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“Can I have a planted tank without special lights, fertilizers, or a CO2 system?” This is a question everyone in the freshwater aquarium hobby has asked at some point, and we have good news: the answer is a resounding yes. If you want beautiful aquatic plants without feeling like you have to sell a kidney to afford tech to keep them alive, we've got you.
This is the first of a two part series on which aquarium plants are right for you based on how much maintenance they need. In this post, we'll list out some of the best low-light, hard-to-kill plants for folks who just want some green without all the extras.
Come back next week for part two, where we'll talk about species for those of you who have taken the plunge and want to try something more advanced with ferts, brighter lights, etc. Until then, onto the easy plants!
This plant is a living win-win scenario. It's unique-looking, it's a conversation starter (“Are those bananas in your fish tank?” Yes. Yes they are), and it's a super easy aquarium plant to care for. Why does it have "bananas?" They're actually a modified root system used for nutrient storage. Banana plants are a species of water lily native to the southeastern United States, so they like the warmer tanks a lot of popular freshwater fish species need. That said, they can survive colder environments too, so if you have something like an axolotl that requires colder water, you can still have some of these guys (it just may not thrive as much as it would in tropical tanks).
These plants are adaptable, do well in low-light tank environments, and are great as a floater plant. They're also surprisingly easy to propagate if you fall in love with them and want to go...bananas. This would make a great addition to any tank, especially a kid's aquarium.
I'm convinced those post-apocalyptic movies with barren wastelands are unrealistic now if there isn't a java fern chilling in the background somewhere - because if there was ever a plant to survive planetary destruction, it's this one. This is an incredibly hardy aquarium plant from India, Malaysia, and Thailand that can handle a lot of different water parameters, low light, no extra fertilizer, and beginner mistakes.
I once moved several states away with these in a tank and thought they died after a mover got careless. The tank sat dry for two weeks and this plant still came back after I got it going again. It's tough enough it can actually make a good plant for cichlid tanks, too. If that's not an endorsement for how hard it is to kill, we don't know what is.
There are several java fern varieties– different looks, but all the same toughness. The most common are regular java fern and narrow-leaf java fern. Another variety is the trident java fern that can be harder to find but is worth the wait. It's well-named with leaves that branch in groups of three and make you feel like Poseidon's given your tank his stamp of approval. There's also a super cool Windelov java fern cultivar with leaves that remind me of veins or tree branches.
As strong as this plant is, it has an Achilles heel: you can't plant it in your substrate because it has a rhizome that will rot if it's buried. You can tie or glue it to your tank décor, stick it between some rocks, or put it in crevices on driftwood, though.
Lots of mythology references, there. What can we say? Java ferns are epic.
Anubias is a genus from Africa with a ton of diverse species, all of which can look amazing in a low-maintenance fish tank. Like Java ferns, it’s also one of the few plants tough enough to try with cichlids or goldfish. If the chaos-incarnate cichlids can’t destroy it, you probably won’t either. These do great in low light; have thick, dark green leaves; and make for a fantastic choice for all spaces in the aquarium if you’re getting into aquascaping.
Anubias nana is a bestseller for a reason. It’s one of the hardiest midground aquarium plants alive and is low-effort, high-reward. As a bonus, there’s also a sub-variety called Anubias nana petite that’s a fun, mini version of the original.
Anubias barteri also has a few subtypes that do well in a beginner tank. One is the aptly named Broadleaf with enormous leaves that grow more quickly in better light but still look great in lower-light setups. There’s also the goldencoin variety with smaller, rounder leaves that look like…coins. Botanists are real creative with names in these here parts. For the background, there are Anubias congensis and Anubias lancelota - taller and no less tough.
Like the java fern, Anubias has a rhizome that shouldn’t be buried unless you want to murder the otherwise un-murderable.
If you're looking for low-light aquatic plants, allow us to introduce you to your new best friend, Bacopa. Moneywort (monnieri) could probably grow in a closet. Yellow Flame, as the name suggests, is monnieri's more colorful cousin. If you want a tough plant that also gives you some contrast, this is your ticket.These species are also great for their flexibility because they can be planted in your substrate or floated.
Check back in next week for plants that pose a little more of a challenge (don’t worry; we’ll give lots of tips and tricks). You know the routine by now: let us know what other posts you want to see next, and tank on!
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- Tags: Anubias, aquarium, Aquarium Plant Species, Aquarium Tip and Tricks, Banana plants, Beginner Tank, blog, Can't Kill It Combo, Dustinsfishtanks, Easy, Easy Plants, fish tank, Floating Plants, Freshwater Planted Aquarium, Java Fern, Planted tank, Plants, The Planted Tank