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My Top Picks for The Best Freshwater Aquarium Plants for Small Tanks

Nothing will make your fish feel more safe and secure and give them the illusion of being free in their wild habitat than providing them with live plants. The green foliage will give plenty of hiding places in the tank and if any of your fish like to graze on live plants then you have a food source. Live plants also help the aquarium ecosystem run similarly to the wild where the fish originated from.

When I think of small tank any size of aquarium between 10 gallons to 30 gallons comes to mind and that is the size range we are considering when talking about the best live plants for a small aquarium.

With live plants growing in the aquarium you want to consider things like;

  • How big will each specific plant potentially grow if provided enough lighting and nutrition?
  • If my fish are plant eaters will they eat and kill my plants and if so what plants should I buy so they don’t eat them?
  • Will the plants growth get in the way of water flow or the filtration system?
  • How will the plants be secured to one location?
  • Will the plants interfere with the aquarium decorations?

Those are some things you really should consider if you want to fill your aquarium with live plants. The most important point I feel you should really pay attention to is the first one on knowing or finding out how big any plants you buy will potentially grow. You can always trim your plants just like you would out in the garden however a plant that can flourish and grow without having to trim all the time will look better and will be healthier for the tank.

The choices I am providing you are my opinion based on my experiences as well as having the knowledge of which plants do well in a small space with the types of fish species that a hobbyist would have in a 10 to 30 gallon aquarium. Let’s get started.

The things most important hear I believe are live plants that will thrive and are easy to take care of as well will be a good fit for smaller fish. My first selection is a plant that I personally like to see in the back of a tank.

Giant Tall Hair Grass Plant for Aquariums

Giant Tall Hair Grass Plant is available on Amazon

If you want a lot of green in your aquarium this is a great choice. These tall plants usually come anywhere from 6” to 12” tall when you first purchase them. They will grow right up to the top of the water which makes it easy to grab a bit to trim it off if and when necessary.

The Tall Hair Grass provides a great hiding place for smaller fish.

This plant will grow at a medium rate and feeding the Hair Grass plant is done at the root level so adding fertilizer tabs in an area close to the base of these plants will provide the proper nutrients to keep it growing and showing a beautiful green.

If you find a new plant is yellowing check to make sure that the roots only are planted and make sure the roots are not plants too deep.

This plant will give any aquarium the backdrop it needs to replicate the rivers and streams your fish were sourced from.

Java Moss for Your Aquarium

Java Moss to Create Depth and Ground Cover from Amazon

Java Moss is a very hardy and easy to grow live plant that will benefit your aquarium. This variety of aquarium plant moss is beautiful to look at and needs minimal lighting to provide growth so it is really hard to mess this one up.

Java Moss provides extra hiding places and lots of greenery for your tank. It can be placed on rocks or driftwood to hang over or just place it on the bottom of the tank.

If you have dwarf freshwater shrimp or are thinking of getting some then this plant is a must as dwarf shrimp love this plant to nibble on and hide in.

Blue Velvet Shrimp would look perfect together with the contrasting colors of the light green plant and the bright blue little shrimp. The shrimp color would just pop in your tank while crawling around on these plants.

Bonus feature of the Java Moss is that if you have a brackish aquarium you can have Java Moss as it will thrive in the slightly salt water ecosystem.

Marimo Moss Balls for Your Fish Tank

Freshwater Moss Balls available on Amazon check them out. 

This is a must have if keeping a healthy thriving ecosystem is on your priority list for your home aquarium. These moss balls will help things like absorbing ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates.

If you know one thing about aquariums it should be about the Nitrogen cycle of an aquarium and why it is so important for a successful tank.

I have a very informative article on the topic which can be found in the following link. The Importance of the Nitrogen Cycle.

Back to why you must have these moss balls in your tank.

If you want to keep algae at bay they do yourself a favor and purchase some of these moss balls. Luffy Marimo moss balls thrive on the same nutrients that causes unsightly algae growth.

If you prefer having an ugly tank filled with annoying algae then don’t worry about it but if you are like most aquarium hobbyists then algae is not something you want.

Moss balls have other benefits like being a food source for some inhabitants and some fish will push the balls around almost like they are playing with them. It is very entertaining.

Do yourself a favor and order some today.

Aquarium Substrate for Live Plants

Planted Aquarium Substrate for Freshwater Aquariums available on Amazon

If you are planning on having live freshwater plants on your tank then ensure their success and health by providing them the most nutrient dense substrate. You might not of even have heard of plant substrate for an aquarium before so good thing you are reading this now.

Aquarium plant substrate will add important major and minor trace elements to the bed of your tank so your plants roots will grow healthy and strong.

This format of substrate is made with the live plant aquarium hobbyist in mind so grab some today and just follow the instructions on the package you purchase.

Most manufacturers just instruct to place up to 3” deep in the tank and add right to aquarium water moving the substrate around to where you need it most, around live plants.

Anubias Aquarium Plants

Broad leaf Live Freshwater Aquarium Plant Anubias Barteri

Just like home decorating having your tank look just right will improve the experience of owing an aquarium. Therefore I recommend adding a broad leaf freshwater plant to your tank.

Not only will the broad leaf plants add some pizzazz to the aquarium it will give some fish an extra place to hide under if they feel like hiding out from the direct light other if other fish make them nervous.

Some benefits that an Anubias Barteri plant offers your tank is the production of oxygen to the water and the absorption of any carbon dioxide in the water.

Most plants will do this however so make sure to add as many varieties as possible to ensure the maximum chances of having a healthy vibrant and beautiful tank.

This type of plant has large leaves so you will want to have a spot for it in a back corner or off to the side as not to block to much light from the canopy.

If you find there are too many large leaves after a while you can trim as many of as you need. Remember this is a living plant so might need grooming once in a while.


When planting your new live plants make sure to plant the root only and not any of the plant itself. You do not want to hinder any growth. There are some nutrients that a live plant will need to live and grow even if you purchase live plant substrate.

There are many different types of live plant food for aquariums available on the market. One that I use and recommend is API Leaf Zone. It will keep your plants healthy string and growing. It will also minimize the amount of yellowing leaves you might experience otherwise.

When considering what fish to purchase for your tank make sure they are not fish that eat live plants or your plants will be gone in no time. On the other hand if they are small shrimp or other smaller fish that will nibble a bit on moss balls or plants that is fine and definitely good for the fish and tank.

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