The Best Low Light Aquarium Plants For Beginners

If you have just set up an aquarium in your home, you’ve probably spent some time wondering how you can make it even more pleasant to look at.

Sure, there are plenty of decorations, rocks, and castles you can add to your fish tank. And there’s always the option of adding more beautiful freshwater fish.

However, one of the best – and easiest – ways to improve the health and longevity of your aquarium is to add some plants. Planted tanks aren’t only engaging and beautiful to look at, but they are also incredibly beneficial for your tank.

Plants provide your fish with valuable hiding spots, as well as places to lay their eggs when they are breeding. Some fish eat plants, and in most cases, plants can also help purify the water in your tank by absorbing toxins and releasing oxygen back into the water. Less cleaning for you – and a more gorgeous tank? Sounds like a win-win.

But if you’re just getting started, it can be difficult to figure out which plants will work best for your individual tank. We’ve broken down everything you need to know about growing plants in your freshwater tank.

Let’s get started.

Aquarium Plants

Equipment You Will Need

There isn’t a lot you need to do to help your aquarium plants thrive. Occasionally, you may need to fertilize or prune your plants, but this is quite rare. Usually, the only “chores” you will need to do regarding your plants will just be to sit back and enjoy watching them grow!

However, there are some items that can make growing your aquarium plants a little bit easier. Root tabs, for example, are discs filled with nutrients that you can place beneath the substrate. You might also want to have some liquid fertilizer on hand. This, however, should be used sparingly, as it can increase the likelihood of algae outbreaks. You must also want to add an aquarium LED light to help your plants receive the light that they need for photosynthesis

Other than that, the only thing you will need is a good attitude and a readiness to learn. Growing aquarium plants is not hard, but you will need to have some patience while you’re getting started.

The Best Low Light Aquarium Plants

If you don’t feel like installing an aquarium light – or if you or your fish simply prefer the aesthetics and functionality of a low-light tank – you don’t have to go without plants. Instead, you should consider some of these top low-light aquarium plants. These plants will thrive with limited light and produce for you a verdant oasis – without requiring you to go out and purchase an expensive aquarium light.

1 Java Moss

  • Scientific Name: Vesicularia dubyana
  • Level of Care: Beginner
Java Moss
Photo by Monica Sullens

The Java Moss is one of the most popular plants grown in freshwater aquariums. Designed for beginners, this plant requires minimal light but can thrive in more well-lit settings, too, as the extra light can encourage growth. Be careful of overdoing it on the light, though, as too much can cause overgrowth.

This plant is compatible with most fish species, growing naturally on many submerged trees and rocks in tropical climates. Because it does not have roots, it can float through the water to gain access to any nutrients it needs to thrive. It can also attach itself to the substrate and decorations in your aquarium.

You can easily identify this plant by its oval-shaped leaves. These small leaves adhere to any porous surface and will cover up the most unattractive features of your aquarium, like your filter. It grows slowly but is incredibly difficult to kill, filtering the nutrients it needs from the water through its leaves. The size of this plant is truly up to you, as you can mold it into a mat or other various shapes.

2 Java Fern

  • Scientific Name: Microsorum pteropus
  • Level of Care: Beginner
Java Fern
Photo by Deepakkumar Sivarajan

A diverse, versatile plant, Java Fern loves to be grown in low-light settings. This plant is slow-growing at the onset, but once you get it going, it will spread out over your entire aquarium. Eventually, it can grow to impressive heights of a foot or more! It will even sprawl about six inches wide.

The leaves of the Java fern can vary depending on the specific variety you have, but in general, they are usually thin and quite long. These plants do quite well when they are anchored to the bottom of the tank but they can also be allowed to float freely in the tank. Eventually, they will find something to anchor their roots.

This is a hardy plant that requires no special lighting. While you should avoid overly harsh lighting, providing some moderate amounts of light won’t hurt this plant in the slightest.

