Selecting Aquatic Plants for Goldfish



Environmental Factors

Select aquatic plants that will thrive in the same temperatures that your goldfish do, 70 degrees; give or take a few degrees. If you select aquatics that do not like that temperature then they will not grow very fast, or die and rot away.

The lighting in your tank or pond should also be a factor in your selection process. It’s no different than selecting a spot for your non aquatics, If you have a light on your tank or sunlight on your pond, you can choose ones that require more light. If your tank of pond has low light, then select ones that require low levels of light.

Even if there is sunlight on your pond or you have a light on your tank, the depth at what you place them will effect how much light reaches them. Another factor that effects how much light will reach them is what’s above them. Floating plants, rocks or driftwood can block out light so you should plan the placement of your aquarium or pond’s aquatic plants carefully.

Some plants will live just fine attached to a piece of driftwood of buried in the gravel substrate of your aquarium or pond. There are plants that get their nutrients from the the substrate and others that can absorb it through the water they live in. If you find that yours are not doing well but you have followed every requirement to grow them, they might just need a bit of extra help to grow; try an aquarium plant food supplement.

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Goldfish Behavior

The other habit your goldfish will do is digging around on the bottom of their tank looking for food. They will frequently take in a piece of gravel from the bottom and then spit it back out in their search for a snack. This can lead to the aquatics being uprooted. By placing your aquatic plants into small pots that can be buried into the substrate gravel, will minimize the chances that your goldfish will uproot them. Selecting floating ones will eliminate this concern entirely since they are already free floating in your goldfish tank. Another solution to this problem is to purchase ones that can be tied down to driftwood or rocks.

aquatic plants

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Buying Healthy Specimens

Even if your have good intentions and want to grow pond plants native to your region in your goldfish pond, it’s not recommend and in many cases it’s illegal to take wild specimens from local ponds or waterways. These plants can contain the grater pond snail that will wreak havoc on all the vegetation in your pond or tank. Mosquito larvae or even parasitic spores can also be transferred through these natives. The greater pond snail lays its eggs on many types of vegetation so it’s important to look for any small jelly-like cylinders that contain these eggs. This is necessary to do even if you buy from reputable dealers. Even if they claim theirs to be ‘snail free’, there is still a chance that greater pond snail eggs are on the plant. Mosquito larvae or even parasites can be transferred

Avoid buying any pond plants that have dead of dying foliage as these leaves or shoots will not bounce back and will add to your pond’s bioload. Cut back any dead leaves before planting. Each one should have a good balance of roots to foliage. The roots should appear healthy and not rotten.

Planted Tanks by the Pros


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java fernJava Fern

Region: The Java Fern is found in the tropical regions of Southeast Asia

Habitat: You can find them growing in the shallows along the banks of rivers and streams

Water: Java Ferns grow in waters from 65-82 degrees with a slightly acidic pH of 6.0 to 7.5 and a soft to moderate hard water hardness KH of 3-8

Lighting: The Java Fern will grow in low to bright light but does best in medium light.

Height: 8-12 inches

Growing: Goldfish are not known to eat Java Ferns so it makes an ideal aquatic plant for your tank. The java fern doesn’t get it’s nutrients from the substrate so placing its roots in the substrate is not recommended and can lead to root rot. The Java fern is a slow growing aquatic plant that grows best wrapped around rocks, bark or driftwood. Plant it at a medium depth, and don’t worry if it grows out of the water. It is an amphibious aquatic plant so it will grow in our out of the water. You should tie the plant to these objects using fishing line in order to give them time to take hold with its root system.

Propagation: Division is done by dividing rhizomes and by adventitious plants that form on its roots or leaves. When its leaves are browning, is when the Java Fern is in a sexual reproductive stage. Spores will form on the brown leaves and new ones will sprout, grow and then release from its mother.

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java mossJava Moss

Region: You can find Java Moss growing in Southeast Asia and Amazonia

Habitat: Java Mosses are found on rocks, sunken branches or anything they can grab hold of in submerged waters

Water: Java moss will thrive in water temperatures from 59-86 degrees of variable pH and water hardness. It’s not a picky plant at all.

Lighting: It will grow in low to bright light with medium levels of light being the most ideal

Height: The max height of Java Moss is only 6 inches but it will spread like crazy

Growing: It will grow free floating in the water or grow on any surface it can attach its root filaments around. It is very easy to grow and can be encouraged to root around objects by using fishing line to secure it. Java Mosses will spread and can cover every inch of your goldfish’s environment if not maintained and trimmed back. Try attaching the Java Moss to an object that you can take out and trim or even a floating piece of cork to let it hang down into the aquarium of pond. It makes for a great place for breading and a safe place for fry to grow.

