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Top 7 Aquarium Plants That Grow In Tanks with Gravel or Sand

Live aquatic plants are much more beautiful than plastic ones, even though they might be more demanding to keep. But they are worth the effort, just like all other beautiful things in life. Plants have a very important role in fish lives, as they not only produce shelter but also a nest for breeding their young ones.

However, apart from being useful for your fish, plants are useful to you as well, as they produce oxygen and absorb the carbon dioxide and ammonia generated by your fish. Plants also offer you a chance to be imaginative by creating your own aquatic kingdom. Below are several aquatic plants that can be grown on sand or gravel.


The Anubias plant has been popular among aquarists for decades now. The plant exists in more than 10 varieties, from which the Anubias Gigantea is the largest and the Anubias Nana the smallest. This attractive plant is known for its strong root structure and vibrant green leaves that are also very durable. The plant is easy to care for and compatible with any fish – even those that cause problems in planted tanks. It is a very adaptable plant that will grow within a range of different parameters. And it doesn’t need much lighting.

As an undemanding plant in an aquarium, it will thrive successfully even without any fertilization, as long as the fish and snails in the tank produce enough waste. This beautiful plant provides a great contrast to any plant that you can have in the aquarium. It will work when placed in any part of the aquarium scenery – background, mid-ground, and even foreground, depending on the size of the tank.

Anubias Optimal Requirements:

LightingLow to Medium
Optimal pH6.0 – 8.0
Optimal GH2 – 15
Optimal Temperature72 – 82 °F (22 – 28 °C)

Anubias – check price on Amazon

Amazon Sword

As one of the most popular and most recognizable plants in aquariums, Amazon Sword is a great addition to any underwater environment. The Amazon Sword is best known for its ability to grow big and create a luscious green environment for your tank. The plant is easy to care for and maintain since it prefers loose substrate and won’t need much lighting, but you will need to make sure it gets lots of root tabs.

While it’s young and freshly bought, it will have round and big leaves that are going to be immersed grown, which means it was grown outside the water. When you put it in the water for the first time, its large leaves will melt back while the plant absorbs all the nutrients. Later, you can expect to have narrow and long leaves that will be submerged down, which means they will be growing underwater.

Amazon Sword Optimal Requirements:

LightingModerate to strong, and for between 10 – 12 hours per day.
Optimal pH6.5 – 7.5
Optimal GH2 – 12
Optimal Temperature72 – 82 °F (22 – 28 °C)

Amazon Sword – check price on Amazon

Java Fern

Java fern is a common name used for a very popular green plant Microsorum Pteropus from the family of Polypodiaceae, originating from Southeast Asia, with a low to moderate growth rate and light requirement, growing 7-8 inches, but even up to 13.5 inches and requiring a minimum 5-gallon tank.

Java fern is not difficult to grow as it can stand cold water, so the temperatures should range from 68 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The pH factor of the water should be from 6 to 7.5, and the hardness from 3 to 8. It does not require strong light, in fact, strong light can even damage its leaves, so you can keep it at approximately 2 watts per gallon. As it grows rather large, you should plant it in the background or at least in the middle part of the aquarium.

Java Fern Optimal Requirements:

LightingLow to Moderate
Optimal pH6.0 – 8.0
Optimal GH3 – 8
Optimal Temperature68 – 82 °F (20 – 28 °C)

Java Fern – check price on Amazon


Vallisneria Americana, commonly known as Jungle Vallisneria, tape grass, eelgrass, or water celery, from a family of Hydrocharitaceae, is one of the best plants for producing oxygen. It is a moderately demanding plant with a fast growth rate and a maximum size of 6 feet, which requires a minimum 10-gallon tank.

Vallisneria can survive in cold water, but the water temperature is best kept from 65 to up to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The lighting level should be 3-4 watts per gallon, but it can also survive in low light or high light. However, this plant needs to be supplemented with iron fertilizer. Given its size, this green plant should be placed in the background. Also, it takes a little skill to plant it, as it tends to float up to the surface, and on the other hand, it must not be planted too deep to cover its crown.

Vallisneria Optimal Requirements:

LightingLow to Moderate
Optimal pH6.5 – 8.0
Optimal GH4 – 18
Optimal Temperature68 – 82 °F (20 – 28 °C)

Vallisneria – check price on Amazon


Bucephalandra, commonly known as Buce, belonging to a family of Araceae originates from the island of Borneo. It is a slow-growing plant that comes in various colors and grows attached to a rock or in the sand if its rhizome is not buried. Given its slow growth, it can reach a full size of 10 inches.

Buce requires cool water, but other than that, it can survive above or under the water level, in shade, or in the light, so it is considered very resistant even in extreme conditions. However, the light level will affect its growth rate and coloration, so if you want it to be more intense, the light should be moderate to high.

Bucephalandra Optimal Requirements:

LightingLow to High
Optimal pH6.0 – 8.0
Optimal GH5 and above
Optimal Temperature72 – 82 °F (22 – 28 °C)

Bucephalandra – check price on Amazon

Java Moss

A very versatile and hardy, Java Moss is a great decoration for the midground and foreground of the aquarium. It is a popular option among fish-keeping hobbyists for many reasons. It has a long lifespan and high durability. It is able to withstand many different conditions and parameters. And because of its hardiness, it is able to survive in bad environments where most aquarium plants cannot live.

Java Moss has a fairly dense structure that can be an ideal option for any baby shrimp and fry. This plant doesn’t need any substrate to be planted in an aquarium as it is easily attached to any stone, driftwood, or other decoration. It is able to grow up to 10 centimeters (or 4 inches) in height, without the need for fertilizers or CO2 that usually increase the growth. And it is a great option for nano tanks.

Java Moss Optimal Requirements:

LightingLow to Moderate
Optimal pH6.0 – 8.0
Optimal GHup to 20
Optimal Temperature70 – 75 °F (21 – 24 °C)

Java Moss – check price on Amazon

Marimo Moss Ball

Although Marimo Moss Balls is not technically a plant, it still deserves a place as one of the top aquarium plants to grow in aquarium gravel or sand. Marimo Moss Balls is a rare form of filamentous green algae, called Aegagropila Linnaei, that also serves as a good luck charm. Apart from being considered a good luck charm, it really looks beautiful and will catch the attention of anybody viewing the tank.

The algae is very easy to care for and maintain as it won’t have anything attach itself to it. You can simply toss the algae in the tank and let it be. It is a great option for a low-light planted aquarium. They grow very slowly, but do have the longest lifespan and won’t need any filtration or air supply.

Marimo Moss Ball Optimal Requirements:

LightingLow to Medium
Optimal pH7.0 – 8.0
Optimal GHVery soft – very hard
Optimal Temperature43 to 75 °F (6 – 24 °C)

Marimo Moss Ball – check price on Amazon


  1. Beginner’s Guide to Aquarium Plants – INJAF
  2. 5 Live Aquarium Plants That Even a Beginner Can Care For – PetMD


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