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Aqauscaping is an art that requires a keen interest in marine life, including the flora, time at disposal and perseverance to witness a beautiful aquarium. If you are relatively new or have an aquarium and don’t know the right equipment to have, ‘it’s about time to add the best low light aquarium plants in it. Low light plants are less daunting as they can thrive easily in any environment, without carbon dioxide, less lighting and need less maintenance.
If you are scouring the web to learn about the best plants for your aquarium or why you should have aquarium plants, ‘don’t get frustrated. With this guide, you will learn everything there is to know about aquarium plants.
The low light aquarium plants are a group of plants that can flourish in darker environments with less light, supplements, and even carbon dioxide. These plants are ideal for the novice aquarists or the ones looking for reasonable options. Low light plants grow fast, need less attention, and create a safe place for the aquatic pets to rest, hide, or spawn.
A low light aquarium plant can be a weed, a floater, non-rooted, and rooted plants; it depends on your preference which one you want for your aquarium. So, if you’re going to add character and ecosystem to your aquarium, then start with low light plants.
What Is Column And Root Feeder?
There are two types of low light plants known as column and root feeders. A root feeder is the one that uses its roots to intake nutrients. They will anchor the substrate for the water in the layer and from there absorbs the essential nutrients.
For such plants, it is important to have a rich substrate layer where you can stem the roots deeply at least one-inch beneath the layer so that they can spread. If the roots are not deep enough, then the plants ‘won’t get enough nutrients from the substrate leading to decaying and early death of the plant.
The column feeders are a complete opposite of the root feeders. They absorb nutrients from the water with the help of rhizomes. These are innumerable small, continuously growing roots that do not stem deep into the substrate.
It is settled right above the substrate layer and can absorb the nutrients easily from water. For such plants, you don’t need a rich layer of the substrate. Even if you have soil-based substrate, it won’t be an issue as the column feeders get nutrients with the help of their rhizomes.
Why Should You Keep Low Light Aquarium Plants?
For your Aquarium pal
Low light plants replicate the natural ecosystem, thus, making the habitat of your pet fish or snail or any other animal comfortable and safe. Aquatic animals suffer from stress if they don’t get a natural setting, and plants make them feel at home.
They can swim around and hide in them. A low lying fish can get essential nutrients and oxygen from the layer of plants planted in the soil bed. It also serves as food for the vegetarian aquatic pets, helps in the decomposition of their excrement and also absorbs nutrients from water or soil, hence no need to add supplements.
Gives an aesthetic appeal
An aquarium is incomplete without live plants, and best low light aquarium plants will enhance the aesthetics exceptionally. An aquarium full of water and a few fishes swimming in a vacant pool gives a very dull visual. But, adding some plants will make it look natural, especially when the live plants like Anarcharis, Hornwort or Anubis are added, making it greener and plush. With simple additions, your aquarium will get its personality and will also enhance the look of the room.
Shelter for eggs
Where will your marine pets lay eggs other than gravel? Plants are nature’s way of giving them a space to bask and spawn. While setting up an aquarium, make sure to add some plants in it as it will help them accommodate in the human-made surroundings. It should be close to the natural surroundings, and by adding plants, we are giving them a space to deposit eggs, relax and swim in a natural setting.
Reduces Ammonia circulation
Ammonia is known as a silent assassin, needless to say, it is hazardous for the fish. Ironically, the natural source of ammonia circulation in an aquarium is by the discharge of fish mucus or waste and protein-rich food given to the aquatic animals. The protein breakdown into amino acids results in ammonia circulation that needs to be prevented. Ideally, the amount of ammonia in an aquarium should be zero, and the easy way of doing this is by planting the best low light aquarium plants as they reduce the circulation.
Prevents Algae bloom
You ‘don’t need an aquarium full of algae turning the water green. It won’t only increase your chores as you will have to change the water, but will also suffocate the inmates and make the aquarium look dirty. A well-planted aquarium will be algae free as the plants will consume the essential nutrients from the water, trace-out sources of nitrate and phosphate which results in an algae bloom. Also, you don’t have to change water frequently or resort to chemical filtration to clear the water.
Food for aquatic herbivores
If you have herbivore fish species like Plecos or pacus in your aquarium, low light plants will cut your budget. Herbivores can munch on the plants, and you can add small chunks of vegetables available at home. It will be easy on your pocket, and you don’t have to trim the plants as it will be done by your fish.
Alters the behavior
As weird as it sounds, it is true. The aquatic plants help in behavior modification of a new pet fish. Often, when they are transferred from a freshwater stream to an aquarium, they will undergo stress or feel uncomfortable in the foreign setting. A well-planted aquarium will create an illusion of a freshwater stream and make them feel at home. It will also increase their chances of breeding as they will feel they are in their natural surroundings.
