Plants need light to perform photosynthesis, but not all of them require 12 hours of lighting. The quality of the light is what matters. When looking for plants that grow in your fish tank, you want to consider the amount of light they require. If you’re planning to place the aquarium in a poorly lit area, you want to make sure the plants can survive. So, what are the best aquarium plants for low light?
The best low light aquarium plants include Amazon sword, java moss, java fern, anubias, crypts, and dwarf Sagittaria. These plants grow and thrive very well in low-light aquariums and some may not need CO2 to remain healthy.
Keep in mind that it is important to clean and disinfect new plants before adding them to your aquarium to prevent the spread of disease and parasites.
How much light is low light in an aquarium?
Light is necessary for the growth of all living things but the difference is the amount of lighting required. Some aquatic plants require intense lighting while others require low lighting.
Are you afraid that your aquarium plants are getting too much or too low light? Are algae forming rapidly in your aquarium? That means too much light. A low-light aquarium plant needs a low light intensity of 0.25 watts per liter of water.
15 Best aquarium plants for low light
Here are the 15 best aquarium plants for low light:
1. Java fern (microsorum pteropus)
Java fern is the most popular aquarium plant for low light. Its found in China, and it naturally grows on rocks, wood, and along rivers and waterfalls.
It’s a common plant with beginners because it’s compatible with almost all freshwater aquariums. It does well with a wide range of temperatures of 68–80°F (20–26°C) and a ph of 6.0 – 7.5.
The fern absorbs CO2 released by the fish during reproduction, replacing it with oxygen, thus making the water fresh. Java fern is a great midground aquarium plant, and it requires little care to maintain in a fish tank.
Care for java fern
- Attach the java fern to a block of wood or stone inside the aquarium.
- If the water inside the aquarium is clean, java fern doesn’t require fertilizers.
Note: a great alternative to java moss is willow moss.
2. Java moss (Vesicularia dubyana)
Java moss is a common freshwater moss that grows in tropical climatic conditions. It originates from Southeast Asia. It grows in woods and stones, and they do not have roots, making them aquatic because they can float in water. Java moss does well in a temperature of 59–86°F and a ph of 5.0 – 8.0.
In an aquarium, java moss is used as carpet; it gives the environment attractive aquascapes and natural looks. Java moss helps reduce ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites in the fish tank. It also provides hiding places for young shrimps and increases the surface area for the shrimps to hide.
Care for java moss
- Fertilizers and carbon dioxide accelerate its growth up to 1.5 inches a month.
- Clean the tank weekly to remove fish food leftovers and any other built-up dirt on the wood and stones
- Add algae-eating fish to the tank to reduce algae growth
- Trim the java moss using scissors once a month to prevent overgrowth
3. Anubias nana (Anubias barteri var. nana)
Anubias Nana is a freshwater plant from Asia and is native to Congo and Cameroon in Africa. It’s short and has broad dark leaves that make it attractive in an aquarium.
Its placed in the foreground or background in the aquarium and requires water conditions of 72-82°F and a pH of between 6-7.5 to grow and thrive.
Anubias Nana helps to keep the water clean and oxygenated in the aquarium.
Care for Anubias nana
- Trim the leaves monthly, and when you see rips on the plant
- Fertilize the plant to maintain its healthy dark green leaves
- Do not place heavy staff on the leaves to avoid breakage
4. Anubias barteri
Anubias Barteri is another low light aquarium plant originating from West Africa. It’s thick with green leaves and a strong root structure. Like Anubis Nana, it’s placed in the foreground or midground of the aquarium. It thrives well in a temperature of 72°F – 82°F (22°C – 27.5°C).
Anubias Barteri can survive harsh conditions, and it’s commonly recommended for aquarium beginners. The plant absorbs fish by-products such as ammonia, nitrates, and nitrates released by the fish into the water. Absorbing the by-products makes the water fresh and clean.
Care for Anubias Barteri
- Requires trimming of the leaves every once in two months
- Clean the aquarium every once a week
- A low light intensity of 0.25 watts per liter of water
5. Green hygro (Hygrophila polysperma)
It’s a resilient plant that can survive in very harsh conditions and is also known as Dwarf Hygro. The plant originates from native Asia, and it thrives in different water conditions with a temperature of 64–86 °F (18-30 °C).
Green Hygro is a midground or background plant in the aquarium. Green hydro are the best plants when keeping destructive fish such as cichlids. They can withstand the disturbance caused by the fish.
Care for green hygro
- Add carbon dioxide to the tank only if it’s necessary
- Prune the plant twice a month
6. Crypts (Cryptocoryne wendtii)
Crypts thrive in low-light aquariums. The plant originates from Sri Lanka and is native to parts of Florida. Crypts are found in three different colors: red, green, and brown. The leaves, stems, and textures of the three are not similar either. It’s a carpet-placed plant, and it requires water conditions of 72-78° F, KH 3-8, and pH 6.0-8.0.
Crypts can survive in both hard and soft water, and they require CO2 injections, but the injection is not necessary. They grow to form deep roots that are hard to remove; that’s why it’s highly recommended for large commercial fish aquariums.
Care for crypts
- Fertilize the plant regularly using seachem flourish trace
- Prune the leaves when they rot to encourage new leaves to grow
- Clean the plant once every month
7. Sunset hygro (Hygrophila polysperma ‘Rosanervig’)
Sunset Hygro is a freshwater plant that is easy to plant and maintain. It originates from native parts of Asia. Sunset hygro plants have unique white veins on the leaves. The plant grows and can cover a lot of space in the aquarium when left unpruned.
