Keeping fish alive is hard enough as it is — now you’re learning that you have to keep plants from dying, too?!

Yes, your aquarium needs some plant life in it. Plants keep the water oxygenated for your fish, help to clean out the tank, and make the whole place look nice. Unfortunately, though, some plants are incredibly tricky to grow.

That’s not true of the species on this list. Each plant listed in the reviews below is remarkably easy for even the most novice fish-keeper to grow, allowing you to brighten up your aquarium without needing a degree in botany to do it.

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A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Java Fern Java Fern
  • Slow-growing and easy to maintain
  • Very hardy
  • No extra CO2 necessary
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Bleheri Sword Bleheri Sword
  • Good for larger tanks
  • Can use shoots to grow other plants
  • Produces lovely flowers
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Anubia Nana Anubia Nana
  • Good for smaller tanks
  • Very budget-friendly
  • Offer hiding spaces to fish and invertebrates
  • Aponogeton Ulvaceus Bulb Aponogeton Ulvaceus Bulb
  • Good for owners who just want to buy a single plant
  • Does well in both soft and hard water
  • Tolerates all sorts of light levels
  • Staurogyne Repens Staurogyne Repens
  • Forms a dense carpet over the base of the tank
  • Can withstand many rookie mistakes
  • Pairs well with gravel
  • The 10 Best and Easiest Freshwater Aquarium Plants for Beginners – Reviews 2021

    1. Greenpro Java Fern

    Greenpro Anubias

     

    • Growth rate: Low to moderate
    • Max height: 5 inches
    • Light demands: Low to moderate
    • CO2: Minimal
    • Difficulty: Easy

    Java Ferns are hardy plants, capable of surviving in all kinds of water and with all kinds of fish. They also have a slow growth rate, so they’re unlikely to get away from beginners.

    These plants can grow fully or partially submerged, making them good choices for all sizes of tanks.
    This option from Greenpro comes with driftwood already attached, which means the plant will already have a food source with it.

    Regular filters provide plenty of oxygen for these plants, so there’s no need to add extra CO2. It’s perfectly suitable for basic tanks, too, so you don’t need to have a fancy setup to keep it alive.

    You will need to stay on top of keeping your tank clean, though, as they don’t do well in brackish waters. That’s one of the few ways you can kill a Java Fern.

    If you want a slow-growing plant that’s a born survivor, this Java Fern from Greenpro is an excellent choice.

    Pros
    • Slow-growing and easy to maintain
    • Very hardy
    • No extra CO2 necessary
    • Good for all types of tanks
    • Comes with driftwood attached
    Cons
    • Doesn’t do well in brackish water

    2. Aquarium Plants Discounts Amazon Bleheri Sword

    Aquarium Plants Discounts Amazon Bleheri Sword

     

    • Growth rate: Moderate to high
    • Max height: 18 – 20 inches
    • Light demands: Moderate to high
    • CO2: Minimal
    • Difficulty: Easy

    Amazon Bleheri Swords will generally grow to fit their tank, but they can get pretty massive under ideal conditions. If you’re trying to fill a large tank, they can help you do so.

    You will need to prune them regularly if you don’t want them to take over the entire aquarium, however, as they’ve been known to choke out other plants with their growth. Fortunately, this process is simple and easy, as it’s merely a matter of removing side shoots and older leaves.

    You can also take those shoots and use them to grow more of these plants if you like, making them an extremely cost-effective way to populate your tank. They’ll produce lovely flowers eventually as well, so you can create a beautiful scene inside your aquarium on the cheap.

    Other than regular pruning, there’s not much you need to do to keep these plants alive. They’re pretty much a set-and-forget solution, so they’re ideal for owners who let tank maintenance lapse every now and then.

    If you want a bigger plant that’s still easy to take care of, the Amazon Bleheri Sword is a good choice. As long as you stay up-to-date with your pruning, you should be able to handle everything this plant throws at you.