Top 10 Best Low Light Aquarium Plants 2019
1. 25+ Stems / 6 Species Live Aquarium Plants Package – Anacharis
With six different species, including Amazon sword, Anacharis, Moneywort, Hornwort, Cryptocoryne, and a few stems, it will make your aquarium a lively place.
It will help in preventing algae growth, and inhabitants can lay eggs on the plants. The lush and green plants include the fast-growing plants that can easily adapt to the new aquarium and ‘won’t get destroyed during the transit in an airtight container.
If you are new to the aquarium plantation and looking for hassle-free options, then this package is a perfect start.
- Even though the plants come in an airtight package, they survive and get used to the new aquarium within a week.
- The plants grow fast and are easy to maintain.
- The quality and quantity of the package are worth the price.
- It is an ideal package for a 10-gallon aquarium as it keeps the aquarium full, making it a perfect habitat for shrimps, fishes, and snails.
- You may get a complimentary snail with the package. Rinse them properly to prevent snail bloom.
- Lack of lighting during cultivation can lead to the low quality of the plant.
2. Mainam Anubias Barteri Coin Leaves Live Aquarium Plants Freshwater Rhizome
Anubias Barteri is considered one of the best low light aquarium plants because of its adaptive nature. It can thrive in low light and medium temperature aquarium with little attention. If you like plants that can be partially merged and attach itself to driftwood, then it is the plant for you.
Not only will it increase the aesthetic, but it will also increase the oxygen level in the water, thus making it easier for the inmates to breathe.
An essential factor to consider, it is a root plant and will require a substrate to grow. It can grow up to 16inches and will need space to spread its roots. Also, as it is a fast-growing plant, keep trimming it.
- It is a fast-growing plant with minimal care.
- As it is a low light plant, there is no need to make any additional set up or moderate temperature. It can survive in natural temperature.
- It can be a natural habitat for snails and food for aquatic herbivore species.
- A budget-friendly option.
- For the proper growth of the plant, a substrate layer is a necessity.
- As it grows fast, one needs to trim it to ensure it does not cover the space in the aquarium.
- Need it to wash it or keep it in alum for a night to clean them from eggs of snails.
3. Flame Moss Pad 3″ x 3″-Live Aquarium Plants Water Low Light Fish TankNo Pesticides
A notable characteristic of flame moss is that it is greener than other best low light aquarium plants and gets nutrients from water and soil.
It has a sluggish root system, and as it gets nourishment from the soil, a substrate is necessary. The filamentary outgrowths of the plant known as Rhizoids attach itself to the substrate to get nutrition.
The benefit of flame moss is that it can be grown without CO2 in an aquarium provided the pH level is low.
It is a low maintenance plant and will give a rich green look to the aquarium. However, one should refrain from keeping Amano shrimp and fishes that eat algae.
- The lush green Flame Moss pad get fluffy when inserted in the aquarium.
- Aquatic pets like fishes and shrimps will love it as it creates a comfortable environment.
- These are natural-looking pads that are easy to place and maintain.
- Flame moss can blow off due to the pressure of canister.
- It can be difficult for beginners to understand how to use and preserve it.
- If the hardness of the water is high, then it may not survive for long.
- If your tank does not have a substrate layer, then avoid ordering a flame moss.
4. 1 Hornwort Bunch – 5+ Stems (Ceratophyllum Demersum)
Hornwort is the plant species that can grow up to 10feet, which makes it a perfect plant for large aquariums. If you want to decorate your aquarium with only one type of plant, then hornwort is the best low light plant.
But, if you already have many plants and what to add hornwort to your aquarium plant collection, then it is not a good idea as it has high chemical properties.
As it is high in chemicals, it can harm other plants leading to their untimely decay. On the upside, it is a plant that can handle cold or normal water, so there is no need to adjust the water temperature constantly.
Also, it can grow, either way, rooted in a substrate or floating, which is an added advantage. It makes a good ideal place for fish to hide or rest.
- It is a fast-growing plant that can handle cold water and 60°F temperature.
- It can grow while floating in the water, so a substrate is not a prerequisite.
- A natural habitat for invertebrates.
- It is not recommended to keep it with other plant species as it is chemically-rich.
- It requires frequent trimming as it can grow up to 10feet.
5. Plants Discounts 30+ Stems – 8 Species – Anacharis, Amazon, Rotala, Ludwigia
A perfect combination of some of the best low light aquarium plants including Amazon Sword, Anacharis Bunch, Cryptocoryne wendtii, Ludwigia Repens, Hornwort Bunch, Green Rotala Indica and Moneywort are worth the price.
