20 Best Easy To Grow, Low Light Plants for Aquariums

By Tank Needs / February 5, 2020
best low light aquarium plants featured

Everybody loves easy to grow, low light plants for freshwater aquariums, even though they are usually associated with beginners. The truth is that even seasoned aquarium owners love them because, well, who doesn’t love low maintenance stuff?

Today, I am here to share with you a list of 20 aquarium plants that are easy to grow, are perfect for beginners, require low light and no additional gadgets or intervention.

Best low light, easy growing aquarium plants - small tank

These plants are the “plant them and forget them” type of aquarium plants, with the mention that you should still provide light in most cases. Also, this doesn’t mean that these plants are not impressive or beautiful.

You can see some of these low maintenance, low light aquarium plants in two of my aquariums in the photos following this article.

Now let’s just move on and find out which are the 20 low light, easy to grow freshwater aquarium plants that I want to recommend.

1. Anubias Barteri

Anubias Barteri - TankNeeds.com Original Photo

In my opinion, any Anubias is perfect for beginners and veterans alike – it’s one of the hardiest, easiest to grow plants ever. Plus, it is beautiful!

Even though this is a slow growing plant, it does grow and can easily fill up an aquarium, as you can see in my attached photo from my own aquarium.

When planting Anubias, have in mind not to bury its roots entirely in the substrate – let it claw its way down and up as it likes to instead.

2. Anubias Nana

Anubias Nana - Tankneeds Original Photo

The smaller Anubias doesn’t grow just as high and is perfect for smaller aquariums. It’s basically the same thing as the plant above, but on a smaller scale.

While some people suggest having root tabs in the substrate to help the Anubias grow, I don’t think that is necessary and mine have grown without a problem – and without added help.

I even placed Anubias Nana plants (or just leaves that turned into full-fledged plants) into my jarrariums and they did fine without any fertilization and even without extra light!

3. Java moss

Java Moss - TankNeeds Original Photo

We’re now switching to something that grows really fast and looks beautiful as well. The 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 will require regular trimming – or it will take over most of the space in your aquarium, but that shouldn’t be a problem, especially since it’s such a joy to look at it and especially the differences in the green colors from the new leaves compared to the existing ones.

4. Marimo Ball (Cladophora aegagropila)

Moss Ball - TankNeeds Original Photo

This one’s up there with the Anubias – one of the hardest plants for a freshwater tank. You probably know them already, as they’re all coming shaped as a ball.

Now, the Cladophora aegagropila is actually not a plant, but algae – a good kind, in our case, one that doesn’t take over your aquarium and doesn’t spread. On the contrary, it looks really nice in my opinion.

This is a very, very slow grower and requires little maintenance. All that you have to do is you give it a rub every month in order to make sure that it keeps its round shape. Nothing else, really!

5. Green Hygro (Hygrophila polysperma)

Green Hygro
Image via Wikipedia

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.

This one grows fast and multiplies even faster, so you should have no problem with it: low light or moderate light, low tech or not… it will stay alive and look great in your aquarium!

6. Amazon Sword (Echinodorus Bleheri)

Echinodorus Blecheri - Amazon Sword Original Photo

I got this plant somewhat recently for my low light, low tech tank and it looks amazing! It is easy to maintain, grows pretty fast and is spectacular.

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 – but you can always try and work your magic trimming.

7. Eelgrasss (Vallisneria Gigantea)

Eelgrass - low light aquarium plant

This is a nice, background plant that looks similar to the one recommended below, but it’s not the same thing.

It has sword like leaves that are long, but wider than others and usually of a darker green.

This is a plant that grows easily without fertilizers or CO2, and one that grows really fast too, requiring constant trimming.

There are actually all sorts of Vallisnerias out there – not just the Gigantea which is the largest: we have the Spiralis whose leaves twist in a spiral and we have the Nana, which is even more difficult to distinguish from the Sagittaria recommended below.

In the end, the name doesn’t matter that much: all these plants are very hardy and thrive in a low light, low tech aquarium!

8. Dwarf Sagittaria (Sagittaria Subulata)

Sagittaria - TankNeeds Original Photo

As I was saying above, it looks much like the Vallisneria, with the main difference being that it doesn’t grow as tall.

Also unlike the Vallisneria, it spreads easily by shooting sprouts to all sizes so it will quickly and nicely fill up your aquarium if you let it. It’s nice and easy to maintain, so there’s no reason not to let it if you have no other plans!

9. Bacopa Caroliniana

Bacopa Caroliniana

This is a plant that grows in height and is best planted in groups as it doesn’t “fill up” the aquarium as much.

It also has to be planted deep in the substrate, as it takes some time to develop roots. But once it does, it grows at a moderate speed, multiplies relatively fast and looks really good.

I like to plant these in the background and even though they also ended up behind my large Anubias in my main aquarium, they still managed to grow and do really well.

10. Cryptocoryne wendtii

Cryptocoryne wendtii - TankNeeds Original Photo

I have the brown version of the plant (some call it red) – which is what I recommend, as it adds a bit of variety to your aquarium. But if you don’t like the darker color, you can find “regular” green as well.

This is a plant that I really like because it doesn’t spread that fast and enjoys low light. This means that it’s easier to plan ahead, plant it in a spot and know that it will be there after one year without many extra leaves grown, and mostly of the same size.

11. Blyxa Japonica

Another plant that you can easily mistake for a saggitaria or a vallisneria and in the end, it doesn’t really matter. Yes, they look the same, with this one having a lighter green color.

