Betta fish love plants, and in this guide, you’re going to learn how you can pick the best for your needs. And then, read my reviews for the best plants suitable for Betta fish.
First Part of Deciding Which Plants to Buy for your Betta Tank
Let’s go through what factors you should be aware of when deciding which plants to buy.
Synthetic vs. Real (Live) Plants
The first big choice you’ll need to make when picking what plants to put in your tank is whether you want real plants or fake plants.
Let’s go through the advantages and disadvantages of both.
Synthetic plants are typically made of plastic, but they can also be made of silk or other textiles.
There are a huge variety of synthetic plants to choose from and many options come in bright colors, so they can either mimic real plants in appearance or add a unique aesthetic to your aquarium.
The main advantage to having a plant that is not living is that it requires far less maintenance than a real plant.
Synthetic plants can be placed anywhere in your tank without regard for substrate, temperature, or pH, and they don’t need fertilizer. Synthetic plants are also much easier to clean when the tank water gets dirty.
Another advantage to synthetic plants is that they cannot be eaten by the fist in your tank. This not only prevents them from being destroyed as a real plant might be, but also ensures that they will not end up in your tank’s filter and cause clogs.
Finally, synthetic plants are typically less expensive than real plants, especially if you are outfitting a large tank from scratch.
They also come ready to place in the tank and carry very little risk of introducing diseases or parasites.
On the downside, synthetic plants don’t provide any of the same biological services as real plants do for your aquarium. They don’t take up nitrates or carbon dioxide or produce oxygen, they do nothing to inhibit the growth of algae, and they don’t serve as an alternative food source for fish.
It’s also important to be careful about the materials synthetic plants are made from, as some plastics can leach chemicals into the water that can be harmful to sensitive fish. While silk plants are better, this is always a danger if you have sensitive fish.
Real (Live) Plants
The main advantage to placing real plants in your aquarium is that as living, respiring organisms, they play an important role in balancing the chemistry of your tank’s water.
Real plants take up nitrates and carbon dioxide from the water, as well as produce oxygen that fish need to breathe. Many types of real plants will also inhibit the growth of algae in the tank, which creates a better environment for your fish.
Real plants also change over time, which can be either a positive or a negative depending on your view. On the one hand, this means that the landscape of your tank evolves as time goes by.
However, it also means that you’ll need to spend time pruning back your plants so they don’t crowd out the fish or get too close to the filter intakes.
In addition, real plants can serve as a secondary food source for some fish that like to nip at the leaves. Be careful about this, though, since some types of plants can be toxic to some species of fish.
Of course, real plants take more care than synthetic plants. They need to be placed in a part of the tank that receives plenty of natural sunlight, which can also limit where in your home you can place your tank.
If water conditions become unsuitable for your plants, they can actually suck oxygen out of the water rather than add oxygen, which creates a bad situation for fish.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that live plants can spread disease and parasites when they are first introduced into your tank – especially if they came from another tank with a disease outbreak.
While a proper cleaning of any new plants can help prevent this, it is not possible to be certain that your new plants are not carrying dangerous bacteria or other intruders.
Overall I prefer to use live plants.
What to Consider When Choosing Live Plants?
If you’d like to go for live plants, this is what you should consider:
What Kind of Lighting do they Require?
Light is an essential ingredient for live plants, since they require light to convert carbon dioxide to energy through photosynthesis. However, different types of plants require different amounts of light and differing lengths of exposure to light each day.
For example, plants that are native to tropical environments, where it is naturally sunny for about 12 hours each day and the sun is quite intense, typically require a high exposure to light for about 12 hours per day.
In a tank that is far from a window or during the winter months when the sun is only up for several hours each day, you may need to supplement natural light with an LED aquarium light.
On the other hand, plants native to colder waters typically thrive on seasonal variations in the length of light. Depending on where you live, that may mean you can simply leave the tank by the window and take advantage of the natural variation in sunlight with the seasons.
It’s also important to think about the intensity of light that is needed by different plants.
Plants that typically grow in coastal environments or rivers, close to the surface of the water, may need light at a high intensity. In this case, you’ll want to put your tank near a window or under strong room lights.
Plants that grow in waters under dense forests or in deeper ocean waters will require less light and could be burned by harsh, direct sunlight.
Importantly, you probably won’t want to mix high-intensity and low-intensity plants in your aquarium. Doing that would require compromising on the lighting situation, which will be less than ideal for either type of plant.
Growth Rate (How Fast do the Plants Grow)
Different types of plants grow quicker than others, which can be ideal if you’re trying to blanket a new aquarium with lush growth to create a suitable environment for fish.
For example, Hornwort, Wisteria, Amazon Sword, and Amazon Frogbit are all renowned for their extremely quick growth in aquarium conditions.
On the other hand, if you want to spend less time pruning your plants and already have a well-established aquarium, slower growing plants may be a better choice for your tank.
With any type of plant, the trick to maintaining fast growth is to ensure that the lighting and nutrient conditions are optimal for the specific plants in your tank.
