The Best Live Freshwater Aquarium Plants For the Beginner

Live plants can be a wonderful addition to most any freshwater aquarium. They give the tank a much more natural look. They add color, depth, and character to the tank as well as offer hiding places for smaller or shy fish. Much like the fish for your tank though, some plants are easier to take care of, while others may be too challenging for the novice to maintain.

The following is a list of some common, (generally) easy-to-maintain plants that are well suited for the novice aquarium hobbyist. Of course there are far more out there, and these are just a few that are readily available, relatively inexpensive, and very hardy to boot.

On the following list, the scientific name is included because of the wide misuse of the common names; it will just help you to know that you are getting the right plant. In no particular order, here are some plants for you to consider:

  • Elodea or Anachris (egeria densia) – One of the most common aquarium plants, it has small leaves that are densely packed along the stem. In ideal conditions it is a very fast grower. Elodea can tolerate temps as low as 45-50 degrees and pH’s from 5.0-9.0 so it can survive in places that your fish can’t. It does need good light, though.
  • Italian Val (vallisneria spiralis) – Very popular because it is highly adaptable to a broad range of light and water conditions. With more light and food it can be a fast grower with long, ribbon-like leaves reaching the surface of the tank. Once established, it can be split into more plants for your tank.
  • Anubias (anubias) – This plant stays shorter, but has large, broad leaves. It is easy to grow, and is tolerant of wide temperature ranges, water hardness, and lower light. And it is usually not a problem for it to be shaded by other plants.
  • Crypt (cryptocoryne) – Another plant that can handle lower light conditions and is not overly particular about water conditions. There are many varieties of Crypt; most are medium-height plants with finger-like leaves.
  • Amazon Sword (echinodorus) – Perhaps the most common aquatic plant found in pet stores and fish shops, the Amazon Sword is a favorite for good reason. It comes in numerous varieties and sizes, and like the other members of this list, it is a very hardy, generally easy to grow plant.
  • Hornwort (ceratophyllum) – A floating plant with a dense, almost feathery leaf structure, it is a nice addition to the planted aquarium. Hornwort is especially good for tanks with small fish or livebearers like guppies (that sometimes reproduce seemingly by magic) because it provides excellent cover for the smaller residents of the tank.

Again, this is just a starter list of aquatic plants, but it covers a good size range, different leaf shapes, and multiple color variations. Also, the plants on the list are generally inexpensive which is especially good for someone making their first foray into live freshwater aquarium plant care.