While there’s no denying that fish are the real stars of an aquarium, adding some greenery to their tank can create an aesthetically pleasing environment that provides a place for fish to hide, oxygenates the water, and helps to keep the water clean. The trick is to find fast-growing aquarium plants that thrive in the same conditions as your fish.
If you’re unsure of which plants to add to your aquarium, keep reading to learn more. This article will introduce 15 of the fastest-growing aquarium plants, explore their ideal growing conditions, discuss how to properly care for them, and advise you on which aquariums they are best suited to. So, if you’re setting up a new aquarium, consider adding some of these plants for your fish.
What are Some of the Fastest Growing Aquarium Plants?
Adding the following plants to your aquarium is more than an aesthetic decision. By introducing live plants, you create a healthy and balanced environment that’s rich with oxygen, which is essential for your fish’s respiration. Plants also absorb carbon dioxide and nitrates produced by fish waste, helping to improve water quality.
So, if you are interested, you should be able to find most of these plants at your local aquarium supply store.
Echinodorus amazonicus—also known as the Amazon sword plant—gets its name from its long, sword-like leaves. These leaves can grow up to two feet in length and are typically deep green. These plants are native to the Amazon River Basin, but they’re also found in other tropical and subtropical climates. Nevertheless, Amazon sword plants are easy to care for and make a great addition to any aquarium.
Compared to other aquarium plants, the Amazon sword is a relatively slow-growing plant, meaning that it can survive for many years if properly cared for. The plant prefers a substrate that is rich in nutrients, but it can also be planted in gravel or sand if regularly fertilized with a slow-release fertilizer. Alternatively, they will also do well in a planting basket.
Amazon sword plants need plenty of light to grow and will do best in an aquarium that receives 10 to 12 hours of direct sunlight or light from an artificial source. Additionally, they are not known to be finicky about their water conditions, but they do prefer a neutral pH between 6.5 and 7.5 at a temperature between 70 and 85 degrees.
Amazon sword plants can propagate if you’re not careful to trim them back, so, for this reason—and their general size—we recommend only adding them to medium or large-sized aquariums. Choosing to plant them in a smaller fishbowl could crowd the space and stress your fish.
Limnobium laevigatum—better known as the Amazon frogbit—is a floating plant that is often used as a natural filter in ponds and aquariums. Like the Amazon sword plant, it is also native to the Amazon River Basin, but it can also be found in other tropical and subtropical climates.
Amazon frogbits have large, heart-shaped leaves that are green on top and purple on the bottom. These leaves can grow up to three inches in length and width. Amazon frogbits are easy to care for and only require a minimum of two inches of water to grow.
They will also do well in a wide range of water conditions but prefer a neutral pH between 6.5 and 7.5 and a temperature between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Amazon frogbits will also do best in an aquarium that receives 10 to 12 hours of direct sunlight or light from an artificial source. This usually isn’t a problem, though, since the leaves sit at the top of the tank, where they can easily absorb surrounding light.
While Amazon frogbits are easy to care for, they can quickly become a nuisance if not kept in check. These plants reproduce a new leaf every 2 days and will quickly take over an aquarium if left unchecked. For this reason, we recommend only adding them to medium or large aquariums.
Sagittaria subulate, or the dwarf sagittaria, gets its name from its long arrow-shaped leaves, referencing Sagitarrius—the ninth sign of the zodiac symbolized by a centaur firing an arrow. These leaves are typically green but can also be brown or red. Dwarf sagittarias are native to North and South America but can also be found in other tropical and subtropical climates around the world.
Dwarf sagittarias are fast-growing plants that can reach a height of 12 inches. They can be planted in both hard or soft water and prefer a nutrient-rich substrate that’s regularly fertilized with fresh iron. They are adaptable to wide variations in pH and temperature but do best between a pH of 6.0 and 8.0 and temperatures ranging from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Unlike tropical plants, dwarf sagittaria need moderate amounts of light, and if over-exposed, their leaves will bleach to a sickly yellow color. Alternatively, you can plant them in low light levels, but they will not grow as quickly.
Thanks to their adaptability and low maintenance, dwarf sagittaria make a wonderful addition to most aquariums. You can regulate their growth by restricting access to light and fertilizers, making them a smart choice for both small and large-sized fish tanks.
