Low Light Aquarium Plants, Cost-Effective and Easy to Maintain

Published on September 16, 2019
Low Light Aquarium Plants, Cost-Effective and Easy to Maintain

Setting up an aquarium for the first time would make you wish for a variety of plants to decorate it. I know you won’t just get satisfied with adding only one plant species. So, it’s better to include other beautiful types of low light aquarium plants.

These low light aquarium plants I have listed are not at all demanding and can survive for an extended period. You adorn your tank without spending a lot.

These plants can control the growth of algae, can be a source of food, and can serve as a shade for your fish. A planted tank replicates the wild where your fish can feel comfortable.

If you find your tank dull, you can make it colorful and looking natural. Using low light aquarium plants that hobbyists call “easy plants” can help. They only need essential maintenance, and they flourish in your aquarium, even in low-intensity light.

24 Top Low Light Aquarium Plants

Java Fern – Microsorum pteropus

java fern

Java Fern is one of the favorite low light aquarium plants in an aquascape. This versatile plant’s slow growth contributes to its easy maintenance.

With its slow-growing rhizomes, the leaves are long and slim but sometimes long and broad depending on its variety. Java ferns can grow from 12 to 14 inches and 6 inches in width.

It can thrive well when it anchors its roots in the substrate. However, the fern can also survive floating where it can find an anchoring object.

Java ferns can produce many leaves so occasional trimming is enough to make the plants look excellent and dense. It is compatible with a lot of aquatic fauna for dwelling and shading purposes.

Red Crypt - Cryptocoryne Usteriana

cryptocoryne usteriana

Low light aquarium plants like this can grow dense for it has broad leaves that can add layers to your aquarium. You will see dark green on the top part of the leaves as it turns bright red at the bottom.

If you want it to grow fast, you may plant it in the substrate, and you’ll see much greener coloration, more so if you use fertilizer.

You may opt for a slower growth if you only provide a low light. It matures when it reaches 20 inches in height.

Cryptocoryne usteriana is not a demanding plant. Aquarists will prefer low maintenance and cost-efficient plant like this.

Guppy Grass – Najas guadalupensis

najas guadalupensis

These low light aquarium plants are where Guppy fish mate and keep their young, and that’s how it got its common name.

Guppy Grass is a pest grass in the wild as it can just grow out anywhere you throw it. But the good thing is it can suck up excess nitrates when you keep it in an aquarium to keep a cleaner well-planted environment.

You may trim the grass so it won’t take up the tank. Cutting it is its only maintenance, no supplements needed not even fertilizer.

To hold it from thriving and exhibiting spindly appearance, provide low light. It will mature over time creating dense leaves and tangling stems which are a haven for nano fishes and fry.

Dwarf Sagittaria subulata

dwarf sagittaria subulata

Its grass-like characteristics will fill your tank with a lush green color of nature. It is a favorite among low light aquarium plants because of its simple miniature appearance.

This plant prefers a low intensity of the light to keep its green coloration. Low light can control its growth because it spreads too quick.

With just one Dwarf Sagittaria in a potting soil transplanted in the substrate is enough to fill your tank in just weeks.

Its leaves grow in any direction, that’s why your tank looks like all taken up. Therefore, trimming becomes necessary to make these low light aquarium plants appear dense.

Cryptocoryne wendtii

cryptocoryne wendtii

Crypt wendtii is a versatile crypt in the aquaria for it can adapt in both soft and hard water. Although belonging to low light aquarium plants, they are deep rooters, clinging tight to the substrate.

Even burrowing fish like loaches and cichlids cannot uproot or damage this plant because it has a firm root system. Occasional dosing of root tab can help maintain its strength.

These low light aquarium plants look great in foreground and midground section of a large tank. However,  you can also place them as background in nano aquariums.

Water Spangles - Salvinia Minima

water spangles salvinia minima

If you’re looking for low light aquarium plants that can grow hanging on a water surface, Salvinia minima suit you. The plant is native to West Indies and South America. They later introduced it to the USA where it propagated in Florida and became popular low light aquarium plants.

Its joined oval leaves measuring 3/4 inch grow in pairs spreading fast and can survive while left floating — this plant aids in reducing waste and nitrates in the water.

Water spangles is a good source of nutritional food for the fish. They are great for providing shade because its dense leaves are ideal hide-away for fish and its fry.

If you see this floating fern growing too much, you can reduce its volume by just pulling some of its stems. No tools needed, just bare hands.

Spiral Water Trumpet - Cryptocoryne spiralis

cryptocoryne spiralis

The Spiral Water Trumpet or Crypt spiralis is polymorphic, and the oldest of the Crypt low light aquarium plants from India. This primitive plant flows gracefully adding drama underwater.