Propagation: It casts off spores and you can easily divide the moss strains of the Java Moss

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hornwortHornwort

Region: Hornwort can be found growing in all parts of North America, parts of South America and even Eurasia.

Habitat: Hornwort grows submerged free floating in slow moving water in marshes, ponds or streams.

Water: it will grow in water temperatures of 59-85 degree with a 6-9 ph and soft to hard water.

Lighting: Hornworts tolerate very low levels of light and very high levels of light

Height: The maximum height (length) of hornwort is 2.5 feet

Growing: Throw it in your tank for a safe place for small goldfish to hide in or anchor it into the substrate to keep it in place. It has low requirements to grow but will grow fast so it may require a lot of maintenance to keep it in check.

Propagation: It is very easy to divide Hornwort by taking clippings to create another plant.

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Dwarf AnubiasDwarf Anubias

Region: The Dwarf Anubias originates from West Africa

Habitat: It can be found growing in along shady river banks and along marshes and streams.

Water: The Dwarf Anubias prefers waters with a temperature between 72 to 82 degrees with a pH anywhere from acidic to alkaline and a soft to mildly hard water.

Lighting: This amphibious aquatic plant will do best in low to moderate lighting conditions.

Height: Anubias species are amphibious aquatic plants that can grow up to 12 inches and will often grow out of the water. The Dwarf Anubias will max out at about 5 inches.

Growing: They are slow growing but very hardy and easy to grow. The Dwarf Anubias rhizomes should not be buried into your substrate but can be planted in the substrate. To keep your goldfish from up rooting them, you should tie your Dwarf Anubias to a rock or piece of driftwood by using some clear fishing line to encourage the roots to take hold on their own. Anubias are slow growing so it is best to keep them out of any direct bright light to minimize the potential for any algae coating its leaves. Your fish will help control the algae on the leaves but will not actually eat them because they are too thick.

Propagation: You can split all Anubias by dividing them at the rhizomes, propagating side shoots or by seeds.


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African Water Fern

Region: The African Water Fern is from equatorial and southern Africa

Habitat: It is found on the sandy or rocky bottoms of steady moving rivers and streams.

Water: Thrives in waters of 65-77 degree with a neutral pH and moderately soft water hardness.

Lighting: They prefer low to moderate light conditions

Height: The African Water Fern can grow up to 20 inches

Growing: A requirement to its success is to place your African Water Ferns next to the outflow of your filter or in an area that will replicate its natural growing conditions of moving water. Attach it to a piece of driftwood or rock as you would the Java Fern.

Propagation: In ideal conditions, shoots will grow from rhizomes or on occasion, baby plants can form on the leaf tips of the parent.

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water spriteWater Sprite, Indian Water Fern

Region: Water sprites grow all over the world in tropical regions.

Habitat: You can find water sprite growing in swamps, marshes, ponds in the shallows along the banks of rivers.

Water: The water sprite will thrive in waters with temperatures between 71 to 82 degrees, with a pH of slightly acidic to slightly alkaline and a sort to hard water hardness.

Lighting: For water sprites to grow to their fullest, they need bright light.

Height: The maximum height of a water sprite is around 16 inches.

Growing: Water Sprite is very fast growing that can be rooted in a gravel substrate, or free floating in your tank. Wether it is rooted or free floating, it grows best in calm, slow moving waters. With it’s rapid rate of growth, water sprite will quickly fill an aquarium and require a fish tank owner to preform routine trimming or removal of new plantlets.

Propagation: Water sprites will send out plantlets that will break free from the parent or sprout up from it’s roots.

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frogbitFrogbit, American Sponge Plant

Region: The frogbit grows naturally in tropical areas in the Americas but grows invasively in many other regions in North America.

Habitat: You can can find frogbit growing on the tops of ponds, lakes and swamps that have slower moving waters.

Water: Frogbit can grow in a wide range of environmental conditions. It can live in waters with temperatures ranging from 64 to 86 degrees, with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5, in soft to hard water conditions.

Lighting: It will thrive anywhere there is sufficient light. In an outdoor pond, frogbit does best when it has a few hours of direct sunlight.

Height: It doesn’t grow much taller than the thickness of a leaf. It’s roots can however drop down a few inches. Frogbit can spread out and cover the entire surface of your tank or pond.

Growing: It grows easily and does not require it to be planted in the gravel substrate but could grow that way. It is best to let it float on top of the water where it can send out plantles. These plantlets will break free from its parent and create a new frobit floating plant. It is typical for the frogbit to grow several new leaves weekly or even appear out of nowhere over night.