Taxiphyllum barbieri, or Java moss, is a small, creeping plant that is native to Southeast Asia. These plants are often used to create moss walls or moss carpets in aquariums since they can easily attach to any hard surface, including driftwood, rocks, and shells.
Java moss has small, round leaves that are green, brown, or yellow. These leaves grow in clusters and can reach a length of two inches. It prefers a shady spot out of direct sunlight and can live in a wide range of temperatures, from 60-82 degrees Fahrenheit.
It also does not need a lot of oxygen, making it ideal for low-tech aquariums, and it can live in both fresh and saltwater as long as the water is slightly acidic (between a pH of 6.0-7.5). Java moss can also be used as a spawning medium for fish. The moss provides a safe place for eggs, shielding them from being eaten by other fish.
Java moss is relatively slow-growing, and it won’t spread very far, so we recommend reserving it for small or medium-sized fish tanks. If it becomes overgrown, you can easily prune it back by cutting away sections without harming the rest of the plant.
Ceratophyllum demersum, or hornwort, is a common aquatic plant that is native to North America, Europe, and Asia. It gets its name from its thin, pointy leaves that resemble horns or antlers. Hornwort can grow to be up to four feet long, and it can float or grow submerged in water.
Hornworts grow best in moderate to bright light, but they will also grow in low light conditions, although not as quickly. They prefer a neutral to slightly alkaline pH (7.0 to 8.5), but they are resistant to a wide range of pH levels. Hornworts are also tolerant of a wide range of water temperatures, but they prefer cooler water.
Overall, they are an undemanding plant that thrives well in most aquariums regardless of hardness, pH, and temperature. If you wish to spread them throughout your tank, hornworts can also be propagated by dividing the plant or by taking cuttings. These cuttings should be rooted in either gravel or sand.
One final note—hornworts are not typically eaten by fish, but some fish may nibble on the leaves. If you notice your fish eating the aquarium plants, it isn’t an issue. Hornworts are not known to be toxic to fish or other animals.
The Brazilian pennywort (Hydrocotyle leucocephala)—also known as Brazilian water lily or mushroom pennywort—is a fast-growing, floating plant native to South America that gets its name from its round, penny-shaped leaves. It’s a popular plant for beginner aquariums because it’s known to actively filter water, reduce algae growth, and create hiding places for fish.
Like hornwort, Brazilian pennywort is highly adaptable and thrives in most typical water conditions. It can survive between 6.0 and 8.5 pH and temperatures ranging from 68 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Best of all, it will grow on the surface of your aquarium, so you don’t have to sink it into the gravel, and it only needs fertilizing to treat obvious nutritional deficiencies.
A couple of things to note about the Brazilian pennywort, though, is that it is known to be an invasive species in some areas. If you live in an area where this plant does not grow natively, it is important to dispose of it properly so that it doesn’t spread to natural waterways. Otherwise, it can grow quite rapidly and to heights of 2 feet.
Water wisteria (Hydrocharis Morsus-Ranae) is a charming and delicate-looking aquatic plant that is perfect for the beginner aquascaper. It is easy to care for and grows quickly, making it a great choice for filling in empty spaces in your aquarium.
Water wisteria is a member of the Hydrocharitaceae family and is native to Europe and Asia. It gets its common name from its resemblance to the terrestrial plant wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), which is also a member of the Hydrocharitaceae family.
Water wisteria can grow to be quite large in an aquarium, reaching up to 20 inches (50 cm) in height, making it better suited to larger tanks. In the wild, it grows in slow-moving streams and ponds and prefers water that is neutral to slightly acidic and has a temperature range of 59-86°F (15-30°C).
Other than that, water wisteria is a relatively undemanding plant and will do well in most aquariums as long as it receives enough light and nutrients. We recommend adding a balanced liquid fertilizer to the aquarium every week or adding a slow-release fertilizer to the substrate.
Bristly water-clover (Marsilea hirsuta) is a winter annual, or sometimes biennial, aquatic herb. It grows in freshwater ponds, lakes, and streams throughout Europe, and it was introduced to North America in the early 1800s. It has been reported from all states east of the Mississippi River, as well as from California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.
Bristly water-clover is sometimes confused with other aquatic plants, such as yellow water-clover (Trifolium repens) and water-plantain (Alismaplantago-aquatica). However, bristly water-clover can be distinguished from these other plants by its bristly leaves and black fruits.