It's long, narrow, and ruffled leaves add heights while they exhibit contrasting hues of brown, green, red, and pink to your planted aquarium.

Aquarists prefer this crypt as a centerpiece attraction, but if they grow longer, it is much better to see them as background.

Cryptocoryne spiralis is easy to manage because it is adaptable either in medium or hard water. However, moderate lighting and substrate enriched with iron can be a growth factor for stronger anchoring roots and against cryptocoryne rot.

If you want the best results, use the crypt as a solitary plant. Spiralis can propagate by producing multiple runners or by rhizome division.

Taxiphyllum sp ‘Flame.’

taxiphyllum sp flame

Flame moss has undulating shoots that grow upwards and forming bunches that resemble a flame. Its stalks will bend when it gets longer, and won’t pose a threat to your finned pets.

The plant is native to cold, slow-moving rivers of Southeast Asia. Its dark green coloration is brighter than other aquatic moss species.

Moss is a carpeting bush that horizontally grows as it spreads fast on the ground to cover it. However, flame moss grows vertically climbing up, thus breaking its root pattern. It is the only aquatic plant that grows like a miniature pine tree, making it valuable in aquascaping.

In the wild, the plant grows from 4 to 6 inches, but in an aquarium, it can only reach 3 inches. Its topmost part can receive a good source of light. Nonetheless, since it is one of the low light aquarium plants, the bottom section can survive even away from direct sunlight.

Watertrumpet - Cryptcoryne Becketii

cryptcoryne becketii

Hobbyists do not commonly use all types of low light aquarium plants. Crypt Becketii is not a popular choice of aquatic plant although it came to exist for 60 years now. Aquarists opt for this because it is not a demanding plant, and it’s easy to maintain.

Cryptocoryne beckettii ‘Petchii’ is endemic to Shri Lanka, India, and later in Florida where many hybrids exist. It can survive in hard and soft water, has a longer lifespan, and is one in the list of low light aquarium plants.

Water trumpet has fluted leaves of which leaf measures 10-15 centimeters, with a width of 3-5 inches. The leaves are dark in shades of brown and olive green while the undersides are a purple color.

It requires low light, as intense light can burn its leaves and promote the growth of algae. It doesn’t like moving because it might melt, so it is better to position it in one definite spot.

Diamond Ludwigia - Ludwigia Peruensis

ludwigia peruensis

Green is not the only color of nature. Try including other contrasting colors like red, pink, brown, and purple,  and see how colorful can diverse plants be in your aquarium.

The Red Ludwigia is a common choice when you want a contrast in color. Mid-ground is the ideal spot for it to be the focal point.

The Diamond Ludwigia grows upright, and it looks dense when planted in bunches. It can survive submerged or immersed, not at all demanding, and maintenance is easy without sacrificing the look.

It has oval-shaped leaves that point on the topmost. They sprouted from the stem in opposite pairs. Diamond ludwigia leaves can be red, gold, green, orange, depending on its condition in the tank.

The plant serves as a good cover for fish. Its low-light nature is the key to why they have a longer lifespan.

Balansae plant - Cryptocoryne Balansae

cryptocoryne balansae

Cryptocoryne Balansae is a sweet-looking plant which can make an excellent contrast to your green-dominated tank. These low light aquarium plants are plenty in Southern Asia where they came from.

This Crypt has thin leaves that measure 60-centimeter long and 2.5-centimeter width. Crypt balansae has crimped appearance on its leaves with ruffled edges, is brown in coloration but will turn green to red on the lower side.

The rippled pattern on its leaves makes a nice contrast with other plants of broader leaves. Its stems are short, yet this crypt can spread fast. It can turn the mid-ground of a nano tank into attractive dense vegetation or can be filler plants for huge aquariums.

Balansae is among the low light aquarium plants that can grow using its robust root system when submerged. Likewise, it can thrive floating on water where it can produce flowers like other Cryptocoryne species.

Brazilian Pennywort - Hydrocotyle leucocephala

hydrocotyle leucocephala

Hydrocotyle leucocephala, or known as Brazilian Pennywort first exists in the Amazon River Basin. It is one of the popular low light aquarium plants in Biotope Aquascaping because of its tag name, “jungle vine”.

It has penny-shaped leaves where it got its name. The rounded lily pad-shaped leaves grow from the spindly stem, like a creeping vine.

Some tiny white roots sprout from the leaf joints. The plant produces little blossoms as it reaches the water surface.

Pennywort is a versatile stem plant that you can use in the background (planted in the substrate) or midsection of the tank. For best results, they’re better off as floating aquarium plants.

Pennywort is a rapid grower that can grow an inch each week. It can reach a height of over 8 inches when mature. Trimming the jungle vine is less of work but a more appealing effect when you see the plants wrapping around hardscape and driftwood.

