Aquarium Plant Care For Beginners

In Aquariumsby PaulK

So you’re trying to get live plants to grow in your new aquarium and are having some trouble keeping them alive. I did too at first because I didn’t have the know-how to keep the plants growing and thriving in my aquarium. Some would always die, while others just barely hung on.

All it takes is some know-how and you too can have a fish tank with thriving live plants.

Reasons you want live plants in your aquarium:

  • Plants provide oxygen for your fish through photosynthesis.
  • Plants absorb potentially harmful nitrates and other chemicals.
  • Plants give your fish tank a more natural look.
  • Plants provide hiding places and shelter for the more timid fish.

Mainly, plants need plenty of nutrients and some good lighting. Plants will get their nutrients from the water column and the substrate. In order for the plants to get the proper nutrients, you either need to put in some dirt as a first layer under normal substrate or you can buy a nutrient-rich substrate here.

Some plants grow better on wood or rock so you may to put that in your tank as well

Next, you need to have some decent lighting. Preferably a light that has a full spectrum. The deeper the fish tank, the stronger the light needs to be.

To start off with, get some beginner-friendly plants.

Here are 5 you should consider:


Mainam Anubias Barteri Coin Leaves Live Aquarium Plants Freshwater Rhizome 3 Days Live Guaranteed

Anubias. click the photo for price info.

So to start off the bat I think if you’ve done any research at all you know that Anubias are very, very easy. There are a lot of varieties. You’ve got congensis, nana, barteri, frazeri, petite, coffeefolia, hastifolia etc. All of those are very, very easy and have a wide variety of parameters. They get attached to wood or rock. If you’re going to have substrate that’s a great one.


I’ve grown Anubias pretty much in every single planted tank that I have and mostly because it’s just so easy to grow. They don’t require a lot of nutrients, they don’t require good light, they don’t even require a planted tank substrate to grow.

They’re not a really demanding plant and you can pretty much get away with growing this plant in just gravel substrate. You can even just tie it to driftwood or other things in your tank and it’ll still grow and as long as it gets a little bit of light it’ll grow.


Anubias plants will be light green to dark green in color however if they do become unhealthy they will turn yellow, so that’s one thing to watch out for. If you start to notice yellowing around the edges of your leaves or on the rhizome that means the plant is unhealthy. For the most part, if your anubias are healthy it will either be light or dark green, it just depends on which species you grow.


Anubias plants are compatible with a wide variety of aquariums and not just planted tanks. Regular freshwater tanks with big fish that you would pretty much say you can’t grow plants with. Anubias plants are very, very hardy and very firm, strong plants. They’re what I like to call the tanks of the plant world. They’re really hard to kill. They’re really hard for big fish to destroy.

Anubias are perfect for Goldfish tanks, Cichlid tanks, Arowana tanks, Oscar tanks, catfish tanks or tanks that have big fish that we would pretty much deem not suitable for plants. Anubias plants just grow great in those types of environments because they are pretty much impossible to tear apart.

Fish really do have a hard time killing this plant or tearing it apart because it’s such a big plant. It’s not fragile by any means so it’s very hard for a goldfish or a cichlid or any other fish to tear it apart. Now, of course if you grow this plant with a barracuda it’s it’s not going to last.

Lastly, we move on to propagate anubias. It’s very easy. All you do is cut a section off of the original rhizome of your mother plant and just replant it. One of the biggest mistakes that people make is that they bury the rhizome in their substrate. That’s something you really don’t want to do because it’ll kill the plant.

Burying the rhizome into your substrate and not exposing it to light or anything will cause it to just simply melt away. Make sure that when you are propagating this plant and you replant your little sections of anubias you only bury the roots you don’t bury the rhizome because if you do it’ll just melt away and not only will it melt away but when you have to take it out – you have to remove the dead sections.

Anubias plants are by far the worst smelling plants when they do melt away or die. They just smell so horrible so try to prevent that in any way you can because trust me you don’t want to smell these plants when they die they are it’s pretty gross.


