20 Red Aquarium Plants for Freshwater Tanks

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Setting the perfect home aquarium requires a lot of moving parts, like the fish species, the aquarium’s size, its placement, and the underwater decorations. Plants are another crucial point to consider, especially since they play multiple roles in the ecosystem.

Aquarium plants improve oxygenation, control the ammonia levels, inhibit algae growth since they compete for the same resources, and provide fish with hiding and sometimes food.

But which plants should you consider for your aquarium? The type of plants you may need depend on several factors like the aquarium’s size and the fish species populating the environment.

Today’s article brings you the 20 most popular red freshwater plants that you could consider for your tank:

1. Ludwigia Palustris Super Red

Ludwigia Palustris has many popular names: marsh seedbox, water purslane, false loostrife, or marsh purslane. It’s popular thanks to its bushy look and standup growth, as well as dark red leaves. This plant will make for a powerful contrast in your tank when mixing it with green plants.

Ludwigia Palustris is preferred by many aquarists thanks to its hardiness. Although it typically grows on the ground, near various water sources, it can also thrive submersed with no problems. It can also withstand pokes and fish brushing against its leaves, making it ideal for crowded community tanks.

Another key point is that Ludwigia Palustris has strong, but shallow roots, so it doesn’t need an excessively thick substrate.

What to know:

  • Ludgwigia Palustris grows upwards, so it can pop its body out of the tank in some cases
  • This plant species requires natural lighting to achieve its full potential; providing consistent natural illumination will boost its coloring and improve its growth rate
  • This is an adaptable plant, capable of surviving in both cold and warm waters; however, it prefers higher temperatures, preferably around 74 F or more
  • You may need to ensure CO2 infusion and provide it with several micronutrients to harness the plant’s full potential
  • Despite the plant’s sturdy and adaptable nature, consider pairing it with non-aggressive and calmer fish species

2. Ludwigia Repens

Ludwigia Repens is another plant fit for aquascaping and fish tanks. It comes from more tropical regions in North and Central America and typically thrives in shallow-water environments. It can also grow fully submerged, enriching the environment with its subtle presence.

This plant will display an impressive variation of colors, although remaining in the same range. You should see red and green nuances as the plant’s leaves are usually a combination of both. Older plants may take on intense-red shades, creating powerful contrasts with green plants around them.

Ludwigia Repens will grow up to 20 inches, making it fit for 20-gallon tanks and up. However, many people use it in aquascaping thanks to its durability and adaptability, even placing it in nano tanks. Ideal water parameters include temperatures between 68 to 82 °F, pH levels between 6 to 8, and water hardness between 3 to 8.

What to know:

  • Ludwigia Repens can survive in poor lighting conditions, but it will suffer; the plant requires intense lighting throughout the day to prevent leaf loss, significant discoloration, or slow growth patterns
  • This species can thrive in various types of substrates, including mixes of volcanic rock, gravel, or peat, so long as it is nutrient-rich
  • The plant fares well in community tanks with peaceful fish like guppies, Corydoras, mollies, or rasboras
  • It is also a great option if you have Cherry shrimp since the plant’s red coloring can hide the small creatures from the rest of the tank’s population
  • Pruning is necessary to tame Ludwigia Repens and prevent it from outgrowing its enclosure

3. Ludwigia Glandulosa

Ludwigia Glandulosa belongs to the same family as the previous 2 plants, but it displays a different appearance. The leaves are longer and sharper and will showcase darker colors, with the red leaning more towards purple. You will also find pure purple varieties that will grow even more intense in the light.

Ludwigia Glandulosa can grow up to 15 inches, making it ideal for smaller aquariums, although you may need to prune it to prevent the growth of side sprouts. This is unless you want the plant to exhibit its full bushy potential.

This species is prone to losing its low-end leaves, so regular cleaning may be necessary to prevent dead leaves from decaying in the tank.

What to know:

  • Many aquarists love the plant thanks to its varied coloring; the plant tends to display various colors, usually greener at the top and switching to dark red/brown towards the bottom
  • The plant is easy to maintain, and it’s a slow grower that adapts well to its environment
  • Ludwigia Glandulosa requires more lighting than other of its species; well-illuminated tanks are a must, otherwise, the plant will lose its color and fade away
  • You need to supplement the plant with iron and other nutrients to keep it healthy in the long run

4. Alternanthera Reineckii

You’ve probably heard of this plant as AR mini, its name stemming from its low profile and bushy appearance. AR mini, however, is just the smaller, dwarf version of Alternanthera Reineckii. The plant displays various shades of red, from light to dark brown, and showcases leaves varying in size and shape, varying on the subspecies. Some have shorter, pointier leaves, while others are longer and corrugated.

