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best aquarium plants for beginners

7 Best Aquarium Plants for Beginners

Designing a beautiful aquascape can be difficult for beginners. Learning about the specific care needs of each aquatic plant is a start, but actually meeting those needs in practice is easier said than done. Fortunately, there are a number of beginner aquarium plants that are not only easy to care for, but will also make your planted tank look amazing from front to back!

Best Foreground/Carpet Plants:

Java Moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri)
java moss

Originally from Vietnam, Java Moss has become a staple carpet plant in beginner aquarium setups. It is easy to propagate, and its tiny green leaves can be used to decorate almost any surface. After planting the moss, there is little more you need to do to care for it. For optimal growth, just keep the water temperature between 71-75°F, keep the lighting low, and maintain a pH between 6-8. It does grow fast in these conditions, so give it a nice trim once every 3-8 weeks to prevent overgrowth. You can also adjust the temperature to anywhere between 60-82°F and increase the lighting to slow the growth and the Java Moss will stay healthy.


Dwarf Hairgrass (Eleocharis parvula or Eleocharis acicularis)
dwarf hair grass

This easy carpet plant will look like it came straight from your lawn. Its green blades will look great in the tank, while also oxygenating the water and controlling nitrate levels. Warmer temperatures are ideal for Dwarf Hairgrass, but it can live in water anywhere from 50-85°F. The lighting should be medium to high, and the pH should be neutral. Like Java Moss, Dwarf Hairgrass can grow pretty fast and may need regular trimmings. Other than that, just maintain clean water flow and you will be set. 

Best Midground Plants:

African Water Fern (Bolbitis heudelotii)
african water fern

African Water Ferns are dark green with delicate and sometimes transparent leaves. They are unique epiphytes that should not be buried in a substrate, but rather their rhizomes should be attached to surfaces like driftwood or rocks. To care for these ferns, keep the water between 68-80°F, maintain a pH of 6-7.5, and use strong lighting. They grow very slowly so they will not need much trimming, but you will need to watch out for algae. Algae grows fast in high light conditions and may limit the fern’s light. 


Wendt’s Water Trumpet (Cryptocoryne wendtii)

Cryptocoryne Wendtii can have red, brown, or green leaves that vary in texture and grow in a rosette form. It is extremely hardy, tolerating both high and low light, and both hard and soft water. Ideally, the water should be 68-83°F with a pH between 6-7.5 It grows slowly, so do not worry about trimming this plant. When first introducing a Crypt Wendtii to a new tank environment its leaves sometimes wither, but this is normal and new growth will develop quickly once it is accustomed to the new environment. 

Best Background Plants:

Anacharis (Egeria densa)
egeria densa

Though it is known by many names (Anacharis, Elodea, Brazilian Waterweed), Anacharis is easy to identify by its distinct appearance. It has a long, tubular green stem that is covered in whorls of small leaves. It originates in the tropical regions of South America, so it prefers warm water (72-78°F), but it can still survive in temperatures of 60°F. The pH should be kept between 6.5-7.5, and medium lighting is ideal. Also, this aquatic plant absorbs nutrients in water rather quickly which can help reduce the chances of algae. If conditions are optimal Anacharis will grow rapidly, so it will definitely need trimming to keep the tank looking neat and tidy. 


Dwarf Rotala (Rotala Rotundifolia)
rotala rotundifolia red

Dwarf Rotala has narrow red or green leaves that grow in clumps along the stem. It can survive in very low temperatures, but prefers a range from 68-82°F. Ideally, it should grow in a pH between 6-8 and medium to high light - the brighter the light, the redder the leaves will get! Rotala Rotundifolia can actually grow floating, completely submerged, or emersed, and does best in nutrient-rich substrates. Trimming will be necessary every once in a while to achieve the height and shape you want, and to get rid of dead leaves. Also, consider stirring up tightly packed stems to prevent accumulation of debris. 

Best Floating Plant: 

Water Lettuce (Pistia Stratiotes)
water pista

Water Lettuce is a floating plant that has light green, wavy leaves. Its most notable feature is the the waxy surface hairs, which form air bubbles to help the plant float. They can be quite large in nature, but in an aquarium, they grow to about 10 inches long. The roots also hang down and provide a great hiding place for fish. Though they float at the top of the tank, they still have water requirements; keep the temperature between 70-80 °F and maintain a pH between 6.5-7.5. They prefer low to medium light and should be introduced to full light gradually to prevent scorching. Additionally, it may be necessary to use tubing or ropes to restrict them to one area of the tank; this way, the plants will be safe from submersion or getting caught in the filter.


In general, aquatic plants like these can be kept healthy by keeping the tank clean, providing them with 6-8 hours of LED light, and regularly checking the water quality. Compared to other aquatic plants, you will find that their lighting, temperature, pH, and nutritional needs are far less complicated. So, when choosing beginner aquatic plants for your tank, these are the best of the bunch. Plus, with a variety of options for the foreground, midground, background, and even the top of your tank, your aquascape will be both beautiful and carefree.

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Mushy - June 8, 2022

Woah. These plants are very planty. They are so green and have lots of plant bits in them. Thats crazy. One day I wanna be a plant and travel the world like a frog.

Victoria Dye - March 23, 2021

All of your articles are helpful!!! I did planted tanks for the first time about 8 years ago, but it was hard to find a lot of good information in one spot. Now we’re in a new home and I ordered a variety of plants from this article and also just by using your filters for low light and easy keeping. My 75 gallon is set up with a variety of plants and my nano 3.5G Betta tank has some as well. Really enjoying the process and appreciate your customer service!

Kathleen Brophy - March 18, 2021

“Best Aqua. plants for Beginners.” I am literally a “beginner” who’s been studying aquascaping for a year on so many YouTube vids that my son makes fun, lol. Was looking into bolbitis difformis mini when I found your site and joined. I’m literally setting up my 40 gall. breeder tank hardscape this weekend, filling and steeling myself for the dreaded CYCLING OF THE TANK… after which I am def getting some of these “beginner plants.”

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