Top 10 Aquarium Plants for Breeding Fish and Raising Fry
If you plan on breeding fish and want to increase the survival rate and growth of the babies, we love using live aquarium plants. They are beautiful and can be used as spawning grounds for parents to lay eggs. They need to be fed daily once the babies hatch. The plants also help grow microfauna so the fry can graze. The plants also filter the water and absorb the toxic chemicals from the fish. Some plants are especially good for raising fry, so we’ve listed our top 10 fluffy and dense plants that fish breeders always use.
1. Java Moss
A pair of pygmy Corydoras, resting on Java moss (Taxiphyllum Barbieri).
Because they are dense enough to cover baby fish and shrimp, java moss as well as Christmas moss, mosses such is their popularity. They also attract microorganisms and mulm for them to eat. Mosses are great for fish that have a tendency to scatter their eggs. The eggs can stick to the little tendrils of the mosses and the branches of their stems hide them from predators. Java moss, which is easy to grow and requires little substrate, is a great choice for beginners. You can attach it to a wire grid to make it look like a deep, fuzzy green carpet. Or wrap it around driftwood to give it a natural aged look. Just add a little Easy Green all-in-one fertilizer to keep it growing well.
2. Pogostemon stellatus ‘octopus’
Pogostemon Stellatus “octopus” is a fast-growing stem plants that can fill up your tank with enough nutrients and low to moderate lighting. The variation name “octopus” comes from its long, wispy leaves and branches that have a bright green color. The tentacle-like foliage can become very dense over time, creating pockets of space that only small fry can fit between while blocking out bigger predators.
This plant is originally grown out of water (or emersed) at the farm for faster production and therefore may have broader leaves than usual when you first receive it. These emersed-grown plants will eventually turn brown and will produce new, thinner leaves that can be submerged underwater. When plants arrive at our facility, we begin the process of converting them to their submerged form. If your Pogostemon stellatus is still half-converted when you get it, you can speed up the conversion process by floating the plant up at the surface at first to give it greater access to light and carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air.
3. Water Sprite
Water sprite is another fast-growing stem plant that is excellent at consuming excess nutrients to purify the water for fish and help prevent algae growth. It forms a tall, bushy mound when planted in the ground with fine, lacy foliage for shrimp and small fish to shelter themselves. The floating leaves are much more wide with rounded tips and grow thick roots that fish can use to lay eggs or graze on. It is similar to other stem plants and prefers to be fed from the water column. Easy Green liquid fertilizers are a good choice.
4. Guppy grass
This species comes from North and South America. While it can be planted in the substrate, many hobbyists grow it as a giant, floating mass of plant matter. Guppy grass is nearly impenetrable by adult fish because the stems produce closely spaced tufts of short, narrow leaves that interlock with each other. The branches break apart and propagate quite easily, but that also makes the plant harder to ship and not as suitable for high flow tanks.
5. Mayaca fluviatilis
Mayaca fluviatilis, a unique species that provides interesting textures to your planted aquarium, is the best choice. This South and Central American species has very fine, small leaves growing all along its stem, making it look like a yellow-green pipe cleaner. In fact, its fuzzy-looking leaves are reminiscent of mosses, which is why it has the common name “stream bogmoss.” While it is easy to care for, it does prefer medium lighting and liquid fertilizer to grow well. The stream bogmoss will quickly grow and provide a great hiding spot for shrimp and baby fish once it is established.
Planting vallisneria, or val, is a great way to add greenery to your aquarium. This background plant looks like a tall field of grass and can grow so high that it drapes over the top of the water, making a protective covering for fish to feel secure. Beginners love this plant because of its easy care, low light requirements, and ability to spread quickly. Vallisneria spreads by sending out runners, which each produce a baby flower at the end. The plantlets eventually become large enough to start their own runners. Once the val has spread all over the world and is well-established it is strong enough to withstand the nibbling by fish like African goldfish and cichlids.
7. Tripartita Hydrocotyle ‘Japan’
We love this unique plant because of its small, clover-shaped flowers and its ability spread its stringy stems along hardscape and substrate, much like creeping Ivy. It can be used as groundcover or draped on driftwood in the foreground. This species, unlike others on the list, thrives in moderate to high levels of light and would benefit from CO2 injection. Hydrocotyle tripartite Japan’s compact and bushier growth patterns are ideal for hiding baby fish and dwarf shrimp in high-tech aquariums. Replant the plants in the ground and trim any branches that grow too high for propagation.
8. Bolbitis Fern
Out of all of the epiphyte plants commonly sold in the aquarium hobby, bolbitis (or the African water fern) is one of the denser species because of its large, textured fronds. Bolbitis is slower to grow than many stem plants. However, once mature, it can turn into a huge, emerald green shrub which conceals small fish. This resilient plant does fine in waters with higher pH and GH and can be used in African cichlid, goldfish, and even monster fish tanks. Bolbitis has a horizontal, branch-like rhizome that should not be covered up, so do not bury it in the ground. You can attach it to driftwood, rock or with super glue gel or sewing thread. For more details on how to plant epiphytes (and other types of plants), check out our quick guide on planting methods.
9. Pearl Weed
Although it looks very similar to baby tear, pearl weed has oblong-shaped, longer leaves. Its small leaves and unkempt growth can serve to form a thick jungle for little creatures to reside within. We recommend that you leave the delicate stems of the pearl weed in its rock wool and dig a hole large enough to accommodate the entire pot in the substrate. This leaves the fragile roots of the pearl weed intact while the plant converts to its underwater, submerged form. This species does best under medium to high lighting and can grow upwards all the way to the surface, so you can keep it as a background plant or a midground plant with some trimming.
Floating plants with long, shaggy roots are excellent for concealing eggs, newborn fish, and other small creatures. Amazon frogbit is a favorite because of its round, green leaves which look similar to miniature lily pads. The roots can reach the substrate all the way and give the appearance of a upside-down forest. The frogbit propagates through runners and can easily be removed in large clumps.
A dwarf water lettuce alternative is available. It is a floating plant similar to the one described above. Floating plants can absorb toxic nitrogen chemicals very quickly. They also grow fast. They should not be allowed to cover the entire surface of the water. This could cause them to shade the plants below and decrease the level of dissolved oxygen.
These plants can increase the survival rate for fry, which will make you more successful in your next breeding venture. For more tips and tricks on spawning fish and raising fry, browse our collection of breeding articles.