Marimo Algae Ball - Cladophora Aegagropila linnaei

cladophora aegagropila linnaei

This plant will fascinate any aquarium hobbyists because of its unique shape. It grows to form a ball; therefore, it’s a decoration underwater.

The plant is soft to touch, and your finned friends won’t get hurt when they rub or swim through it.

If you're wondering, Marimo in Japanese means seaweed ball, it is not a moss but rare algae that grow like the shape of a sphere.

The plant can grow 5mm per year. However, in its natural habitats, like the cold lakes and rivers in Japan, Iceland, Australia, Scotland, and Estonia, this algae ball can grow a diameter of 8 to 12 inches.

If these green algae balls turn brown, keep them away from direct light since these are low light aquarium plants. You may also nourish the water with a few ocean salts.

Marimo Algae Ball prefers constant relocation to keep its shape. Its lifespan is forever so it could be a family heirloom

The Amazon Sword - Echinodorus Bleheri

echinodorus bleheri

Echinodorus Bleheri is a popular choice for hobbyists maintaining huge aquariums. You can call it by its common name, Amazon Sword, which you can find along the central United States to Argentina.

The Sword plant is not delicate and demanding. You can grow it immersed or submerged. If you prefer one-plant species in your tank, the Amazon Sword will do the job.

These low light aquarium plants are aquarium fillers because its leaves can grow up to 20 inches, and they multiply fast. The long, lanceolate foliage will green up your tank to achieve a jungle-like miniature Biotope.

There are hybrid forms of these plants bearing multi-colored leaves in oval shapes. It can function as a cover that your under which your fish will love to seek refuge.

Maintenance is easy as it only requires low light and needs no dosing of nutrients but some root tabs if you like. The best part to put it is in the background, and you may opt not to trim it for a long time.

Anubias barteri v. nana golden

anubias barteri

The anubias barteri v. nana golden has light green to yellow leaf patterns unlike the all green foliage of the other genus of Anubias which is the anubias barteri v. nana. These dwarf Anubias plants hail from the shallow forest rivers of Cameroon in Africa.

Its color is not dependent on the condition of your artificial biotope, but the variant stays as the plant ages, even when they multiply. These gorgeous plants have heart-shaped leaves that are thick and can last for several years.

They belong to low light aquarium plants that avoid direct light for fear of unwelcomed algae. It is safer to place them in a shaded area to prevent the growth of algae.

The creeping plant can grow at a maximum of 2-6 inches in size. It will develop new leaf from its horizontal rhizome each month. Its rhizome puts down thick roots.

You can always plant the roots but not the rhizome for it will rot and will cause the plant to perish. The rhizome is this plant’s storage of food, that is why.

Its thick, heart-shaped leaves are robust and can last several years. Even if the leaves wilt and rot, new leaves can sprout from the rhizome.

Anubias Barteri v. nana golden is a plant to contrast with the other dark-colored plants. It serves as a focal point when at the mid-ground section.

Java Moss - Vesicularia Dubyana

java moss vesicularia dubyana

Java moss is always accessible in your local fish store because a lot of aquarists prefer these low light aquarium plants. It can adapt to any water condition because it is hardy and can propagate fast with fewer requirements.

This moss is perennial and has a primitive look that can exude a natural-looking Biotope in your plain tank.

You cannot hate it when it multiplies fast. You should trim it to avoid overgrowth. The plant is immortal even if you throw them aside, it will grow where you threw it.

Vesicularia Dubyana is a carpeting plant of delicate moss with irregular branches on its stems. The stems will grow tiny overlapping oval-shaped leaves measuring 2mm long.

It is nice to see this plant creeping on driftwoods and rockscape; they will cover the objects in no time.

Anubias nana – Anubias barteri v. nana

anubias nana

Anubias barteri is among the favorites submersed plant in aquascape because it can spread fast in any range of temperatures.

These low light aquarium plants are hardy and versatile, easy to maintain, and not at all demanding. But, you need a rich substrate, so this root-feeder plant can gain a robust root system.

Anubias leaves can grow from 2 to 4 inches in lush green color. The foreground is the best place for young anubias. However, when they reach the maximum size of 16 inches, they’re much suitable to fill the background.

Eelgrass - Vallisneria

eelgrass vallisneria

The Biotope style in aquascape is like an underwater jungle. You can find this plant, Jungle Vallisneria or Vallisneria Americana in such type of setup.

Many aquarists are a fan of these low light aquarium plants. In huge tanks, they can grow up to 2 feet or up to the depth of the container. It grows longer in pools and fish ponds.

The Tape Grass grows in clusters; therefore, it can provide shade for your fish where they can also hide, shelter, and breed. It can also provide shade on other low light aquarium plants.

