I love having real plants in my freshwater tanks but, what types of plants are the best for a beginner aquarist? There are tons of freshwater plants sold in local fish stores but, which to chose. Here is a list of plants than any beginner can grow to make their tank look like a miniature forest without wasting money on the ones that won't!
1. Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus): Java fern is first on this list because it does not even require gravel or sediment to grow or high intensity light, the less light the better actually! Java can be used to plant an entire tank easily. These plants are usually seen attached to drift wood and rock in planted aquariums. The only problem with java fern is that it is a slow grower, so just plant it first before adding any other plants you your tank.
2. Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis): Wisteria is an amazing plant for beginners with low lighting intensity tanks. It should be planted in gravel or sediment but can survive if not planted. Wisteria is a very fast growing plant which contributes to its ability to out compete algae. It reproduces are a relatively fast rate and usually requires pruning because it can quickly over take an aquarium.
3. Java moss (Vesicularia dubyana): The only reason java moss is not number one is because I have not been able to grow it successfully. It does not require substrate or high intensity lighting. But, be aware that once it is happy it can easily take over a tank and become a nuisance. It should best be maintained continuously allowing you to create a lush garden in only a few months. It is a great plant for fry to hide and can be used to hide equipment in the aquarium.
4. Anubias nana: Anubias is a relatively easy plant to grow for any beginner. It does require gravel to grow but not high intensity lighting. Anubias does not requires specific water conditions and can even prosper out of the water. It prefers water movement around its rhizomes and can easily succumb to beard algae, a brown/greenish algae that takes over the leaves. Its largest drawback it how slow it grows, so be hesitant to prune the plant.
5. Anacharis (Egeria densa): Also known at turtle grass, Anacharis is a low light plant and can be free floating or planted in the gravel. It has been considered a invasive plant in Florida due to being released into the native waters thus making it relatively difficult to locate in the aquarium hobby. They grow relatively fast compared to Anubias and java fern.
All the plants mentioned in this article will prosper in a aquarium that had a pH around 7, small deviations above and below are tolerated while higher pH's (9ish) and lower pH's(5ish) will prevent plant growth. No CO2 injection is required and many of these plants can be found in any local pet store except for aAacharis. With this list any beginner can have a planted aquarium that resembles a slice of nature.