The plant grows submerged in the wild, making it ideal for aquascaping and fish-filled tanks. Its low profile minimizes its interaction with mid to top-dwelling fish species, protecting the plant from incidental or intentional damage.

What to know:

  • The plant requires iron supplementation, a nutritious substrate, and proper illumination to reach its full potential
  • Regular pruning is a must, especially if you have other plants in the same tank; failing to do so will cause the Alternanthera Reineckii to exaggerate its bushy look, blocking the view of other plants
  • Plant Alternanthera Reineckii at the middle of the tank to maximize its presence and boost the environment’s impact
  • This species can survive and thrive in temperatures between 40 to 85 F

5. Nymphaea Zenkeri

You may know this species by the name of tiger lotus, stemming from its leaves’ color patterns. Nymphaea Zenkeri displays a rusty dark-red color with black spots, droplets, and wide leaves that will boost its presence.

One of this species’ special features is its ability to produce 2 types of leaves: ones that remain submerged, attached by the bulb, and another type that rest at the water’s surface, attached to long stems.

This feature often allows the tiger lotus to take over the tank, cover the water surface, and block other plants from getting the light they need. It’s crucial to trim the plant to prevent this scenario. Surface plants are typically harmful to both the tank’s flora and fauna.

What to know:

  • Pruning the tiger lotus’s floating leaves will force the plant to grow bushier rather than taller
  • Nymphaea Zinkeri often grows flowers at the water’s surface if it has enough lily pads; the flowers are white, yellow, or even purple-red
  • When planting the tiger lotus into the substrate, don’t bury the bulb completely, or it will rot and die; instead, push 2 thirds in and allow the plant to grow roots and anchor it gradually

6. Echinodorus Reni

This species is great for providing your tank with environmental variety. Enchinodorus Reni displays large and wide leaves, alternating in colors between green to light and even dark red.

Most plants have leaves of different colors. The plant is preferred among aquarists and aquascapists thanks to its ease of maintenance and the powerful contrast it delivers when housed with bushy plants.

Due to its heavy root-feeding orientation, the plant requires a nutrient-rich substrate and can grow to impressive sizes in optimal conditions.

What to know:

  • Echinodorus Reni doesn’t fare well in tanks with unstable or fluctuating water parameters which may cause the plant to die off with time
  • The plant doesn’t need CO2 injection to survive, but the CO2 addition will allow it to reach its full potential, along with the addition of nutritious substrate
  • This species is more suitable for larger tanks due to its large leaves and growth rate

7. Rotala Rotundifolia

The plant’s name comes from Latin and means literally ‘the plant with round leaves,’ which is unfit, to say the least, since this species doesn’t have round leaves. Some subspecies come with small oval leaves, which is as close as you can get to being round. However, most underwater species display long, sharp, creating the appearance of a thorny bush.

The plant grows relatively fast and, under optimal conditions, will grow extremely bushy, often taking over other nearby plants. You need to consider regular pruning to keep its growth rate in check. The plant is easy to care for, doesn’t require excessive lighting, and you can easily spread it to other tanks by cutting a healthy plant and replanting it.

What to know:

  • Rotala Rotundifolia can survive just fine in environments with medium-intensity light, but requires more intense lighting to produce that trademark rusty red coloring
  • The plant will take on different nuances of red, green, yellow, or pink, depending on the water parameters
  • This species tends to grow excessively bushy, especially if you prune its top areas; this can prevent lighting for reaching the lower leaves, so regular trimming is necessary to counter that

8. Rotala Indica

Rotala indica is one of the favorite plants for aquarists, thanks to its flexibility and adaptability. Proficient trimming can carve the plant into a variety of shapes to fit its environment and the aquarist’s vision. This species displays oval-shaped or pointy leaves with a long stem, capable of reaching 25 inches or more.

The plant requires relatively low maintenance with 72 to 82 F water temperatures, moderate or high illumination, and nutritious substrate. You might need to consider CO2 injections and iron and potassium supplementation to boost the plant’s potential. Otherwise, the plant can adapt to pretty much any environment, and it grows tall compared to other subspecies of its family.

What to know:

  • Rotala indica is rather fragile and will break with ease, so don’t use it for tanks containing overactive or large fish species
  • The plant tends to grow upright, so it will not take a lot of space in the tank
  • This species’ leaves will change color with time and depending on the available lighting; the coloring may vary from green to purple, red, or nuances of yellow and rusty brown

9. Rotala Macrandra

This species displays a distinct and rather unfamiliar appearance despite falling into the same family as the previous Rotala plants. Its leaves are larger, longer, and rarer, although displaying similar colors to previous plants. This species has a reputation for being more pretentious in terms of care, with the red version being more notoriously difficult to grow.

Rotala Macrandra’s growth rate and appearance vary wildly, depending on the subspecies and the CO2 addition. Low CO2 levels will cause the plant to remain smaller and more compact, while higher CO2 levels will boost its growth rate and lead to more branching.

