Top 10 Aquarium Plants for Breeding Fish and Raising Fry
If you plan on breeding fish and want to increase the survival rate and growth of the babies, we love using live aquarium plants. The foliage is beautiful and serves as a spawning site for the parents. The babies need to be fed regularly once they hatch. Microfauna helps the plants grow so that the young can eat. The plants also filter the water and absorb the toxic chemicals from the fish. Some plants are especially good for raising fry, so we’ve listed our top 10 fluffy and dense plants that fish breeders always use.
1. Java Moss
A pair pygmy corydoras laying on java moss. (Taxiphyllum barieri)
The best mosses are java and christmas moss. This is because they provide a good cover for baby fish, shrimp and other small animals. Mosses provide a cover for eggs that fish can scatter, with little tendrils which the eggs can stick to. Their branching stems also protect them from predation. Java moss, which is easy to grow and requires little substrate, is a great choice for beginners. For a more aged look, you can either attach the moss to a wire grid or wrap it around driftwood. You can also add Easy Green all in one fertilizer to help it grow.
2. Pogostemon stellatus ‘octopus’
Pogostemon.stellatus “octopus” a fast-growing, stem plant that can fill your tank quickly if you provide enough nutrients and low or medium lighting. Its long, wispy and brightly colored leaves give it its name “octopus”. The tentacle-like foliage can become very dense over time, creating pockets of space that only small fry can fit between while blocking out bigger predators.
This plant was originally grown in water (or emersed) at a farm to speed up production. It may have wider leaves than usual when it first arrives. These emersed-grown leaves will eventually melt back, and the plant will sprout new, skinnier leaves that are accustomed to being submerged underwater. When plants arrive at our facility, we begin the process of converting them to their submerged form. To speed up the conversion of your Pogostemon. stellatus, if it is less than half converted upon arrival, you can lift it up to the surface to allow it more light and carbon dioxide (CO2) from air.
3. Water Sprite
Water sprite, another fast-growing stem plants, is great at absorbing excess nutrients to clean the water for fish. It also helps prevent algae growth. It forms a tall, bushy mound when planted in the ground with fine, lacy foliage for shrimp and small fish to shelter themselves. The floating leaves are much more wide with rounded tips and grow thick roots that fish can use to lay eggs or graze on. It is similar to other stem plants and prefers to be fed from the water column. Easy Green liquid fertilizers are a good choice.
4. Guppy Grass
This species comes from North and South America. Although it can be planted in the substrate it is often grown as a giant floating mass of plant material by hobbyists. Because the stems produce tightly spaced, short, narrow leaves interlocking with each other, guppy grass is almost impossible to penetrate by adult fish. However, the roots can easily be split and propagated. This makes it difficult to ship and less suitable for high flow tanks.
5. Mayaca fluviatilis
If you’re looking for a unique plant that will provide interesting textures in your planted aquarium, you have to try Mayaca fluviatilis. It looks like a yellow-green pipecleaner because it has fine, tiny leaves all along its stem. Its fuzzy-looking leaves resemble mosses and are why it is called “stream bogmoss.” The stream bogmoss is a fast-growing plant that will provide a safe hiding place for baby fish and shrimp.
Planting vallisneria, or val, is a great way to add greenery to your aquarium. This background plant looks similar to a tall field or grass. It can grow high enough that it covers the water surface, providing fish security. This plant is easy to care for, requires little light, and can spread quickly. Vallisneria is propagated by sending out runners. Each plant produces a baby plant at its end. The plantlets eventually reach large enough size to be able to send their own runners. Once the val is established and spreads widely, it can withstand the nibbling of fish such as goldfish and African cichlids.
7. Hydrocotyle tripartita ‘Japan’
We love this unique plant because of its small, clover-shaped flowers and its ability spread its stringy stems along hardscape and substrate, much like creeping Ivy. It can be used as groundcover or draped on driftwood in the foreground. Unlike many of the other species on this list, it does best in medium to high light environments and would benefit from CO2 injection. Hydrocotyle tripartite Japan’s compact and bushier growth patterns are ideal for hiding baby fish and dwarf shrimp in high-tech aquariums. For propagation, trim off any excess height and replant them in a garden.
8. Bolbitis Fern
Bolbitis, also known as the African water fern, is the most common epiphyte plant sold in aquarium hobby. This is due to its thick, texture fronds. While it is slower growing than most stem plants, a mature bolbitis can develop into a massive, emerald green shrub that easily conceals many small fish from view. This tough plant is able to withstand high pH and GH water and can be used in African cichlid, African goldfish and even monster fish tanks. Bolbitis’ horizontal, branch-like Rhizome should not be covered. You can attach it to driftwood, rock or with super glue gel or sewing thread. You can find more information about how to plant epiphytes, and other types of plants, in our quick guide on methods for planting.
9. Pearl Weed
Pearl weed is a bright green stem plant that is similar in appearance to baby tears, but it is differentiated by its slightly longer, oblong-shaped leaves. Because of its small leaves and untidy growth, it can form a thick jungle that little creatures can live in. We recommend that you leave the delicate stems of the pearl weed in its rock wool and dig a hole large enough to accommodate the entire pot in the substrate. The delicate roots of the pearlweed can be left intact, while the plant transforms into its submerged underwater form. This species grows best in medium to high light and can reach the surface. You can trim it to be a background or midground planting.
Floating plants with long, shaggy roots are excellent for concealing eggs, newborn fish, and other small creatures. Amazon frogbits are a favourite because of their small, round green leaves that look almost like miniature lily pad. Their roots can reach all the way down to the substrate and create the look of an upside-down forest. Since it propagates by sending out runners, the frogbit spreads like a connected web and can be easily removed in large clumps.
As an alternative, dwarf water lettuce is another similar floating plant that is often used by breeders because of its extensive root system. Floating plants can absorb toxic nitrogen chemicals very quickly. They also grow fast. You should keep them from covering the entire water surface as they can shade plants below and reduce the amount dissolved oxygen.
These plants are excellent at raising fry survival rates and can help you to be more successful with your next breeding endeavor. For more tips and tricks on spawning fish and raising fry, browse our collection of breeding articles.