3 Hornwort

  • Scientific Name: Ceratophyllum demersum
  • Level of Care: Beginner
Photo by Tab Tannery

Hornwort is another famous aquarium plant, prized for its unique foliage pattern that gives it the funny nickname of “Coontail.” This plant produces leaves that grow outward in multiple shoots – it almost looks as though it has a bushy tail! This lovely aquarium species is bright green and lacks actual roots, meaning you can grow this in a bare-bottom tank that does not have a substrate. Instead, this plant will attach itself to various objects in the aquarium or float on its own in the water.

This plant is easy to grow, and is compatible with most types of fish. It provides excellent habitat for newborn fish and fry, as its dense leaves provide the perfect hiding spot.

4 Moneywort

  • Scientific Name: Bacopa monnieri
  • Level of Care: Beginner
Photo by Z4Zorro

A creeping plant that is commonly referred to by a multitude of names, moneywort is a common choice for freshwater tanks because it adds a lot of color and texture to the tank. Its plant produces tiny oblong leaves that are bright green and creep upwards in

sturdy stalks. Many people plant shoots of moneywort close together in order to provide a sense of contrast among the plants that are growing in the tank.

This plant, as mentioned, grows vertically, and can reach heights of up to eight inches. It thrives in most aquarium environments, requires moderate amounts of light, and is an excellent choice for people who are new to growing plants in their fish tanks.

5 Brazilian Pennywort

  • Scientific Name: Hydrocotyle leucocephala
  • Level of Care: Beginner
Brazilian Pennywort
Photo by Mauricio Tejerina

The Brazilian Pennywort produces light green, bean-shaped leaves that branch outwards from vine-like stems. As with many other plants, you can grow this species rooted in the substrate or as a floating plant. It grows rapidly, requiring frequent pruning, but you will likely find that your efforts are well worth it – this attractive plant can be used in just about any aquarium.

Not every aquarium, though – if you have a fish tank that is home to cichlids or goldfish, you will want to steer clear of Brazilian pennywort. It can be somewhat delicate, and these types of fish have a tendency to chew on its leaves.

6 Bacopa

  • Scientific Name: Bacopa caroliniana
  • Level of Care: Beginner
Photo by aletta mes

Another easy-to-care-for plant, Bacopa can be recognized by its oblong leaves that create leaders up the stalk. This plant can be bright greenish yellow or even brown, but you must provide it with a good form of substrate so that it can easily take root. A slow-growing plant, Bacopa usually only reaches about a foot in height.

7 Green Hygro

  • Scientific Name: Hygrophila polysperma
  • Level of Care: Intermediate
Hygrophila polysperma
Photo by Dennis Lamczak

A quick growing stem plant, Green Hygro has long leaves that can change from brown to green to red depending on the kind and quantity of light provided. With low light, this plant will be green, but when you provide additional light it will turn to a browner hue. You don’t need to provide this plant with a lot of light, either – it can grow rapidly even in poorly lit tanks.

This plant is compatible with most kinds of fish. It may need to be pruned more often in order to prevent it from overwhelming the bank – hence why it is designed more for intermediate fish keepers. You also need to avoid keeping it in a tank that houses goldfish, because they like to eat it and will kill it before you know it.

In addition, the Green Hygro requires a nicely planted aquarium substrate so that it can adequately anchor its roots. It grows so quickly that in some states, it’s considered a weed – make sure you check the laws in your area before you purchase it for your aquarium as this plant grows rapidly when left unchecked.

8 Sunset Hygro

  • Scientific Name: Hygrophila polysperma ‘Rosanervig’
  • Level of Care: Intermediate
Hygrophila polysperma ‘Rosanervig’
Photo by Giovanni Sajo

A plant that is closely related to the Green Hygro, the Sunset Hygro looks almost identical except its leaves are colored differently. Another plant that must be pruned frequently, the growth of the Sunset Hygro can be slowed by pruning or by increasing the phosphate levels in your aquarium. This plant grows well in low to moderate lighting and is designed for intermediate fishkeepers due to its capacity for rapid growth.

This plant, as mentioned, looks just like the Green Hygro except that it has reddish pink leaves with dense white veins. In order to maintain this coloration, you should make sure your water has ample amounts of iron.