Bristly water-clover is a fast-growing plant and can quickly become a nuisance in ponds and lakes. It can grow in water up to 6 feet (1.8 m) deep and can tolerate a wide range of water conditions. It is most commonly found in eutrophic (nutrient-rich) waters.
In North America, bristly water-clover is considered to be a nuisance aquatic weed. It can crowd out native aquatic plants, reducing habitat for fish and other aquatic animals. It can also clog irrigation and drainage systems. So, if you choose to use bristly water-clover, be sure to dispose of it properly whenever trimming it back.
Micro Sword (Lilaeopsis brasiliensis) is a versatile plant that can be used as a foreground or background plant in both freshwater and brackish water aquariums. The plant gets its name from its small, sword-like leaves and is a relatively low-maintenance plant that does not require CO2 injections or supplemental fertilizer.
Micro Sword can grow to be 12 inches (30 cm) tall and has a creeping rhizome that can reach upwards through your fish tank. Comparatively, it’s a fast-growing plant that can grow up to 2 inches (5 cm) per week. In other words, under ideal conditions, the plant can double its size in as little as two weeks.
Micro Sword is a tolerant plant that can adapt to a wide range of water conditions, from 6.0 to 8.0 pH, soft and hard mineral content, and temperatures between 70 and 83 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, it can grow in a wide range of lighting conditions, from low to high.
Thanks to its small size, it works well in small aquariums but be aware that you’ll have to regulate its access to light and fertilizer to keep it from growing quickly. If you have a larger tank, it can also help to fill up space thanks to how quickly it propagates.
Giant hygro ( Hygrophila polysperma) is a fast-growing freshwater plant that is native to India. It is also known as Indian Swampweed and Dwarf hygro. This plant can grow up to 2 feet (60 cm) in length and has large, oval leaves that are up to 6 inches (15 cm) long. The leaves are green with a purple tinge and have a slightly ruffled appearance.
This plant prefers a sunny location and a well-lit aquarium. It will also do well in a low-light aquarium if it is given a nutrient-rich substrate, but it will grow slightly more slowly. It prefers a pH between 6.5 and 7.5 but can tolerate a range as wide as 5.5 to 8.0.
It can also tolerate a wide range of hardness levels and temperatures, making it an easy plant to maintain in any aquarium. This plant is also relatively tolerant of poor water quality and will quickly filter the tank, making it a wonderful addition to large tanks with many fish.
Duckweed is a floating aquatic plant commonly found in slow-moving streams and ponds. It is often considered a nuisance because of how quickly it can take over a body of water, but its quick growth rate makes it a smart choice for larger aquariums with many fish.
Duckweed is a very simple plant with no roots, leaves, or stems. The plant consists of a small round disc that floats on the surface of the water. Duckweed also reproduces very quickly and can double its population in as little as two days. Therefore, we do not recommend adding it to smaller fishbowls.
The plant prefers water between 63-79 degrees Fahrenheit but can survive in a range between 85 and 95 degrees with some growth problems. It can also tolerate a wide range of pH levels, from 3.5 to 10.0, but it prefers a medium between 5.5 and 7.5. As for lighting, Duckweed does best in bright light but can also grow in low light.
Overall, it’s one of the hardiest and fastest growing aquarium plants you’ll find, so if you have a large tank to fill, we highly recommend it.
Anacharis (Brazilian Waterweed)
Anacharis—also known as Brazilian waterweed—is a native aquatic plant found throughout South America. It has long, green, slender stems that grow in dense clumps and are arranged in whorls of 4-6 leaves. The leaves are oblong and have a pointy tip. The plant can grow up to 2 feet in length, but it is typically much shorter in aquariums.
Anacharis is a popular plant among fish owners because it can help to improve water quality by absorbing nutrients and releasing oxygen. It can also help to reduce algae growth by competing for nutrients. To grow the plant, we recommend using neutral to slightly acidic water (pH 5.0-7.5) between temperatures of 50-82 degrees Fahrenheit.
It prefers moderate to high lighting and a nutrient-rich environment. We recommend adding a liquid fertilizer once a week to keep the plant healthy, as a root-based fertilizer will not be very effective. Brazilian waterweed absorbs most of its nutrients through a water column.
This plant is quite hardy and grows rapidly, though, so it’s not well suited to small aquariums with limited space. However, if you want to fill a large fish tank, it’s an excellent option that will quickly improve the quality of your aquatic environment.
