Houseplants That I Can Put in My Aquarium: A Guide for Beginners

Keeping the water in your aquarium fresh can get a little daunting until you think about adding in a houseplant to do that job for you. This brings us to the question: What are houseplants that I can put in my aquarium?

The simple answer is that any plant that loves water and has roots that can survive in it long-term can be added to your aquarium. This includes coontail, anubias, peace lilies, java mosses, and ferns.

If you want to learn more about aquatic houseplants, keep on reading as we dissect the details.


What Are Houseplants That You Can Put In Your Aquarium?

It’s worth mentioning that aquarium plants have three states: submerged, immersed, and floating. The state the plant takes depends on the type of plant and the nature of its foliage.

We’re going to be taking on immersed and submerged houseplants, so let’s dive in.

Submerged Aquarium Houseplants (Aquatic)

Submerged plants are ones whose all parts grow beneath the water.

Stem Plants

These are plants that grow in height.


If this is your first trial with aquaponics, a coontail would be an ideal option. It grows quite easily, and if you don’t anchor it well to the substrate, it can actually continue growing as a floater.

Despite being a hardy plant, its foliage is soft and flexible enough for the fish to swiftly swim through it. Not to mention, with plenty of them together, coontails give a nice aesthetic look to your aquarium.


The water wisteria gives your aquarium a nice look, especially since the way its foliage looks adds to the swaying motion of the water. However, this one isn’t as easy to care for as coontails.

Firstly, it needs a lot of space to grow as it can reach 20 inches in height and its leaves can grow to four inches long. It also requires plenty of bright light as well as regular changes of water and fertilizer.

Rosette Plants

These are short-growing plants that are used for decoration.


Anubias are great for beginners as they have a highly-adaptive nature. Since they grow near the bottom, they provide a nice aesthetic at the front of your aquarium.

Anubias prefer low light conditions and exposure for eight to nine hours daily, although they can put up with moderate lighting.

Their growth is rather slow, which makes them easy to care for. Not to mention, they can either be anchored to a well-fertilized substrate or you can leave them to anchor to wood or rocks.

Dwarf Lilies

If you want to add a colorful touch to your aquarium, making it look somewhat like a coral reef, there’s no better choice than dwarf lilies.

Dwarf Lilies

They’re beginner-friendly as they don’t require much maintenance and they’re the ideal choice for decoration and filling.

However, it’s worth mentioning that dwarf lilies need a lot of bright light to thrive, so make sure to pair them with other aquatic plants that love bright light.


The leaves of cryptocorynes have an interesting shape that makes them a good option to combine with other rosette plants or ferns.

They also grow slowly, which means you don’t have to cut the roots very often, making them low-maintenance plants.

Keep in mind that crypts have rather complicated root systems, given that they’re root feeders. This is why more experienced aquarists pick them more often than beginners.


These are plants that are ideal for fry and shrimps.

Java Ferns

Java ferns are a very popular option for beginners, and their varieties make them fun to try with in the aquarium. You can choose a trident, windelov, needle leaf, or a basic narrow leaf.

Java ferns

Not to mention, java ferns grow slowly, and are quite cheap, given that they come with their own driftwood.

Java Moss

Much like the fern variant, mosses are hardy plants, which is why they’re easy to care for by beginners.

If you have a lot of fry, java mosses would be an excellent choice for your aquarium. Plus, you can keep plenty of them to decorate your aquarium and provide food for breeding fish.

Emergent Aquarium Houseplants (Semi-aquatic)

Emergent plants have their roots inside the water of the aquarium, while their leaves and foliage hang outside.

Peace Lily

On the top of the list would come the peace lily, which needs a ton of light and nutrients to thrive.

That’s why adding it to your aquarium is an ideal way to decorate it. Not only that, but it also keeps your plant alive with plenty of water and food from the waste of your fish.


Pothos are common houseplants that work wonders if you use them as natural aquarium filters. If you’re not able to provide much light in your setup, pothos would be a great choice as they can thrive in low light conditions, and even almost in total darkness.

You can start with a small plant, which typically comes quite cheap, and it’ll grow quite quickly.  However, it’s worth mentioning that you should keep your pothos safely away from herbivore fish as they would definitely gnaw on it.


Philodendrons are some of the most popular houseplants out there, and they’re a very nice choice for adding to your aquarium.


Bear in mind, however, that while philodendron’s roots are fish-safe, some fish may find the leaves toxic.

Since a philodendron, like pothos, is a plant that loves humidity, they’ll both do quite well in an aquarium setup. Unlike pothos, though, philodendrons thrive in medium to bright light, though it has to be indirect.


Like peace lilies, lavenders are great for adding color and flowers to your aquarium. They’re a better option if you don’t have many fish, as lavender’s nutritional requirements are not so high.

They don’t need fertilizers, but they need a lot of high light and ample room to grow as they can hit the 24-inch mark quite fast.

What Are the Main Factors to Consider When Using Houseplants in Your Aquarium?

To begin with, you have to make sure that your plant’s roots will not rot or disintegrate with elongated water exposure.

Since this type of information is available online, your work should be as easy as just typing a plant’s name into a search engine and reading more about how its roots like their water!

Moreover, you should make sure of two things that are directly related to your fish:

  • That neither the roots nor the leaves are toxic to your fish.
  • That the fish won’t devour the plant if you leave it unprotected.

Finally, you should check the light requirements of the plants you decide to place in the aquarium and make sure that they’re all compatible.

Alternatively, you can divide the aquarium into sections—if it’s big enough—where each section is under a different light setting.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of answers to those wondering, “What houseplants can I put in my aquarium?” It all depends on how you want your setup to be.

Whether you want loose roots that the fish can play around with or separate pots fixed to the top of the aquarium, the whole setup will benefit both your fish and plants.

You might need some trial and error to find out which plants work best with the fish you have, or vice versa, which is part of the fun in the process!

Back to Garden And Sunshine home page

Read more from our peace lily category