Aquarium plants are one of the things that make your aquarium brighten up. However, growing and maintaining aquarium plants can be a bit of work; this is why some people don’t do it.
Plus, this could be a daunting task for beginner aquarists. But thankfully, low light aquarium plants are not so hard to grow and maintain. They only need basic maintenance and low light to bloom in your fish tank.
What are they, and which is the best for your aquarium? Read this article to check out 30 low light aquarium plants for your fish tank!
What’s A Low Light Aquarium Plant?
Low light aquarium plants are plants that need 3 watts per gallon light requirements or less. That much light is enough for them to grow and not die.
They just need between 15 to 25 lumen. That provides them with enough photosynthesis to thrive. Of course, plants need more than lighting to grow, so you have to ensure they get adequate nutrients.
Root Feeder or Column Feeder?
Low light aquarium plants can either be root feeders or column feeders. You need to know which plant you intend to grow in your aquarium; this will help you know how well to grow them.
Column feeders can survive above the substrate, and their rhizomes can get the nutrients they need from the tank water. Therefore, you don’t necessarily need to plant them in the substrate.
On the other hand, root feeders draw nutrients from the substrate, so you need to plant them in. In addition to that, you should ensure the substrate is highly rich in nutrients.
What To Consider When Choosing Low Light Aquarium Plants
Low-light aquarium plants are not the same. And besides, you can’t grow them all in your aquarium. Hence, the need to shortlist the ones you want based on some factors.
You should consider:
- Skill level
Are you a beginner or an expert? If you’re new, you should go for low-maintenance, low light aquarium plants like Java Fern, Amazon sword, and other hardy plants. Sensitive or high-maintenance plants may frustrate you.
Of course, this is something you need to consider. What kind of lighting will you use or set up? Is it indoor or outdoor lighting? Answering that will help you choose better.
- Level of care
You should also consider how much care the plant needs. Some plants are fast-growing and would need pruning and full care when you grow them.
- Compatibility with fish and other plants
This is important if you plan to grow more than one low-growing aquarium plant. Their water parameters and tank setup must be compatible.
Also, your fish’s water parameters, temperature, alkaline or acidic levels, and other factors must match that of the plant. If otherwise, it could affect your fish and plant badly. You would also want to be careful with herbivorous fish as they can feed on some plants.
Best Low Light Aquarium Plants
There are many low-light aquarium plant options you can choose from. Generally, they are not hard to care for, so you should experience little or no issues with them in your aquarium.
Here are the best low-light aquarium plants for you:
1. Java moss
Java moss is popular among aquarists, and they thrive in low light conditions. They tend to grow quickly, especially with strong light exposure, but you can prevent that if you limit the lighting, and you prune them regularly.
They are rootless plants, so you can grow them around driftwoods, rocks, and other decorations in your aquarium. Thankfully, they are good for beginners and can serve as a great cover for fish, eggs, and invertebrates.
2. Sunset hygro
Sunset hygro is a red-pink-like aquarium plant, and they add more color to your fish tank. They have white veins and can grow in low-light tank conditions.
However, they tend to grow fast, so they need routine pruning. Plus, they need iron to maintain their redness; otherwise, they may lose their color. They’re also good for beginners.
3. Green hygro
Green hygro is similar to sunset hygro; however, they’re different in color. Green hygro is green. However, its color can change from green to red or brown depending on the light.
Too much light will darken its hue and make it change color. It’s a root feeder plant, so plant it in a substrate. In addition, it’s a fast-growing plant and requires regular pruning.
However, it isn’t compatible with goldfish because they tend to feed on green hygro a lot and can kill it before it grows.
4. Rotala rotundifolia
Rotala rotundifolia is a low light aquarium plant that beautifies the aquarium with its pink color. This plant grows well in length and requires pruning; else, it’ll grow and take over the tank.
While they can thrive under low light, their color may not show as it should because they need stronger light for their color. However, you can make up for that with adequate nutrients.
Anubias barteri is one of the popular anubias, and aquarists like it. It is famous for its ease of maintenance and hardiness. Plus this plant can thrive in any water condition and under low or moderate tank lighting.
This plant is a root feeder, so you should fully or partially submerge it in the substrate. They’re pretty beautiful and will make a cool landscape in your aquarium.
6. Anubias nana
Anubias nana is another popular anubias and a low light aquarium plant. It has dark green pointed leaves and grows in a tight formation.