Ruffled Sword Plant
The Ruffled Sword Plant (Aponogeton crispus) is a beautiful plant that is relatively easy to care for. They are found in the Amazon River Basin in South America and can grow to be 12 inches in height. Ruffled Amazon Swords are a little more difficult to grow than the regular Amazon Sword, but their ruffled leaves can add a unique texture to your aquarium.
To care for your Ruffled Amazon Sword, plant them in a substrate of gravel or sand. They do best in an aquarium with a moderate current and plenty of lighting. Also, it’s best to fertilize your ruffled sword plants with a plant fertilizer every 2 weeks and trim the leaves as needed. Otherwise, they can quickly become overgrown.
Much like the standard Amazon sword, ruffled sword plants enjoy up to 12 hours of direct sunlight and thrive in warmer waters. If possible, keep your aquarium set between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit and regulate the pH to between 6.5 and 7.5. Other than that, it’s fairly hardy and will survive in both soft and hard water conditions.
If your ruffled sword plant is struggling to grow, it may need more nutrients, so try adding a liquid fertilizer or replanting it into a planting basket with a substrate fertilizer. Under the right conditions, it should grow to more than 12 inches in height.
Green foxtail (Myriophyllum pinnatum) is a fast-growing plant that is perfect for filling in empty spaces in your aquarium. It is native to the tropical regions of Bolivia but can also be found in other warm climates. Green foxtail gets its name from its long, thin leaves that resemble the tail of a fox. These leaves are green but can also be brown or red.
The plant can grow to be up to 2 feet in length and prefers a substrate that is rich in nutrients. It also does best in a freshwater aquarium with moderate to low lighting. Green foxtail is a tolerant plant that can adapt to a wide range of water conditions, from 5.0 to 7.0 pH, soft and hard mineral content, and temperatures between 60 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
In ideal conditions, green foxtail can grow about two inches a week, so we recommend only using it in larger fish tanks with at least 10 gallons of water. If it starts to become overgrown, you can simply trim it back without harming the rest of the plant.
Pondweed (American Waterweed)
Pondweed (Potamogeton) is a perennial aquatic plant that is native to North America. It is found in ponds, lakes, and streams from Canada to Florida and gets its name from its long, thin leaves with pointed tips that resemble blades of grass. The plant can grow to be up to 3 feet in length, and, in the summer, pondweed produces small white flowers that bloom in clusters.
Pondweed prefers alkaline freshwater with a pH between 7.0 and 8.0 and can tolerate a wide range of water conditions, from hard to soft water and temperatures between 60 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. It does best in partial shade and needs a muddy substrate that is rich in nitrogen.
Be warned, though, that pondweed is a fast-growing plant and relatively large, so we don’t recommend using it in smaller tanks. When planting the roots, you’ll have to submerge them in at least 6 inches of water, so this really is best left in large aquariums with at least 15 gallons of water.
Which is the Fastest-Growing Water Plant?
Out of all of the plants discussed here, Duckweed is by far the fastest-growing aquarium plant you’ll find. It can double in size in just 24 hours, making it the perfect choice for beginner aquarium owners who want to see quick results. Best of all, Duckweed is also a great plant for filtering your fish tank, as it helps to keep the water clean and clear.
Since it grows so quickly, though, we don’t recommend using Duckweed in fish tanks smaller than 10 gallons. Other than that, it’s incredibly easy to maintain and grow as long as you keep it well-pruned. It can withstand temperatures between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, hard and soft water, and a pH range between 6.5 and 7.5
Best of all, it floats on top of the water, so you don’t have to worry about planting it or creating a nutrient-rich substrate. Simply keep an eye on it, and if you notice any signs of nutritional deficiency, simply add a small amount of liquid fertilizer. If you wish to propagate Duckweed, you can also take clippings and plant them elsewhere.
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A Final Recap
If you are setting up a new aquarium, consider adding a few fast-growing plants to help oxygenate and filter the water. They’ll also create a few hiding spots for your fish and create a pleasant, natural aesthetic. However, before you buy just anything, be aware that some plants grow better in different conditions.
Above, we’ve introduced 15 popular aquarium plants that are hardy and do well in a wide range of environmental conditions. That being said, though, some are better suited to larger tanks. So, if you’re ready to start planting, head to your local pet store or aquarium supply shop and wow that sales clerk with your knowledge.