Another difference with this one is that it doesn’t shoot sprouts to multiply, but instead grows spurs around it: you can cut those and replant them, or let them grow naturally.

This is a plant that doesn’t grow very tall (and you can always trim it) and many people use it as a carpet plant.

12. Egeria Densa

I am really surprised to see very few people recommending this plant to beginners or low light, low tech tanks, as it is by far one of the easiest to grow: and one that never stops growing!

Really, you can start with just one tiny stem and in a few months have a handful really long ones in your aquarium.

So yes, if you want a plant that grows really, really fast and is extremely easy to multiply (simply cut it in half and replant it), this is the one for you, Place it in the background and enjoy!

13. Echinodorus Ozelot

Echinodorus Ozelot - low light tank plant
Image via Wikipedia

Another echinodorus on our list, this time with a bit of personality (and less popularity than the Amazon Sword).

Still, this is a beautiful plant that is usually of medium size (but can grow pretty large too if it has the right conditions), made even better by the brownish-black spots that appear on its leaves.

14. Hygrophila Corymbosa

Hygrophila Corymbosa

This one needs a bit more light than the others on our list, but it can survive and actually do well even in lower light setups.

I like this one because of its shape – very uncommon for Hygrophilas, with large leaves of a solid dark green color. The leaves themselves are compact and packed together.

The plant itself is a slow grower and remains of a medium size – especially in low light freshawater tanks, so it’s very easy to plan your aquascaping with it.

15. Java Fern (Microsorum Pteropus)

This is one of the most popular plants for beginners and even though I am not its biggest fan (simply because, for some strange reason, I dislike its shape and color), I couldn’t ignore it.

This is actually a plant that prefers low light and doesn’t do that well in strong light settings, so have this in mind when preparing your aquarium!

It is a background plant with large leaves. It grows slowly but steadily and if you allow it, it can easily fill up a tank, given the time. It’s extremely easy to care for and one of the least demanding plants on this list. Just make sure you’re not burying the roots and you’re all set!

16. Hydrocotyle tripartita

The “Japan” Pennywort – very similar with the Brazilian Pennywort, this is a plant that looks different and offers nice variety to any aquarium. It’s also a bit more difficult to find than the “traditional” pennywort, so don’t despair if you can’t find this exact one, go for the Brazilian instead!

Its name comes from the fact that it has penny-sized leaves, growing from light stems.

It grows really fast and spreads faster – but it’s also very easy to care for. Yes, it does require trimming and pruning (or it will take over your aquarium), but it is also very versatile as you can plant it or let it float as a surface plant – many choices, your decision to make!

17. Marsilea Hirsuta

Marsilea Hirsuta

This is a tiny and beautiful carpet plant for aquariums, one that spreads fast but isn’t the easiest to grow.

Not because it won’t do well in low light settings or such, but because if you have bottom feeders like corys, they will simply blast through it: it has tiny roots and it will simply not stick.

But for shrimp tanks or jarrariums or any setups where you can keep them away from bottom feeders, they can bring a ton of value and charm. I love these tiny fellas!

18. Hornwort (Ceratophylum demersum)

Another extremely popular plant that I don’t really like because of all the mess that it makes in the aquarium with its tiny needle-like leaves.

It is extremely hardy though and, similar to the Egeria that I recommended above, it will multiply very fast and grow quickly, requiring regular trimming.

It is also said that it produces chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants (or even kill them), so you can’t really have a ton of variety if you choose this one.

I really recommend the Egeria instead; they look somewhat similar, they grow just as fast, but the Egerias are much better imho.

19. Rotala Rotundifolia

If you want to add a bit of variety in terms of colors, you don’t really have a ton of options if you’re looking for low maintenance, low light plants. But the Rotala Rotundifolia might just work!

It’s a bit more demanding than most other plants on the list and it requires constant care – including trimming and replanting as the bottom parts die and top parts thrive, but if you want that splash of red on your aquarium, you should be ready to put in some work.

This is a plant that grows relatively fast in the right conditions and even though it likes a bit more light and prefers stable water quality, it is one of the easiest to maintain – and hardiest – red plants for aquariums.

20. Red Ludwigia (Ludwigia Inclinata)

Ludwigia Inclinata
Image via Wikipedia

Another red plant that can do well in low light settings, but which actually prefers a bit more light. However, I had success growing it and – even though not as brightly colored as in other settings – it was better than nothing.

This is a fast growing plant, actually, but it will do better if you fertilize the soil, so add some root tabs where you plant it in order to give it more chances to adapt and grow nicely in your aquarium.

Wrapping up

There you have them – 20 ideas of plants that you can mix and match inside your tank for optimum results.

Even though these are hardy plants that need little care and low light, they are beautiful and can be used to create absolutely stunning aquascapes and settings for your little piece of nature.

Best low light, easy growing aquarium plants

Do have in mind that even though in theory they are all the same – low maintenance, easy to grow, needing low light, you will have more luck with some than you will with others.

I personally never managed to grow a Red Ludwigia, for example (probably one of the most demanding on our list), but also Echinodorus.

On the other hand, I don’t think that anybody ever had a problem growing their Anubias – no matter what type you choose, these plants will thrive. Moss balls are very easy to grow, as well as Egerias and Green Hygro.

So if you are just starting up or you have a really, really low tech aquarium, these four plants in the paragraph above would be the ones I’d recommend you to start with.

Afterwards, if you still have room, start adding the others and work your magic in your aquarium!

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