9 Best Freshwater Aquarium Plants for Beginners 28

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Best Freshwater Aquarium Plants

If you are looking for a way to decorate your first aquarium, using natural plants (instead of artificial) may be your best option. Your fish will thank you as they swim freely in the midst of their beautiful aquarium paradise. Read ahead to learn more.

Freshwater aquarium plants can be used in a variety of ways:

  • Natural aquarium carpet
  • Hiding places for fish
  • Concealing aquarium fixtures
  • Balance the aquarium environment

General Considerations

When setting up your aquarium for the first time, you want to choose plants that are hardy and low-maintenance. The best freshwater aquarium plants will be green.

Green plants generally don’t require as much direct sunlight. Too much sunlight may cause excess algae growth which will negatively impact the aquarium environment. This could result in the need for more maintenance and cleaning from you.


The 10 Best Plants for Your Freshwater Aquarium

Carpet Plants

Carpet plants are smaller and tend to spread out rather than grow tall. They provide an attractive green carpet for your aquarium.

1WaterWisteria#1 Water Wisteria

Water Wisteria grows fast, quickly adding depth and beauty to your freshwater aquarium. It needs minimal maintenance, which makes it a fuss free plant to have.

  • Appearance: Tall lace-like green leaves.
  • Water Temperature: 74°F – 82°F.
  • Lighting: Medium lighting.
  • Function: Carpet plant in the front, lining the floor of the aquarium.


Java Moss Freshwater Aquarium#2 Java Moss

Java moss is quite popular for freshwater aquariums. It is low-maintenance and tends to grow onto driftwood and rocks.

  • Appearance: Fuzzy and green on the bottom of the aquarium.
  • Water Temperature: Tolerates 70°F – 90°F, but grows the best in 70°F – 75°F.
  • Lighting: All kinds of lighting.
  • Function: Bottom-covering; protection of baby fish; secondary food source for baby fish.


Lilaeopsis#3 Lilaeopsis

Lilaeopsis resembles grass and grows up to 2 inches tall. It spreads fast, often along the entire aquarium floor. It may need to be pruned periodically if it is invading other plants.

  • Appearance: Green, grasslike
  • Water Temperature: 74°F – 85°F
  • Lighting: Medium light
  • Function: Aquarium floor covering; hiding place for baby fish

Plants for the Mid-ground and Background

Background plants hide fixtures and provide hiding places for your freshwater fish. The following are some of the best plants for this purpose:

Amazon Sword#4 Amazon Sword

The Amazon Sword plant has leaves that resemble swords. It can grow to be up to 20 inches tall and is ideal for the back of the aquarium. Often they are planted in groups in the back of the aquarium.

  • Appearance: Green, tall sword-like leaves in bunches.
  • Water Temperature: 72°f – 82°F
  • Lighting: Moderate lighting.
  • Function: Background decoration; hiding place for fish.


African Water Fern

#5 African Water Fern

The African Fern is versatile, good for background or foreground. It is often used in the background and needs low maintenance, thriving in most conditions.

  • Appearance: Lush feathery green leaves.
  • Water Temperature: 68°F – 80°F
  • Lighting: Low lighting, shade.
  • Function: Covering; decoration in the background; hiding place for fish.


Java Fern#6 Java Fern
Java Fern is very popular since it is low maintenance and very beautiful. It can be used in just about any area of the aquarium.

  • Appearance: Long green leaves in bunches.
  • Water Temperature: 68°F – 82°F
  • Lighting: Low to medium light.
  • Function: Background decoration; hiding place for fish.



Green Tiger Lotus

#7 Green Tiger Lotus

Green Tiger Lotus is a wide-leaf variety that needs very little maintenance. Average environmental conditions help this plant thrive.

  • Appearance: Wide, green leaves, medium height.
  • Water Temperature: 71°F – 82°F
  • Lighting: Moderate
  • Function: Great hiding place for fish; background decoration.


Anubias Nana#8 Anubias Nana

This plant may grow to 6 inches and has dark leaves. It needs very little care, and is ideal for the beginner.

  • Appearance: Medium sized, oval leaves that are dark green.
  • Water Temperature: 72°F – 82°F
  • Lighting: Moderate lighting.
  • Function: Beautiful throughout the aquarium.


Cryptocoryne Beckettii

#9 Cryptocoryne Beckettii

Just like the other plants, Cryptocoryne is very easy to care for and a beautiful addition to your aquarium.

  • Appearance: Medium, pointed leaves that are mostly green with a reddish hue.
  • Water Temperature: 68°F – 86°F
  • Lighting: very low – high
  • Function: Decoration; hiding place for fish.


When you are searching for beautiful, low-maintenance plants to decorate your aquarium, try one of these suggestions. With daily, easy care, they will flourish and brighten your aquarium. Add your favorite fish varieties and enjoy!