Column Feeders vs. Root Feeders
Another important consideration when choosing real aquarium plants is whether they are column feeders or root feeders.
While all plants produce energy through photosynthesis in their leaves, the difference between column and root feeding plants is how they take in nutrients.
Column feeding plants take in nutrients from the tank’s water through a set of rhizomes. These plants typically need to sit above the level of the substrate at the bottom of your tank so the rhizomes are not blocked and there is enough flow to keep up a steady supply of nutrients.
Root feeding plants take in nutrients through their roots, from the pool of nutrients available in the interstitial water in the substrate.
These plants typically anchor themselves to the substrate and may limit the types of substrate you can use since their roots need space to grow and expand their reach.
What to Consider When Choosing Fake Plants?
Fake plants don’t require much care and won’t affect the biology of your tank, so many of the same considerations of light, growth rates, and feeding type don’t apply to synthetic plants.
However, one thing you do need to watch out for is the material the plant is made from, especially if you have sensitive fish.
Some plastics can leach chemicals into the water that can be toxic to certain types of fish. If this is a concern, plants made from silk or other textiles typically are non-toxic.
Beyond that, the other important thing to consider is where you would like the plant to be in your tank.
Some synthetic plants have suction cups so you can place them on the tank walls, while other plants have anchors at the base that are designed to sit in the substrate at the bottom of your tank.
One of the main advantages of choosing fake plants is that you are free to mix and match plant styles since they are not dependent on light, nutrients, or even water temperature or pH.
That allows you to really think about the tank aesthetic you are trying to achieve and to choose synthetic plants that work towards that style.
Best Real (Live) & Fake Plants for Betta Fish Reviewed
To help you choose the best real or synthetic plants for a Betta fish tank, we’ll take a closer look at 10 of the best types of real plants for betta fish and five synthetic alternatives.
Best Real (Live) Plants for Betta Fish Reviewed
Let’s review the best live plants for Betta aquariums.
1. Anacharis (Brazilian Waterweed)
Anacharis is a fast-growing, vine-like plant that is an excellent choice for betta tanks because it filters toxins out of your tank’s water. Anacharis also sucks up nitrates, helping to prevent the growth of algae.
The plant grows in moderate light conditions and does not require special substrate as it is a column feeder that can be planted in the substrate or left free floating.
Anacharis tends to grow in dense forests, which can be good for spacious betta tanks but can clog smaller tanks.
Betta fish tend to like these forests because it gives them plenty of space to hide and explore. Note that because of its fast growth, Anacharis can require a significant amount of maintenance.
2. Java Fern (Microsorum Pteropus)
Java fern is a green-leaved column-feeding plant that thrives in tanks with low light levels, making it an ideal choice for rooms tanks in dimly lit rooms.
The plant has long, tendril-like leaves that extend upward into the water column that are ideal for a betta fish to hide in and swim through just as they would in their natural environment.
In addition, Java fern can be either fully or partially submerged and do not require any special substrate or fertilizer.
3. Amazon Sword (Echinodorus Bleheri)
Amazon sword has broad upright leaves that offer betta fish plenty of layers to explore and hide out in.
This plant can grow rapidly and reach quite large sizes, so it is typically best for betta tanks larger than 10 gallons in size and requires frequent pruning to keep it in check.
In addition, note that you’ll need a gravel substrate with a large grain size for this plant to grow happily as it is a root feeder and extends several inches deep into the substrate.
Finally, Amazon sword requires relatively high levels of light for between 10-12 hours each day.
4. Java Moss (Vesicularia Dubyana)
Java moss grows along the bottom of your tank, making it a great choice for when you want to cover over your substrate and provide betta fish with a soft resting place.
This plant is a great choice for betta fish in particular because it closely resembles their natural environment and adds layers for them to explore.
Although Java moss grows along the bottom of your tank, it does not have roots and gets its nutrients from the water column. This plant grows at a moderate rate in a range of lighting conditions, making it highly flexible for any betta tank.
5. Anubias (Anubias Barteri)
Anubias has thick, lush green leaves that provide plenty of cover for betta fish while also being non-toxic if you betta decides to nibble on the leaves.
This plant does best in low light levels, so it is perfect for a tank that is in the interior of your house rather than near a window.
While Anubias does require some trimming, it grows at a slow to moderate pace. In addition, it does not require a specialized substrate as it gets its nutrients from the water.
6. Hornwort (Ceratophylum Demersum)
Hornwort is a great choice for a betta aquarium if you don’t mind frequent pruning. This column feeding plant grows extremely quickly and offers betta fish plenty of small bristles and layered stems to explore.
Just be careful to prevent the bristles from getting into your filter system as they can cause clogs.
Importantly, hornwort is also quite effective at removing toxins from the water column and can grow in tanks with either low or medium light. An advantage for landscaping your tank is that hornwort can be either planted in the substrate or left free floating.