Mainam Java Fern Microsorum Pteropus Potted Freshwater Easy Tropical Live Aquarium Plant Decorations 3 Days Guarantee

Java Fern. Click the photo for latest price.

Here we’ve got two varieties we got the normal variety which is kind of taller and then we’ve got windelov, which has got frilly leaves like a little lace leaf. Java fern is similar to anubias in the fact that it attaches to water rock and wood.


Java fern will stay green in color and it’s it’s pretty much just one of those traditional aquarium plants. It’s mostly just a green aquarium plant but typically there will be black lines going through the leaves on this plant. The black lines are the veins. Sometimes there will also be black bumps on the leaves like black, little tiny circle bumps. A lot of people that buy java fern think its dead and want their money back. It’s not dead. Java fern develops those black bumps because that’s how it grows.


This plant is very compatible with a lot of fish. Cichlids, Tiger Oscars, Catfish or Arowana. Large fish that can really damage sensitive plants. Java fern is a very hardy plant and it’s a very strong, firm plant. It’s hard for fish to tear it apart. I will say however that when you first plant these I wouldn’t recommend that you plant them in your substrate in a tank with large fish because the roots on java fern really won’t be that strong. The roots won’t be anchored that well on your substrate which will make it very easy large fish to dig it up, which could potentially affect its growth.

What I would recommend if you’re growing this plant in a tank with large fish is that you tie it to driftwood or tie it to rock something in your tank. That way it’s anchored down and there’s no way that your fish can mess with it. As far as fish nibbling on it or as far as fish crashing into it or banging into it whatever you want to call it it’s a very hardy plant and can sustain a lot of blows.


Next, we move on to propagation. To propagate this plant, similar to anubias, you can either cut the rhizome in half and replant those cut sections or you can wait for the plant to develop these little tiny baby Java ferns on its leaves.

Java fern will develop these little black bumps on its leaves and like I said people typically mistake that for a plant being unhealthy and it’s not.

Within a couple of weeks you’ll notice little tiny leaves sprouting out of these little black bumps and it’s weird because you don’t expect java fern to grow that way. You expect it to grow like an anubias plant and continue expanding and growing and producing leaves. While it grows like that as well, it also produces those little tiny baby plants on those little bumps on its leaves so it’ll develop those little bumps, the little baby plants will grow and grow and grow.

I’ve heard that they fall off or most the time people just break them off and replant those sections so you can either propagate it by cutting its rhizome or you can wait for it to develop those little tiny baby Java ferns. I will say though that if you plant java fern or if you’re trying to get a dense bush of java fern in your tank, let those little baby java fern grow out on the leaves. That way, as everything grows out and every other Java fern produces more little baby plants on its leaves you’ll get a really dense bush of this plant and it’ll look really really cool.


Now we move on to the growth habits. I’ve covered a lot of different growth habits in the propagation portion, so there’s really not much to say for the growth habits. I will say that you know when java fern grows. It does get pretty big. They probably get to about maybe six to eight inches tall. You could even use java fern as a show plant in your tank. Make that the focal point of your planted tank because it does get quite big and when it does, it looks really, really nice. It’s one of those plants that just really ties everything together in a planted tank.

I’ve grown java fern for years it’s one of the plants that I first started out with in this hobby. It’s a very easy to grow plant. You can grow this in a low light environment. It really doesn’t require nutrients or good substrate because you can grow this plant on driftwood or on rock. You can grow this plant in a gravel only substrate tank or tank without nutrients. You can simply rely on your fish to provide enough nutrients to this plant.

It is just a very hardy plant that does well in the absolute worst environments for plants in an aquarium. If you’re on a tight budget or a beginner or you just don’t have all the fancy CO2 and nutrients. All the other stuff that people use in planted tanks. Java fern will be a great plant and it won’t grow as fast in a low light, low nutrient environment, but it’ll still grow and it’ll still stay alive in your tank.

I think for those of you that are on a budget, the whole goal is to buy plants that just stay alive. Java fern will definitely help you accomplish a good-looking tank on a budget or in a tank that doesn’t have all the other fancy highlight stuff and CO2. Easy to grow plant and a great beginner plant so I highly recommend it for those of you that are just starting out in this hobby.


