People are spending more time at home than ever. What better way to make your home feel a bit more inviting and festive than adding a splash of color to your aquarium? Fish tanks can be quite relaxing and act as a sort of living art installation. But fish aren’t the only colorful residents you can keep in your aquarium. Plants can liven up a drab aquarium instantly, adding splashes of color and providing plenty of places for your fish to hide and feel safe.
If you’re concerned about the additional upkeep required to care for aquarium plants, then the following 10 reviews are precisely the sort of plants you’re looking for. These plants are all low-tech aquarium plants that won’t require much time or effort from you, but they’ll drastically change the appearance of your aquarium and might even make your fishes happier.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2023
|Best Overall||Potted Tall Hairgrass||
|Best Value||Microsorum Pteropus – Java Fern||
|Premium Choice||Dwarf Hairgrass||
|Java Fern Windelov||
The 10 Best Low-Tech Aquarium Plants Are:
1. Potted Tall Hairgrass
If you’re looking for an easy to grow plant that can add loads of bright green color to your aquarium, then tall hairgrass, also known as Eleocharis Vivipara, is a great choice. This plant looks just like the name suggests; long, thin grass that flows in the current. It’s mesmerizing to watch and can grow to heights of 20 inches, making it a great way to provide a natural backdrop in any aquarium.
The only issue is that this plant tends to just grow vertically. Left alone, it will start to stretch right out of the tank! Luckily, it’s easy to trim, and you can use trimming to shape it and help it grow however you prefer. With a little care, you can create a blanket of hairgrass or a nice background that covers the rear of the aquarium. Just try to be neat when you’re trimming; it can get a bit messy.
What makes this plant so appealing is how easy it is to grow. It’s actually pretty hard to mess up. Provide a decent amount of light and it will do well. It doesn’t require CO2, but if you do add some, you’ll see explosive growth.
2. Microsorum Pteropus – Java Fern
A water fern that comes from Asia, the Java Fern, or Microsorum Pteropus, is an attractive aquatic plant that’s quite easy to grow with minimal effort. As long as it gets a little light, this plant will continue to grow and thrive. It doesn’t need much light at all and it won’t require any additional CO2.
This plant has a very slow growth rate. As such, you’ll only need to trim it occasionally. But that also means it can take longer to grow it to the size you prefer. Thankfully, it’s a very easy plant to propagate, so you can quickly plant several more off of the mother to fill your aquarium with as many Java Ferns as you’d like.
There are some things to be aware of with Java Fern though. First, it’s highly susceptible to algae. A good algae cleaner or some snails would help, but on its own, you’ll want to be extra careful to change the water regularly and prevent algae buildup. Also, when planted at the bottom of your tank, Java Fern can rot if the rhizome is covered, so make sure you leave it exposed.
3. Dwarf Hairgrass
If you’re looking to carpet the floor of your aquarium in some beautiful, colorful plants, then Dwarf Hairgrass is a perfect plant to start with. It’s like a smaller version of Tall Hairgrass, topping out at just four inches in height. This makes it perfect for blanketing the floor of the aquarium since it won’t block the view.
This is a very popular plant with aquarists because of how simple it is to grow. It requires next to nothing. Just make sure it gets light and your Dwarf Hairgrass will continue to grow and expand. Unlike Tall Hairgrass, you won’t have to force Dwarf Hairgrass to spread out. This plant propagates with runners, spreading out horizontally, rather than growing taller. Just be careful they don’t take over your tank because these plants grow very fast.
Dwarf Hairgrass is a multi-purpose plant. Not only is it an attractive way to add loads of color, but it also provides lots of hiding places for fry and timid fish. It even works well as a spawning medium.
4. Juncus Repens
Affordably priced and easy to grow, the Juncus Repens plant is a popular aquarium plant that can turn red in the right conditions, breaking up the monotony of mostly green plants. It will take a good bit of light to turn those leaves red, though the plant will still grow and thrive with less light; it will just remain green.
Juncus Repens has long, tendril-like stalks that stretch up to 12 inches in height, tipped with slender leaves. They can offer excellent hiding spots for smaller fish and fry and can be easily propagated by cutting stems and replanting them so you can fill your aquarium if desired.
This plant will grow easily in just about any condition. It’s robust and difficult to kill, though it is susceptible to green spot algae. Algae can grow and begin to overtake the tank, so make sure you keep an eye out and prevent any algae issues before they arrive.
5. Java Fern Windelov
Java Fern Windelov is a special type of Java Fern that was named for the aquarist that created it. It’s similar in many ways to standard Java Fern in terms of how it’s grown. But it has a very different appearance. For starters, it tops out at about eight inches tall. Moreover, the leaves are shaped differently. Windelov is often called Lacy Java Fern to describe the lacy-looking leaves that separate it from regular Java Fern.
This is a very easy plant to grow. It thrives in low-light conditions and requires no extra CO2. You’ll see the leaves stretching out towards the light source, growing vertically. Meanwhile, the rhizome will also be propagating plants horizontally, allowing the Java Fern Windelov to spread across your aquarium.
Like regular Java Fern, you’ll want to avoid covering the rhizome, as it can rot and the plant will die. Unlike many aquatic plants, herbivorous fish won’t generally eat Windelov. It’s a bit pricier than some of the other aquatic plants, but it’s also very decorative and unique, adding some character and beauty to your fish tank.
6. Marimo Moss Balls
Though Marimo balls are called moss, they’re actually a type of spherical algae. Some people even consider them pets; centering entire aquariums around these little balls! There is actually an old Japanese myth surrounding these plants, and they’re said to bring whatever the heart desires to anyone who gives or receives them. Plus, they’re extremely easy to care for, making them a popular choice with many aquarists; even beginners.
