There is a vast list of aquatic plants commonly used in freshwater aquariums—so much so that it would be impossible to cover them all in this article. I shall, however, name a few of my favorites.
The Purpose of Plants
First, I'll answer this important question - why are aquarium plants so important? Freshwater plants give your aquarium a nice, natural appearance as well as aid in water oxygenation. They also provide a habitat for small fish, baby fish and even invertebrates (which do, as do some fish, eat live plants.)
Opt For Low Maintenance
These plant species (at least most of them) in their natural habitat are either fully or partially submersed but most can fully grow immersed in moist soil. Low maintenance plants are the best choice if you're a first-time aquarium owner. The hardiest of these freshwater plants will be green which, incidentally, don't require as much sunlight. Too much sunlight exposure in your aquarium may cause excess algae growth which causes more aquarium cleaning and maintenance for you.
Carpet plants carpet your aquarium in a nice green carpet and tend to spread out rather than up (so they're going to grow tall.) Here are just a few popular choices:
• Water Wisteria - Used in the front to line the aquarium floor, the Water Wisteria requires medium lighting and a water temperature between 74°F and 82°F. With tall lacey green leaves, water wisteria grows quickly, adding depth to your aquarium floor. This is a no fuss plant requiring minimal maintenance.
• Cuba (Hemianthus Callitrichoides) - When separated and planted in repeating patterns and in clumps, this tiny round-leafed plant will form a grid-like pattern. Cuba (first discovered on Cuba west of Havanna) is one of the smallest of the aquarium plants that will grow all over the bottom of the tank and spread rapidly.
• Java Moss - Java Moss is a popular Aquarium plant and is low maintenance and tends to grow on driftwood and rocks. It will appear green and fuzzy on the floor and tolerates 70°F to 90°F temperatures, but grows best in around 70°F - 75°F. All types of lighting are okay for this bottom-covering plant that provides protection for baby fish as well as food.
• Amazon Sword - The Amazon Sword plant is a background decoration that happens to be an excellent hiding place for fish. It requires moderate lighting and water temperatures of 72°F – 82°F. This tall green plant has leaves resembling swords (hence its name) and it can grow up to 20 inches tall! They're usually planted in groups in the back of the aquarium.
• Lilaeopsis - Resembling grass, this mid-background or background plant hides fixtures and provides hideouts for fish. It grows up to 2 inches tall and spreads fast, so fast in fact that it may, at times, need pruning, especially if it is interrupting other plant growth. It requires medium lighting and water temperatures between 74°F – 85°F.
• African Water Fern - This is a versatile plant for the background as well as the foreground. It's a low lighting, low maintenance plant which thrives marvelously in many conditions. This green fern has lush feathery leaves and functions as a covering, decoration, and a hiding place for fish. Best water temperatures are between 68°F – 80°F.
• Java Fern - This very beautiful, low maintenance, popular plant can be utilized in nearly every area of the aquarium. Its long, bunched green leaves thrives in water temperatures of 68°F – 82°F in low to medium light and serves as a background decoration and a hiding place for fish.
• Green Tiger Lotus - This green, wide-leaf plant of medium height needs little maintenance and an average environment conditions in order to thrive. It requires moderate lighting and water temperature between 71°F – 82°F. They provide great fish hiding places and serve also as a background decoration.
• Elodea Densa - This plant, because of its proliferation, is called Water Fever. A very popular plant because it's a big oxygen producer and provides an ecological balance in the aquarium. It prefers hard, temperate waters temperatures of 77 ° F, and can be multiplied only by being cut.
When you're on the search for aquarium plants, seek out the plants requiring easy care so they will flourish and brighten your aquarium. This is especially true for the beginning aquarium enthusiast.
Keep in mind that you'll likely need some type of heater to keep your water temperature within the ideal range for your plants and your fish.
By Tom Matteo
About the Author
Tom Matteo has been a freelance writer since 1992. He specializes in hardware and software reviews for computers and gaming systems, and occasionally writes about such topics as animal behavior and care. Tom resides in Bethlehem, PA with his wife Tina and his beloved cockapoo, Angel.