Constructing an aquarium is a much more in-depth and time-consuming process than most people would imagine when they first get started. The amount of care and planning that goes into choosing your fish is substantial. But that’s only half the battle. You’re going to have to put just as much effort into picking and putting together the rest of your aquarium, from filtration and cleaning to plants and decorations.

Plants can provide a wide range of benefits for your aquarium, but there are also quite a few considerations to keep in mind. Plants need upkeep just like fish, and you also have to think about aesthetics. We’ll get into the details later, but if you’re looking for a way to warm up the décor in your fish tank, then red plants are a great way to liven things up, and we’ve got seven to show you in the following reviews.

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A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Rotala Rotundifolia Rotala Rotundifolia
  • Easy to care for
  • Requires very little light, or CO2
  • Grows easily in shallow water
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Red Rooted Cryptocoryne Wendtii Red Rooted Cryptocoryne Wendtii
  • Can thrive in low light
  • Sends out runners to form new plants
  • No CO2 requirements
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Phyllanthus Fluitans Red Root Floater Phyllanthus Fluitans Red Root Floater
  • Provides shade for reclusive species
  • Does well in all light conditions
  • Ploating plant
  • Red Flame Sword Red Flame Sword
  • Side shoots can be removed and re-planted
  • Can do well in all light conditions
  • Can be adapted to background, mid-ground, or foreground
  • Alternanthera Reineckii VAR. Roseafolia Alternanthera Reineckii VAR. Roseafolia
  • More vibrant red color than most plants
  • Easily handles overcrowding and shading
  • Easy to care for
  • The 7 Best Red Aquarium Plants – Reviews 2021

    1. Rotala Rotundifolia

    Rotala Rotundifolia

     

    • Growth rate: Medium
    • Max height: 6”
    • Light demands: Low
    • CO2: None
    • Difficulty: Easy

    This plant from South-East Asia features narrow leaves attached to long stems that can reach six inches in height. They grow in clusters and are relatively easy to grow since they can thrive in most environments. They can survive in low light conditions, but if you want a vibrant red Rotala Rotundifolia, you’ll need to provide plenty of light. You won’t need to worry much about CO2 with this plant though. It can survive with the natural CO2 levels in your tank and even turn red without additional CO2.

    With a moderate growth rate, this plant forms side shoots and becomes bushy, making it difficult for light to penetrate through to the lower leaves. If you want to keep it healthy, you’ll want to prune it regularly. This is the only real maintenance it requires. It’s an ideal plant for background use, due to the way it spreads out quickly and forms dense bushes that are difficult to see through.

    Pros
    • Easy to care for
    • Requires very little light, or CO2
    • Grows easily in shallow water
    Cons
    • Hard for light to penetrate
    • Requires frequent pruning

    2. Red Rooted Cryptocoryne Wendtii

    2. Red Rooted Cryptocoryne Wendtii

     

    • Growth rate: Slow
    • Max height: 8”
    • Light demands: Low
    • CO2: None
    • Difficulty: Easy

    The Red-Rooted Cryptocoryne Wendtii is a very popular plant because of its ability to thrive in just about any aquarium. It’s a robust plant that can do well without much light and with no added CO2. The leaves range from red to bronze in color, adding an easy to care for dose of color to your aquarium without adding much additional work.

    This is not a fast-growing plant. It will send out runners to form new plants over time though, so if you want additional plants, all you have to do is wait. But this plant is best kept in warmer aquariums. It will survive in the low 70s, but prefers temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

    When you first plant Cryptocoryne Wendtii in your aquarium, it could very likely wilt, appearing to melt. While this is alarming to see, it’s normal for this plant and it should pop back up in a few short weeks.

    Pros
    • Can thrive in low light
    • Sends out runners to form new plants
    • Easy to care for with no CO2 requirements
    Cons
    • Tends to “melt” when first planted
    • Doesn’t do well below 75 degrees

    3. Phyllanthus Fluitans Red Root Floater
    3. Phyllanthus Fluitans Red Root Floater

     

    • Growth rate: Fast
    • Max height: 2”
    • Light demands: Low
    • CO2: None
    • Difficulty: Easy

    If you’re looking for something a bit different, you might find it in the Phyllanthus Fluitans Red. This plant isn’t planted into your tank’s substrate. Instead, it’s a floating plant that will live on the surface of the water, providing shade for reclusive species. It doesn’t do well if the water moving fast, but it can thrive in any light conditions.

