Best Beginner Plants For Freshwater Aquarium

Last Updated: 9th November 2018

Plants are a must have in any freshwater aquarium set-up, if you wish to see all the natural beauty it can provide for your home or office. Sure, an aquarium without them looks very good as well, but nothing compares to the lively and natural feel that plants provide. But beautiful natural feel is not the only reason to grown natural plants in your tank. And yes, growing plants can be fun as well. There are people who own an aquarium just for the plants alone!

Aquarium plants provide natural filtration of the water and help keep the fish healthy. They are also great for breeding purposes. Not only that, but your fish will use the plants for safety, food and comfort. So they are very important, if you wish to keep your fish as happy as possible. Aquarium plants can be put into the aquarium from the moment you have set-it up. Unlike fish.

Plants usually have a lifespan of 1-5 years and constant lighting is required for the aquarium plants to grow. But you should do your research about the plants as well. Some plants require more care, some less. I am going to introduce you to a list of the best freshwater aquarium plants for beginners, so you will now where to get started with growing plants in your aquarium.

But before we get started, you should know - there are three types of aquarium plants:

  • Foreground plants.

These are the plants you want to put at the front of the tank. They are short and grow faster than the other types. They are there for the natural look and won’t hide away anything in you fish tank. Sometimes foreground plants are referred as carpet plants, because they tend to spread throughout the bottom of the tank, rather than growing upwards. Foreground plants are the best for water quality, as they tend to grow very fast.

  • Mid-ground plants.

These plants tend to grow taller than the foreground plants. They are still not big enough to up a lot of room and provide great aesthetic value to your aquarium. These are great central aquarium plants. They look great in the middle or at the very sides of the aquarium.

  • Background plants.

Now these plants will most likely grow to the height of your aquarium and should be put at the very back of it. They create a natural backdrop and serve as a great place for your fish to hide, when they don’t want to be seen.

Beginner foreground aquarium plants.

Java Moss

Java Moss Aquarium

Java Moss is the easiest foreground aquarium plant you can grow in terms of maintenance. That probably is the reason it is the most popular aquarium plant as well. It has low to medium growth rate. It is a low light aquarium plant, so it doesn’t require installation of bright lights. All it requires is for your aquarium to have some kind of current (probably from filtration system), so it can receive the necessary nutrients. It grows the best in 70° to 75° Fahrenheit (21° to 24° Celsius), but can live in temperatures of 80° to 90°. Java moss is a great aquarium plant for breeders, because it can protect baby fish from predatory fish and also provide food for them. Shrimps like to feed on its miniature leaves.

Java Moss can grow on any surface, even non organic. As it is a floating aquarium plant, you need to tie it down with a string to any object you wish for it to attach to. After about a month you can safely remove the string.

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Dwarf Hairgrass

Dwarf hairgrass

This another very popular freshwater aquarium plant. It is very versatile, but is mostly used as a carpet plant. It contrasts very well with dark soil. It grows very fast, so it will require some maintenance from your side. This is definitely not a low light plant as it requires bright lighting for it to thrive. Dwarf Hairgrass grows best in 72° to 78° Fahrenheit, but it tolerates most of the temperatures very well. There are multiple ways of how to plant it, some are more advanced and will require more skill, but some are very well suited for beginners as well. Many people like to use Dwarf Hairgrass as an accent in their aquariums, planting them in different places to accent some specific object.

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Dwarf Baby Tears

Dwarf baby tears

Dwarf Baby Tears is an easy to grow foreground aquarium plant. Another popular choice between both beginner and advanced aquarists. This is probably one of the smallest aquarium plants out there, its height reaches somewhere around 1.5 inches. It is great for creating a lush flora for the bottom of your aquarium. It has pretty high growth rate and needs more attention than other plants, because it will die out, if left unattended. It prefers temperatures between 70° to 82° degrees and pH 5.0-7.5. You should also plant it in a soil that is rich in nutrients and minerals, especially iron. It is recommended to use fertilization as well, if you wish for the lush effect it can provide. This is not a low light plant, so it requires medium to high lighting. This probably is not the best choice, if this is your first time taking care of an aquarium and you wish to spend as little time as possible taking care of your plants. But if you are ready to invest some time and care, the result definitely will be very satisfying.

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Best central and background aquarium plants.

Amazon Sword

Amazon Sword is one of the best beginner choice as the central aquarium plant. It an easy to care plant and requires low to moderate lighting. It grows with large, broad leaves that will give the most natural look for any aquarium. In height, it can reach up to 20 inches, so note that it can overgrow very small fish tanks without proper trimming. It can also be used as a background plant. It should be planted in loose substrates. One thing that differs this freshwater aquarium plant from others, it will grow extremely well without any CO2 additions. It thrives in temperatures between 72°-82° Fahrenheit and pH levels of 6.5-75. This hardy and low maintenance plant is a great choice for beginners.

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Anubias Barteri

Anubias Barteri

Anubias Barteri is probably the easiest plant to grow for beginners, because it ir extremely hardy. Anubias will grow up to 16 inches and it grows slower than most of the other popular aquarium plant types. Anubias rarely is planted into substrate, mostly it is attached to stones, driftwood or other decorations until it sets its roots in. While fertilizers, excellent lighting and CO2 supplementation will improve its growth, it can grow in any conditions pretty well. Anubias has so low light requirements, that tt can even grow fine in long stretches of darkness. The optimal temperature is 72° to 82° Fahrenheit and pH level of 6.5-75.

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Java Fern

Another good aquarium plant choice for beginners is Java Fern. It is a low maintenance plant and will grow very well in even the most basic aquariums like a weed spreading across all of it. This is another plant that won’t die unless you intentionally try to kill it. It can be planted anywhere - driftwood, rocks or substrate will do fine. It usually grows up to 13 inches in height. This is a plant that does not enjoy strong lighting. If the lighting is too strong, the leaves will start to turn brown. It can even thrive with fluorescent bulbs or the very basic aquarium lighting. One thing it does require is fertilization, because it doesn’t have “true” roots. Optimal temperature is 72° to 80° Fahrenheit and pH level of 6-8. The tank should be at minimum of 10 gallons for Java Fern.

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Jungle Vallisneria

Jungle Vallisneria

Jungle Vallisneria is one of the best choice as a background aquarium freshwater plant for beginners. It features really long and thin leaves which are green in color and come to a point at the end. This is one of the earliest plants used in home aquariums and remains a popular choice to this day. Jungle vals are submerged and root deeply into substrate, so this is a great choice if you have fish who like to dig in your aquarium. They will do fine in gravel or sand. Although, they thrive in high lighting, they will adjust and do well in moderate lighting as well. They require no additional CO2, but will benefit from it, if added. They prefer temperatures of 64–82° Fahrenheit and pH levels of 6.0 to 9.0. One thing to note, is to never cut its leaves, because then they will just rot away. As this freshwater plant usually reaches around 6 feet, it is recommended to have an aquarium of at least 29 gallons.

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Hope you found this list and aquarium plant tips I provided useful. Now, depending on the size of your aquarium, choose the plants that you think will look the best and go for them! This will be a very good starting point to get started into aquascaping. Every freshwater plant in the list is very suitable for both beginners and more advanced aquarists. Well, maybe except for Dwarf Baby Tears, as it is more difficult to maintain it. Do not pick it unless you are ready for a challenge. For beginenrs, I recommend Java Moss as the top beginner foreground plant. Mentioned mid-ground and background plants are very hardy and easy to maintain, so you can pick any of them without worries. If you found this useful, share it with your friends, maybe they would join you on this journey as well? Good luck aquascaping!

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