9 Rotala Rotundifolia

  • Scientific Name: Rotala Rotundifolia
  • Level of Care: Intermediate
Rotala Rotundifolia
Photo by Jéssica Antonelli

This plant is designed for intermediate growers because it needs certain amounts of lighting in order to produce its iconic pink leaves. These leaves, which are rounded and narrow, produce a gorgeous downward, cascading pattern of growth when you allow them to grow unchecked. This plant grows quickly and needs to be pruned frequently to avoid overwhelming your tank. The strands of leaves usually don’t get larger than six inches in width but can grow vertically and climb the walls of your aquarium.

Remember – lighting is important for your Rotala Rotundifolia. While it can flourish as a low-light plant, too little light will cause it to produce yellowish green leaves. If you supplement the lighting needed with micronutrients, you may be able to avoid this discoloration.

10 Rotala Indica

  • Scientific Name: Rotala Indica
  • Level of Care: Intermediate
Rotala Indica
Photo by Fenix Hero

As you may suspect by the name alone, Rotala Indica is closely related to Rotala Rotundifolia. This plant has rounded leaves that remain green despite the lighting – only the stem has a reddish hue. This plant can be placed in a tank by itself, or you can grow several side by side to produce a bunch-like appearance. Just keep in mind that you will need to prune it regularly to limit its prolific growth.

This plant does not require as much light as the rotundifolia to maintain its colors – it is truly a low light plant that can thrive in any setting.

11 Parrots Feather

  • Scientific Name: Myriophyllum aquaticum
  • Level of Care: Beginner
Parrots Feather
Photo by Wolfgang Krassnitzer

Another gorgeous aquarium plant, the parrots feather produces elegant green foliage with a texture that is incredibly unique. This plant is sure to stand out in your aquarium! It is often used as a shade plant but also serves as an excellent hiding spot for your fish. A floating plant, parrots feather usually remains floating but could also be anchored in a shallow substrate.

You will need some light to grow this plant, as it’s not a true low-light species. However, you can usually get the light you need by placing the tank next to a window and using some kind of low light in the fish tank. Lighting requirements aside, this plant is a fantastic choice for guppies, minnows, and goldfish.

12 Crypt Wendtii

  • Scientific Name: Crypt Wendtii
  • Level of Care: Intermediate
Crypt Wendtii
Photo by Aqua Garden

Crypt wendtii is a flexible, easy to grow species of plant that can have red, green, or brown leaves that come in a variety of sizes and textures. Usually, this plant will produce leaves that are wavy and long, with potential length of over 18 inches. Crypt wendtii is a popular plant for its versatility and is often used as a focal point in the aquarium.

What’s even better is that this plant can thrive in low light and will do well with just about any kind of fish. That said, you need to avoid keeping it with cichlids, who will have a tendency to tear up its leaves. Crypt wendtii can also be quite sensitive to changing water conditions in the tank.

13 Crypt Balansae

  • Scientific Name: Crypt balansae
  • Level of Care: Intermediate

Crypt balansae

Crypt balansae produces long, thin leaves with ruffled edges. The plant grows in dense clumps, giving plenty of hiding spots to your shy types of fish. A slow growing fish, this plant has a unique texture that makes it a star in the freshwater aquarium.

Keep in mind that this plant is quite sensitive to fluctuations in water parameters. Therefore, you need to make sure you are diligent about keeping up with water changes and that you do not allow for fluctuations in pH, temperature, or cleanliness. You also cannot keep this plant in a tank that is home to cichlids, as they will be prone to tearing up the fragile leaves.

14 Crypt Spiralis

  • Scientific Name: Crypt spiralis
  • Level of Care: Beginner

Crypt Spiralis

Another crypt species, the crypt spiralis has elegant long, thin leaves that whorl into spirals as they grow – which can be up to two feet in length! This plant produces leaves that are slightly thicker than those of other crypts, so even though it grows slowly, it won’t seem like it is falling behind at all.

You need moderate amounts of light to grow this plant, which is vulnerable to fluctuations in conditions inside the tank. You should also avoid keeping this plant in a tank where cichlids are housed – they can tear up the leaves of this plant, too.

