Our 5 Favorite Aquarium Plants That Everyone Should Try
It can be overwhelming to try to purchase live aquatic plants online. There are so many species and different care requirements. Aquarium Co-Op strives to offer a carefully curated selection that includes the most difficult and hardiest plants. However, it is sometimes nice to talk to someone in person to get some personal recommendations. We interviewed Cory McElroy, our CEO, to learn his top picks and recommend them to everyone.
1. Dwarf Sagittaria
One of Cory’s favorite plants has always been vallisneria, but because it can grow up to 4-6 feet (1-2 m) long, it is more suitable for larger tanks. Another grass-like plant is dwarf sagittaria. It will grow between 3 and 8 cm in high lighting, and 18 to 45 cm in low lighting. Even if you only buy one plant, it can quickly reproduce using a string of underground runners that will fill in the bottom of your aquarium. Dwarf sagittaria likes to feed from its roots, so make certain you provide it with Easy Root Tabs or nutrient rich tank substrate.
The dwarf sagittaria plant is often grown emersed (without its leaves in water) at plant farms. This means that the plant you order may not have the same shape as the photos. Not to worry – just remove the plant from the plastic pot and plant the roots in the substrate, making sure not to cover the base of the plant’s leaves. Soon enough the long, emersed leaf will begin to melt and new, shorter, skinnier leaves will emerge. A second way to plant dwarf Sagittaria is to place the entire plastic basket in an Easy Planter decoration. The root tab can be stuck inside the rock wool. The decoration protects the plant from being uprooted by fish so that it can start growing new leaves and carpeting the ground with little, grassy tufts.
2. Dwarf Aquarium Lily
You are looking for a stunning centerpiece plant that will wow all who visit your home? The dwarf aquarium villi is a bulb that quickly grows with bright red leaves and lily pads. It thrives even in low light conditions and is often used as a background plant to cover the rear tank wall with lush foliage.
If you order your lily from Aquarium Co-Op, you will receive a bulb covered in peat moss. Rinse off the loose peat moss and gently place the bulb on top of the ground. The bulb might initially flounder, but it will eventually sink if it is allowed to soak in the water. A cluster of shoots should grow from the bulb within one to three weeks. These will form new roots and leaves that will anchor it to the ground. If it does not, flip it over to see if it is upside down. When the plant is established and has grown to a large size, you should provide ample Easy Root tabs and nutrient-rich substrate for it to stay nourished. Our care guide for dwarf aquarium lilies contains detailed information.
3. Cryptocoryne wendtii
The Cryptocoryne genus (or “crypt” for short) is very popular because of its low light requirements, as well as its slow and steady growth that doesn’t require much pruning. Crypt wendtii, a variety of color options, is one of our most popular species. These include crinkly, green and even pink leaves. It typically reaches 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) in height, so many people use it as a midground plant, depending on the size of the aquarium. You can bury the roots, but keep the crown, or base of your leaves, above the ground. Feed it root tabs or enriched substrate to encourage healthy growth, and eventually your crypt may start producing new plantlets from its root base. If your crypt starts melting away, read our article on crypt melt for more help.
4. Pogostemon stellatus ‘octopus’
Pogostemon stellatus ‘octopus’
This spring-green-colored plant has a variety name because of the wispy long leaves that grow from each stem node. They resemble an octopus waving in water with its legs. Although the plant can withstand low light conditions, its uppermost leaves can develop a striking purple color under higher lighting. It is a perfect background plant because it grows fast and tall like most stem plants.
To plant your Pogostemon stellatus, remove the stems from the pot of rock wool and insert them as deeply as possible into the substrate to prevent them from getting uprooted. Dose the water with Easy Green all-in-one liquid fertilizer to provide all the nutrients they need to grow well. Cut the stems to the water surface. Then, replant the trimmings into the substrate. Once you have cultivated a dense forest of Pogostemon stellatus, they become the perfect hiding place for nano fish and baby fry.
5. Anubias nangi
Anubias plants are well-known in the aquarium hobby, but Anubias nangi is a newer addition to the family that features elongated, pointy leaves. This hybrid is a cross between A. barteri nana and A. gilletii and grows up to 6-12 inches (15-30cm) in height. It seems to be very hardy, even compared with other Anubias species.
You can attach your anubias to driftwood or rocks using super glue gel, or you can leave them in the plastic basket and place it inside an Easy Planter decoration. A. nangi, like most anubias is slow-growing and requires low light. It prefers liquid fertilizers such Easy Green. Anubias plants that are healthy have a rhizome, or thick horizontal stem that grows sideways. This produces bright green leaves that turn deeper green over time. If you have a smaller aquarium and do not want it to get overgrown too quickly, you can’t go wrong with A. nangi.
Check out our selection live aquarium plants for ideas on how to start your first (or twentyth) aquarium. Check out our reviews and real-life photos of each species. We will take care of your plants if they arrive damaged due to shipping issues.