13 Best Aquarium Plants for Beginners

Disclosure: I may earn a commission when you purchase through my affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. – read more

Planted aquariums look awesome. They also provide multiple benefits, like additional water filtration and hiding places for fish. But what if this is the first time you’ve kept aquarium plants?

Not all of us are knowledgeable or that handy with plants. Luckily, you don’t have to be a gardening pro to have a planted tank!

The secret is to choose hardy, beginner-friendly plants. Such species are nearly impossible to kill and have low care requirements.

There’s a huge variety of such plants for beginners. Below are thirteen popular and beautiful options to get you started.

1. Anubias

  • Care level: Easy
  • Growth rate: Slow
  • Placement: Foreground to midground
  • Water parameters: 72-82°F, 6.0-8.0 pH, 4-15 dGH
  • Lighting: Low to moderate
  • Fertilizer: Low
  • CO2: Low

Anubias is a wide-encompassing genus with over 20 plant species. The plants differ in size from just 2 inches to over 30 inches tall. These plants grow on trailing rhizomes and don’t require planting.

You may anchor them in the substrate or attach them to aquarium décor like driftwood.

Anubias plants grow long, dark green stems. Leaves range from spade-like to triangular to heart-shaped.

These plants are low-maintenance, slow-growing, and widely accessible— perfect for beginner aquarists. You don’t need an active substrate to keep Anubias in your tank.

Popular Anubias species include Anubias Barteri, Anubias Nana, and Anubias Frazeri.

2. Java Fern

  • Care level: Easy
  • Growth rate: Slow to moderate
  • Placement: Midground to background
  • Water parameters: 68-82°F, 6.0-8.0 pH, 4-18 dGH
  • Lighting: Low to moderate
  • Fertilizer: Low
  • CO2: Low

The Java Fern (scientific name “Microsorum Pteropus”) is one of the most popular aquarium plants. Its versatility, hardiness, and low Fertilizer needs make it an excellent choice for beginners.

This rhizome plant can be anchored in the substrate and used as a free-floating decoration, and it even survives when semi-emersed!

Java Fern is a tall plant that grows up to 12 inches high. Older plants can also reach up to 8 inches in width.

Thanks to its considerable size, the Java Fern is perfect for decorating the background and midground of large aquariums.

There are several varieties to choose from. Java Ferns come with quite a few different leaf shapes and sizes.

All plants have tall, grassy leaves. But there are narrow-leaf, needle-leaf, and forked-leaf sub-species to make your aquarium look extra nice.

3. Elodea

  • Care level: Easy
  • Growth rate: Very fast
  • Placement: Background
  • Water parameters: 68-75°F, 6.0-8.0 pH, 3-20 dGH
  • Lighting: Moderate to high
  • Fertilizer: Low
  • CO2: Low

Elodea is a small genus consisting of six aquatic plant species. These plants are also often called waterweeds.

In the wild, these plants grow rapidly and cause problems by out-competing other plants in their environment.

If you’re not confident in your gardening skills, this plant is for you! Elodeas are virtually impossible to kill, and they need almost no supplementation.

You don’t even need to anchor Elodeas, as they can grow equally well even when uprooted. You need little to no time investment, and these plants will still grow like weeds.

Elodea plants have a wonderful lush appearance. They grow as thin, tall stems covered in whorls of small green oval leaves.

Elodeas can reach up to 3 feet or more in length if left untrimmed. They can easily take over and obscure the aquarium.

Thus, it’s best to use these as background plants.

4. Hornwort

  • Care level: Easy
  • Growth rate: Moderate to fast
  • Placement: Background
  • Water parameters: 68-79°F, 6.0-8.0 pH, 3-17 dGH
  • Lighting: Moderate
  • Fertilizer: Low
  • CO2: Low

Hornwort (scientific name “Ceratophyllum demersum”) is one of the hardiest plants in the aquarium hobby.