15 Microcrypt

  • Scientific Name: Cryptocoryne petchii
  • Level of Care: Beginner
Photo by Miniature Gardens

Yet another crypt that you should consider is the Microcrypt. This plant grows slowly and produces thin, long leaves. These, too, have ruffled edges. The tiniest of the crypts, this plant only grows to a few inches in height. It requires low light and can be included in just about any fish tank – just keep it away from cichlids.

16 Guppy Grass

  • Scientific Name: Najas guadalupensis
  • Level of Care: Beginner
Guppy Grass
Photo by Belle Aerials

Guppy grass was originally developed as a nursery species for young guppy fish. With thick, clumping leaves that are bright green, this plant floats in the tank and grows evenly. It is tolerant of low light levels and offers a great home for other fish, too – not just guppies!

17 Anubias Barteri

  • Scientific Name: Anubias barteri
  • Level of Care: Beginner
Anubias Barteri
Photo by Daniel Lidl

The anubias barteri plant is small, only growing to about six inches tall and five inches wide. A slow-growing plant, this one has heart-shaped leaves that are bright green and rippled. A plant with tough, hearty leaves, this plant has excellent compatibility with most types of fish – it is resistant even to chewing and nibbling from hungry or curious individuals!

18 Anubias Nana

  • Scientific Name: Anubias nana
  • Level of Care: Beginner
Anubias Nana
Photo by quihong

Another popular freshwater plant, anubias nana is related to anubias barteri, although it is much smaller. Both types of plants, however, have large leaves when compared to the rest of the plant. This one is a bushy, slow-growing species that attaches itself to the driftwood and other objects in your tank. It also has arrow-shaped leaves and the plant remains small throughout its life.

Designed for beginner fishkeepers, this plant is hardy and can withstand most types of fish-related stress or damage in the aquarium.

19 Pelia

  • Scientific Name: Monosolenium tenerum
  • Level of Care: Intermediate
Photo by Artem Honchariuk

Pelia is similar to a moss in appearance, although it is not exactly moss itself. This distinct plant has several purposes, and does not attach itself to structures or grow in mats. Instead, this is a sinking plant that you can allow to float freely or anchor using fishing line. A common choice for aquascaping, pelia has a unique appearance with bizarre looking shoots.

This plant is relatively easy to care for, requiring low to moderate light. However, you should avoid planting it in tanks that contain schooling fish or those that are exceptionally rough, as they can damage the brittle leaves of the pelia.

20 Waterwheel Plant

  • Scientific Name: Aldrovanda vesiculosa
  • Level of Care: Advanced
Aldrovanda vesiculosa
Photo by Alex Griman

The waterwheel plant is one of the most exotic types of plants you will find. It is much like a Venus fly trap, producing carnivorous traps at the end of each whorl. It feeds on aquatic insects and floats freely on the surface of the water to hunt for its prey.

This plant requires more light than the other types, which is why it is designed for advanced aquarium plant growers. In addition, you need to provide this plant with a unique diet that contains meat. You must consider this before introducing the plant to your aquarium, especially if you have fish that do not eat meat. Your waterwheel plant will need to be fed things like tadpoles, snails, daphnia, mosquito larvae, and insects.

21 Red Ludwigia

  • Scientific Name: Ludwigia repens
  • Level of Care: Beginner
Red Ludwigia
Photo by Vincent Lim Show Chen

Another popular choice, the Red Ludwigia is popular for its vibrant red foliage, which really stands out in the proper light. A stem plant, this one grows rapidly and will need to be pruned regularly. You can plant it in the substrate, ideally in large groups with others. It requires a moderate amount of light to avoid the shedding of leaves.

Set Up Your Aquarium For Success

Designing an aquarium doesn’t need to be stressful! There are plenty of ways you can make your aquarium a more hospitable place for your fish – as well as a more peaceful environment to look at. All you need to do is select one (or several!) of these perfect low-light aquarium plants and add them to our tank. This will create a lovely, healthy place for your fish to swim and thrive.

With the proper care, you can create a planted aquarium that will grow well for years on end.

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