The inmates of the aquarium will feel at home, and it will prevent algae bloom. Another advantage of the package is that it will reduce the stress level of the fish, making them active and spawn frequently. If you have an aquarium of 10 gallons, then it is a perfect match.
- It does not decay.
- Amazon Swords can be rigid initially, but once immersed in the water, it will become soft.
- Let the Wisteria flow in water; it will become a hatchling space for the eggs.
- Some of the plants can fade yellow due to airtight packing at the time of delivery.
- Rinse the plants thoroughly before immersing in water as it may have a snail or fish eggs.
- Lack of proper instructions can be a problem for beginners.
6. Greenpro Java Fern On Driftwood
It does not require anchoring, and you can put it in the aquarium and let your marine pets play hide and seek.
It is a source of lignin, cellulose, and tannins that help the fish get adequate nutrients and boost their digestive system. Cultivated in a controlled environment by using advanced technology, it will last longer and is easy to maintain.
As it overgrows, it will need frequent trimming. The plants can grow up to 12inches and have lustrous green leaves.
- Its quality beats the price.
- Thick and lush green plant enhances the environment of the aquarium and replicates the natural freshwater habitats. Fishes feel safe and can quickly spawn.
- The roots are attached to the drift hood; thus, it takes out the hassle of connecting the plant to the soil bed.
- It is perfect for a 20gallon water tank.
- Quarantine the plant to remove pests or eggs of hitch-hikers like snails, shrimps or fish.
- Check the package properly for hidden snails or ramshorns
- There are no rhizomes in the driftwood so that it ‘won’t result in new leaves.
- It can take up most of the space in a 10-gallon aquarium.
7. Java Fern Bare Root
It can be easily attached to a rock or soil bed, provided you are clear on instructions and do not consider it troublesome.
It creates a natural freshwater environment for the invertebrates, and fishes can relax or hide in it. The vegetarian aquatic animals can feed on it.
The best part of a bare root Java Fern is that it comes with Rhizomes which helps in growing the fresh leaves and feed on water and soil. It can grow up to 10inches but is a slow-growing plant.
- The lustrous green plant enhances the aquarium décor.
- It is a perfect resting and spawning place for fishes and other aquatic fauna.
- It is easy to attach to the soil bed or substrate and does not need much maintenance.
- It can grow up to 10inches, but the rate of growth is slow.
- It is a bare root Java Fern; it needs to be correctly stemmed to avoid floating on the surface.
- Packaging and delivering can destroy the plant or tear up a few pieces.
8. Mainam Anubias Nana Petite on Nano Driftwood
It is a low maintenance plant that can survive even without soil or substrate. It reproduces rapidly because of the presence of Rhizomes and can grow up to 5cm within a year. What makes it to the list of best low light aquarium plants?
It grows in width and takes about a year to reach its full potential, so it will cover the vacant areas of the aquarium but won’t overcrowd it.
If you have a small aquarium, it should be your first purchase as its leaves are densely packed, and it requires less space. So, a Nana Petite on driftwood won’t take much space and time to immerse in water.
- A slow-growing plant perfect for Nano aquariums.
- It can grow without a substrate and is a low maintenance plant.
- Does not take much space and no need to trim the leaves as they are densely packed.
- These are lush green plants that enhance the aesthetics of the water bed.
- No need to bury the stems in the substrate as it comes with driftwood.
- It is a budget-friendly plant and won’t take much time on upkeep.
- Quantity is not worth the price.
- It is a plant that requires patience as it grows slowly.
- If the stems are not correctly attached to driftwood, plants may flow up to the surface.
9. Greenpro Anubias Barteri Large
The Greenpro Anubias Bateri Large plants are 10-15cm in size and have been cultivated in a controlled environment so that they can live in a low light aquarium.
The advantage of this species is that it can easily convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and absorb nutrients from water or decomposed fish waste.
It will add an environment to the aquarium, and fishes can play, hide, or spawn around the plant. It can even flower inside the aquarium, but it is advised to add some supplements and inject CO2 for the same. If you are looking for a mid-size plant for your aquarium, then Anubias Barteri large barefoot plant is the right choice.
- It is a low maintenance bunch as it is already mature.
- It can easily convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, so it will prevent the inmates from swimming to the surface
- It can absorb nutrients from water or soil bed.
- As it is a bare root plant, you need a substrate or gravel to bury the stems; else it can float to the surface.
- It is ideal for a large aquarium, not the small ones.
10. Mainam Staurogyne Repens Carpet
A pro aquarist prefers foregrounding of the aquarium, and Mainam Staurogyne Repens makes a perfect carpet. A small bushy plant with tiny leaves of 3.4cm can blend with the substrates and make the aquarium bedding look polished. It is an ideal choice for low lying fishes as they get a resting place.