Although native to North America, Hornwort has spread and thrives in all other continents except Antarctica.

Rest assured, this plant is very forgiving, even if you mess up here and there.

Hornwort has a unique appearance. This plant has tall, thin stems covered in whorls of needle-like leaves. The stems and leaves are malleable, giving the plant a feathery appearance.

The color ranges from bright green to yellowish green. In the wild, this plant can grow up to 10 feet high! It also has no real roots, so it needs no planting.

You can anchor it in a small aquarium pot or attach it to other decorations in the tank.

Given its rapid growth and huge potential height, you should save this one for the background of the aquarium.

However, Hornwort is very easy to trim; if you don’t mind a little extra maintenance work, you could also use it as a midground plant.

5. Water Sprite

  • Care level: Easy
  • Growth rate: Fast
  • Placement: Background to midground
  • Water parameters: 70-82°F, 6.0-8.0 pH, 3-15 dGH
  • Lighting: Moderate to high
  • Fertilizer: Low
  • CO2: Low

Water Sprite (scientific name “Hygrophila difformis”) is a hardy and adaptable tropical plant. While it’s classified as fully-aquatic, Water Sprite can grow either fully submersed or immersed.

It has a fast growth rate, low supplementation needs, and can be either planted or free-floating.

This bright green plant has long, thick, branched stems covered in branched, narrow leaves. It grows straight up and outwards thanks to its new branch off-shoots.

It can reach up to 1 foot in height, sometimes more. If planted in soil, Water Sprite will self-propagate through off-shooting buds.

With frequent trimming, you could easily turn Water Sprite into a lush green bush. This is a fast-growing plant with a considerable size.

Use it as background decoration for easy upkeep and lower trimming needs.

6. Vallisneria

  • Care level: Easy
  • Growth rate: Moderate to fast
  • Placement: Background
  • Water parameters: 68-82°F, 6.5-8.0 pH, 4-18 dGH
  • Lighting: Moderate
  • Fertilizer: Low
  • CO2: Low

Vallisneria is a wide genus of tropical aquatic plants. Multiple species are available in the aquarium trade, each with a slightly different appearance.

Overall, Vallisnerias are low-maintenance and can adapt to a wide range of aquarium conditions.

Vallisnerias are tall, grass-like green plants growing to 8-16 inches on average. The leaves range from straight and narrow, to oblong, to spiral-shaped.

Some of the most common species you’ll find are Vallisneria Nana, Vallisneria Spiralis, and Vallisneria Gigantea.

Plants in this genus are not free-floating. They aren’t big root-feeders, but their steel needs anchoring. You can use virtually any substrate, from plain sand to inert gravel.

Beware not to bury the rhizome when planting; otherwise, the plant will suffocate and die. Other than that, Vallisnerias have no special requirements.

7. Amazon Sword

  • Care level: Easy
  • Growth rate: Moderate
  • Placement: Background
  • Water parameters: 72-82°F, 6.0-8.0 pH, 3-12 dGH
  • Lighting: Moderate
  • Fertilizer: Low
  • CO2: Low

Amazon Sword is a general term that refers to over 20 species in the genus Echinodorus. These plants are excellent background decorations and easy to maintain, even for beginners.

Amazon Swords need a lightweight substrate like soil or pea gravel. Other than that, these plants are non-demanding and easy to grow.

Plants in this genus are readily distinguishable thanks to the signature long, wide, lanceolate leaves. They kinda’ of look like swords, hence the name.

Amazon Swords range in color from bright to dark green and can grow up to 2 feet high. They grow in a rosette pattern, spreading outwards into a lush, bushy growth.

8. Cryptocoryne

  • Care level: Easy to moderate
  • Growth rate: Slow
  • Placement: Midground to foreground
  • Water parameters: 70-82 °F, 6.0-7.5 pH, 8-18 dGH
  • Lighting: Moderate to high
  • Fertilizer: Low
  • CO2: Low

Cryptocoryne is a genus consisting of multiple tropical aquatic plant species. These plants are called “Crypts” for short.

