Our 5 Favorite Aquarium Plants That Everyone Should Try
If you have ever tried to buy live aquatic plants online, it can be a bit overwhelming when looking at all the different species, care requirements, and difficulty levels. At Aquarium Co-Op, we strive to provide a curated selection of the easiest, hardiest plants in the hobby, but sometimes it can be nice to just talk to someone at the store and get a few personal recommendations. That’s why we interviewed our CEO Cory McElroy to find out what his current favorite plants are that he thinks everyone should try.
1. Dwarf Sagittaria
One of Cory’s favorite plants has always been vallisneria, but because it can grow up to 4-6 feet (1-2 m) long, it is more suitable for larger tanks. Another grass-like plant is dwarf sagittaria. It will grow between 3 and 8 cm in high lighting, and 18 to 45 cm in low lighting. Even if one plant is purchased, it can reproduce quickly using underground runners. These will fill in the aquarium’s bottom. Dwarf sagittaria likes to feed from its roots, so make certain you provide it with Easy Root Tabs or nutrient rich tank substrate.
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. Don’t worry, just take the plant out of its plastic pot and place the roots in the substrate. Make sure to not cover the base of your plant’s leaves. Soon enough the long, emersed leaf will begin to melt and new, shorter, skinnier leaves will emerge. 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
Looking for an easy-to-grow, centerpiece plant to wow everyone who visits your home? The dwarf aquarium lily is a fast-growing bulb plant with beautiful, red leaves and lily pads that form up top. It is able to thrive even in low light conditions. This plant is commonly used as a background plant to cover rear tank walls with lush foliage.
Aquarium Co-Op will send you a bulb with peat moss if you order your lily. The bulb should be rinsed off and placed on top of the soil. It may initially float, so let the bulb soak in the water until it 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 the bulb doesn’t sprout, flip it upside-down. After the plant has become rooted and large, ensure that you provide lots of Easy Root tabs. You can find detailed instructions in our care sheet for dwarf aquariums lilies.
3. Cryptocoryne Wendtii
The Cryptocoryne (or “crypt”) genus is very popular for its low light requirements as well as slow, steady growth that doesn’t require much pruning. Crypt wendtii, a variety of color options, is one of our most popular species. These include crinkly, green and even pink leaves. It typically reaches 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) in height, so many people use it as a midground plant, depending on the size of the aquarium. You can bury the roots, but keep the crown, or base of your leaves, above the ground. To encourage healthy growth, feed it root tabs and enriched substrate. Your crypt might eventually start to produce new plantlets from its rootbase. 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. While the plant can handle low light conditions, the uppermost leaves can produce a stunning purple color in higher lighting. As with most stem plants, it grows very tall and very quickly, making it the perfect background plant.
To plant Pogostemon Stellatus, take the rock wool stems out of the pot and place them in the substrate as deep as you can to keep them from being 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 is a cross between A. barteri nana and A. gilletii and grows up to 6-12 inches (15-30cm) in height. It seems to be very hardy, even compared with other Anubias species.
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. A healthy anubias plant has a rhizome (or thick horizontal stem) that grows sideways, sprouting bright green leaves that eventually turn a deeper green color 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. Check out our reviews and real-life photos of each species. Plus, if your plants do not arrive in good condition because of shipping reasons, contact us and we’ll make sure to take care of you.