Remember, these plants flourish best at room temperature or slightly above. You may need a light or heater to be sure the water temperature stays in an ideal range. You can find all you need in your local pet shop or right here on Home Aquaria *shameless plug*.

About Dennis Hanson

Dennis is an experienced aquarist with many years of knowledge and experience in keeping successful tanks. He also has no relations to the pop group Hanson.

28 thoughts on “9 Best Freshwater Aquarium Plants for Beginners

  1. Reply christina Jan 10,2014 3:08 pm

    hey there. this is a great article. i am wondering about plants for mini aquariums, or aquarium/terranium. know of any?



  2. Reply Wishkah Jan 28,2014 4:53 pm

    I’m a complete beginner. Going to set up a simple tank for my son to watch (unheated with guppies or similar). I was browsing online and came across something called a Marimano ? Moss ball?
    I’m more into gardening than pets, so I’m wondering if I could add a live plant to the mix? Would you recommend trying to get a plant set up in tank for a few weeks before adding fish? And do you have any experience with these “moss balls” that are advertised as easy?
    (How’s that for a pile of questions? Hah) thank you in advance.

    • Reply Dennis H. Feb 15,2014 2:02 pm

      Hi Wishkah,

      I suggest to add live plants before adding fishes. Live plants usually help to keep the aquarium healthier.

      Make sure that the substrate is rich in minerals. If you add live plants you should add ilumination to the aquarium, make sure you have enough light. I´ve kept Marimo (Algae balls) and it´s really easy to keep, just make sure to roll them many times per week, that ensures they stay circular and growing. If they stay under shades too much, they might die faster. Just be cautious of that.

      Hope that helps.


    • Reply Paula F Dec 22,2015 11:14 pm

      Guppies, like all tropical fish, need heated water. If you want cold water, you need cold water fish, like goldfish. Goldfish often eat plants, they eat a lot and make a lot of waste. I’ve had a moss ball for 7 years and have never rolled it. It is round and green all the way around, it’s really cute! Sometimes it rolls on its own in the current from the filter, but not much.

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  4. Reply boo radley May 21,2014 12:50 am

    hi dennis,
    found this website by accident, enjoyed reading it. I have a 40 gallon tank, no fluorescent light and no substrate but I want to put some easy plants to make the tank look interesting. any suggestions?

  5. Reply Mark Nov 2,2014 5:13 am

    Hi Dennis,
    What’s your pro/cons thoughts on keeping anacharis and moneywort as plants in a freshwater tank?…i’ve become pretty good at propagating the moneywort….i’ve been wanting to try amazon sword or java fern as background plants….i have a 36 gal bowfront. thanks!

  6. Reply Timmy Nov 21,2014 3:16 pm

    Hi christina, I’ve just started my first aquascape, i think i know what your looking for. most mosses are great for that! little to no care, just some water and little light. java moss is the easiest to get a hold of, but christmas moss, flame moss and most others. microswards and dwarf hairgrass can give it a more grassy look too. look up “moss trees” its drift wood and you can add any of the mosses i listed to the top of it and it will look like miniature trees.

  7. Reply tom deschler Jan 7,2015 12:02 am

    I noticed on your list of easy growing plants that pH is not listed. Is pH a factor… ie is it ok to use tap water or do I need to use something else?

  8. Reply Hector Cortes Jan 30,2015 9:04 pm


    Great site! I am enjoying reading about the possibility to add more plants into my 55 gallon tank. I have the Anubias Nana, which was doing great at one point but now is covered with algae. I am adding a chemical, which name I don’t recall (I am at work right now) and it seems to be getting rid of the algae from the glass of the tank and some of the other rocks within the tank. Now, the question I have is how many plants can I introduce at one time? I know I usually add no more that two species of fish and no more than 10 fishes at a time in a tank. But have never heard anything about plants. Is there a number to begin with or can I add 10 at a time? Your advice will greatly appreciated.


    Hector Cortes, Chicago.

  9. Reply Renee M. Feb 15,2015 12:44 am

    I also have a problem with algae on my Anubias. I have a heavily planted 39g acrylic tank with Fluval Planted LED lighting and an API canister filter. I originally kept the lights on for ten hours a day. It seems the problem started when I started usdung CO2. One bubble per second on the bubble counter. I cut the lighting back to eight hours. Didn’t help much. Now I am not using CO2. I am starting to think the Fluval spectrum is too efficient, if that is possible.
    I have 7 cardinals, 5 rummy nose tetras, 4 Pearl Gourami’s, 4 Sunset Gourami’s, 3 Siamese Algae Eaters, 1 Bristlenose Pleco and 3 Amano shrimp.
    My water is hard, pH 7, ammonia nil, nitrite nil and nitrate at acceptable level. I have a good supply of water Wysteria, Marble Sword, Melon Sword and Val besides the Nano and Coffeefolia(sp) Anubias.
    Can anyone tell me what I am doing wrong? I specifically went with the Fluval LEDs because the were low in the yellow/green spectrum. I do have a led volcano that comes on when the lights go out and the moon lights come on. Help please.

