Top 5 Midground Plants to Balance Your Planted Aquarium

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Top 5 Midground Plants to Balance Your Planted Aquarium

It is important to choose the right plants for your tank and place them in the best places. This will make the aquarium look more attractive, especially after they are established. The most balanced-looking tanks tend to have taller plants in the back of the tank and shorter plants up front. But the dramatic height difference between the two isn’t always visually appealing. To create a transition between the tallest and the shortest plants, aquascapers use middleground plants or medium-sized plant to make the aquarium look balanced. This creates a more natural-looking and visually balanced aquascape as the plants appear layered or stacked.

The difference can be observed in the images below. The photo to the left shows a small carpeting species in front and a tall stem in the back. The plants are both visually appealing by themselves, but the striking height difference casts shadows in the tank’s middle and draws the eye there. The photo to the right shows similar plants. There is a short, carpeting species in the front and taller stem plants in the background. In addition, this tank includes plants of medium height in the middle. This gives the tank a more balanced look as the eye is drawn gently from the front to center and then up to the highest plants at the back. It also appears more natural as plants grow mixed together in nature.

Planted aquariums with no midground plants (left) versus with midground plants (right)

To help you get started, let us introduce you to our top 5 categories of midground plants that will enhance the beauty of your planted aquarium:

1. Anubias Plants

Anubias plants

Anubias nana (or Anubias barteri var. nana) is a very moderate-sized Anubias plant, making it an ideal plant for the midground of any aquarium. This plant’s uniqueness is its preference to attach to rock and wood, which are often placed in the middle of an aquarium. Anubias Nana grows from a horizontal stem, called a Rhizome. It will send its leaves upwards. A full, bushy growth pattern is possible even under low light. Medium-sized leaves provide the perfect transition from small plants in front to tall plants in back and add a cozy place for shrimp and small fish to take cover. Other similar-sized Anubias species that can be substituted for Anubias nana are Anubias golden, Anubias gold coin, Anubias nangi, and Anubias coffeefolia.

2. Java Fern

Narrow leaf java fern (left) and Windelov java fern (right)

The Java fern (Microsorum phytopus) is a great addition to any tank. Because of its medium-sized foliage and love to be attached to rocks and wood like Anubias, javafern is a great choice for tank placement. It will provide visual impact with bright green leaves, yet it won’t completely shade out the plants in the back of the aquarium.

If you are looking for more variety, java fern ‘Windelov’ offers a bit more texture due to the lace-like tips of its leaves. It is a compact plant that can be used as a centerground plant in smaller aquascapes.

3. Cryptocoryne Plants

Cryptocoryne plants as midground plants

Due to their small growing patterns and medium-sized leaves, the different Cryptocoryne Wendtii color options – including tropica, green and reddish-bronze – make excellent midground plants. They make a great transition from the foreground of the aquarium to the back because they are medium height yet quite leafy once they’re well-established. The perfect visual spice for any aquarium is their wavy, crinkled leaves texture and many color options.

Crypt lucens

Cryptocoryne Luciens is a lovely, narrow-leafed cryptocoryne that grows to a height of just a few inches once fully grown. This plant is a great midground plant for aquascaping, even though it seems to be underutilized. It isn’t as large as other crypt species and its delicate texture transitions from the tank’s front to the back can be attributed to its slim leaves. The plant appears to be thick grass or reeds once it’s grown in.

4. Baby Tears

Micranthemum umbrosum

The larger baby tear plant makes a great middleground plant. It will need to be trimmed often to keep it neat. The delicate stems are complemented by the round, green leaves. Cutting off the tips and replanting the stems will help give this plant a short and bushy appearance. If left to its own devices, baby tears will continue to grow until it reaches the surface as it is technically a stem plant. However, if kept pruned, its dainty, round leaves provide a beautiful midground texture.

5. Dwarf Chain Sword

Helanthium tenellum

The pygmy or dwarf chain sword is a great choice as it is one the easiest grassy plants to grow and creates a lawn-like appearance. It will easily fill in bare spots in the aquarium and grow to a few inches tall without trimming – making it a great option for the middle section in most medium-sized aquariums. It is a taller and wider-leafed species than the foreground species of micro sword or dwarf hairgrass. This makes it able to visually transition between the shorter, lower-growing species at the front of the tank and the taller, more established species at the back.

Aquarium Co-Op’s goal is to offer a well-curated selection of aquatic plants that can grow well for hobbyists. Browse our entire selection of midground plants to get more inspiration for your next planted tank.