Choosing Aquarium Plants For Your Fish Tank

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Different types of aquarium plant

Choosing plants

There are a wide range of aquatic plants available for aquariums and some are easier to care for than others. Choosing the correct mix of plants should be based on both aesthetic function and their ease of keeping in the aquarium. For most aquariums, a little trial and error will be required. Even in the best conditions some plants will do better than others. An aquarium is a dynamic environment though, so plants can be continually added or removed as required.

Planting areas

Plants can be grouped as background, midground or foreground based on their size and a mix of these plants often produces the best effect. Foreground plants such as small Cryptocoryne sp. or grass-like plants such as Eleocharis sp. are ideal for creating large areas of 'lawn' like vegetation towards the front of the aquarium. Midground plants can be placed around other items of decor such as bogwood or rocks and are best used in small groups. Background plants will grow quite large and can be used in dense groups to give the aquarium a heavily vegetated appearance. When choosing plants for the aquarium, make sure your selection includes plants for all of these areas. It is often best to use groups of plants and only a few different varieties rather than a large number of individual plants.

The right mix

Plants are available in a number of different leaf forms and colours, to create an interesting display a good mix of these should be used. Contrasting leaf shapes look best when placed behind or in front of each other rather than next to each other. Using this method, the foreground, midground, and background plants should look distinctly different whilst plants within the same group should have similar leaf shapes. A good method of creating subtle variations in leaf shape or colour is to use different species of a related group. Using this method, foreground plants could consist of a number of different Cryptocoryne sp. whilst background plants could consist of different species of the similar Cabomba or Myriophyllum sp.

Environmental requirements

Much like fish, different plants have different needs. Some are far easier to keep than others. The plants you choose should all be suited to your aquarium. If you do not have very bright lighting then plants with red leaves or light green leaves may not be suitable, as these may require bright light. If the water in your aquarium is quite hard, or has a high pH level, use only plants suited to harder water. A good retailer should be able to help you choose plants based on your aquarium conditions.


There is no rule to follow when choosing the amount of plants and it is purely up to the individual. It should be noted that if a large number of plants are used then good lighting, fertilisation and abundant carbon dioxide is required. The plants do not have to be bought all at once, and you can simply increase the number of plants until the aquarium appears as desired.

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