The choice of plants you can successfully grow in a jarrarium is limited compared to a regular aquarium. In a jar you will have less space, maintenance will be more difficult and you might also have no external light.
Plus, you might want to build a self-sustaining, no maintenance jarrarium or water ecosystem.
The best plants of a jarrarium are those that grow slowly and need no special conditions like external lighting or CO2. The top three would be Anubias, marimo balls and Elodea / waterweed. These are the easiest plants to put in a jarrarium.
Check out one of my first jars ever built, one that still goes strong even today!
There are more plant suitable for jar ecosystems, fortunately, and it all depends on two important factors when building your jarrarium:
- If you will add an external light source for your jar (you’ll have more options)
- How much maintenance/trimming are you ready to do
I have tried and experimented placing all sorts of plants in my jars, from easy plants to more expert ones and I had sometimes surprising results with my experiments.
Tip: I already wrote an even longer list of low light plants for aquariums. Make sure to check it out as well for additional ideas and plants you can test for yourself.
Trial and error is the best teacher, so let’s see what that taught me with a list of the best plants for your jarrarium.
1. Anubias nana
This is by far my favorite plant for jars and aquariums alike. It requires little maintenance and no external light and it will still survive (if not thrive).
You can go for any type of Anubias, actually, but I prefer the Nana for jarrariums simply because they are smaller. However, any would work just fine and would look amazing in your jar.
The best part about Anubias? They’re as hardy as it gets and are perfect for beginner jarrarium makers (as well as experienced ones).
2. Moss Ball
Another great plant for beginners, one that looks good and most importantly one that survives without any extra care.
Also known as Marimo Ball, with the actual name being Cladophora aegagropila, the moss ball can be shaped from tiny to huge and it will sit there in your jarrarium growing extremely slowly and thriving in any condition.
I usually pair my Moss balls with Anubias and that’s all I do for self sustaining jars. Most of the other plants grow a bit faster and do require some maintenance – or else they will completely take over your water ecosystem.
There are actually six Elodea plants that you can choose from and they’re all generally called “waterweeds”.
Based on the name alone you can guess that they’re very hardy plants that can do well in all sorts of water systems. And they do indeed.
One disadvantage of Elodea plants is that they grow up rather quickly and multiply often as you can see in my photo above.
I still manage to keep maintenance at a minimum and only trim them and remove excess growth every few months – but when I do that, I always end up with a huge chunk of Elodea on my hands.
4. Cryptocoryne wendtii
While this plant is considered by aquarists as a more demanding one, I had great success keeping it in a jar. However, on a few occasions it didn’t survive long enough… so it’s just a matter of trying and finding out if it works or not.
The plant is smaller and looks absolutely beautiful – being available in red and brown leaf variety – and grows really slowly, being great for lower maintenance jarrariums.
I actually have it planted in both aquariums and jars and all plants are at most 1.5 years old and they didn’t require any trimming yet!
Very similar to Elodea, Egeria is also a waterweed that is considered by many an invasive species.
It grows quickly and doesn’t need special care, so you will definitely have to trim it and remove excess plants every couple of moths (at least). But my shrimp seem to love it and it’s great for keeping the water parameters in check!
Another plant that grows extremely fast – this one is not one of my favorites because of all the “needles” it leaves in the water. But we have to admit that it does look good and can give your jar some personality.
Have in mind that, just like the Egeria and Elodea plants, this one grows quickly and multiplies fast, so it requires regular trimming and maintenance.
7. Java fern
This is one of the most popular plants for beginners and it’s actually highly suitable for low light jarrariums as it’s one of those plants that doesn’t really enjoy a lot of extra light!
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.
For its nice colors and for being so easy to maintain – and for preferring lower light conditions – Java fern is one of the best plants for a jarrarium.
After adding any or all of these recommended plants to your jarrarium, make sure you let them sit for at least a couple of weeks before adding live animals. Depending on the size of your jar, you might have too little space even for shrimp or snails – but that’s for you to decide.
What plants NOT to put in a jarrarium
You should definitely try and experiment a lot as there could be all sorts of plants that might do well in a jar.
But I would strongly suggest against using any of the ones listed below – and I’m marking them specifically because I have seen them recommended by others and I really disagree.
The first two might be suited for jars that are not sealed and not self sustaining, but they will require a lot of maintenance or else you’ll risk ruining your water parameters completely.
Duckweed is beautiful indeed and at first you will love it – it’s a floating plant that makes nice use of the top part of the jar which is generally boring.
The problem with duckweed is that it grows extremely fast and also dies extremely fast, going down to the bottom of your jar.
If you have live animals in the jar, they might be able to keep up with eating all the decaying matter… but I never managed to achieve that in the two jars I tried it.
So instead, you will end up with a few inches of goop from the debris and potentially dangerous water balance changes which might make animal life unsuitable.
I repeat: if you do plan to be very involved in the maintenance of your jar, then this shouldn’t be a big problem since you can simply remove the excess duckweed, as well as the sunken ones.
2. Java Moss
Java Moss looks amazing in jars and aquariums, with all its different shades of green. I love it!
What I don’t like about it – especially when it comes to low and no maintenance ecosystems – is that it grows quickly and tends to get into everything.
My Moss Balls always get taken over by Java Moss and cleaning those is a real pain. They also grow really, really fast and can take up your space in just a few months. Even if they do it slower – they will take over eventually.
But the biggest problem is them getting stuck to everything there – from hardscape to other plants, making it very difficult to maintain and clean in the already small and crammed space of a jar.
3. High Maintenance Plants
You should try to stay away from plants that are considered high maintenance.
I’m talking here about all plants that usually need extra CO2, special lighting conditions and/or water temperatures.
These are the plants that usually look amazing and we’re tempted to try them in a jar – but in reality it’s very difficult, if not impossible to have them adapt. They are almost impossible to be kept alive in a self-sustaining jarrarium, for example.
So, even though they look nice – stay away from them in order to avoid failure. There are a ton of low light and low maintenance plants anyway for you to play with.
Now that you know everything about the best plants to put in a jarrarium – as well as those to avoid, why not check out my recommended jars for jarrariums? It’s a lot easier to start when you have a good jar for the job!
You will most likely have to go through a bit of trial and error and experiment with various combinations, but you will also most likely see that many plants are not as high maintenance as some make them sound.
I have jars with just moss balls that I haven’t touched in years and they’re still doing well. I have a 2 year old jar with a moss ball and Anubias Nana that also required zero maintenance. Others only need some trimming every 3 to 6 months. Not bad!
It all depends on how involved you want to be with your jar and especially how natural and wild you want it to look. I prefer to keep my involvement at a minimum and just let nature do its thing, but either approach is just as good.
If you managed to successfully use other plants than those recommended above and you feel that they’d be a great fit for any jarrarium, don’t hesitate to let us all know by sharing your experience below.