The roots of the frogbit make a great place for small fish or fry to hide in. The leaves of the frogbit can help block out bright light which will help regulate the water temperature, create a shady place for them to hang out and allow aquatic plants that require less light to grow. The floating leaves of the frogbit will also reduce the surface area of a pond or tank, leading to lower levels of dissolved oxygen in the water. For this reason, it’s not a good idea to allow frogbit to cover the entire surface area of the water. During this maintenance, remove any dead or rotting leaves since these add to higher levels of pollutants and lowers your goldfish water’s pH.

Propagation: Plantlets that divide from their parent plants. Dormant frogbit can live in the substrate over the winter and then reappear when spring arrives.


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anacharisAnacharis, Pondweed

(goldfish do it eat but it grows fast and is inexpensive.)

Region: Anacharis originates from North America but as since then been introduced into Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Habitat: This hardy aquatic plant grows in cold water lakes and ponds or even brackish water.

Water: Anacharis thrives in water with temperatures from 59 to 68 degrees, a slightly acidic to alkaline pH and a harder water hardness.

Lighting: It will grow best in moderate to bright light conditions

Height: Anacharis grows rapidly to up to two feet but in the wild it can reach over three meters.

Growing: It can grow roots into an aquarium’s substrate or grow floating free in your goldfish tank or pond. By rooting your anacharis you can trim the steams when they grow to large and then replant them close together to create a fuller looking plant. This method creates a nice place to hide for your fry or small goldfish.

Propagation: Simply trim off and end and it will continue to grow as a separate anacharis plant.

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Parrot Feather (Water Milfoil)

This is a great aquatic plant for small fry to hide in and feed off of. The parrot feather is also a great oxygenator. Many aquatics are consider noxious weeds in many regions and this is one of them. Never allow this plant to get into local waterways. (goldfish do it eat but it grows fast and is inexpensive.)

Region: The parrot feather is originally from North and South America

Habitat: It is found growing in slow moving freshwater water ponds, streams, lakes and canals

Water: The parrot feather will grow in water with a temperature of 50-77*F (10-25*C), with neutral to slightly acidic and soft to medium water hardness.

Lighting: It requires plenty of bright light to thrive.

Height: The Parrot Feather can grow shoots up to 12 inches (30cm).

Growing: Anchor it into the substrate in bunches to create a bush effect where it can receive plenty of bright light. If the parrot feather aquatic plant grows too larger, it can be trimmed and the tops replanted. The parrot feather is known to successfully grow out of the water in wet areas. It can be used on pond edges or in between the rocks on waterfalls. Winter frost can damage the parrot feather but does not harm any of the aquatics that are beneath the water. Damaged shoots will likely recover.

Propagation: dividing rhizomes and by replanting cuttings.

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8 comments on “Selecting Aquatic Plants for Goldfish

  1. I recommend live plants. They improve water quality, look more natural, some types of plants are a good food supplement for some fish and they’ll produce more plants so you don’t have to buy more for a nicely designed aquarium environment for your fishy friends

    • Very late answer. But, yes, philodrendron is an excellent ammonia processor. t tolerates submersion easily. Goldfish do not seem to like to eat it and you can drape it over the sides of the tank. It is also extremely hardy and easy to propagate from cuttings.

      • Can you post pictures of the type you’re referring to? Do you have any in your tank? How would you acclimate them to being completely submerged?

  2. I personally recommend live plants over dead plants when you are committed to making your child the best environment possible. I have an outside pond and thus acquired fish to eat the mosquito larvae. The pond is great work and takes committment and it nurtures insects, plants, birds and the daycare centre children next door get to look through the chainlink fence of their prison and learn and ask questions and I get to teach them to respect and honour all forms of life as well as the rocks and minerals. If you are poor in health, poor in time priorities, poor in wealth, then pray for the health and strength, pray for the money and supplies to take care of all children on this planet including the fish. And pray for the wisdom to research plants fully or seek guidance from people or clubs or the internet who have had SUCESS. At the moment, I am moving from poverty of plastic plants and small space and poverty of the alotment of monies to the best healthy I can give my child. God gifted me Moby the Whale with the Bent Tale, a deformed fish unvalued by the neighbours and which has enriched my husbands life giving him something to nurture and care for when he was disabled and in pain and inpoverished, he served outside himself and the love flowed. Open your heart, pray for the best environment for your fish child. Sat Nam.

  3. I personally recommend fake over live plants due to the extra work, time, money, and effort that live plants require. Although, they can be helpful with lowering the nitrates. Not that you should really be too concerned over that. Ammonia and Nitrite are your concerns due to the high toxicity. Please, please research before buying live plants! I bought an anubias only to find out it floats in the tank! Didn’t want that!

    • Anubias are supposed to be attached to driftwood or stones but if you are on a budget you can zip tie them to a suction cup and suction them to the side so the rhizome is just above the substrate.

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