    Pros
    • Good for larger tanks
    • Can use shoots to grow other plants
    • Produces lovely flowers
    • Low-maintenance
    • Good for forgetful owners
    Cons
    • Can choke out other plants
    • Requires frequent pruning

    3. AquaLeaf Aquatics Anubia Nana

    AquaLeaf Aquatics Anubia Nana

     

    • Growth rate: Low
    • Max height: 5 inches
    • Light demands: Low to moderate
    • CO2: Low to moderate
    • Difficulty: Easy

    If you want a small, affordable plant that nevertheless does a good job of providing smaller animals refuge, then the AquaLeaf Aquatics Anubia Nana is worth a look.

    Despite their diminutive stature, these plants are actually quite sturdy. They can withstand a lot of abuse, so there’s no need to worry about handling them with kid’s gloves.

    That small stature makes them a natural choice for smaller tanks, though. They don’t grow very fast or very big, so they’ll be right at home in a little aquarium, but you can also line the bottom of a larger tank with these to create a beautiful array of colors.

    These plants are designed to stick into the substrate and line the lower levels of your tank, so you don’t have to worry about them floating to the surface. As such, they provide excellent cover for crabs, fish, and other small creatures.

    You may need to add occasional nutritional supplements to your tank if the plants aren’t growing, but for the most part, the Anubia Nana should get plenty of nutrients from the water.

    Pros
    • Good for smaller tanks
    • Very budget-friendly
    • Offer hiding spaces to fish and invertebrates
    • Quite sturdy
    • Can create a beautiful array of colors
    Cons
    • May need nutritional supplements

    4. Aquarium Plants Discounts Aponogeton Ulvaceus Bulb

    Aquarium Plants Discounts Aponogeton Ulvaceus Bulb

     

    • Growth rate: High
    • Max height: 12 inches
    • Light demands: Moderate
    • CO2: Low to moderate
    • Difficulty: Easy

    Originally hailing from Madagascar, the Aponogeton Ulvaceus is a fast-growing plant that can quickly take over your entire tank. That makes it a great choice if you simply want to buy a single species and then be done with it, but it could choke out all the other plant life in your tank along the way.

    This plant does well in both hard and soft water and grows especially well if you add in extra CO2. Each bulb can grow as many as 40 leaves, each of which is quite large, so if you let the thing blossom, it can really dominate your aquarium.

    Once fully grown, the bulb will become an extremely elegant plant, so it can give guests the impression that your skills are much more advanced than they are.

    They can do well with both low and high lighting situations, but beginners are better off keeping them in lower light. This limits their growth and reduces the amount of pruning necessary, making the Aponogeton Ulvaceus very low-maintenance indeed.

    Pros
    • Good for owners who just want to buy a single plant
    • Does well in both soft and hard water
    • Elegant-looking when mature
    • Tolerates all sorts of light levels
    • Each bulb can grow many leaves
    Cons
    • Can quickly choke out other plant life

    5. Aquarium Plants Discounts Staurogyne Repens

    Aquarium Plants Discounts Staurogyne Repens

     

    • Growth rate: Low
    • Max height: 4 inches
    • Light demands: Moderate to high
    • CO2: Low to moderate
    • Difficulty: Easy

    Staurogyne Repens is considered a foreground plant, which means that it forms a carpet over the entire base of your aquarium. It pairs well with other plants while also providing cohesion to your substrate and preventing it from becoming disheveled.

    It works especially well with gravel, and it’s a hardy plant that can withstand many rookie mistakes. It will give your tank a vibrant green pop, convincing visitors that you have a green thumb.

    Perhaps the biggest selling point about this species, though, is how much oxygen it adds back into the water. This will keep the water clean and clear, even if you’re a bit lax in your housekeeping efforts.

    This is a short plant, so even if it’s thriving, it will leave plenty of room in your tank for other plants and fish. However, be careful about how many you initially plant, as they can overcrowd one another, causing many of the less-established plants to die off.