  10. Reply Siddhesh May 16,2015 9:45 pm

    hi i have some gappies in my tank i have some plastic artificial plants in my tank and now i want to add soe original plants but i dont want to add any thing like gravels substrate only plants floating also ok i cant spend more i am a normal 16 Year old guy so all i can buy on my pocket money so plz suggest a plant which only lives in fresh water and does not need any thing else

  11. Reply quiver Jun 5,2015 1:38 pm

    Hi, do amazon sword plants and java moss grow on small gravel alone?

  12. Reply quiver Jun 5,2015 1:41 pm

    Hi, can amazon sword plants and java moss grow on small gravel alone?

  13. Reply Dakota Winds Jun 11,2015 6:17 pm

    Having had an aquarium or 30 going at one time my whole life I was surprised to see Java Moss listed as a beginners plant. I disagree, I would never recommend the stuff for an aquarium let alone a beginner. Java moss requires a lot of maintenance from pruning frequently to pieces coming loose and plug up filter systems. I would have included vals (corkscrew etc) as a good beginners plant and adds a whole new dimension to the tank ambiance, but should be noted it is usually placed in larger (taller) tanks though I have used them in 10 gallon tanks and trimmed as needed.

  14. Reply Renee Jul 1,2015 10:53 pm

    How do you keep some plant,especially mosses from coming up out of the substrate?

  15. Reply Ethan Jan 31,2016 12:28 am

    are there any plants that can live without a filter. My parents won’t let me get more animals, but I like plants so I want some aquatic plants to grow. I’m to cheap to buy a filter though. ( to be clear I’m not planning on putting any fish with the plants )

  16. Reply Evan Feb 1,2016 3:16 am

    I’m a completed beginner to the plant side of having an aquarium. I have a 25 gallon freshwater tank and would like to know what plants I should get to cover up my aquarium appliances. Also would like to put Java moss in the foreground. I don’t have full spectrum lighting but it does sit near a window that gets quite a lot of light in the morning.

  17. Reply Robert Mar 5,2016 11:16 pm

    Had looked into Lava Moss as well as duckweed, dwarf tears and one called HC for the oxygenating bubbles. That was a great read and will serve us well in the next few weeks. Thank you :)

  18. Reply Sam Apr 6,2016 12:17 pm

    Is Rice Paddy Herb safe for Aquarium fish like Blue Ram?

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  20. Reply Miri Jul 22,2016 6:35 pm

    Hi, I have a 36 Gal tank and don’t want to put any soil or substrate. I have both gravel and sand because of my Clown Loaches I purchased 3 moss balls which sit on the bottom and occasionally get rolled around and have some Anubis (4 small plants) floating at the top of some fake plants. My aquarium stays cloudy and I’m wondering if I need more plants? Thank you

  21. Reply michael Sep 21,2016 4:53 pm

    I have a problem with green algae ever since I replaced my light system I am having green algae problem I have no live plants and thinking of getting some but not sure what to get and will it help solve my problem

    • Reply Snazzy Jacket May 23,2017 9:12 am

      Nerite snails. Some other type of snail and/or a timer for your light.I had algae even with live plants, but it was near direct sunlight. When I moved I had the tank in a location where I could control the light better and it went away.

  22. Reply Deadsprat Oct 27,2016 9:38 pm

    I just read article the “9 Best Freshwater Aquarium Plants for Beginners.”

    I am such a novice that all I really know is that the substrate goes on the bottom and the water goes on the top.

    I have just purchased a 180 gallon – 72” X 24” x 24” freshwater aquarium.

    I know that everyone’s time is limited but could someone recommend how many of each of these plants that I would need to purchase from Home Aquaria to make my tank look well planted?

    After the planting proves successful, I will add some Cardinal Tetras.

    The Deadsprat

  23. Reply Sunny Connor Nov 5,2016 4:52 pm

    Hi guys…i am planning to have plants in my shrimp breeding tank…this tank is only 9 inches in height and 1 feet in length,help me with small plants…,low light ones….

  24. Reply Dennis Apr 4,2017 10:26 am

    Hi Dennis..

    Thank you for wonderfull information..carry on..the article worth me lot..

    Thank You.


  25. Reply Azalia Jan 2,2018 1:30 am

    I gust got a bata and a five gallon tank and
    am looking for plants and maybe some friends
    so if one of you has eneay suggestions pleas let me now.
    Thank you

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