Looking for a way to take your betta fish tank to the next level? Give live aquarium plants a try. Not only do aquatic plants help purify the water from your fish’s waste, but they also provide a beautiful, natural environment for your betta. In the wild, Betta splendens are commonly found in tropical marshes and rice paddy fields chock-full of thick vegetation. Therefore, aquarium plants serve as excellent enrichment for your betta to explore, obstacles to block line of sight in case he gets territorial, and resting places for him to sleep at night. Rest assured, most of the plants in our top 10 list are beginner-friendly species that only need low lighting and a comprehensive liquid fertilizer like Easy Green.
Java fern is one of the most well-liked plants in the aquarium hobby because of its long, thick leaves and low maintenance care. This slow-growing plant comes in several variations, like needle leaf, trident, and Windelov (or lace) java fern. It has a thick, horizontal “stem” called a rhizome that produces leaves on top and roots on bottom. Rhizome plants are special because they don’t need any substrate or gravel to grow; simply attach them to a rock or driftwood using super glue gel and place it wherever you like in the aquarium.
Java ferns also have an interesting way of reproducing. You can either cut the rhizome in half to split the plant into two, or your java fern may start popping out little plantlets directly from their leaves. Wait till a plantet is bigger and has a good amount of roots before detaching it and replanting it elsewhere in the tank. For more information about java fern care, read our full article here.
Java fern (Microsorum pteropus)
The Anubias genus is another group of rhizome plants that comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and textures. Some of the most popular variants include Anubias barteri, anubias nana petite, and anubias coffeefolia. As with java fern, they can be attached to various hardscape and aquarium ornaments. Rhizome plants can be planted into the substrate as well, but be careful not to bury the rhizome or else the plant may die.
Anubias plants do not require substrate and instead are commonly attached to driftwood and rocks.
You can also simply drop the anubias with its plastic pot inside an Easy Planter decoration. The fake rock has a very natural appearance and is easy to move around if you want to change the look of your betta fish tank.
Place your anubias or java fern inside an Easy Planter as an attractive “pot” that can be moved around the aquarium whenever you like.
If java fern and anubias sound intimidating, then you can’t go wrong with marimo moss balls, the world’s easiest aquarium “plant.” Despite the name, these fuzzy green orbs of velvet are neither a moss nor plant, but rather a type of algae. Their unusual round shape comes from being constantly rolled around the bottom of lakes. To “plant” them, just drop them anywhere in the aquarium that gets low amounts of light. They’re quite inexpensive and unique looking, so many people like to buy an army of marimo moss balls to fill their betta fish aquariums. To learn more, see our marimo moss ball care guide.
Marimo moss balls (Aegagropila linnaei)
Cryptocoryne plants, or “crypts” for short, are known for their undemanding care and ability to live in low to high light conditions. One of the most common types, Cryptocoryne wendtii, comes in many varieties, such as green, bronze, tropica, and red. Betta fish can often be found resting on top or below their broad, wavy-edged leaves. Cryptocoryne parva, on the other hand, is one of the smallest crypts with deep green, slender leaves and is often used as a slow-growing, foreground plant.
Unlike most of the other plants on this list, cryptocorynes prefer to consume their nutrients from the ground rather than the water column, so they like to be planted in substrate that contains nutrients like root tab fertilizers. Also, if you see your new cryptocoryne plant wilting soon after purchase, don’t throw it away because it is likely experiencing “crypt melt.” Just leave it in the aquarium, and it will soon recover and start growing new leaves that are used to living in your water conditions.
This easy-to-grow stem plant is fairly versatile because you can plant it in the substrate or use it as a floating plant. Its fine, lacy leaves provide a dense jungle for your betta fish to investigate and use for building bubble nests. As a fast-growing species, water sprite does a great job of absorbing toxic nitrogen compounds produced by fish waste. If it ends up consuming all the nutrients from the water, use some Easy Green fertilizer to keep it well-fed.
Water sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides)
You may see “betta bulbs” sold at big chain pet stores and wonder what exactly they are. Most of the time, you’re getting some kind of Aponogeton plant, which usually grows long, light green leaves with a rippled or wavy texture. Other easy bulb plants include the banana plant (with its banana-like tubers at the bottom) and dwarf aquarium lily (which produces reddish-bronze, triangular leaves). Both of these plants will send out lily pads that reach the surface, forming a network of stems for your betta to swim in between.
Banana plant (Nymphoides aquatica)
For large aquariums, consider filling your tank with a massive sword plant, like an Amazon sword or red flame sword. This classic aquarium favorite is loved for its easy care requirements and big, broad leaves that provide resting and hiding spots for aquatic animals. As with crypts, this is another group of plants that feeds heavily from its roots and requires either nutrient-rich substrate or a frequent diet of root tabs to stay healthy. When the sword plant becomes large enough, it may start growing long spikes that turn into baby sword plants for you to propagate in other fish tanks.
Amazon sword (Echinodorus bleheri)
If you wanted to create a thick underwater forest but only had money for one plant, vallisneria (or val) is your winning ticket. This tall, grass-like aquatic plant is very hardy and thrives in a wide range of environments. Plus, once it gets well-established in your aquarium, it spreads like wildfire by sending out new runners with baby plants every few days. Pick this plant as an easy way to fill the back of your aquarium and create natural line-of-sight barriers for your territorial betta. Read more in our vallisneria care guide.
This unique stem plant is another great background plant that can quickly cover your betta fish tank with tons of greenery. The ‘octopus’ nickname comes from the fact that each node on the stem produces several long and wispy leaves that look like octopus legs waving in the water current. As with most stem plants, it can grow quite tall in a short amount of time. For propagation, simply trim off the top half of the plant and replant it in the substrate. The plant cutting will develop new roots and leaves in no time, becoming a beautiful jungle gym for your betta to play in.
Pogostemon stellatus 'octopus'
Because betta fish like to hang out near the water surface, floating plants are a wonderful way to enhance the upper layers of their home. Popular types include Amazon frogbit, red root floaters, and even floating stem plants (like the aforementioned water sprite). Because of the fluffy roots and dense foliage, your betta feels safe enough to build his bubble nest or take a little nap surrounded by plant life. Just make sure to leave about 50% (or more) of the water surface clear of leaves so that there is room for adequate gas exchange at the surface (to introduce more oxygen into the water) and for your betta fish to take a gulp of air if needed.
Floating plants like Amazon frogbit are great anchor points for your betta fish to build bubble nests to his heart’s content.
To learn how to set up your first planted aquarium, make sure to read our beginner guide that will take you step-by-step through the process. Best of luck with your planted betta aquarium, and enjoy nature daily.
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