    This plant also needs very specific water conditions in order to thrive, so it’s a bit finickier than some other options shown here. As long as you nail that part, though, your Staurogyne Repens should make you look like quite the talented aquarium keeper.

    Pros
    • Forms a dense carpet over the base of the tank
    • Can withstand many rookie mistakes
    • Pairs well with gravel
    • Leaves plenty of room for other plants
    • Keeps water clean and oxygenated
    Cons
    • Requires specific water conditions
    • Can overcrowd the tank if planted too densely

    6. Mainam Anubias Heterophylla

    Mainam Anubias Heterophylla

     

    • Growth rate: Low
    • Max height: 5 inches
    • Light demands: Low to moderate
    • CO2: Low to moderate
    • Difficulty: Easy

    If you want something that looks like an actual fern inside your aquarium, you can’t beat this Anubias Heterophylla from Mainam.

    You won’t need to do much to help it flourish, either. This is an extremely slow-growing plant, so the pruning needs are minimal, and it doesn’t require much in the way of light or added CO2.

    You will need to keep your tank clean, however, as the plant is sensitive to pollutants in the water. They also have relatively sizable nutrient needs, so if your plant doesn’t seem to be growing at all, you’ll need to change the substrate, add a nutritional supplement, or encourage algae growth to compensate.

    Fish tend to love the Anubias Heterophylla, as it provides them with ample hiding spots if they get spooked or need to escape their tankmates. They also provide plenty of shade, which many fish appreciate.

    Pros
    • Looks like an actual fern
    • Slow-growing and requires little pruning
    • Provides hiding spots for fish
    • Helps provide shade
    • Low CO2 and light needs
    Cons
    • Requires quite a bit of nutrition
    • Extremely sensitive to dirty water

    7. Aquarigram Amazon Frogbit

    Aquarigram Amazon Frogbit

     

    • Growth rate: Moderate to fast
    • Max height: 12 inches
    • Light demands: Moderate to high
    • CO2: None
    • Difficulty: Easy

    This Amazon Frogbit from Aquarigram is a floating plant known for its nearly-perfectly-round leaves. In addition to the bright green leaves, it can also produce gorgeous white flowers, giving the top of your tank quite the attractive display.

    You’ll need a big tank for this species, as they can grow quickly and take over a smaller aquarium in no time. They do best in warmer water, but they can tolerate the cold — it just slows their growth down a bit.

    There’s no need to add extra CO2 into the water, as this plant will have access to the outside air. You also don’t need to worry about adding substrate. They do need quite a bit of light, though.

    These plants are excellent at removing ammonia, nitrates, and heavy metals from the water, so they’ll make the habitat more hospitable to both fish and other plants.

    Pros
    • Beautiful appearance
    • Can handle almost any water temperature
    • No need for substrate
    • Requires no extra CO2
    • Removes lots of ammonia, nitrates, and heavy metals
    Cons
    • Requires a large tank
    • Has to have quite a bit of light

    8. Mainam Bacopa Monnieri MoneywortMainam Bacopa Monnieri Moneywort

     

    • Growth rate: Low to moderate
    • Max height: 13 inches
    • Light demands: Moderate to high
    • CO2: Low to moderate
    • Difficulty: Easy

    Bacopa Monnieri — also known as Moneywort — is a popular background plant, as it provides your tank with soothing accents without drawing attention away from your fish.

    You can either plant it in the substrate or allow it to float on the surface, as it does equally well either way. If you let it float, though, be prepared for it to take over the surface of the water (a trait that causes many people to confuse it with another plant, Creeping Jenny).

    This versatility gives you plenty of options in terms of placement, and you can really go wild decorating your tank with it. However, the plant needs plenty of light, so make sure you don’t put it in any dark corners.

    It’s an easy species to propagate, so you can buy a single plant and use it to populate the entire tank. This makes it a very cost-effective way to decorate, and it’s a great choice for beginners on a budget.