Sunset hygro thrives in tropical temperatures of 18-30° C.; 64-86° F. Sunset Hygro is mainly found in lakes and rivers, and they are mostly floating plants. Due to its fast growth and prominent presence, it suffocates and prevents the growth of murky microorganisms.
Care for Sunset hygro
- Prune the plant often to avoid overgrowth
- Remove dead leaves from the bottom inches of the plant
- Clean the tank two or three times in a month
8. Dwarf Rotala (Rotala Rotundifolia)
Dwarf Rotala is commonly known for its red pinkish decorations in an aquarium. It originates from native Southeast Asia and is generally placed in the midground or background of an aquarium. The plant has round green leaves that are vibrant and attractive.
Dwarf rotala plants thrive in tropical conditions with a temperature of 20 – 28 C (68 – 82 F) Like most low-light aquarium plants, dwarf rotalas help keep the water oxygenated and act as a hiding place for the fish.
Care for dwarf rotala
- Check it weekly to remove dead leaves.
- Fertilizing and incorporating supplements to the plant to maintain its color
- Regular pruning encourages fast growth and density. Prune the plant once a month to maintain space
9. Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)
Hornwort is a popular low light plant by aquarists. It originated in North America and spread over the continent like Asia. It’s a freshwater plant that’s found wholly submerged in water, and it has a unique plant with needle-like leaves that grows thin and slender.
The plant grows tall faster, and it requires a temperature of 68 to 79 (20 – 27C). Hornwort is good at absorbing properties. The plants absorb fish waste products and make the water clean in the aquarium. It also acts as a hiding place for fish and fry.
Care for Hornworts
- Trim regularly to avoid taking space in the tank
- Collect the dropped needles while changing the water and dispose of them
- Use liquid fertilizers if you have to
10. Parrots Feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum)
Parrot Feathers are a unique aquatic plant that originated in South America. Its massive lush green foliage makes it unique and attractive in an aquarium. The plant is generally placed at midground, and If not pruned, it can spread at the top of the water.
Parrot’s Feathers thrive in a water temperature of 50 to 80 (20 – 27C). The plant leaves provide hiding places for fish and fry and do well. The parrot feather plant is particularly preferred by goldfish and guppies because the plant spreads fast.
Care for parrot’s feather
- Trim the leaves every week to prevent overgrowth.
- Clean the water and remove all the leaves dropped inside.
11. Moneywort (Bocapa monnieri)
Moneywort is a freshwater aquatic plant that originated in India’s Southern and Eastern parts. It is often found in muddy rocks and has bright green leaves and stems. It can be immersed or submerged in water.
It’s also popular with beginners because it doesn’t die easily. It requires temperature conditions of 72° – 82° F (22° – 28° C) and a pH between 6.5 – 7. Moneywort requires low light and is used for breeding fish and as a carpet plant in your aquarium.
Care for moneywort
- Change 50% of aquarium water once a week
- Trim moneywort regularly to get rid of long leaves.
12. Brazilian Pennywort (Hydrocotyle leucocephala)
Brazilian pennywort is a freshwater aquatic plant from central and South America. It’s bright green with broad leaves and twisted stems. It grows well in an aquarium with a moderate temperature of 68° – 82° F.
Brazilian pennywort is fragile and cannot be kept in a tank with destructive fish like goldfish. The plant benefits the aquarium by cleaning the fish by-products like ammonia.
Care for Brazilian pennywort
- Pruning weekly to avoid overgrowth
- Add fertilizers twice a year to provide the plant with nutrients
13. Guppy Grass (Najas guadalupensis)
Gappy grass is a tall aquatic plant that grows in fully submerged freshwater. It originates from native North America. It’s easy to grow, and its leaves grow densely, making it a good place for fry. The plants thrive in a moderate temperature of 50-86°F (10-30°C)
Guppy grass is good at cleaning the water and the tank as well. It absorbs the fish by-products and generates oxygen for the fish.
Care for guppy grass
- Pruning guppy grass twice a month to get rid of excess stems
- Clean the tank and exchange 50% of the water
- Removing tiny leaves and branches left inside the water
14. Pelia (Monosolenium tenerum)
Pelia is a dark green freshwater aquatic plant that originated in Northern India. Its mainly used as carpets in the aquarium, and they are attached to wood, stones, and trees. Pelia is a heavy plant thus fully submerged in water. It thrives well at a temperature of 18 – 26°C.
Pelia, as a carpet plant, prevents the growth of algae in the aquarium. It also oxygenated the tank, thus cleaning the tank.
Care for Pelia plant
- Pruning the leaves
- Provide it with good quality water
15. Bacopa (Bacopa caroliniana)
Bacopa is a freshwater aquatic plant that originated from native North America. Its leaves grow on opposite sides, forming something like a ladder. It grows in both submerged and emerging water.
The plant does not require additional nutrients to thrive; the nutrients inside water are enough. It does well at a temperature of 20 – 28 C (68 – 82 F). Bacopa benefits the fish by sheltering them and oxygenating the water, making it clean.
Care for Bacopa plant
- Weekly aquarium water change
- Prune damaged parts of the plant
- Change 50% of the water once a week
List of low light aquarium plants with no CO2
Here is a list of plants that require low light with no CO2.
- Java Fern
- Anubias Nana
READ NEXT: Best and Safe Plants for Betta Fish
- Central Florida Aquarium Association. (2014). Seven Low Light Live Plant Options for Your Aquarium. CFLAS.
- The University of Florida. (nd). Rotala rotundifolia. Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.