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The Best Plants for Your Freshwater Aquarium

There may be nothing more beautiful than a mix of healthy fish and beautiful live plants coexisting in one tank. But plants don’t just provide visual interest—they can also add to the overall health of an aquarium. Plants give fish a secure hiding place, provide natural spawning sites, and can even improve a tank’s water quality. Here are some of the best plants for a freshwater tank—they are also relatively easy to care for, so they make great plants for beginners.

  • Downoi or “Little Star” (Pogostemon helferi): This star-like plant with crinkled leaves is easy to keep—it prefers bright light but will thrive in lower-light conditions. It grows to about 4 inches (10 cm) and may need some iron supplementation.
  • Dwarf Sag (Sagittaria subulata): This fast-growing plant requires only medium light to thrive. It grows to about 3 inches (7.5 cm) long, although it can get as high as 6 inches (15 cm). Once in a while, the stems will grow to the surface and produce tiny white flowers.
  • Floating Watermoss (Salvina natans): This fern, which prevents algae and reproduces quickly, floats on top of the aquarium. Because it blocks bright light from coming into the tank, it’s not the best choice for a very advanced aquarium. Liquid fertilizer should be used to help keep it healthy.
  • Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus): This plant may be the “star” for any beginner freshwater aquarist because it is extremely hardy and quite hard to kill. It grows about 8 inches (20 cm) tall and has medium to dark green leafy spikes. Java fern only requires moderate light and does not need any soil—it attaches its rhizomes to just about any rough surface, including bark, rocks, or driftwood.
  • Water Clover (Marsilea hirsuta): This water fern, which is shaped like a four-leaf clover, is easy to keep—there’s not much maintenance required. It grows to about 4 inches (10 cm). The water clover thrives best in bright light but will do fine in low to medium light.
Even with these easy-to-keep water plants, it’s still important to find the best fit for your particular aquarium. Variety in light intensity, pH, temperature, and water hardness will all have an effect on the plants you choose. However, with some research, it is possible to outfit your freshwater tank with hardy, fantastic-looking foliage.