It is hardy and easy to care for, making it good for beginners as it doesn’t require active maintenance or pruning. It can survive shifts in light and temperature.
Since it’s a root feeder, you would need to plant it in a substrate, preferably gravel.
7. African water fern
African water fern is native to Congo River Basin and is a nice low-light aquarium plant. While it can grow up to 22 inches, it is slow-growing and can take time to reach that length, especially under low light conditions.
It is also more likely to thrive in warmer freshwater. Thankfully, it’s not hard to care for and is a column feeder, so just attach it to driftwood or rock. However, they’re not compatible with koi, goldfish, and cichlids.
8. Java Fern
Java Fern is a column feeder and thrives well under low lighting conditions. It’s very popular among aquarists and is good for freshwater tanks and beginners.
Its maximum height is 13.5 inches, requiring no pruning or maintenance. However, you need to keep it under low light; otherwise, the leaves will darken, and the plant won’t grow well.
Once you attach it to driftwood or stick it into a water column, it’ll start growing.
9. Marimo moss ball
Marimo moss ball is a green moss ball that stays at the aquarium’s bottom. It is more algae than an aquarium plant but is easy to care for, so many aquarists love it. It’s good for sucking up nitrate and saltwater and freshwater tanks.
10. Coffee leaf anubias
This anubias species is a hardy plant and is low maintenance. It grows dark, broad green leaves and thrives under low light.
Grow it in an iron-rich substrate and 80° F water temperature, and it’ll thrive. It matches well with goldfish, cichlids, and other herbivorous fish because they hardly eat the leaves.
11. Red ludwigia
Red color beautifies your tank, and a mixture of it with green is spectacular. Red ludwigia will do just that, and it can sometimes change to orange. It’ll grow better if you plant it on a substrate rich in iron.
It’s easy to care for and doesn’t require regular trimming.
12. Micro crypt
This plant is native to Sri Lanka and good for making a ground cover in your aquarium. The micro crypt is root feeding and requires many substrates to enable its root to propagate around the aquarium’s bottom. It’s easy to care for and good for beginners.
13. American waterweed
American waterweed is very easy to care for and suitable for beginners. It’s a column feeder and can grow in any water condition.
In addition, it produces much oxygen in aquariums and provides hiding spots for critters and fry. However, it can grow quickly, up to 3 feet, and take over the tank.
Hornwort is a high-maintenance low light aquarium plant. It’s fast-growing and can grow up to 10 feet, making it more suitable for large tanks; otherwise, you’ll need to prune too often.
They’re hardy and can beautify your aquarium’s landscape due to their multiple stems. In addition, they’re column feeders, so their rhizomes can get all the nutrients they need from the water.
However, they may not be compatible with other plants because they tend to produce chemicals that may prevent others from growing.
15. Rotala Indica
This is an aquarium plant with small, beautiful leaves. They’re similar to Rotala Indica, just that their colors are not uniform. They have green on top and red at the bottom.
They’re very fragile and may not be good for beginners. They need water with a temperature between 72° F and 80° F to survive. Plus, they need consistent care to grow.
16. Parrots feather
Parrot feathers have high-density foliage with beautiful green and blue leaves. They can survive different tank temperatures but need high nutrients in the substrate to grow well, which you can supplement with fertilizers occasionally.
Its leaves can serve as hiding spots for fish in your tank, and it grows beautifully in aquariums.
Moneywort is a bright green plant with round leaves. Its maximum growth is 12 inches which makes it suitable for small tanks and can grow above the water surface, provided it gets enough light.
It’s a column feeder and sucks nutrients from the water. You can grow it in a water temperature between 72° to 82° Fahrenheit.
This colorful green plant can grow under low lighting conditions in aquariums. It’s small in size and often grows along a creeping vine.
It’s fast-growing, and it can quickly take over the tank under high lighting and nitrogen. However, you can prevent that and make it slowly grow with low lighting.
It can grow in warm water temperatures or cold tropical freshwater tanks. Brazilian pennywort is a column feeder, so you can leave it to float.
Cryptocoryne (crypt) wendtii is a low-maintenance aquarium plant that can live under minimal lighting. To grow this plant, you must maintain stable water conditions in your aquarium.
Compared to other plants, it grows longer leaves even under low lighting, up to 18 inches. Plus, you’d discover that it’s easy to care for.
