The Best Goldfish Plants & Their Advantages Compared

There’s no doubt about it, folks:

Having plants in your aquarium is more important than just the good looks (which are definitely a plus).

They offer shelter and security for your goldfish…

… As well as helping give them a more interesting environment to swim around in.

But which goldfish plants are the best?

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Well today we’re going to talk about just that! 🙂

5 Best Aquarium Plants to Keep with Goldfish


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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

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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

  • A good first choice for beginners

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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.  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 planted in sand substrate 1-2″ deep, but can also be kept in pots in a bare-bottom tank.

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

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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:

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  • Easy plant that is difficult to kill

  • Grows quickly, purifies the water and can achieve a nice large size

  • Creates lots of hiding places for the fish

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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.

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


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Lucky Bamboo is a nitrate VACUUM! It should not be totally submerged or it will die quickly.  Instead, the leaves should be exposed to the air and the roots left in the water.  Depending on the height of your tank, you can place the roots in a pot of gravel or in the substrate, or attach the plant to the side of the tank with a thick wire and leave the roots exposed in mid-water.  It is a low-maintenance plant that makes an excellent aesthetic improvement to any setup.

Why We Love it:

  • Highly effective for removing nitrates from the water

  • Does not require added fertilization

  • Goldfish will not eat it!

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.

Get this:

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.

Something else to consider is whether or not the plant requires some kind of liquid fertilizer being dosed into the water.

The good news is goldfish are such heavy waste producers that many plants will not require supplementation in that respect.

Is there a Way to Prevent Goldfish from Destroying Your Aquarium Plants?

While most goldfish will not eat the ones recommended in this article, there is an element of subjectivity with each individual fish keeper’s experience.

Some fish are just more destructive than others and will shred anything edible, no matter what (though fortunately these kind of goldfish are few and far between!).

Fancy goldfish seem to be less prone to destroying them than athletic breeds like Commons or Comets.

The truth is…

In my experience, most goldfish destroy plants because they don’t have anything else better to do.

They’re bored.

But don’t lose hope:

One way to deter goldfish from chowing down on your beauties is to DISTRACT THEM.

Give them softer foraging materials like wilted spinach, cucumber, cilantro or other leafy veggies and they will be much more likely to ignore your other plants.

These are way more appetizing and satisfy their desires to tear into something!

Where and When Should You Buy Aquarium Plants?

Buying your goldfish’s plants online (which is what I do) has some nice advantages – you can get access to far more selection than what’s at your local pet store.

That said:

Some plants don’t ship as well as others.

More sensitive species such as Vallisneria can show up to your door brown and wilted if shipped in excessive cold or hot temperatures.

(Speaking from experience here.) :/

Checking the weather to make sure it won’t be under 30 or over 100 degrees F for a few days after you plan to order is a good idea.

Quarantining Your New Plants

Check with the seller and see what they do to ensure your plants don’t come with unwanted “hitchhikers.”

Snails are usually the biggest issue, but in rarer cases pathogens could be transmitted (depending on where your plant is from and how it was housed).

For a seller that does no quarantine or grows their plants in a tank with other fish, you will need to make sure your plants are disease and pest free yourself.

You can do this by keeping the plant isolated for a minimum of 28 days.

Some people have success doing a hydrogen peroxide and water dip (though this may be hard on certain species).

Either way, healthy plants will help make for a healthy aquarium.

How to Attach Your Goldfish Plants

Because some varieties (such as Anubias or Java Fern) do not require a substrate, you will need to attach it to something in the tank to secure it.

Some people use nylon string.

I did that for a LONG TIME, and let me tell you – it was a total pain.

No matter how strong you tie it, it always gets loose due to disturbance during water changes.

Loose thread is hazardous to goldfish, who can get caught on it by their gills or fin rays (this actually happened to my goldfish on several occasions).

Some recommend superglue, but the problem is that it usually has other things in it that can potentially leach into the water.

But then I found plant glue. <3

Let me tell you, this stuff has been a life-saver.

You can attach your Anubias or Java Fern or Java Moss or whatever to wood or rocks in seconds, and it is goldfish safe too (unlike Superglue).

I use this kind by the makers of Seachem Prime.

Now just watch them grow 🙂

What About You?

Do you keep live plants in your goldfish tank, or are you still nervous about trying them out?

What has your experience been with a planted goldfish tank?

Let me know your experiences in the comments section below.

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  1. Sam August 21, 2017 at 2:43 am - Reply

    Hi there!

    I recently bought your e-book and I e-mailed the 24 hour support address provided with the purchase as I am having some problems with one of my new fantails. I know I e-mailed over the weekend, but let me know if there is a better way to reach you. I’d love some advice – I am starting to get worried about one of my fish.

    Thank you!

    Rating: 5
    • Pure Goldfish
      Pure Goldfish August 22, 2017 at 5:54 pm - Reply

      Responded, thank you for letting me know 🙂

  2. guest January 9, 2018 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    i am thinking about getting anchors i know they grow fast but am willing to deal with it would you recommend? btw awesome website :3

    Rating: 5
    • Pure Goldfish
      Pure Goldfish January 9, 2018 at 6:25 pm - Reply

      Anacharis might not grow fast if you have a goldfish 🙂 I like anubias, goldfish won’t touch it.

  3. guest January 9, 2018 at 6:16 pm - Reply


    Rating: 5
  4. Wesley January 20, 2018 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    I have a 125 gal tank. My biggest comet is about 9”. They still nip at anubias leaves, tearing off small parts. 🙁 Also, glue your onion plants to large pebbles! I know it’s time consuming but you won’t find them floating, and you can move them around your tank with ease! I love those things. So hardy and the Goldies are beautiful swimming through them.

    Rating: 5
    • Pure Goldfish
      Pure Goldfish January 22, 2018 at 12:28 am - Reply

      Great tips, Wesley! Thanks for sharing.

  5. William Deakin July 13, 2018 at 5:08 am - Reply

    great info

    Rating: 5
    • Pure Goldfish
      Pure Goldfish July 16, 2018 at 12:46 am - Reply

      Glad you liked the post, William!

  6. Linda Wiglesworth August 29, 2018 at 11:54 pm - Reply

    I tried marble queen photos stuck in the back of my 150 gallon and my little water piggies ate all the routes and kill them I also have Madagascar lace hornwort pennywort and a bunch of other plants they don’t bother them at all.
    I want to try Pothos again do you have any suggestions on how to protect the route for a while ?

    Rating: 5
    • Pure Goldfish
      Pure Goldfish August 31, 2018 at 10:42 pm - Reply

      I like to put Pothos in the filter. No goldfish can bother them!

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