Mainam (Crypt Wendtii Green) Cryptocoryne Wendtii Stem Bundle Freshwater Live Aquarium Plants Decoration

Cryptocoryne. Click the photo for latest price.

It’s a very easy to grow popular aquarium plant that’s been in the hobby for a very long time, more commonly known as “crypts.” Currently, there are 63 species of crypts in the world ranging from cryptic cordata from Thailand and Malaysia to cryptocoryne wendtii native to the island of Sri Lanka. New species are discovered frequently as this plant has a tendency to hybridize freely in nature.

Crypts come in a variety of different styles and colors including green red and brown. Some have long pointy leaves and others have small round leaves. Generally, they can grow quite large taking over areas of your aquarium, but they can be kept small and compact with regular pruning. The most common crypt plant kept in the home aquarium is cryptochrome wendtii green and for good reason. In my opinion, it’s one of the most beautiful crypt species to grow.


To grow crypts successfully in the home aquarium good substrate and low to medium light is required. This is partially the reason why some species of crypts have become invasive species in North America – so don’t release your plants in the wild. I’ve grown crypts for years and out of all the other plants that I’ve grown throughout the time I’ve been in this hobby I have to say these are by far the easiest plants to grow and they’re really beautiful.

They can really help somebody achieve a jungle look. Something that’s just overgrown with big plants, they’re just really really awesome. They’re definitely not for the hobbyist that likes things really neat and orderly in their fish tanks because pretty much once you plant a crypt it just takes over that area in your tank.


Aponogeton Bolivianus Bulb - Large Aquarium Plant

Aponogeton Crispus. Click the photo for latest price.

My favorite plant, or easy plant if you will, is Aponogeton Crispus or Aponogeton. It is also known as the “crinkled” Aponogeton or “ruffled” Aponogeton. This plant originates from Sri Lanka and grows to a maximum height of 14 inches. In general, this is a bulb plant that even if you have like a fish tank with new light on it it’s going to grow. It will get big and spindly and it grows fast, but as it matures the growth rate will slow down. It doesn’t even have to have fertilizers. All you have to do is put them in water and they will grow.

Don’t plant it, just set it on top of the gravel. It’ll grow roots down. If planted in low lighting it will grow longer stems and elevated leaves rather than bushier lower leaves. This plant should be kept in a temperature of 72-86 F or 22-30 C. This plant may also flower in a planted tank, so give it good care.





Mainam Nymphaea Rubra Bulb Dwarf Water Lily Live Aquarium Plants Decorations 3 DAY LIVE GUARANTEED By

Dwarf Lily. Click the photo for latest price.

Last but not least is the Dwarf Lily. Not only is it a cool color it makes leaves down low and eventually you’ll send leaves all the way up to the top and have lily pads. I love this plant and the reason why I love it is because it is a plant that can go in anyone’s tank. Low-light highlight CO2 no CO2, dirt or no dirt, you can plant this plant literally anywhere and it’s going to grow. The Latin name is Nymphaea Stellata.

It comes in a rhizome like a little walnut. When you buy them, which I suggest you do from planted aquariums central, it comes in like a little ball it almost like it looks like a little ball with stems coming out of it and you can split that in half. Take a razor blade and just cut it right in half. You don’t want to plant the whole rhizome in the substrate. Leave about half of it out or maybe a third of it out and it’ll keep producing like crazy.

I would say anyone getting into planted tanks a this is a great beginner plant. Grab some put them in your planted tank. It’s going to thrive. You can probably do anything in the world and not kill this plant. I recommend you put it in the back of your fish tanks because it’s not really a foreground plant, but if you put it in the back of the tank way back in the corner it’s going to produce leaves like crazy over and over and over again and you can trim them how you want to. You can really aquascape with this dwarf lily plant.

With just these five beginner plants, you have over 100 different varieties of aquarium plants to choose from to get the look and color that you want and they’re easy to grow and maintain!

As always, leave comments below about your experience with these plants or you want to know more. is a participant in the Amazon Affiliate Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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