What to know:

  • The Macrandra variety includes over 10 subspecies adapted to various environments and displaying different looks
  • Regular fertilization is necessary to preserve the plant’s optimal coloring and boost its growth
  • Sudden dips in CO2 levels may cause tip stunting, causing the leaves to lose their width and take on more of a needle-like look

10. Rotala Yao Yai

This family displays a variety of species, all bushy, fit for aquascaping and planted aquariums. Depending on the species, this plant has small, round leaves, or pointy, and displays mostly colors like red, pink, and rusty brown. It is the perfect addition to planted aquariums, especially those with upright plants, counting on the Yao Yai to cover the substrate.

When properly cared for, Rotala Yao Yai will deliver an amazing contrast with greener, upright plants, thanks to its vivid red presence. The plant is easy to maintain and doesn’t need any special requirements to thrive.

What to know:

  • The plant’s leaves will come in different shapes and sizes depending on the subspecies
  • Yao Yai can adapt to any environmental conditions but requires a plus of CO2 and fertilizer to achieve its full potential
  • Trim and replant it to create meaty bushes to decorate your tank to your heart’s desire

11. Ammania Senegalensis

This species is more fitting for lush aquariums that receive optimal lighting throughout the day. The plant displays long and pointy leaves and will almost always come in bright red or dark orange, for a nice contrast. Ammania is more difficult to maintained compared to other aquarium plants.

Regular water changes are necessary to keep it in peak condition since fluctuating water parameters may hinder its development. This means you should pair the plant with pretentious fish species that require weekly water changes, guppies included.

What to know:

  • Ammania Senegalensis is more light-dependent than other plants; the plant will become dark brown in poor lighting and will begin to decay soon after
  • You need to plant it thoroughly if you’re placing it in Cichlid tanks since larger and more active fish may damage it
  • The plant is also called the copper leaf Ammania thanks to its specific color
  • The plant grows slow, can reach up to 17 inches in length, and requires water temperatures between 68 and 78 F

12. Cryptocoryne Wendtii Red

This species displays an amazing diversity in terms of appearance, coloring, and ideal water conditions. In fact, there is no such thing as ideal water conditions since Cryptocoryne Wendtii can adapt to pretty much any environment. The plant comes in green, red, or brown colors and generally displays long and corrugated leaves.

The species has short stems, so it relies on its leaves to make an impact. Cryptocoryne Wendtii is perfect for Cichlids and loaches thanks to its deep and strong roots, making it almost impossible to unearth. Its small profile makes it ideal for aquascaping as a background plant, complementing upright, greener varieties.

What to know:

  • Cryptocoryne Wendtii is the perfect choice for poorly lit aquariums, since this species doesn’t have special lighting requirements to thrive
  • This species’ leaves may die off soon after introducing them to the aquarium; this is normal and has no reason for concern, so long as the roots and stem remain healthy. This effect occurs due to sudden changes in water parameters, but the plant will adapt and rebound soon after

13. Helanthium Tenellum Red

If this looks like a real mouthful, you may use Pygmy chain sword instead, since this is this plant’s common name. Helanthium Tenellum is a bog plant which is another way of saying it doesn’t really care about lighting. Its natural and slow-growth pattern and grass-like appearance make it perfect as tank lawn.

This species will provide your tank with a more natural look, enriching the substrate and accommodating various bottom-dwelling aquatic creatures. Some of this species’ variations will also grow upright, capable of reaching up to 20 inches. This provides you with even more freedom in terms of aquascaping.

What to know:

  • You need to ensure regular pruning to prevent the plant from invading the entire tank
  • An interesting aspect about the plant is that it remains green in poor light conditions and grow red leaves in high light environments
  • Good light, extra CO2, and proper fertilization will cause Helanthium Tenellum to grow faster and thicker, while a lack of nutrients will inhibit its growth rate
  • Underwater species will also produce flowers

14. Cryptocoryne Spiralis

This plant draws its name from its long and spiraled leaves that float with the water currents, making your tank seem alive. It is the perfect addition to fish tanks since it enhances the habitat’s esthetics without taking up too much space.

Since Cryptocoryne Spiralis has such long and narrow leaves, you can pair it with bush-like plants without fearing that the former will cut off the latter’s access to light.

Cryptocoryne Spiralis isn’t fit for tanks with larger fish specimens since these can break its leaves when swimming near it. Otherwise, the plant is hardy and doesn’t require special treatment to thrive.

What to know:

  • Provide adequate nutrition to boost the plant’s natural coloring and growth rate
  • In the wild, the plant will survive the dry season thanks to its ability to store nutrients in its underground rhizome
  • This species offers an immense variety of leave shapes and colors from pure green to purple, rusty brown, and dark red

15. Lobelia Cardinalis

You can consider Lobelia Cardinalis as being the salad of the aquarium world. Its oval-shaped, almost round leaves remain close to the ground, as the plant remains short and bushy. Many people mistake the aquatic Lobelia Cardinalis with one specific terrestrial species that displays intense-red flowers and grows upright.

