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The 12 Best Low Light Plants for Your Aquariums (Must-See)

by Catherine Tran 01 Jun 2023 0 Comments

The 12 Best Low-Light Plants for Your Aquariums (Must-See)

Java Moss.

Java moss is one of the most common aquarium plants in the trade! With its undemanding nature, it's easy to see why.

This plant does exceptionally well in low-light conditions. With stronger light exposure, Java moss will grow quickly and robustly. But, you can easily keep its spread under control by limiting light and regular pruning.

Java moss is also rootless. It latches onto virtually any porous surface. As a result, it's easy to establish the plant alongside rocks, driftwood, or even plastic decorations.

Read more about Java Moss: A Beginner's Guide To Learn Everything Step by Step.

Java Fern.

Java ferns are a plant cultivar you can find at any fish store! This is one of the most popular underwater aquarium plants. Not only is it easy to care for, but it provides a beautiful look to any tank.

The Java fern has broad, pointed leaves that grow upwards to feed on nutrients. The base anchors into the substrate. Like some other low-light aquarium plants, Java Ferns can grow differently based on their light exposure.

In well-lit tanks, the plant grows in dense clumps. Leaves usually darken, too. When grown in low-light aquariums, the leaves stay bright green. However, they will grow more spaced out.

Read more about Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus) an Easy Aquatic Plant.

Anubias Barteri.

Barteri happens to be one of the most popular species! Measuring about six inches tall when fully grown, Anubias barteri is a good choice for tanks big and small. This plant is part of the larger Anubias genus.

Known for its large, heart-shaped leaves, Anubias barteri works wonders when creating hiding spots for your fish. It also casts a large shadow, making it a suitable choice for fish that prefer low light levels.

Anubias barteri is a beginner-friendly plant that doesn't need much light. But, the leaves do have a penchant for accumulating algae. Luckily, that's something that a few algae-eating fish or invertebrate species can solve.

Read more about Anubias Guide: 7 Gorgeous Anubias and How To Care For Them Like An Exper

Amazon Sword.

Want a tall low light plant to add some drama to your aquarium? Check out the Amazon sword! This plant is demanding when it comes to nutrients. But you can easily give it the nutrient boost it needs with a few root tabs.

Once the plant gets established, it's much easier to maintain. The long slender leaves erupt from the plant's base, creating dramatic height. The leaves are relatively soft, making it easy to create an exploratory area for your fish to zip through.

Best in the background of your aquarium, Amazon swords take up a lot of space. That said, the sheer beauty they bring is unmatched.

Read more about Amazon Sword Plant: Care, Planting, Propagation & More…

Water Wisteria.

This is an interesting plant that likes to change based on its environment! It's well-known and one of the best low-light aquarium plants. However, its visual changes make it look like an entirely different species.

The broad shape of the leaves comes out in this form! In low-light conditions, the uniquely shaped leaves get large. This is to help maximize exposure so that the plant can take in as much as possible.

Once the light levels increase, the leaves shrink. They become thin, fine, and feather-like. In this form, the plant already gets enough fuel from the light, so it focuses on conservation instead.

Read more about Water Sprite (Ceratopteris Thalictroides): The Complete Care Guide.

Also known as the round leaf tooth cup, dwarf rotala is another aquarium staple. Super easy to take care of, this plant doesn't require a lot of fuss. Best of all, its small size makes it a great option for smaller tanks.

Many use it as a small bush for the foreground. But, it can grow slightly bigger for use as a backdrop.

When it comes to lighting requirements, dwarf rotala is quite versatile. It can thrive in strong light. Typically, the rounded leaves will turn bright green. In less severe light, the leaves become yellow.

While the yellow colouration sounds unsightly, it adds a new dimension to your tank decor. Plus, the colouration is not an indication of health. Dwarf rotate can do just fine without a ton of light exposure.

Banana Plant.

The root system of banana plants is thick. They are slightly curved, too, making the roots look like a banana! Here's a unique plant that's easy to identify.

Of course, those thick tubers aren't just for looks. They hold nutrients and food for the plant. It constantly builds a handy stockpile when growing environments could be better.

Banana plants prefer to have moderate levels of light exposure. They can still grow in low-light thanks to those roots. But, the plant will benefit from getting more light exposure occasionally to redevelop those roots.

Buy here: Banana plants

Rotala Indica.

The Rotala indica is another member of the Rotala plant family. This one is a column feeder. It develops thick steps and thin, needle-like leaves. The stems can grow quite tall.

In moderate light levels, the Rotala indica will become very dense. The root structure will get stronger, too. This can provide some protection against more aggressive fish.

It can get overgrown in some conditions. In those cases, they require regular pruning to prevent overgrowth. In low-light conditions, the plant tends to stay on the slender side. It will continue to grow long and tall, but the width of the bush will decrease.

Buy here: Rotala indica


Next up, we have hornwort. Like guppy grass, this species is perfect for nursery tanks. It doesn't have thick leaves like traditional plants. Instead, it's sporting thin outward shoots that look like fur on an animal's tail!

The shoots are thin and soft, providing much-needed support to young fish and eggs.

Hornwort is a fast-growing plant capable of reaching lengths of up to 10 feet! It's not for small tanks. Not only will it quickly outgrow smaller aquariums, but it can also kill off any other plant species you have.

It produces chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants, so it's best to keep hornwort in a single-species tank.

Buy here:  Hornwort.

 American waterweed

Native to ponds and rivers in the United States, the American waterweed can be a bit invasive. It's a fast-growing low-light aquarium plant that can quickly reach lengths of three feet!

It grows in long stalks. Each stalk sprouts a series of small leaves. Longer stalks can curl up and create dense bundles of vegetation that plants like to hide in.

The American waterweed isn't just for looks. It can also improve the quality of the water. The plant is revered for its ability to produce tons of oxygen. For this reason, it's a popular plant choice for aquariums that house oxygen-dependent species.

Buy here: American waterweed 

Ludwigia Repens.

If you want a vibrant pop of colour in your aquarium, Ludwigia repens may be the species you're looking for. Rather than the signature green leaves you'd expect with other plants, this one is rocking fiery red foliage. Even the stems are red!

The plant looks best when grown in clumps. Many aquarists also like to pair it with other tall-stem plants to create a unique look.

No matter how you plant it, Ludwigia repens will need regular maintenance. It's a root feeder, so your substrate must stay fertilized to help the plant reach its full potential. Not only that, but the fast-growing steps need pruning to prevent overgrowth.

Buy here : Ludwigia Repens.

Sunset Hygro.

Native to Southeast Asia, the Sunset Hygro is a visually appealing low light aquarium plant that's easy to grow. It prefers to live in warmer bodies of water that are modeled like the tropical environments it's used to. But other than that, it's pretty flexible!

The plant features feather-like leaves that grow from a central stalk. On most of the plants, the leaves are green and feature white veins.

However, red and purple leaves can appear at the top of the stalks. While they look like flowers, the Sunset Hygro is not a blooming plant. They are standard leaves, albeit with some unique colouration.

Buy here: Sunset Hygro.

Time To Pick!

Now that you know all of the best low-light aquarium plants, it's time for you to choose your favourites! Many of these can be used together, so it's up to you to decide how you want to set up your tank.

Let us know if there are any great low-light plants you think we should include. We're open to adding more to this list in the future!

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