    You do have to be careful that this plant doesn’t block the light for all the species beneath that need it. If you leave a Phyllanthus Fluitans Red alone for too long, it will overtake the top of the tank and block the light for all the plants and fish below. You’ll need to keep it trimmed to the size you want, but other than that, it’s a very simple plant to grow.

    Pros
    • Provides shade for reclusive species
    • Does well in all light conditions
    Cons
    • Doesn’t do well in a turbulent environment
    • Will cover the entire top of the tank if left alone

    4. Red Flame Sword

    4. Red Flame Sword

     

    • Growth rate: Slow to moderate
    • Max height: 12”
    • Light demands: Low
    • CO2: None
    • Difficulty: Very easy

    Most people would use the Red Flame Sword as a centerpiece for their aquarium. It’s a magnificent-looking plant, with large red leaves that can stretch out to a maximum height of 12 inches. It’s considered a beginner plant because it’s so easy to grow. You don’t need additional CO2 for a Red Flame Sword and you can grow it in minimal light.

    Despite being so easy to grow, few aquatic red plants are as versatile as the Red Flame Sword. While you can definitely use it as a centerpiece, its large size also makes it a perfect fit for a background plant. And with some modification, many have even used it as a foreground plant.

    There are some things you’ll want to be aware of before planting a Red Flame Sword. First, it’s intolerant of copper. If you’re using tap water and not filtering it, then you might watch your plant die quickly. Also, pay attention to your placement, as this plant has large leaves that can block other plants from getting light.

    Pros
    • Side shoots can be removed and re-planted
    • Can do well in all light conditions
    • Can be adapted to background, mid-ground, or foreground
    Cons
    • Large leaves can block the light for other plants
    • It’s intolerant of copper

    5. Alternanthera Reineckii VAR. Roseafolia

    5. Alternanthera Reineckii VAR. Roseafolia

     

    • Growth rate: Slow
    • Max height: 20”
    • Light demands: Moderate
    • CO2: None
    • Difficulty: Easy to moderate

    With a max height of 20 inches, this large red plant is best used as a background decoration. It’s relatively easy to care for, though it won’t do well in low light. If you don’t provide enough light, this plant’s leaves can even fall off. Given adequate light, the leaves of the Alternanthera Reineckii turn a purplish red color that’s more vibrant than the red displayed by most red aquatic plants. The plant’s stems can display the same color as well.

    Aside from the moderate light needs, this plant is quite hardy and will do well in most environments. It can survive overcrowding and shade spots, as long as much of the plant receives decent access to light. This plant is an oxygenator and it doesn’t need any added CO2.

    Pros
    • Provides a more vibrant red color than most plants
    • Easily handles overcrowding and shading
    Cons
    • Leaves can fall off in low light

    6. Alternanthera Bettzickiana Red Bunch

    6. Alternanthera Bettzickiana Red Bunch

     

    • Growth rate: Moderate to fast
    • Max height: 12”
    • Light demands: Moderate to high
    • CO2: Moderate
    • Difficulty: Easy to moderate

    Alternanthera Bettzickiana comes in two varieties; green and red. The red variety is relatively easy to grow, though it does require added CO2; especially if you want to see that red coloration. This plant also needs substantial amounts of light. Without proper lighting, nutrients, and CO2, you’ll find the leaves turning orange.

    This plant grows to a maximum height of about 12 inches, but it’s best used as a mid-ground plant with regular trimming to prevent it from over-growing other members of the tank. If you want additional Alternanthera Bettzickiana plants, you can easily propagate them from stem clippings of your first plant. Since this plant grows quickly, you could have several clusters in a short time.

    Pros
    • Propagates through planting trimmed stems
    • Grows quickly
    Cons
    • Leaves can turn orange without substantial nutrients and lighting

    7. Ludwigia Repens Rubin Super Red Ruby Bundle

    7. Ludwigia Repens Rubin Super Red Ruby Bundle

     

    • Growth rate: Slow
    • Max height: 20”
    • Light demands: High
    • CO2: None
    • Difficulty: Easy

    This plant is known for its deep red coloration. It’s easy to care for, though it does require ample amounts of light. More light will also help the red coloration to come out, so you’ll want to provide this plant with as much light as possible. You won’t need any added CO2 though; just lots of patience since this is a slow-growing aquatic plant.

    If you have sand as a substrate in your tank, you won’t want to plant a Ludwigia Repens Rubin. Sand can suffocate the roots and kill them. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. This species can also be grown on the surface of the water, providing multiple growing options.