    Pros
    • Provides accents without drawing attention from fish
    • Can be planted or allowed to float
    • Gives plenty of placement options
    • Easy to propagate
    • Good budget option
    Cons
    • Requires lots of light
    • Can take over surface of water if allowed to float

    9. Red Mangrove Seedlings

    Red Mangrove Seedlings

     

    • Growth rate: Moderate to fast
    • Max height: 30 inches
    • Light demands: Moderate to high
    • CO2: Low to moderate
    • Difficulty: Easy

    If you have a big enough tank, Red Mangroves make an excellent decoration and are easy to take care of.

    These plants do well in outdoor ponds and hydroponic gardens, but you can also keep them in an aquarium if you give them enough vertical room to grow.

    These plants can tolerate just about kind of salinity, so you can plant them in fresh, salt, or brackish water. You can’t move them back and forth, though, so once they’re planted, they’re planted.

    It’s easy to convince your mangrove to take root, as they can thrive in virtually any substrate. They also do well without any substrate at all. The important thing is to make sure their leaves stay above water and the roots stay wet.

    The Red Mangrove’s pruning needs are minimal, but you do need to remove any fallen leaves as soon as possible, as they can affect nutrient levels as they decay.

    Pros
    • Work well in outdoor ponds and hydroponic gardens
    • Able to handle any kind of salinity
    • Takes root easily
    • Perfect for any kind of substrate
    • Easy to maintain
    Cons
    • Need a lot of vertical space

    10. Marino Moss Balls

    Marino Moss Balls

     

    • Growth rate: Low
    • Max height: 5 inches
    • Light demands: Low to moderate
    • CO2: Low
    • Difficulty: Easy

    Of all the plants on this list, Marimo Moss Balls may well be the easiest to take care of. You pretty much just have to toss them in the water and let them do their thing.

    Of course, there’s a bit of a trade-off for that ease of use, and that comes in their appearance. These things aren’t much to look at, so they won’t do much to beautify your tank.

    They have uses beyond their aesthetic appeal, however. They’re a great addition to any tank with shrimp, snails, or fish, as those animals love to munch on them.

    These little bundles of moss don’t need any sort of special tank or equipment, either. You can keep them in a bowl if you like, and they don’t require special lights or filters to survive. This is probably the hardest plant to kill that you’ll find anywhere.

    The one thing you’ll have to watch is the water temperature, as they prefer their surroundings to stay below 77°F. Beyond that, you’ll find Marimo Moss Balls to be the lowest-maintenance pets you’ve ever owned (well, unless you’ve owned a pet rock, that is).

    Pros
    • Extremely low-maintenance
    • Capable of surviving in any type of enclosure
    • Ideal for tanks with shrimp, snails, or fish
    • No special equipment needed
    • Difficult to kill
    Cons
    • Not the prettiest plants in the world

    Buyer’s Guide

    If you’re just starting out with your brand-new aquarium, you may find yourself overwhelmed by all the information you need to keep track of. Even choosing a few plants to include can seem daunting, as you have to keep track of lighting and oxygen needs, salinity levels, substrate types — the list goes on and on.

    Below, we’ve put together a brief buyer’s guide that will answer some of the most basic questions most beginners have about choosing plants for their aquariums. This guide won’t make you an expert, but it will hopefully help you to avoid making any particularly egregious mistakes.

    How Do I Decide Which Plants to Put Inside My Aquarium?

    There’s no single “right” answer to this question, but we feel that asking it is putting the cart before the horse.

    Instead of focusing on the plants, start with what else you’ll be keeping in the tank. If you have a particular fish in mind, they’ll have certain needs — a water temperature they prefer, for example, or substrate they enjoy digging in.

    Once you’ve decided on what else will be living inside your aquarium, you’ll have a good basis on which to pick plants. The fish will have certain plants that they enjoy, usually because they’re indigenous to the region that the fish came from. You should try to make your fish feel at home by giving them plenty of plants they’ll recognize.

