients, it can grow pretty quick. It’s going to need this in a goldfish aquarium because goldfish like to munch on the tips. The plant can do well enough to offset the goldfish chewing with new growth.
Another factor that makes this plant a little less goldfish proof compared to other plants on the list is the fact that their roots need to be buried in the substrate. They are heavy root feeders, but goldfish love to dig. There is the risk of the fish digging up the plant, so make sure to attach it properly.
The picture above shows a goldfish in from of some beautiful Echinodorus plants. The most common one by far is the Amazon Sword but there are other varieties that could also work. Sometimes it just comes down to some experimenting.
6. Cryptocoryne Wendtii
Another popular plant is the Cryptocoryne Wendtii. Cryptocoryne plants or “crypts” for short are popular beginner plants that can survive much. Some people recommend them to keep with goldfish as the goldfish do not seem that interested in them.
Just like with the Amazon Swords, the crypt needs to anchor itself in the substrate using its roots. This makes it a little bit riskier and the plant can potentially be dug up by your goldfish.
Duckweed and aquariums usually are risky because the duckweed grows so quickly it can take over an aquarium in a matter of weeks. People get frustrated about duckweed all the time and they have a hard time completely removing it from their tanks. However, duckweed and goldfish together is a good idea!
Duckweed is small enough to be the perfect goldfish food. It just works! The duckweed grows like crazy and the goldfish have an unstoppable hunger.
I’m a big fan of vallisneria and happy to report that this beautiful plant does well in a goldfish aquarium. Its beautiful long green leaves stand strong against the goldfish’s appetite and because the plant grows fast it’s able to outpace the goldfish.
There are different types of vallisneria and all seem to work fine. The plant needs to be planted in substrate so make sure to bury it properly. Vallisneria (“Val”) propagates by shooting out runners in every direction and when established forms a tight network of plants. This makes it harder to be dug up by a goldfish.
9. Java fern
Arguably the most popular plant in the hobby is the Java fern. The leaves are strong and goldfish tend to leave them alone most of the time. Just like Anubias, this plant does better when the roots are not buried in the substrate. That’s great in a goldfish tank because there is nothing to dig up for them.
This plant is a beginner plant that does well in low to medium lighting and does not need additional CO2. It’s a rather slow grower and also can survive without adding liquid fertilizer, especially in a goldfish aquarium as these fish are messy.
The plant propagates by growing tiny plants at the end of its leaves that eventually fall and float around the tank. I recommend attaching both the big and small plants to a piece of wood or a rock to keep them in one place.
A friend of mine recommended this plant as he has grown Moneywort in his goldfish aquarium and seen success. This plant is a stem plant that grows relatively slow. In the end it can be quite tall and is therefore best suited as a background plant for your aquarium.
When you add this plant to your aquarium, make sure to tie a bunch of stems together and properly weight them down or bury them in the substrate firmly because your goldfish will try their best at digging them up.
I could not find any good pictures and I have not grown Moneywort myself, so I want to show you this video of Cory explaining the beauty of this plant.
Oxygen plants for goldfish
When I first bought my 2 goldfish I had no prior fishkeeping experience and the store employee recommended an oxygen plant to provide my fish with air. The plant would die off and I had to buy a new oxygen plant every month.
If you’re keeping goldfish in a bowl or small tank I really would recommend adding oxygen plants. If I had to choose from the plants in this list, adding stems of Hornwort would be my pick. Another suitable plant that’s not on this list but commonly sold as oxygen plants for goldfish is called “anacharis elodea” or “waterweeds”.
Fake plants for goldfish
If you’ve tried many plants and your goldfish keep eating or destroying them I understand you are considering fake plants. Some people say they don’t look good, but there are some beautiful fake plants available from you to choose from.
A downside to fake plants is the fact that they do not remove any nitrate from your aquarium, so you still have to do this yourself by doing regular water changes. They do however provide shelter and make the tank look beautiful if you buy the right plants and position them well.
Luckily for us, fake aquarium plants have developed considerably since the tacky purple, yellow and green stems people had in their aquariums 10 years ago. There is a beautiful Anubias fake plant by Fluval that I would definitely recommend. Check that one out here on Amazon. Another plant is one that can provide a lot of shelter to your goldfish while still looking like a bunch of real plants. This is the one I mean, the link goes to Amazon also.