7. Wisteria (Hygrophila Difformis)
Wisteria is a large plant that offers betta fish not only oxygen, but also broad leaves that offer a place to explore and rest.
The plant can grow up to 20 inches tall and 10 inches wide, so it is recommended for tanks greater than 10 gallons in volume. However, if grown in low-light conditions, wisteria will typically grow quite slowly and will not reach its maximum size.
Another thing to note is that wisteria is a root feeder, so you need to grow it in substrate with a large grain size or add fertilizer tablets if you grow it in sand.
8. Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium Laeviatum)
Amazon frogbit can be a tricky plant to care for since this column feeder floats at the top of the tank and getting the top of the plant wet will cause it to rot.
So, you need to be careful to avoid splashing when changing your water or filter. In addition, frogbit typically requires high light and does best with a dedicated aquarium light rather than just sunlight.
That said, frogbit is excellent for betta fish because it gives them cover and a place to explore, as well as helps reduce the growth of algae.
Frogbit can grow quickly at first up to its maximum size of 20 inches, so it is ideal for 10-gallon or larger tanks.
9. Hygrophila (Hygrophila Corymbosa)
Hygrophila is a massive plant that can grow rapidly up to 28 inches tall, so it is recommended for betta fish tanks that are at least 20 gallons in size and preferably larger.
If you have the space, though, this plant offers betta fish plenty of broad leaves to explore and rest on.
A major advantage to hygrophila is that it is extremely easy to maintain and very difficult to kill. It will grow in low light conditions, although it favors more regular medium-intensity light.
It is a root feeder, so you will need a substrate that can provide roots space to grow while offering a solid anchor.
10. Marimo Balls
Marimo balls are actually algae rather than a true plant, but they are one of the simplest real plants you can install in a betta fish tank. While they grow fast at first, they stop growing after reaching their maximum size and do not require pruning.
These spherical algae provide all the benefits of plants, but as column feeders they do not require any specific substrate and instead simply sit on the bottom of your tank. Note, however, that marimo balls need a medium to high light exposure for extended periods each day.
Best Fake Plants for Betta Fish Reviewed
Now let’s go through your options for fake plants.
1. ZAZALUM Artificial Aquarium Plastic Plants
This synthetic plant from ZAZALUM is constructed from silk to ensure that it is non-toxic to betta fish. The broad leaves provide plenty of layers for betta fish to explore as well as sleep on, while the sturdy base can be easily anchored in any aquarium substrate.
2. QUMY Artificial Aquarium Plants
This plastic plant from QUMY is designed to be non-toxic to betta fish while adding an aesthetic spark to your aquarium’s landscape.
The red leaves are pretty to look at while the stems provide a layered environment for betta fish to feel safe in and explore. The base sits on top of your substrate and is heavy enough that a moderate current won’t knock the plant over.
3. MaxFox Fish Tank Plants Floating Hammock Bed
This single leaf from MaxFox is designed to suction-cup to the side of your betta tank to provide a broad and sturdy area for your fish to rest on.
The leaf is inexpensive, can be placed nearly anywhere along your tank’s walls, and won’t attract attention away from the rest of your tank’s aesthetic.
4. Blue Spotted Betta Plant Red Anubia Leaf
This plastic plant from Blue Spotted offers an aesthetically pleasing set of leaves for your betta fish to hide in and explore, as well as enough area for your betta to rest on top of.
The plastic roots add to the realistic appearance of the plant, while the weighted rock base prevents the plant from being tipped over by currents in your tank.
5. CNZ Aquarium Fish Tank Lifelike Underwater Plant
This broad-leafed plastic plant from CNZ Aquarium is designed to offer your betta fish a range of leaf types to explore and plenty of space to hide.
The broad leaves are sturdy enough that your betta can rest on top of them, while plastic roots add to the aesthetic of the plant.
Quick Word on Quarantining New Plants
Quarantining any new live plants before you introduce them to your main aquarium tank is important to prevent the introduction of diseases, parasites, or other intruders.
This small step can save you a lot of time and money later.
The easiest way to quarantine new plants is to first rinse them in a salt bath to kill off any snail eggs. Soak the plant in a solution of one tablespoon of salt to one gallon of water for 10 minutes, then rinse the plant off in fresh water.
Next, dip the plants in a solution of two milliliters of hydrogen peroxide to one gallon of water for 10 minutes. This will kill most algae and parasites.
However, be careful not to exceed the proportion of hydrogen peroxide as this can kill your plants – for sensitive plants, you may want to reduce the proportion of hydrogen peroxide even further.
Rinse your plants off in fresh water, and then they should be ready to place in your aquarium.
Adding plants to your aquarium can improve the aesthetic of your tank and give your fish places to hide and explore.
Real plants offer biological services like producing oxygen and taking up nitrates, but they also require more work in the form of quarantining and pruning.
Fake plants are a simple alternative that allow you to mix and match plants to achieve a desired aesthetic, but they won’t help with keeping the nutrients in your tank balanced.
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Last update on 2019-07-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API