    Several things are likely to kill this plant. If you have aggressive fish in your aquarium, they’ll eat it until it dies. It will also die in the shade. But if you can avoid these two killers, you’ll have an easy time growing the Ludwigia Repens Rubin and it can add some deep red color to your tank.

    Pros
    • Requires very little upkeep once planted
    • Can also be grown on the water’s surface
    • Doesn’t require much CO2 for a deep red color
    Cons
    • Doesn’t survive in the shade
    • Aggressive fish like to eat this plant

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    Buyer’s Guide

    When you first get started putting together an aquarium, it seems like a fairly simple task. But once you get a bit deeper, you start to realize how each decision impacts your other choices and the other residents of the tank. This can make it much harder to choose additional plants and fish to expand your aquarium, as you worry about each new member’s impact.

    If you’re still trying to figure out which of these plants might be a good choice for your current setup, then this short buyer’s guide is for you.

    Three Types of Aquarium Plants

    When putting together your aquarium, it’s easy to first look at it as a whole. But you really want to divide it into parts when you’re considering plants. You can split the tank into three sections, placing different types of plants in each section for the best effect.

    Background Plants

    Background plants populate the back of the tank where they won’t block others from view. These are generally the largest plants, often bushy and dense. If they were in the front of the tank, you wouldn’t be able to see all the other fish and plants! But as a background, they can provide a vibrant backdrop that highlights all of the tank’s other residents.


    Foreground Plants

    As you might expect, foreground plants belong in the front of your tank. These are often the smallest plants, generally growing out rather than up. Many of these are mosses or grasses that won’t grow to a very tall height, but can spread out to provide lots of color to the tank without blocking the rest of the tank from view.


    Mid-ground Plants

    Mid-ground plants are spread throughout the main part of the tank. There can even be a large mid-ground plant used as a centerpiece. The size of your mid-ground plants will depend on the overall size of your aquarium. In large setups, mid-ground plants can be quite tall. You want these plants to be colorful to keep your tank lively.

    Colorful aquatic plants in aquarium_Mark Brandon_shutterstock

    Credit: Mark Brandon, Shutterstock

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    Consider Your Substrate

    If your tank is already filled with a particular substrate, you’re not going to want to go through the hassle of changing it all just to accommodate a new plant species you want to add to the tank. But there are some species of plant that don’t do well in some substrates. For instance, sand will suffocate the roots of some plants. So, before purchasing a new plant, ensure that it’s compatible with the substrate on the floor of your tank.

    Lighting for Aquarium Plants

    Your aquarium likely already has a decent light for your fish and other living residents. But plants have different light needs than fish. While some plants can survive and even thrive in low-light conditions, other plants need substantial levels of light to be healthy. And since they’re often at the bottom of the tank, the light has to be stronger to reach them.

    Pay attention to how much light is required by any plants you’re considering. But also keep in mind that too much light without additional CO2 can breed algae. It’s all an interconnected ecosystem that must be kept in balance.

    CO2 Makes Your Plants Redder

    Some plants can turn red without substantial amounts of CO2 or light. But most plants, even if they’re a red plant, will require a healthy dose of light, CO2, or both to really develop their red coloration. If you want your tank to be as vibrant and colorful as possible, then you’ll want to look into additional or improved light sources and CO2 systems.

    What About Plastic Plants?

    If all of the upkeep and planning required for these plants sounds like too much for you, then you could always consider some plastic plants instead. These plants require no planning or care. Just put them in the tank and enjoy their everlasting beauty. Plus, you have far more options when looking at plastic plants.

    For example, this set of two includes one 9-inch and one 15-inch tall red-leafed plants that will never die and don’t need nutrients or light. Or this large red fire silk aquarium plant that’s 15 inches tall with large silk leaves that’s perfect for freshwater and saltwater environments alike.

    There’s nothing wrong with choosing plastic plants if you don’t want to perform all the upkeep, planning, and aquarium upgrades that come along with growing exotic aquatic plants. These plastic or silk alternatives are a bit pricier upfront, but they’ll save you loads of time and will always look vibrant and healthy with no wilting.

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    Conclusion

    If you’re looking for a way to liven up your aquarium for a more vibrant appearance, then a red plant, or even a few, is a great way to go. These provide extra oxygen and nutrients for your fish, shade for reclusive species, hiding places, and decoration. They can make the aquarium more enjoyable for you and even for your fish. You can pick a plant that’s easy to care for or choose a more challenging one instead. Whatever route you choose, you’re sure to find a good fit in one of the seven plants we’ve covered in these reviews.


    Featured Image Credit: jurgko, Pixabay