Anubias is hands-down the best plant to keep with goldfish. With thick, rubbery leaves that resist even the most voracious of goldfish, it comes in many varieties and requires very little special attention to keep it happy. When well-cared for, they can grow to a nice large size and even produce little flowers! Anubias petite can be placed side by side to create a “carpet effect” at the bottom of the tank. Anubias does not require any substrate and prefers to have its roots uncovered (especially great for those who have a bare-bottom tank). Anubias can easily be attached by using plant glue to affix the thick stem at the bottom to a rock or driftwood.
Why We Love it:
Least likely to get eaten by goldfish
Low maintenance: low-light, no added fertilizers or substrate required
Hardy and difficult to kill – perfect for beginners
Java fern makes a lovely background or mid-ground plant, and resists the attacks of goldfish due to its tough, fibrous leaves. Its dense, leafy structure affords shelter and is fun for your fish to swim through. Java fern is not demanding in light or fertilizer requirements, and does not require a substrate to be planted in – it can be easily affixed to wood or rocks with plant glue. With time and the right conditions, Java Fern can grow to a large size – up to 14 inches – and makes an impressive addition to any aquascape.
Why We Love it:
Great option to use as a background or “filler” in the aquascape
Lives without being planted in a substrate – does well in low light without added fertilizers
If you are like me and don’t have a green thumb but want a beautiful, enhancing plant for your aquarium, Hornwort is the one for you. It’s also known as Coon’s Tail because of its busy shape. This is a very flexible plant with low demands. It does not need a fancy substrate, fertilizers, CO2 or high light. In fact it can grow in just about any condition. With more light it looks bushier and grows faster – up to several inches a week! Goldfish don’t bother it at all in my experience due to the tough needles instead of tender leaves. You can weight it down or leave it floating; it has no root system. This plant is tolerant of a huge range of temperatures and is probably one of the only plants that can survive winter outdoors in a pond. Because it is a nitrate hog, it helps out-compete algae problems. Great as a background plant as it can grow practically as tall as you have space for.
Vallisneria, also known as tape grass, may be nibbled on by your goldfish, but the good news is it grows so quickly that this isn’t usually a problem. In our experience it is not readily eaten by the goldies due to its thick leaves. It is a very tall addition to goldfish tanks and can grow to a significant height, even bending over below the surface of the water (the leaves can be trimmed to avoid this if desired). Vallisneria spreads by sending out runners. Planting several Vals in a row along the background helps to give your aquarium a dense background with a natural underwater look and can help to hide equipment in the tank. They are best kept in pots filled with soil and capped with gravel or sand, as they will probably be uprooted if planted in the substrate directly.
Why We Love it:
Beautiful in the background that affords a natural “riverbed” effect
Helps to hide unsightly tubes, heaters and equipment
Has a gentle “waving” effect of its leaves in the water
The Amazon Sword is a popular choice for goldfish aquariums. It can be grown planted in pots filled with gravel or directly in the substrate itself (gravel or soil such as Fluval Plant Stratum is preferred over dense sand – though gravel poses a choking hazard for goldfish). They can grow to be very large (up to 2 feet tall!) and do a great job at helping to eat up excess nitrates in the water. A nutrient-hungry goldfish plant, adding root tab fertilization (Seachem Flourish tabs are a great choice) is recommended. Swords are typically placed towards the back of the aquarium in the aquascape and do well in moderate to high light conditions. The roots will spread all over and can help prevent toxic anaerobic gas pockets from forming in the substrate.
Why We Love it:
Easy plant that is difficult to kill
Grows quickly, purifies the water and can achieve a nice large size
The African Onion plant (Crinum calamistratum) is an undemanding and robust plant with long, narrow, dramatically wrinkled leaves that grow in elaborate curls and loops. The leaves can get to be 4 feet in length! While it benefits from added fertilizers, this may not be required if your goldfish tank produces enough nitrate. A slow grower, the Onion Plant does best with moderate to high light and stable conditions. It does best in pots of soil.
Why We Love it:
Tough leaf structure that is unappetizing to goldfish
Provides a nice contrast to other plants in the aquarium
Can tolerate a wide pH spectrum
Why Choose Live Plants over Fake Ones for Your Goldfish?
There’s no doubt about it:
There’s just nothing quite like the natural beauty of a planted goldfish tank.
*Embarrassing story alert*
Okay, so I always new I wanted live plants in my tank (which used to be a Tupperware bin) when I was young. So I actually snuck down to our neighbor’s pond, harvested a cattail and put it in a pot of sand with my goldfish.
Needless to say it didn’t last long, so don’t try that at home!
Now don’t get me wrong:
Plastic plants have their perks.
They are usually inexpensive… and very difficult to kill
But I’m not fond of them.
The plastic ones can pose the dangers of pokey edges to clumsy goldfish. And the silk ones always seem to fall apart or fade after a bit.
Not to mention they never seem to have a “real” look, and they don’t offer anything to the aquarium environment biologically speaking.
Live plants, on the other hand… why wouldn’t you want them?
They absorb nitrates to use as fertilizer. In a closed aquarium, this is very beneficial for your water quality.
They also help produce oxygen (O2) while absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2).
This is more important the smaller your fish’s home is.
And of course…
They are gorgeous!!
Now we come to the question:
Which Plants will Goldfish Avoid?
I’ve tried a lot of different ones in my search for the perfect goldfish plant. And I’m happy to say I’ve found the answer.
It needs to be tough.
See, it isn’t easy finding live plants that stand a chance with the “monster munchers” in your tank.
Just when you think you’ve found the prettiest one…
Bye-bye tender leaves.
And bye-bye hard earned cash. :'(
Goldfish need vegetable matter as part of their diet, but I think you’d rather give them a piece of lettuce as a more economical snack!
And unless you have a much larger ratio of plants and water to fish, nothing edible stands a chance – not even the faster growing ones.
I learned the hard way that, while duckweed might look nice initially, they’ll only end up passing through your goldfish’s tummy
So whatever plant you choose, you will want to make sure your goldfish won’t eat it.
An avid goldfish keeper for nearly 20 years, Meredith Clawson is the founder of the Pure Goldfish website and author of the book The Truth About Goldfish. Pure Goldfish has been featured in Wikihow, Wikipedia, The Aquarium Guide and more.