By Rhonda Wilson
For the 60th anniversary issue of TFH, I thought it would be fun to do a list of my top aquatic plants. Of course, I had to decide what sort of top list it would be. In the end, after considering various choices, I decided to include all the options. I chose a mix of plants, some because of their ease of growth, some from their popularity among aquarists now and over time, and some of the ones most likely to be found in the shops. I thought I would do a top-10 list but decided that I had 15 plants I wanted to include, and since it’s all kind of an arbitrary list, that’s what I ended up with. For space considerations, I could only list the top 10 in the magazine, but here are my remaining five favorite aquarium plants.
11. Java Fern
An easy plant to grow for most aquarists and a general all-around favorite, Java fern can tolerate a good range of water conditions and lighting levels. I did have some trouble with them in the water in Phoenix, but they did well with additional CO2. I know most people can grow it with ease in most tap water. Since I recently moved, I’ll be trying it again in my new water. There are several different, very attractive varieties of this fern that can often be found in good pet stores along with the original type of fern. Java fern is particularly well suited to be tied to wood in the aquarium.
12. Cryptocoryne wendtii
Cryptocoryne wendtii is a wonderful crypt that comes in a variety of colors and is often available as a potted plant in chain and locally owned aquarium stores. The plants are medium in height and can be used as taller plants in very small tanks and midground ones in moderately sized aquariums. Cryptocoryne can be slow growing but over time easily cover and take over an entire aquarium, with little plants spreading under the substrate. It is also easily propagated from cuttings.
13. Rotala rotundifolia
Rotala rotundifolia is of the few red plants that will grow under less-than-ideal conditions. The color can range from yellow to pink to peach to red depending on the conditions and lighting it’s grown under. Rotala seems to be happy in a range of conditions and will even tolerate moderate lighting. It does much better with higher light levels and generally gets more red in the leaves under better conditions and lighting. Under optimal conditions, it will send branches across the ground to spread the plant.
14. Guppy Grass (Najas spp.)
Guppy grass (Najas spp.) is a long-time aquarium favorite, though it’s not usually found in the stores but is traded regularly at most aquarium clubs. It grows quite rapidly in most conditions and makes for a great plant for hiding fry, which is why it became popular among guppy breeders, hence the name “guppy grass.” The major issue with guppy grass in a mixed planted aquarium is that it grows very rapidly and breaks apart quite easily. Each little node is quite happy to start making a new plant, so it’s very easy to end up with these in places in the aquarium where they’re not really wanted.
15. Bacopa monnieri
Bacopa monnieri is a stemmed plant that is very interesting in its structure, with a strong, thick stem and leaf. It looks like a type of succulent. Bacopa not only grows well in the aquarium but is happy to grow right out of the tank where it freely blooms with small white to violet flowers. I’ve gotten to the point where I usually just plant these at the back of the tank and let them go ahead and grow out. They can drape down the sides of the aquarium and be quite attractive if allowed to grow that way.
Pick Your Own
This is just a brief review of some of the aquarium plants that have been the most popular and easiest to grow over the history of the hobby. There are many more plants available, along with undiscovered ones that may become favorites in the future. Be sure to comment and let us know which plants are your favorite for the aquarium!