While these start out as cute little balls of just an inch or two, they can grow to a substantial size, even reaching 12 inches in height. They don’t require much light to grow and won’t need any CO2 either.
But these little algae balls are known for developing a putrid odor if left outside the water. Luckily, they can usually still be saved with a good cleaning. You’ll have to be careful about the tank mates you choose for a Marimo Moss Ball. Many will eat this little plant, including Goldfish, Crayfish, and Plecos.
7. Jungle Vallisneria
Usually used as a background plant due to its immense height, Jungle Vallisneria is a hardy plant that even beginning aquarists without a hint of a green thumb should be able to grow with ease. In fact, this plant is so robust that it’s one of the few aquarium plants that can survive in brackish water. It can reach heights of 24 inches, so you’ll need to keep it trimmed. With a moderate growth rate, you won’t have to trim too often though.
This plant is perfect for covering the back of your aquarium and providing a colorful backdrop for viewing your tank. Of course, it’s best suited for big tanks since it’s such a sizable plant. But with so many stalks providing cover, it’s a great choice for providing hiding places for fry and small fish.
8. Micranthemum Monte Carlo
With a max height of just two inches, Micranthemum Monte Carlo is a great plant for covering the floor of your aquarium or for providing some color in the foreground. It looks sort of like a large mass of interlocking clovers, and it tends to spread out across the floor of your aquarium, creating a bright green carpet that will liven up any tank.
This plant will grow without additional CO2 and with low light. That said, if you want the brightest color and fastest growth, you’ll want to supplement with a little extra CO2 and provide a moderate amount of lighting. It will still only grow to two inches tall, but you’ll have a fluorescent green carpet of Micranthemum Monte Carlo spreading across your tank.
9. Alternanthera Reineckii VAR. Roseafolia
If you’re looking for low-tech aquarium plants that are hard to kill, you’re left to choose from a wide range of mostly green plants. But the Alternanthera Reineckii VAR. Roseafolia can produce a vibrant red color, adding a splash of contrast to any fish tank. Even better, it’s an incredibly easy plant to grow and is perfectly suited for beginners.
This plant will grow adequately without doing anything. Just plant it and provide some light and it will flourish. But if you want to develop that deep red coloration, you’ll want to up the light and start adding some CO2.
10. Bacopa Caroliniana Lemon
Standing at a max height of about four inches, Bacopa Carolinana Lemon is a great choice for mid-grounds and foregrounds. It offers natural filtration for your tank and can grow with loads of light or just a little. If you provide enough light though, you’ll see it start to turn colors, ending up a shade somewhere between pink and copper.
This plant can grow in pretty much any conditions. No additional CO2 is necessary and high amounts of light are only needed to develop this plant’s colors. It’s a great way to give your smaller fish and fry plenty of hiding places, but it has to be weighed down. This plant will float to the surface otherwise. When properly weighted down, you’ll see Bacopa Carolinana Lemon spread out to cover an area spanning 12-24 inches.
Even if you’re only interested in low-tech aquarium plants that require minimal care if any, there are tons of choices available. In fact, there are so many options that it can be hard to choose any plants at all! Once you get the plant, you’ll also have to take care with where you place it in your aquarium and how you safely add it to your tank.
While that all seems like a lot to think about, this buyer’s guide should simplify everything. We’re going to cover the basics of choosing a plant and adding it to your tank, to, hopefully, make the choice easier for you.
Floaters or Planters?
When shopping for aquatic plants, you always have choices. One choice is whether you want plants on the floor, floating on the surface, or both. Floaters can provide some great hiding places and a unique look. But they can also block the light for plants beneath.
Plants on the bottom can also provide great hiding places, but they’re always planted in one place. You can spread them out through propagation, but the plants themselves aren’t moving.
Many plants can be used as floaters or planters, depending on how you add them to the tank.
Consider the Colors
One reason to add plants to your tank in the first place is to make it more colorful and festive. So, you’ll want to think about the overall look you want your tank to take on. Most low-tech plants are varying shades of green. You can pick from dark plants and bright ones to provide some contrast. But there are also low-tech red plants that are easy to grow and can add even more color to your aquarium.
Will Your Fish Eat Them?
Herbivorous fish will eat many plants that you add to your tank. You might even add plants specifically for them to eat! But if you add a plant to your aquarium for its appearance and then your fish ruin it by nibbling away at its leaves, you won’t be quite as pleased. Make sure your fish and plants are compatible before you purchase them.
Aquariums are often split into three zones; foreground, mid-ground, and background. Plants are placed in each zone according to their size and shape. The largest plants are usually relegated to the background so they don’t block the view. Medium-sized plants tend to occupy the middle of the tank, providing hiding places and some beauty. Foreground plants are usually the smallest so they won’t prevent you from seeing everything else going on in the tank!
Don’t Let Them Infect Your Tank!
Whenever you add a new resident to your aquarium, you have to be very careful. Fungus, bacteria, and more can easily contaminate your tank and cause serious damage. You’ll want to at least wash them with tap water. But it’s safer to soak them in a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water for about five minutes. Longer can damage the leaves, but a few minutes of soaking in this solution can kill anything that might infect your aquarium.
You don’t need a high-tech setup to grow some beautiful, colorful aquatic plants. The plants we’ve covered in these reviews are all easy to grow and will help you to quickly put together a beautiful aquarium that you’re thrilled with. Just provide some light and make sure you properly plant them, and you’ll see your tank taking off in no time.
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