Lobelia Cardinalis is a match for planted aquariums with nutritious but empty substrates that require diversification. This species is typically green but can develop reddish nuances under intense lighting.

What to know:

  • This plant’s leaves may develop spot algae under high lighting conditions and poor water conditions
  • Lobelia Cardinalis requires proper nutrition to remain healthy and preserve its intense green colors
  • If you want your plant to display more red, increase the lighting but improve your water parameters and perform regular tank maintenance to prevent algae deposits

16. Lagenandra Meeboldii Red

This is another leafy plant with a low but exquisite profile. This plant originates from India and requires a thick substrate to bury its rhizome and improve its stability. It is a great addition for tanks populated by mid-to-top dwellers that are unlikely to come in contact with the plant.

Meeboldii will display darker colors from brown to red and variations of purple. It is a beautiful option for tanks containing a lot of green plants in need of some color variation.

What to know:

  • Most species of Lagenandra aren’t designed for aquatic environments, unlike Indian-sourced Meeboldii
  • This species boosts its coloring significantly in well-lit environments, capable of displaying bright-red nuances
  • The plant is a slow grower and requires stable water conditions

17. Barclaya Longifolia Red

This red Asian plant is among the most sough-after in the aquarium world. Its long and sharp leaves will leave quite an impression, boosting your tank’s appearance significantly. Its corrugated leaves can grow to impressive proportions, capable of reaching the water’s surface in many cases.

There are some leaf shape, size, and coloring variations. Some species showcase smaller, pointier leaves, while others come with longer, tentacle-like versions, stretching towards the water’s surface.

What to know:

  • The plant’s leaves are rather sensitive, so they don’t fare well in waters with even modest currents
  • Don’t use Barclaya Longifolia in snail tanks since these can eat its soft and tasty leaves
  • You should also avoid using this species in the same environment with large Cichlids or overtly active fish that may destroy the plant’s leaves

18. Myriophyllum Tuberculatum Red

If you’re a more experienced aquarist and wish to go wild with your aquarium decorations, Myriophyllum Tuberculatum is your best friend. This stem plant packs a unique look with needle-like, lobe-filled leaves making the plant seem hairy from a distance. Various species display varying colors from green to yellow, orange, pink, red, and immense variation between them.

One of this species’ main problems is its difficulty of maintenance. M. Tuberculatum requires special living conditions, including intense lighting, sufficient living space, and specific water parameters. Ideally, you should provide the plant with 0.8 watts of lighting per liter, regular CO2 injections, and nitrate levels between 5 to 15.

What to know:

  • Tuberculatum is actually quite rare in the aquarium business due to its high requirements; most people use it for plant-only tanks
  • The plant doesn’t do well in aquariums with active and large fish
  • Given enough space, the plant will grow fast, capable of reaching the water’s surface

19. Persicaria Sao Paolo

Persicaria Sao Paolo is the go-to plant if you’re looking to add color to your aquatic environment. This is a relatively new plant in the aquarium world coming straight from Brazil, displaying some of the most intense colors in the branch. Expect bright red and magenta to dominate in well-maintained and healthy plants.

Persicaria only grows upright and displays long, narrow, and brightly-colored leaves. Although the plant will retain its upright tendency, some variations may also display a bushier look.

What to know:

  • This species requires more lighting than usual, along with regular CO2 injections to remain healthy and reach its full potential
  • Only plant a few stems since planting too many will cause the plant to overtake the environment and suffocate other plants
  • Provide regular iron and phosphate fertilization to optimize the plant’s growth and features

20. Bacopa Colorata

Bacopa Colorata is a subspecies of Bacopa Carolina, so whatever applies to the latter applies to the former. This plant species grows upright and showcases small, oval-shaped leaves painted in iridescent colors.

The plant’s coloring isn’t intense, but it is amplified by the presence of other green plants in the tank. You should see Bacopa Colorata in shades of purple, rusty brown, dark red, and magenta.

This species is easy to maintain, hence its popularity among plant hobbyists.

What to know:

  • Bacopa Colorata is rare in Europe among aquarists
  • The plant will display more intense red cues in highly-lit environments
  • For unique visual effects, I recommend combining Bacopa Colorata with Bacopa Carolina, allowing you to harness interesting color mixes since the latter is green

Conclusion

These are just 20 of the most relevant aquarium plants to consider, but there is an infinity of variations out there. Visualize your goals, choose the plants complementing your vision, and go for it.

Just remember also to consider the compatibility between the plants and the fish since not all species go together.

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.

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