    Beyond that, it’s largely a matter of personal preference, as well as finding species that will live inside the conditions you’ve established inside your tank.

    What About All the Different Substrates? Do Those Matter?

    Yes, they matter a great deal. Certain plants do better in certain types of substrates, and they may not grow at all if you put them in the wrong kind.

    Again, though, this is putting the cart before the horse. Start with the fish, then pick the plants the fish likes. From there, you can pick a substrate that will encourage growth in the plants you’ve selected.

    What Different Types of Plants Do I Have to Choose From?

    There are hundreds of different species, but they’re generally broken up into a few different categories:
    • Stem Plants: This type of vegetation is planted in the substrate, just like you’d plant something in a garden. However, they often won’t grow on their own when planted, so they’ll often be sold alongside a piece of rock or driftwood; you simply put the rock or wood on the floor of the tank and let the stem plant’s roots find their own way into the substrate.
    • Floating Plants: These plants don’t need substrate at all, as they float on the surface of the water. They also don’t need extra CO2, but they may have significant light needs. You won’t have to worry about trimming their roots, but they’ll often try to take over your entire tank if left to their own devices.
    • Rosette Plants: These plants often look like rose blossoms (hence the name), as they have a central bulb from which all growth occurs. They’re usually easy to maintain, but they can nevertheless provide you with some truly spectacular colors.
    • Bulbs and Tubers: These need to be planted whole in the substrate without being cut up first. They can grow quite tall, and they do a good job of pulling pollutants out of the water and replacing them with oxygen. You may need to provide extra nutrition for them, though.
    • Mosses and Ground Cover: These plants tend to cover the floor of the tank, carpeting the substrate. This keeps the substrate tightly packed and gives the entire aquarium a beautiful, vivid appearance, but they can also choke out other forms of plant life along the way.

    The above list isn’t exhaustive, but it should give you plenty of options to get started.

    hand arranging decorations in an empty aquarium_Krysja_shuttesrtock

    Credit: Krysja, Shutterstock

    How Do I Install My Plants?

    This depends largely on the type of plant you’re trying to install, as they all have different needs.

    Floating plants are the easiest — you just plop them in the tank and watch them bob along on the water’s surface. They’re extremely low maintenance, but you may have to work to keep them from taking over.

    Other plants, like stem plants, are often attached to things like driftwood and set at the bottom of the tank. Their roots will eventually claim the wood and move down into the substrate.

    If you have a rosette or bulb plant, though, you’ll need to plant it yourself. You can simply take a pair of tweezers and shove the plant into the substrate, making sure to anchor it firmly so that it doesn’t float off.

    It’s generally easier to install these plants when you only have a little bit of water in the tank. You should also put them in at a slight angle so that the substrate keeps the roots in place.

    Can I Put Different Plants in the Same Tank?

    As long as the water conditions are favorable to all the plants involved, sure. The more variety you have, the more spectacular your tank will look.

    However, you should understand that, while it may not seem like it, plants can be quite ruthless. They’re constantly competing for resources like minerals and sunlight, and some plants will try to take over the tank, choking out all the other life along the way.

    You may need to prune certain plants to keep them from getting too big, and you may have to remove some if they become too numerous. You should also put some space in between plants as you install them, as they may not like their new neighbors.

    As a matter of fact, there’s a good chance they’ll try to starve them to death, so give them plenty of space to breathe.

    divider1- goldfishConclusion

    As the above reviews have (hopefully) shown, adding a few plants to your aquarium doesn’t have to be a scary or overwhelming experience. Every single species on this list is incredibly easy to care for, and you should be able to keep each one alive for quite some time, no matter how black your thumb is.

    Then again, if you manage to kill any of these plants, well…you can always go to your local pet store and see all the pretty plants they have in their aquariums.


    Featured Image Credit: Ranjith-chemmad, Wikimedia Commons