We also know jungle Vallisneria as Eelgrass since it resembles the eel when the plant sways by the flow of water. Its movement in the current is a calming sight and an attraction to the viewers.

Hornwort (Ceratophylum demersum)

hornwort ceratophylum demersum

Hornwort has green leaves that grow outwards in a unique foliage pattern. It has a bushy tail because of its many shoots.

This plant is ideal for a novice because it will just grow anywhere, even without a substrate; it has no real roots. It can grow on any aquarium decoration, and can even survive afloat.

“Coontail,” its nickname can provide a good shelter for the young fish. Make sure that all other plants in your tank are low light aquarium plants since Hornwort is.

Moneywort - Bocapa monnieri

moneywort bocapa monnieri

Moneywort is a creeping plant that can add color to a dull aquarium. It has tiny oblong leaves in bright green color.

The leaves grow upwards on its sturdy stalks. Bocapa Monieri can reach the height of 6-8 inches.

You may opt to plant its shoots close together to make a contrasting color with the other aquatic plants. It thrives in any condition because it is not a delicate one to handle.

Since these plants are slow-growing and can survive in low lighting, it is a right beginner plant for newbies in this hobby.

No need for upkeep, provide a medium tank for its large leaves do not look good in a nano tank.

Water Wisteria - Hygrophila Difformis

water wisteria hygrophila difformis

The Wisteria plant is native to India and is one of the versatile, low light aquarium plants used in Aquascape.  It is easy to maintain this floater plant since it is compatible with a lot of fish species except goldfish, which can devour its leaves.

Water Wisteria can adapt well under low light or dim surroundings. It can grow floating or planted in the substrate.

The plant won’t fill up your water column unlike the floating plants like Duckweeds and Frogbits. Water Wisteria is a single-stalk plant that you can remove in chucks.

Micro Sword Plant - Lilaeopsis novaezelandiae

lilaeopsis novaezelandiae

This plant is endemic to South America. It’s a carpeting plant that can grow in varied lighting conditions depending on how you want it to thrive and exhibit a color.

Newbies in aquarium hobbyists would like this plant to spread fast to cover the whole ground. Therefore they need intense light to it.

But, experienced hobbyists prefer to control its growth so as not to take up all the space. They control the light to slow its growth, thus became in the league of low light aquarium plants

Copragrass will make the right foreground for carpeting. You plant them in clusters, so it gives off a wild grass look that creates a natural expression. You can, but it potted or cut into a mat.

This plant can grow an inch up to 3 inches on low light, but it can reach 3 to 6 inches in the wild where sunlight is strong and direct. The micro grass grows by sprouting runners on the entire substrate.

Dwarf Hairgrass - Eleocharis acicularis

eleocharis acicularis

Dwarf hair grass (Eleocharis acicularis) belongs to the group of low light aquarium plants. It is a useful foreground plant in aquascape because it is a carpeting grass.

In huge tanks, you will see these in front of the taller plants. Aquarium enthusiasts leave the hair grass growing tall to provide shelter and food for the foraging fish. You need to trim it when you see that it’s taking up the tank.

Although it follows a creeping growth pattern, it can also grow immersed. Eleocharis acicularis is also a floater plant that makes a good option for paludariums.

It is lighter in low-light conditions, and it grows too tall for a carpeting plant. Hobbyists prefer to provide it with low light to keep it growing like in a jungle Biotope environs.

African Water Fern – Bolbitis heudelotii

bolbitis heudelotii

African Water Fern is a versatile, time-tested, and robust aquatic fern. It is a variant of Bolbitis that hails from the Congo River Basin in West Africa.

It has a long, transparent, feathered green leaves. Bolbitis are slow growers, but they are better off growing on rocks and driftwoods.

It can grow immersed or submerged. It spreads through its creeping rhizomes in two ways - through growing new leaves from it or through splitting the rhizomes and replanting anew.

Being large, the Congo Fern is not for nano tanks. It makes an excellent foreground specimen in medium and large aquariums, and for primeval jungle-looking waterscape.

It is easy to grow Bolbitis heudelotii, just that it prefers a good water flow. You can place the plants near the source of current or the bubbler.

African fern can grow from 6 to 8 inches in width and 16 inches in height at a snail pace of 2 months. If you want it to thrive faster, you can inject CO2 and supply the plant with enough nutrients.

Although it demands acidic water and variation of light intensity, you can always provide it with low lighting to avoid overgrowth.


With this information, you can now identify as many low light aquarium plants that you can include in your tank. Just match them to achieve contrasting colors, and group them according to shapes and sizes, so you know their rightful place in the aquarium.

Design a low-cost aquascape using these manageable plants than choosing the expensive high-tech plants challenging to maintain.

It’s inspiring to create an underwater paradise with these incredible low light aquarium plants. Commune with nature and feel its calming effect in this miniature environment you created.

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