They’re relatively easy to maintain thanks to their slow growth and low nutrient requirements. However, Crypts need a lightweight substrate, and the roots are highly sensitive to substrate vacuums.

Since multiple species exist, there’s some variety regarding Crypts’ size and appearance. Cryptocoryne Parva is one of the most popular aquarium plants and the smallest of all Crypt species.

This plant grows up to 2.5 inches and has narrow oval leaves arranged in a rosette pattern. Such plants make excellent foreground decorations.

Cryptocoryne Wendtii is another popular Crypt with multiple subspecies. It grows up to 8 inches tall and has long lanceolate leaves ranging from green to purple-red.

These medium-sized plants bring a nice pop of color to the midground of the aquarium.

These plants grow upwards but spread outwards. When planting multiple bunches into the tank, you should leave at least 3 inches of space between them.  

9. Amazon Frogbit

  • Care level: Easy
  • Growth rate: Moderate to fast
  • Placement: Floating at the surface
  • Water parameters: 64-80°F, 6.0-7.5 pH, 4-12 dGH
  • Lighting: Moderate to high
  • Fertilizer: Low
  • CO2: Low

The Amazon Frogbit (scientific name “Limnobium Laevigatum”) is perfect for decorating the upper layer of the aquarium. This species is also a go-to for those who use an inert substrate.

The free-floating Amazon Frogbit needs no substrate, no planting, and no anchoring. Aquascaping with plants doesn’t get any easier than this!

This species stands out due to its unique leaf shape and root structure. Amazon Frogbit has small, circular leaves.

These are bright green and perfectly smooth with no veins. The leaves float above the water.

The roots are long, flexible, and covered in fine fuzzy hairs. Without trimming, they might grow up to 20 inches or more.

The feathery roots offer a hiding space for top-layer swimmers in the tank. They’re also very easy to trim without damaging the plant.

Apart from trimming, the Amazon Frogbit doesn’t need special attention. This plant doesn’t consume a lot of nutrients and requires little to no fertilizer.

When introducing Amazon Frogbit into the aquarium, the leaves should stay afloat. Submersed leaves will rot and die.

10. Java Moss

  • Care level: Easy
  • Growth rate: Slow to moderate
  • Placement: Midground to foreground
  • Water parameters: 59-86°F, 5.5-8.0 pH, 6-20 dGH
  • Lighting: Low to moderate
  • Fertilizer: Low
  • CO2: Low

Java Moss (scientific name “Taxiphyllum barbieri”) is the most versatile aquarium plant, hands down. It can adapt to various temperatures, pH, and hardness levels, so it’s suitable for most freshwater community tanks.

Most importantly, Java Moss opens endless aquascaping opportunities. You can use it for carpeting, attach it to rocks and driftwood, make a moss wall, or leave it free-floating.

If you’re crafty and patient, you could even create your own Java Moss ball or a miniature moss tree. Java Moss is also very easy to propagate.

To get more moss, divide a bunch into multiple pieces. That’s it.

Appearance-wise, Java Moss is a root-less bright green plant with extremely small stems and branches. The branches grow tiny overlapping leaves no larger than 0,08 inches long.

Several varieties of Java Moss exist, but they look similar. The most popular ones you’ll find are Christmas Moss and Weeping Moss.

Its small size and slow growth rate ensure low nutrient consumption. Thus, Java Moss is easy to keep.

This is a very small plant, so it’s also suitable for nano tanks. However, it takes a little bit of upkeep.

Java Moss tends to trap debris and fish waste. You should gently vacuum this plant to get rid of the hidden dirt.

