Our 5 Favorite Aquarium Plants That Everyone Should Try
It can be overwhelming to try to purchase live aquatic plants online. There are so many species and different care requirements. Aquarium Co-Op aims to provide a well-curated selection of the best, most hardy plants in the hobby. But sometimes it’s nice to speak to someone at the shop and get some recommendations. We interviewed Cory McElroy, our CEO, to learn his top picks and recommend them to everyone.
1. Dwarf Sagittaria
Cory has always loved vallisneria. However, as it can grow to 4-6ft (1-2m) in length, it is better suited for larger tanks. Dwarf sagittaria, another grass-like aquarium plant, is suitable for smaller tanks. It can grow to 3 inches (8 cm) under high lighting, and 18 inches (45cm) under low lighting. Even if you only buy one plant, it can quickly reproduce using a string of underground runners that will fill in the bottom of your aquarium. The dwarf sagittaria loves to eat from its roots so be sure to give it nutrient-rich substrate for the tank or Easy Root Tabs fertilizer.
The dwarf sagittaria plant is often grown emersed (without its leaves in water) at plant farms. This means that the plant you order may not have the same shape as the photos. You don’t have to panic – simply take the plant out from its pot and put the roots in the substrate. Be sure to not cover the base. The long, emersed, leaves will soon fall off and be replaced by shorter, skinnier, and submerged (or underwater) ones. You can also plant dwarf sagittaria by placing the entire container inside an Easy Planter ornament and sticking a root tab in the rock wool. The decoration protects the plant from being uprooted by fish so that it can start growing new leaves and carpeting the ground with little, grassy tufts.
2. Dwarf Aquarium Lily
Are you looking for a centerpiece plant that is easy to grow and will impress everyone who comes to your home? The dwarf aquarium lily is a fast-growing bulb plant with beautiful, red leaves and lily pads that form up top. It can thrive in low light conditions, and it is often used to cover the rear tank wall’s walls with lush foliage.
Aquarium Co-Op will send you a bulb with peat moss if you order your lily. Place the bulb on the ground and rinse off any loose peatmoss. The bulb may float at first, so let it soak in the water until it eventually sinks. Within one to three weeks, a cluster of shoots should sprout from the bulb, forming new leaves and roots that will anchor the bulb to the ground. (If it doesn’t, flip the bulb over in case it is upside-down.) After the plant has become rooted and large, ensure that you provide lots of Easy Root tabs. For detailed instructions, read our full care sheet on dwarf aquarium lilies.
3. Cryptocoryne Wendtii
The Cryptocoryne genus (or “crypt” for short) is very popular because of its low light requirements, as well as its slow and steady growth that doesn’t require much pruning. Because of its crinkly leaves, Crypt Wendtii is a popular species. It comes in many colors, including green, reddish brown, and pink. It can grow to 6-8 inches (15-20cm) in height. Many people use it as a middleground plant depending on the aquarium’s size. Bury the roots while leaving the crown (or base of the leaves) above the ground. Feed it root tabs or enriched substrate to encourage healthy growth, and eventually your crypt may start producing new plantlets from its root base. If your crypt starts melting away, read our article on crypt melt for more help.
4. Pogostemon stellatus ‘octopus’
Pogostemon stellatus ‘octopus’
This spring green-colored plant gets its variety name from the long, wispy leaves that grow from each node on the stem, resembling an octopus with its legs waving in the water. The plant is able to withstand low light conditions. However, the topmost leaves can turn a beautiful purple in brighter lighting. As with most stem plants, it grows very tall and very quickly, making it the perfect background plant.
To plant Pogostemon. stellatus, remove any rock wool stems and insert them into the substrate as deep to prevent them getting uprooted. Use Easy Green all in one liquid fertilizer to give your Pogostemon stellatus all the nutrients it needs to thrive. Once the tips of the stems reach the water surface, cut off the top 6 inches (15 cm) or more and propagate them by replanting the trimmings in the substrate. Once you have cultivated a dense forest of Pogostemon stellatus, they become the perfect hiding place for nano fish and baby fry.
5. Anubias nangi
Anubias plants are well-known in the aquarium hobby, but Anubias nangi is a newer addition to the family that features elongated, pointy leaves. This hybrid, which is a cross between A. barteri ‘nana” and A. gilletii ‘nana, typically grows between 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) high and seems to be hardy even compared to other Anubias varieties.
Plant your new anubias by attaching it to driftwood, rock or using super glue gel. Or you can place it in the basket inside an Easy Planter decoration. A. nangi, like most anubias is slow-growing and requires low light. It prefers liquid fertilizers such Easy Green. Anubias plants that are healthy have a rhizome, or thick horizontal stem that grows sideways. This produces bright green leaves that turn deeper green over time. A. nangi can be a good choice for smaller aquariums that don’t need to overgrow too quickly.
Browse our selection of live aquarium plants to get you started on your first or 20th planted aquarium. You can check out the reviews for each species and see real-life pictures submitted by our customers. You can also contact us if your plants arrive damaged because of shipping.