A hardy, easily-grown plant that tolerates almost anything
With its famous toughness, along with its ability to tolerate almost any water conditions a beginner could throw at it, we think Anubias Nana is a great choice for beginner aquascapers.$13.95 from SubstrateSource
We think Anubias Nana is a great plant choice for most beginner aquascapers. It’s tough enough to survive the mistakes that everybody makes in their first few tanks, and it’s still appealing for most aquascaping styles. In addition, it’s also easily-maintained, and requires very little trimming.
How We Tested Our Plants
We planted and grew a variety of each type of plant. The specs for the tank are below:
- 2.9 G Rimless Cube Tank
- Pressurized CO2 (30ppm)
- Weekly 50% water changes (RO water)
- 3 kH / 6.6 pH
We created the above specs for each plant we grew, and tested the recommended amount of light for each plant. We allowed each plant to grow for 30 days, and recorded the results.
The water changes were to help control the usual detritus and algae blooms that can happen with newly-planted tanks and high-light situations. Luckily, we were able to successfully control algae outbreaks, and didn’t have a problem during our testing.
A moss-type plant that tolerates nearly any tank condition
Java Moss is perfect for the beginner — it tolerates any light quality, and any water quality. Simply put: it’s really hard to kill.$21.09 at Amazon (2 pads)
Java moss is likely the best choice for a freshwater plant, as far as beginners are concerned. it’s a ‘feather’ type moss that likely originated in Southeast Asia, and is perfect for three primary reasons: It can clean your water, help prevent algae blooms, and provide shelter for fry, if you’re attempting to breed fish.
It’s extremely thriving in nearly any situation: it’ll even grow in slightly brackish water! Java moss grows well in any light conditions, and thrives at around 70 – 75º F. It does get dirty easily (because of its feathery appearance), so it’s important to make sure you have enough water movement to keep it free of refuse, or else it’ll get a brown, furry appearance.
Best of all, it’s easily multiplied! Just split it and replant, and it’ll keep right on growing!
You can read more about java moss in our Java Moss Care Guide.
A great option for beginners that want a carpeting tank without the headaches of some other species.
Able to survive in most water conditions, Marsilea Minuta is a great choice for beginners because of its tolerance of light conditions, although it’ll get leggy in low-light tanks.$9.99 on Buce Plant
Marsilea Minuta (also known as ‘Dwarf Waterclover’) is a hardy plant that looks visually similar to a four-leaf clover, and is another great choice for beginner aquascapers that’s able to survive basically any mistakes.
MM grows via ‘rhizome’, which means that it sends out roots under the soil, occasionally sprouting the leafy stems we see.
It does have a tendency to ‘carpet’ under high light situations. (If your tank is lower light, it does have a tendency to grow vertically instead.) Marsilea Minuta can grow in essentially any water conditions (including brackish), and thrives around 68 – 84º F.
If you’re going to try and make a carpet from Marsilea Minuta, you’ll want a loosely-packed, fine soil (like sand) to allow the rhizome enough surface area to spread effectively.
A great choice for beginners starting a medium-sized tank.
Amazon Sword is a relatively-hardy plant that’s perfect for hiding your tank’s gear. It’ll need frequent trimming for smaller tanks to prevent a takeover.$7.99 from Planterest
Amazon Sword is another hardy choice for beginner aquascapers. There are actually a few different varieties of AS, some with broad leaves, and others with thinner leaves, so be sure you’re getting the type you’d prefer when purchasing.
Amazon Swords can also grow quite large — as much as 10 – 20 inches! As a result, it’s usually used as a centerpiece, or to hide aquarium equipment like a heater, or filter uptake tube. You’ll also often see Swords in ‘forest’ type aquascapes.
If you’re aquascaping a smaller tank, Amazon Sword will require frequent trimming to prevent a takeover, in addition to the additional algae maintenance it’ll likely cause for beginners.
Amazon Swords love high light. Long hours of high-light cause it to thrive, even as much as 10 – 12 hours a day. As a result, it usually causes algae blooming issues, and requires somewhat good water conditions to prevent an algae takeover.
Those algae problems can be easily-solved by including shrimp with the aquascape — they’ll keep the Amazon Sword (and tank in general) more clean, helping to prevent outbreaks.
You can propagate Amazon Sword by trimming the ‘bulbs’ from the parent plant and carefully replanting them, ensuring the crown is above the substrate surface.
Forms a thick, lush carpet in high light tanks
Pygmy Chain Sword forms a beautiful carpet in high-light tanks, and isn’t too challenging for beginners to grow and maintain.$16.99 from AquariumPlantsFactory
Pygmy Chain Sword
Pygmy Chain Sword is the smallest of the ‘Sword’ plants, reaching a maximum height of ~4 inches. It’s commonly used to form carpets, with its thin, long leaves providing a lush ‘floor’ to the aquascape.
PCS naturally occurrs along shores, so it’s not surprising that it requires a fine soil for its rhizome, and lots of light to support its fast growth. While Pygmy Chain will survive lower-light tanks, it’s best to give it as much light as possible to encourage carpeting.
It’s best suited for 68 – 84º F, and requires at _least_a moderate amount of light to form a carpet. High light is optimal, and providing 12 – 14 hours of light per day is best for those thick carpets it’s known to form.
An extremely-fast growing plant that’s perfect for backgrounds and mid-grounds with trimming.
Dwarf Sagittaria is a solid choice for aquascapers that want to see fast-growth in their planted tanks.$14.48 from PlantsFactory (10 Pack)
Dwarf Sagittaria is a fantastic choice for aquascapers that want fast results from their plant growth. It grows quite quickly, and can even grow completely out of of smaller tanks! It propagates quickly, and isn’t sensitive to temperature changes in the aquascape — but it grows best around 72 – 82º F. While CO2 isn’t required for it to survive, Dwarf Sagittaria grows extremely quickly when it’s used.
Dwarf Sagittaria tolerates all substrates types — even gravel substrates, as long as high light is provided. (For optimal growth, high light, fine + fertizlied substrates, and consistent trimming is best.) We found fantastic growth with dosed ferts, high water movement, and CO2 diffusion.
While this plant is green in most tanks, in high-light aquascapes it can take on a red hue, providing a visual flare to tanks.
The easiest plant for aquascaping beginners
With its classic flared-lip-pan shape, slick nonstick coating, and comfortable handle, the Tramontina is a quality pan that will last for years, especially with use.$13.95 from SubstrateSource
Anubias Nana (AKA Dwarf Anubias) is the smallest plant in its family, only growing to around 4 – 5 inches. However, what it lacks in height is made up for in toughness — it’s so tough, its leaves feel like leather! It’s extremely hardy, but is best-suited for 72 – 82º F.
Anubias grows via rhizome, but usually isn’t used as a carpet, due to its extremely slow growth — It’s common to see one leaf a month! If you do choose to plant it, take care to ensure the rhizome is above the substrate, otherwise it’ll prevent much growth.
The wait’s worth it, though, as Anubias Nana also occasionally produces beautiful, white flowers! These flowers also stick around for quite a while.
You’ll want to plant this in low-medium light conditions; high-light situations cause it to compact, and are more susceptible to algae blooms. You can anchor it easily by attaching it to a rock or driftwood via fishing line.
What’s been your experience with aquascaping? Is there a specific plant that you’ve had success with? (Or maybe a failure?) Let us know in the comments!