11. Marimo Moss Ball

  • Care level: Easy
  • Growth rate: Slow
  • Placement: Foreground to midground
  • Water parameters: 60-80°F, 6.5-8.0 pH, 3-20 dGH
  • Lighting: Low to moderate
  • Fertilizer: Low
  • CO2: Low

Marimo Moss (scientific name “Aegagropila linnaei”) is one of the rarest and most mesmerizing aquarium plants.

Despite its name, Marimo “Moss” is, in fact, a type of filamentous algae. It originates in the cold freshwater lakes of Japan and Iceland.

Marimo Moss balls look like human-made decorations, but they do, in fact, grow into a ball shape without human intervention.

This fuzzy and perfectly-spherical green ball is a result of natural mechanical action. Marimo algae get tangled and rolled together in their wild environment thanks to water currents.

Marimo is technically a free-floating plant; either way, you won’t need a special substrate or aquascaping tools to keep these algae balls. You just put the ball somewhere in the midground or foreground of the aquarium, and that’s it.

Marimo Moss balls are very beginner-friendly. You need little to no fertilizer or CO2. However, you must occasionally take out the ball and clean it by hand.

Marimo moss traps debris and is prone to molding because of that. You must also remember to rotate the moss ball regularly to ensure each part of the plant receives enough light exposure.

12. Hydrocotyle Tripartita

  • Care level: Easy
  • Growth rate: Fast
  • Placement: Midground to foreground
  • Water parameters: 72-82°F, 6.0-8.0 pH, 3-16 dGH
  • Lighting: Moderate to high
  • Fertilizer: Low
  • CO2: Low

Hydrocotyle Tripartita is widely popular thanks to its hardy nature and rapid growth.

This plant does well in various aquarium setups and grows extremely fast even with low CO2 and fertilization.

Despite its rapid growth, this plant is suitable for anything from nano-tanks to large aquariums.

This plant is easy to distinguish from other species. It grows long, thin, branched stems.

Hydrocotyle Tripartita also has small, bright-green, clover-like leaves. It’s an excellent plant that transforms your aquarium into a luxurious green meadow.

It’s important to note that the degree of light exposure influences how this plant grows.

Under high light exposure, Hydrocotyle Tripartita creeps across the substrate and grows densely-packed leaves.

This makes it an excellent foreground carpeting plant. With regular trimming and moderate light exposure, this plant grows vertically into a bush-like structure.

You can plant Hydrocotyle in any substrate or anchor it with aquarium décors like driftwood and rocks.

13. Aponogeton Boivinianus

  • Care level: Easy to moderate
  • Growth rate: Moderate to fast
  • Placement: Background
  • Water parameters: 68-72°F, 6.0-7.5 pH, 8-18 dGH
  • Lighting: Moderate
  • Fertilizer: Low
  • CO2: Low

Aponogeton Boivinianus is an attractive and hardy plant best suited for large aquariums. Under the right conditions, it grows up to 2.5 feet long over 15 inches wide.

It has wide, oblong leaves with a bumpy, corn-like texture. The older leaves are deep green, while young leaves range from reddish brown to bright green.

This Aponogeton requires a bit of know-how when planting. The leaves grow from a bulb, and you must bury the bulb only halfway into the substrate.

Otherwise, the plant will rot and die. This plant also has special care requirements. It needs moderate water flow to simulate its natural growing conditions.

The plant’s bulb goes through a dormant period when there’s no new growth; older leaves might also wither away. The plant needs dimmed light and a lower water temperature at this time.

Other than that, Aponogeton Boivinianus is still a beginner-friendly plant. It tolerates a wide range of water parameters, can thrive without CO2 injections, and has low fertilizer needs.

Conclusion

Not all of us are passionate about plant care. Yet most aquarists want the benefits of having a planted aquarium. Well, you can have the best of both worlds!

The plants I’ve outlined in this article will beautify your aquarium display without adding much to your maintenance time and costs.

Whether you want tall bushy plants, delicate carpeting plants, or something in-between, you’ll find it all on this list.

Let me know which ones are your favorites!

avatar I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *