Most aquarium plants are resilient and they can do well in an unheated tank. But since most of them actually prefer warmer water, it’s a good idea to choose for your tank setup the best aquatic plants that do well in cold water.
Even though most plants would survive without a heater, it’s best to go for those that actually enjoy coldwater aquariums in order to make sure that they grow fast and never run the risk of melting.
We already touched the subject in the article I wrote about the best plants for jarrariums, but since a fish tank offers more space and better conditions than your regular jar, we have a lot more options.
So, no matter if you’re looking for cold water plants for your Betta tank, your goldfish tank or any other type of aquarium that you don’t plan to add extra heating to, these plants will look well and do well in such a setup!
Best coldwater plants for your aquarium
Have in mind that the plants below can survive and do well in a cold water setup, but they will never mind if you add a heater and keep the water temperatures under control.
Also, you should always try to keep the water in the tanks at room temperature. Not heating the water is one thing, but getting the water close to freezing temperatures is a bit too much and most plants won’t survive.
So by “cold water” we mean room temperature – even if that drops a bit during the colder months, but not to freezing levels.
1. All Anubias plants
Anubias plants come in various sizes and shapes, but they all do extremely well in cold water. They are very sturdy plants that can do well really well in almost any type of water, regardless of its parameters.
I would go as far as saying that any Anubias plant is perfect for beginners – as well as cold water tanks.
You can go for Anubias nana if you want the plant to remain smaller, go for a regular Anubias barteri of regular tanks or even a larger Anubias Gigantea if you have more room in your aquarium.
2. Moss ball / Marimo Moss
Another plant that is extremely easy to grow in basically any type of fresh water. It also looks good and can be as small or as big as you want it to be.
Another benefit of Marimo balls is that they are extremely slow growers, so their initial size will basically be what you will get for years to come.
They are perfect for decorating cold water tanks.
3. Waterweeds (Elodea, Egeria etc)
There are quite a bunch of plants that are generally referred to “waterweeds” because they grow really fast and don’t need special conditions to do so.
The most popular ones for aquarists are the Elodea plants and the Egeria. Very similar, these are tubular plants with leaves on all sides, growing and multiplying really fast.
While they do need some maintenance and regular trimming, these are extremely easy to grow plants that you can use in cold water aquariums.
4. Java fern
This is one of the most popular plants for beginners and it’s actually one that loves low light tanks (see more low light plants here) as well as colder water.
It is a larger plant with larger leaves, but it goes relatively slowly so it won’t require regular maintenance – at least not as often as with the waterweeds above.
5. Cryptocoryne wendtii
While this plant is considered by aquarists as a more demanding one, I had great success keeping it in jars and unheated aquariums.
It might not do well and it certainly doesn’t thrive – it barely grows after being planted – but it is generally solid and resilient and really adds a nice splash of color to the aquarium, so it’s worth trying.
The plant is smaller and looks absolutely beautiful – being available in red and brown leaf variety – and grows really slowly in cold water.
6. Java Moss
Java Moss is extremely easy to care for, grows rapidly and can be used to create all sorts of decorations and elements – like submerged trees and everything you can think of.
It does really well in cold water, but requires regular trimming and can easily attach itself to other plants and grow a bit out of control. But if you’re confident you’ll regularly trim it, it will look great in any tank!
7. Amazon Sword
Officially named Echinodorus Bleheri, this is a really beautiful, long leaved plant that can do well in colder water.
It does grow at a steady rate and the leaves will get wide and large – but for larger aquariums, I think that this is a big Pro. Might not be suitable for smaller ones though because it will simply overgrow them.
Bacopa Caroliana is a plant that grows quickly and is best planted in groups, as it has small leaves and it doesn’t fill up the aquarium nicely.
It does grow fast and multiplies just as quickly, so even if you only start with a few stems, you can easily replant them and grow your own bunch.
9. Hygrophila polysperma (aka Green Hygro)
A quick grower that’s easy to keep in your freshwater aquarium, the Green Hygro is very versatile: you can grow it in the back of the tank, or in the front, if you take a bit of time with it, helping it settle down on the substrate.
Snails seem to enjoy eating it as well, but I never had problems with them eating it and destroying. As a joke, I can say that it grows faster than my snails can chew.
And, yes, it is a plant that does well in colder water, still growing fast and looking amazing despite all this.
10. Sagittaria Subulata
I had great luck with this aquatic plant that looks like grass, growing it in low light and cold water aquariums.
It doesn’t grow a lot if the water temperature drops a lot, but it still does well and still grows sprouts to fill up the tanks quickly. A really nice one to try!
This is a very popular and beginner-friendly plant that I never managed to find much love for.
The main reason for this is that its tiny needle-like leaves will make a mess in the tank. Plus, there are some voices who claim that it produces chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants or even kills them.
But it is a hardy plant that can do well in cold water, so you can definitely use it if you like it. But there are other waterweeds that look a lot like it and come without the headaches this one gives you.
12. Ludwigia repens
I have had success with various Ludwigia plants in unheated freshwater aquariums, but out of them all, the Ludwigia repens seemed to do best.
It’s one of the plants that has reddish leaves, so it’s really great for changing the all-green in the tank and, even though it’s generally recommended as a more advanced and more demanding plant, it does pretty well in coldwater aquariums.
Commonly known as Eelgrass, Vallisneria gigantea is the one that’s easiest to procure and grow, but there are others that do just as well in cold water: Vallisneria nana, Vallisneria spiralis and Vallisneria Americana.
These all look like your regular grass (but underwater), or like the aforementioned Sagittaria Subulata. They also are very hardy and do well in colder water.
14. Madagascar laceleaf
Last but not least, we have the beautiful Aponogeton madagascariensis (aka Madagascar laceleaf).
As the name suggests, the leaves have a particular design, with all those “holes” in them. I absolutely love this plant, although I have to admit that in my case it was a hit and miss for coldwater tanks.
But definitely worth trying if you have enough space – it’s so beautiful and improves the look of any tank!
Can aquatic plants live in cold water?
Aquatic plants don’t need a filter to survive and they can easily live in cold water. Some won’t do well if the water temperatures drop too low, but as long as the water temperature is ideal for your coldwater fish, the plants will do well also.
There are some more demanding tropical plants that only do well in warmer water, but you still have a ton of options otherwise. All the plants recommended above do well in cold water.
What is the ideal temperature for aquarium plants?
The ideal water temperature for water plants is 75 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius). Plants can still do well at temperatures as low as 64.5°F (18°C) and as high as 86°F (30°C).
So even though the ideal temperature for plans is somewhere in the middle, you have a wide range that plants can survive in. Have in mind that the extreme ranges above – both the superior and inferior ones – are unsafe for most aquarium fish.
We do have a few options when it comes to aquarium plants that do well in cold water, as you can see in my list above.
The truth is – as I already said – that most plants will be just fine in an aquarium that is not heated. Some might grow slower than they would normally would… but that would be about it.
However, before going to buy a really expensive plant to test if it does well in cold water, it might be best to just use any of the recommendations above – there’s plenty of them and you can really come up with amazing setups if you combine them.
Do you have other recommendations to make to those looking for hardy aquatic plants that do well in cold water setups? Let us all know by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below!