7 Best Aquarium Plants That Grow In Sand

Placing a plant that isn’t suited for sand substrate could result in its death. And from here on out, things will only get worse. Dead plant material can also harm living things in the aquarium if the decay continues.

However, there are few aquarium plants that can thrive in sand and look just as lovely and full of life as those that don’t. There are many plants that can grow well in sand, so don’t worry that you won’t be able to find one. To find your best pick for your aquarium, here is a list of what we consider to be the top aquarium plants for sand.

Which Aquarium Plants Grow In Sand

Sand has a well-deserved reputation for not being a good place for keeping aquatic plants alive. The roots of your plants won’t be able to breathe well in the packed sand, and the plant won’t be able to hold itself well in it. Even though that’s the case, there are still plants that can grow well there. Here are some of the best aquarium plants that can grow in sand.

1. Java Fern 

Because of its slow growth rate, aquarists prefer Java Fern making it ideally suited for backgrounds in an aquarium. It can also grow successfully in sand, as long as the rhizomes aren’t buried. Before placing the plant on the sand substrate, make sure to secure them in place with the tank’s decorations, such as rocks or driftwood.

2. Amazon Sword

Amazon Sword is a resilient plant that can withstand hard conditions, making it a good option for beginner aquarists. Since the roots need space to grow, it makes a great centerpiece plant for your aquarium. It can live in aquariums with temperatures as low as 60 degrees Fahrenheit without showing any signs of dying.

3. Anubias Barteri

Anubias Barteri is a good choice if you want to grow water plants in sand that don’t need much care. It grows well when it’s stuck to rocks or driftwood, like Java moss, but it can also be rooted in sand. Because of its slow growth rate, you only need a little carbon dioxide or fertilizer.

4. Cryptocoryne

Cryptocoryne is a great aquarium plant because it can thrive in a wide range of conditions. Additionally, it can be grown into three primary colors, which are brown, green, and red, making it a great addition to your aquarium while also being able to be customized to your preferences.

5. Anacharis

Anacharis is an aquatic plant that can thrive on almost any substrate. Plant it in the sand, and you can leave it alone. However, It grows quickly, and if you don’t cut it back every once in a while, it will begin taking over your tank.

6. Vallisneria

Also a low-maintenance plant, Vallisneria is one of the unique plants that can grow on any substrate. It also gets most of the nutrients it needs from the water column, which makes it a great choice for beginner aquarists. This kind of aquatic plant is easy to grow as long as you don’t put it in water that is too soft or too acidic.

7. Ludwigia Repens

Ludwigia Repens are resilient red aquatic plants that can even grow in your tank even if you use sand as a substrate. It can also still grow either above or below water, so you can keep growing it even if it outgrows your aquarium. Just make sure the lighting is right because if you don’t, your plant will lose its bright color and get wilted leaves if you keep it in an aquarium with too little light.

How Do You Plant Aquarium Plants in Sand?

Most aquarium experts advise against using sand as a substrate because it does not hold nutrients in the aquarium very well. The sand is also easy for fish to dig up, creating a cloudy mess that is difficult to clean. However, the beauty of using sand substrates outweighs the effort required to create them, so here are things you need to do to get your planting started.

1. Wash Your Sand

Even sand needs to be washed before being added to a new aquarium. This can help reduce the likelihood of a parasite infestation in your aquarium by removing any eggs that may have been hiding there.

2. Place Your Sand

If you’ve washed your sand substrate thoroughly, you can now add it to your Aquarium. At this point, you can now shape it to your liking.

3. Cover The Top of the Sand

After laying down the sand substrate in an aquarium, many aquarists typically advise covering it with something like a plate, saucer, or plastic bag. This is so that when water is added, you can avoid splashes preventing the water from distorting the form you’ve created for your substrate.

4. Slowly Fill The Aquarium With Water

Slowly fill your aquarium with water to prevent stirring and keep your sand substrate in place. The thing that you place above your substrate will also help protect your sand substrate from splashes. You can pour water by slowly pouring it directly from a bucket or using a water pump.

5. Plant When Water is a Few Inches Deep

After you have completed the steps above, you can finally begin planting your aquatic plants in your sand substrate. Some plants’ rhizomes should be left exposed, while others’ can be buried. Sand substrate does not hold plants too well so some aquatic plants might need to be tied down to something.

6. Put Your Decorations

After you’ve set up your aquarium and planted your aquatic plants, you can add decorative things like rocks and driftwood. That way, you won’t have to put your hand in the aquarium water later, reducing the risk of introducing bacteria.

7. Fill Your Aquarium With Water

Once you’ve finished the preceding steps, you can begin adding water to your aquarium. The sand substrate can still be stirred as it is being filled with water, so take your time.

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Do Aquarium Plants Grow Better in Sand or Gravel?

Aquarium plants can do well in either a sand or gravel substrate. However, you will have to supplement the plant’s required nutrients with root tabs as neither of these substrates contains any nutrition that plants need for growth.

Can You Grow Carpet Plants in Sand?

Even though carpet plants can survive in the sand it’s not a good idea. The sand substrate in an aquarium won’t allow the roots of these plants the space they need to flourish and hold the plants steady.

Can Stem Plants Grow in Sand?

Growing stem plants in sand presents a number of challenges. The sand itself presents a significant difficulty. Aqua soil is much less dense than sand substrate.  Aquarium plants, like the stem plant, have thin roots and will float if planted on a sand substrate.

Can Aquarium Plants Live without Substrate

A lot of water plants can live in your aquarium even if you don’t have any substrate. These are often called “floating plants” because they float to the top of the water and give your fish shade and places to hide.


While a sand substrate isn’t recommended by most aquarists, that doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t be used. If you have a few fish that like to dig in the sand themselves, sand can be a good choice. Having sand and fish in an aquarium also mimics the natural beauty of an ocean environment.

However, there are also drawbacks, such as the fact that cleaning aquarium water can sometimes make it cloudier. Most water plants also struggle to establish strong roots in a sandy environment. However, in the long run, it doesn’t matter which substrate we choose as long as we do what makes us happy.

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