These plants can efficiently oxygenate and remove nitrate, thus giving fresh space to low lying fishes to breathe. It is a plant that won’t need any cleaning or maintenance, but it is growing slowly.
The stem of the plant is stiff that does not allow it to float and vibrant green color makes the bedding beautiful; much better than hornwort. As it grows up to 4inches, it won’t take much space in the tank and let the fishes swim peacefully.
- It helps in removing nitrate and other toxins.
- It oxygenates efficiently, thus providing enough oxygen to low lying fishes.
- Ideal resting and spawning space.
- It gives a clean and polished look to the layer above the substrate.
- No need to clean, trim, or maintain the carpet.
- As the stems are stiff, it won’t float above the surface.
- It is a slow-growth plant.
- It can be tricky to install if you are a novice.
How To Take Care Of Low Light Aquarium Plants?
When it comes to taking care of the aquarium plant, two main factors that count are water temperature and lighting. But, when it comes to a low-tech or less light aquarium, it has less carbon dioxide, which is essential for photosynthesis. It will have less lighting, which will lead to less growth rate in comparison to the hi-tech aquarium with proper lighting.
Now, as the growth rate is slow, the plants will require fewer nutrients in the form of supplements and can survive on decomposed fertilizers provided from aquatic waste. Even the nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus ratio won’t be well balanced in the aquarium.
In these situations, only a low light aquarium plant can survive and bloom by using nutrients from the water column. But there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that your best low light aquarium plants flourish and have a long life:
It is a necessity for a low light tank with less or no carbon dioxide. A substrate along with Mulm from an already established aquarium will help in creating a good foundation for the tank. It will help in developing good bacteria in the substrate.
While most of the people prefer soil-based substrate, gravel is also a good option. If you are opting for soil bed, then it is essential to be wary of them. It may come with a host of parasites or eggs that you may not know. So, opt for a substrate that is nutritionally rich and where low light plants can be deeply rooted to make firm bedding.
Low light plants are also known as beginner’s plants ideal for aquarium with no CO2 or advanced technology. These plants also need less light as they depend on water for nutrients. If you are planning to install heavy lighting to promote the growth of the plants, then it is a bad idea as it will only result in an algae bloom.
If anything, opt for a fluorescent bulb which is not more than 1.5 watts per two-gallon water. Also, do not keep the lights on throughout the day. Instead, make a routine to switch the light on for 5-6 hours at night.
What kind of plants should be planted in your aquarium? Opt for plants with high biomass and the ones that grow faster. It will cover most of the substrate, leaving only 15% visible from the above or outside. If you are confused about which the best low light aquarium plants are, then check the list of plants mentioned above.
Make sure the plants you opt for are easy to manage and can consume nutrients from the natural sources. If still confused about where to start, then first cover the substrate layer with Staurogyne Repens or plant Hornswort that grows rapidly and requires minimal hard work.
Even a low-lit or low-tech plant cannot do without a properly installed three-stage filter. Opt for a filter with an adequate flow that can reach the ends of the tank, does not clog and cleans the aquarium. It will help in proper water circulation and nutrient dispersion, thus helping the plant get nutrients.
It will lead to the long life of the plant as it will not decay due to lack of nutrients and prevent algae bloom as plants will consume the essential nutrients. Opt for a good canister filter as it has a good flow and reach to the ends. One can also opt for activated charcoal in the filter for better results.
Type Of Aquatic Pets
It is not a good idea to add aquatic pets in the tank at the same time you planted the weeds or plants. If you have heavily planted the low light aquarium plants, then wait for two weeks and let the plants grow before adding the inmates.
Start with algae-eating fishes like Otos or shrimps as they will eat the algae if there are any, and make the aquarium clean. Then add other invertebrates but do not crows the tank and start with small ones to let them settle and feel at home. If you add the whole bio-load and plants haven’t appropriately grown, it will harm both flora and fauna.
Do the best low light aquarium plants need fertilizers? Some studies suggest that dosing a 20-gallon aquarium once in two weeks is good for the health of plants, but that is not the case with low light plants.
If you are adding root tablets, then you can add once in a month; but most of the time, low light plants use naturally-made nutrients. The decomposed waste material from the fishes is enough for them as they use less carbon dioxide and produce less oxygen.
Best Low Light Aquarium Plants: What’s Your Pick?
Low light aquarium plants are much more than mere decoration for the aquarium. They help in setting a bio-system and make a natural habitat for the inmates. However, if you are an amateur and confused which one to buy, then our take is to opt for combination packages.
These are perfect for beginners and set a balanced environment of the temperature. Make sure you have a proper mix of plants that cover the substrate and are friendly to marine pets. Whether you are a hobbyist or new to aquascaping, our extensive guide will help resolve all your doubts and start your aqua-sanctuary.