Top 5 Midground Plants to Balance Your Planted Aquarium


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. Taller plants at the back and shorter ones up front make tanks look more balanced. The dramatic height differences between the two are not always visually appealing. Aquascapers use medium-sized plants in the middleground to visually transition from the tallest plants at the back to the shortest plants in front. This creates a more natural-looking and visually balanced aquascape as the plants appear layered or stacked.

These images show the difference. The photo to the left shows a small carpeting species in front and a tall stem in the back. They are both visually attractive by themselves. However, the stark height difference creates a shadow in central tank which draws the eye to that area. The photo on the right uses similar plants: a short carpeting species in front and tall stem plants in the background. In addition, this tank includes plants of medium height in the middle. The result is a more balanced appearance as the eye is gently drawn up from the front to the middle and up to the tallest plants in the back. The result also looks more natural because plants are mixed in nature.

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

Let us help you get started by introducing you to the top five categories of midground plants that can enhance the beauty and appeal of your aquarium.

1. Anubias Plants

Anubias plants

Anubias nana (or Anubias barteri var. Anubias barteri var. nana, a moderately sized Anubias plants, is the ideal choice for the middleground of an aquarium. What’s even more appealing about this plant is that it prefers to be attached to wood and rock, which are usually placed around the middle of the tank. Anubias Nana grows from a horizontal stem, called a Rhizome. It will send its leaves upwards. You can expect a bushy and full growth even in 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. Anubias golden, Anubias copper coin, Anubias teafolia, and Anubias green coffee are other Anubias species of similar size that can be used in place of Anubias.

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. The bright green leaves will add visual impact to the aquarium, but it won’t shade out any plants at the back.

If you are looking for more variety, java fern ‘Windelov’ offers a bit more texture due to the lace-like tips of its leaves. This java fern is smaller than the standard Java fern and can be used in small aquascapes as a middleground plant.

3. Cryptocoryne Plants

Cryptocoryne plants as midground plants

Because of their compact growth pattern and small leaves, Cryptocoryne, wendtii’s different colors – such as green, reddish brown, and even pink– make great midground plants. They are medium in height and quite leafy once established. This makes them a great addition to any aquarium. They add visual flair to any aquarium with their wavy, crinkled texture and a variety of color options.

Crypt lucens

Cryptocoryne lucens is a beautiful, narrow-leafed crypt which doesn’t get more than a few inches tall when fully grown. Overall, this plant seems underused, but it makes an ideal midground plant in aquascaping. It doesn’t get overly large compared to many other crypt species, and its slender leaves provide a delicate textural transition from the front of the tank to the back. The plant appears to be thick grass or reeds once it’s grown in.

4. Baby Tears

Micranthemum umbrosum

The baby tears plant is a good midground plant. However, it needs to be trimmed frequently to keep it tidy. This plant has delicate stems and round, green leaves. The plant will appear bushy and shorter if it is cut off at the tips. Baby tears can continue to grow if left alone. It is technically a stem-plant. Its delicate, round, and elegant leaves make a wonderful midground texture if they are kept well pruned.

5. Dwarf Chain Sword

Helanthium tenellum

Dwarf chain sword, or pygmy chain sword, is always a great choice because it is one of the easier grassy plants that grows quickly to create a lawn-like appearance. It is able to fill in any gaps in the aquarium, and it can grow to several inches in height without needing trimming. This makes it an excellent choice for the middle of most medium-sized aquariums. It is more visually appealing than other foreground grass species like micro sword and dwarf hairgrass because it has longer leaves.

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.