However, it may not do great immediately when transferring it into your tank because of a sudden change. Thankfully, it bounces back within a week, provided you maintain tank conditions.
Bacopa is another easy and versatile low-light aquarium plant. Its color changes from green to yellow and grows slowly, making it low maintenance. Even though it may grow to one foot, you can easily cut it and prevent it from overcrowding the tank.
21. Waterwheel plant
This plant doesn’t rely on photosynthesis to grow; hence, its compatibility with low light conditions. It also draws nutrients from microorganisms and tiny planktons in aquariums.
It’s small and free-floating; however, it can be hard to care for because of its nutrient source. You may need to add zooplankton to the water.
Pelia or Pelia moss is a bush-like low-light aquarium plant. It doesn’t grow high, so it sits at the bottom of aquariums but is not a root feeder. While the plant may be delicate, it can survive different conditions, temperatures, nutrients, and water chemistry.
23. Guppy grass
Guppy grass is a low-maintenance aquarium plant and is easy to tend. Under low lighting, the color can be darker green than its usual color.
You can plant it in your breeding box or shrimp tank because it provides enough hiding spots for fish fry and critters. However, it’s fast-growing, so you need to trim the leaves if you don’t want it to take over the tank.
This green aquarium plant is good for adding layers to your tank. It has dense, broad leaves that grow slowly, up to 20 inches. You need to plant it on a substrate for it to grow well. However, you should prepare for pruning as its leaves grow fast.
25. Cryptocoryne spiralis
Cryptocoryne spiralis has long, narrow leaves, making it look grass-like. It sprouts upward and can grow up to the water surface.
Its best lighting condition is medium-light; however, it’s not beginner-friendly because of other requirements. It needs an iron-rich substrate and a temperature between 75° to 82° F.
Cryptocoryne spiralis is best as a solo plant in aquariums.
This crypt plant grows broad, fingered leaves and is a hiding place for smaller fish. The leaves are light and sway with the water current in the aquarium.
This aquarium plant can survive low or high lighting conditions, so light changes can hardly affect it. You need to plant the root in the substrate and supplement it with nitrogen and phosphorus, so it can grow well. It can grow up to 3 feet, but you can trim it to your preference.
Duckweed is very popular and beginner-friendly. It is a good choice for most aquariums. It’s a floating plant, so you don’t need to plant it on the substrate.
It grows in a carpet of green and looks good in your aquascape. In addition, it absorbs nutrients and organic matter in the tank and prevents algae growth. However, it’s a fast-growing plant and requires frequent maintenance and pruning.
28. Banana plant
These low-light aquarium plants get their name from their banana-shaped roots. They store nutrients in the root, enabling the plant to thrive under low light even when they need more. Its thick leaves can act as hiding and playing spots for fish in the aquarium.
29. Water wisteria
Water wisteria is popular and adapts quickly to new environments. It’s a good low-light aquarium plant to keep as a beginner as it doesn’t require much active care.
The low light condition enables the leaves to grow big and cover the water surface. If the lighting increases, the leaves shrink and become thin. However, this doesn’t mean they’ll rot, but it indicates they get enough lighting.
30. Peacock moss
Peacock moss isn’t as popular as duckweed, anubias, and other famous ones. They’re relatively new, but they are low-light aquarium plants.
They grow slowly and don’t require much maintenance in the tank. Plant peacock moss in 75° F water temperature and below as anything higher than that can discolor them.
Special Care For Growing Low Light Aquarium Plants
Low-light aquarium plants don’t need much care and maintenance to grow as they should. However, you must do some things to ensure they reach their optimal growth and stay healthy.
- Root tabs
You can use this to up the nutrient level in the substrate. Root tabs are a disc-like substance that contains many nutrients, so you can put them under the substrate.
- Liquid fertilizer
Using a liquid fertilizer, you can also ensure your low-light aquarium plants grow well and get enough nutrients. However, you should use this sparingly as too much of it can cause algae outbreaks.
This supplements your aquarium plants with CO2. It supplies the plants with other necessary benefits without requiring many CO2 system setups.
Fluorite is an iron substrate that you can add to the gravel in your aquarium. It contains iron and other beneficial nutrients for your root feeder, low light aquarium plants.
There are many low-light aquarium plants to choose from. The good thing is you can plant more than one of them in your aquarium, but of course, you’ll have to check their compatibility.
So, ensure you learn everything about the plants you intend to grow before buying.