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Top 8 Plants for Breeding Aquarium Fish

Top 8 Plants for Breeding Aquarium Fish

Live aquatic plants are a great addition to any aquarium, but they can be especially beneficial in aquarium fish breeding. Not only do plants simulate a natural breeding environment for many fish species, but they can also be used to establish safe hiding places for fry, which increases the fry survival rate by protecting young fish from hungry adults.

red root floaters and guppy
Certain plants not only offer aesthetic appeal but also function as ideal breeding sites for adult fish to lay their eggs. As the fry hatch, consistent nourishment is essential, and live plants can harbor the development of microorganisms that serve as a food source for newly hatched fry.

Live plants also help maintain water quality in freshwater aquariums, playing a vital role in water purification by absorbing harmful ammonia and nitrite from waste produced by fish.

But with so many aquatic plant options ranging from high to low maintenance, which would be best for your breeding aquarium and for increasing fry survival rates? This article will go over the top 8 aquarium plants to include in your breeding tank setup.


java moss
1. Java Moss (Vesicularia Dubyana)

Java Moss is a popular aquarium plant that is known for its hardiness and ease of care. It does not require CO2 or even highlight to thrive. Its growth rate is slow compared to other plants, so it does not need to be trimmed often.

Aquatic moss supplies a lot of shelter for fry to hide in. Shrimp in particular love moss because it gives ample space for biofilm to develop on, so the shrimp are able to constantly have something to snack on. Java Moss can be attached to rocks, driftwood, or other aquarium decor, making it a versatile choice for any aquarium. While Java Moss is the most common option, there are many other aquarium mosses that you can use like Christmas Moss, Peacock Moss, and Weeping Moss.

In the case of fish that scatter their eggs, mosses offer small tendrils that provide a suitable surface for egg attachment, while their branched structures offer effective camouflage against predators. If you're new to Java Moss, consider experimenting with Java moss, as it's incredibly simple to cultivate, thrives in low light conditions, and doesn't need substrate for growth.


water sprite
2. Water Sprite (Ceratopteris Siliquosa)

Water Sprite is another favorite aquarium plant for fish breeders to use. It's a fast-growing plant, so it helps maintain good water quality by absorbing nitrates and other excess nutrients.

When left floating at the top of the tank, it quickly spreads out over time to cover the surface of the aquarium. This is really advantageous when breeding livebearers. The fry is able to stay hidden at the surface of the water, away from the adult fish that tend to remain below the Water Sprite. This plant needs a good amount of light to do well, so make sure your aquarium is equipped with adequate lighting before getting some Water Sprite.

Planted in the substrate, it grows into a dense cluster with delicate, intricate leaves that provides a secure hideout for small fish and shrimp. Alternatively, if used as a floating plant, the leaves expand into broader shapes with rounded ends, accompanied by lengthy, sturdy roots which is an ideal environment for fish to lay eggs in and for fry to find microorganisms to eat. Like typical stem plants, it prefers nutrient uptake from the water itself and thrives when supplemented with liquid fertilizers.


3. Hornwort (Ceratophyllum Demersum)

Hornwort is one of the hardiest plants in the aquarium hobby. Like Water Sprite, it can be either rooted to the substrate or left free-floating at the top of the tank. It is also a fast-growing plant even in low-tech setups, so it helps improve water quality.

Hornwort provides a lot of cover for fry to hide in. It is a great aquarium plant to consider when other alternatives are being eaten by goldfish or other plant-nibbling species. Hornwort has tough leaves that make it too difficult for most fish to eat. 

Hornwort is especially beneficial for breeding guppies and smaller nano fish species. Its tiny leaves offer excellent refuge for young fry, keeping them safe from potential predators.


amazon sword
4. Amazon Sword (Echinodorus Bleheri)

The Amazon Sword can be a great addition to larger sized breeding tanks. This plant can grow to be 20 inches tall. The dense foliage that it creates when it grows to a good size makes great cover for fry to hide in. The large sword-shaped leaves can also provide visual barriers for any territorial adult fish, reducing the overall aggression in the aquarium.

These large leaves can also be used as a platform for eggs to be laid on. The Amazon Sword is a hardy plant that does not require much, just decent lighting and ideally a nutrient-rich substrate. Other options you can consider are Echinodorus Red Rubin and Echinodorus Rose.


5. Anubias (Anubias sp)

Anubias are slow-growing aquarium plants that are great for breeding fish. They provide a lot of cover for fry and can help to maintain good water quality by absorbing excess nutrients. Anubias are also a great choice for those who want a low-maintenance plant, as it requires very little care. They are one of the hardiest plants out there, and actually prefers low-light environments.

They are considered an epiphyte plant, meaning that they can be placed in the cracks of rocks or wood to grow. Having Anubias buried under substrate can cause its rhizome to rot and die. Anubias come in many shapes and sizes, some of the most popular being Anubias Nana Petite, Anubias Nana, and Anubias Barteri.


java fern
6. Java Fern (Microsorum Pteropus)

Java Ferns are a popular choice for breeding tanks due to its hardiness and ease of care. Certain varieties can grow to be as tall as 14 inches, making them a beautiful background and midground plant. Their large leaves can provide shelter for fish fry and cover for adult fish as well. Best of all, adult breeding pairs can lay their eggs on these leaves.

Java Fern helps to maintain water quality by absorbing the nitrates in the water. They require low to moderate lighting, making them perfect for low-tech breeding tanks. They can be attached to rocks or driftwood like other epiphyte plants. There are numerous varieties of Java Fern available, such as Java Fern Windelov, Java Fern Trident, and Java Fern Sunrise.



7. Cryptocoryne (Cryptocoryne sp)

Cryptocoryne is a slow-growing plant that is relatively easy to care for depending on the specific species. Larger Crypt plant species like Cryptocoryne Balansae or Cryptocoryne Retrospiralis add great dimension when placed in the background. Once they have time to grow out, their leaves provide plenty of coverage for both small fry and adult fish to hide in. For smaller freshwater tanks, Cryptocoryne Wendtii Green may be a better fit as it does not grow as large.

It's important to plant Crypts in a nutrient-rich substrate since they are heavy root feeders. It's also essential to not disturb them once they are planted. If they are taken out of their placement, it takes a while for them to reestablish themselves.


8. Vallisneria Spiralis

Vallisneria are fast-growing plants that are grass-like in appearance. They make excellent background plants for larger sized tanks because they can grow to be around 8 to 12 inches in height. Some can get even taller, causing it to create a beautiful cascading effect on the surface of the water when it grows taller than the waterline.

Their height combined with speedy growth builds a jungle of Vals where fish are able to take refuge in. These plants are heavy root feeders, so they will do best in a planted tank with aquarium soil.


java moss
Final Thoughts on Plants for Breeding Aquarium Fish

To sum up, live aquarium plants offer numerous benefits when included in breeding tanks. All the plants listed in this article will help breeders increase their fry survival rate by providing shelter and cover for fry to hide from adult fish.

Freshwater plants also naturally consume ammonia and nitrite which helps maintain water quality. Lastly, they are a beautiful natural addition to the breeding tank by simulating the natural breeding environments of many aquarium fish species. All of the plants listed will in general help you be more successful with your next breeding project.


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