31 Best Low Light Aquarium Plants (December 2022): Easy Care

By: Martin McAdam
Updated: November 27, 2021

This is a list of the 31 best low light aquarium plants, including what to look for in a plant and which are easy to care for.

This article will be discussing plants that can survive in low light aquarium environments. Most of these plants are considered 'low-light plants because they have evolved to survive in low light conditions, but not all of them.

Some plants are able to adjust to a wide range of different lighting conditions and still be considered 'low-light plants.

For this reason, some plants which can easily change their lighting requirements will be included for the purpose of showing that even though they can grow in low light conditions, it does not mean that they require low light.

This article will focus on the best low light aquarium plants, and as such, we will see some familiar names like Anubias and Java Ferns. The list also contains some not-so-familiar plant names for those of you who are novice plant keepers.

The plants will be listed by their common names for the sake of convenience, and as such, we will see some interesting plant choices like 'Christmas Moss' and 'Bladderwort'.

This is no accident; these plants are on the list because they are good aquarium plants that can survive in low light.

All of these plants should be easy to find at reasonable prices, and almost all of them will be compatible with any other plant you care to put in your aquarium.

The list is subjective - it's not possible to write an article where everyone agrees on the best plants - but I think that most aquarists will agree with the plants on this list.

Best Low Light Aquarium Plants

Feel free to disagree, but please do some research before you do so that I can at least be sure that it's not just ignorance on your part.

There are many plants that some people consider 'easy', which are more difficult than plants further down this list, so if you think they are easy, you should probably reevaluate.

Planting these plants will not be difficult, aside from the first few months while they are becoming established.

They have no special lighting or substrate requirements, and aside from Java Ferns on driftwood, they require no special conditions. The list of things that these plants do not like is almost non-existent.

Different Groups of Plants

The only thing you need to keep in mind for these plants is that most of them as lots of light, and most of them will not be able to handle very bright lights like metal halides or VHO fluorescents, but most of the ones on this list can handle at least moderate lighting (I haven't included any light-demanding plants).

The Plants on this List can be Divided into Three Groups:

1st Group

The first group is the plants that require low lighting conditions but are not able to adjust to other conditions.

This includes Java Ferns, Anubias, and Christmas Moss. These will only be able to grow in lower light aquariums, but they will still grow under moderate light conditions.

2nd Group

The second group is the plants which can adjust to different lighting conditions but prefer low light. This includes Java Ferns on driftwood, most Cryptocorynes, and Bladderwort (not a plant that most people would put in their aquariums as they eat fish).

These plants will also thrive under moderate lighting conditions, but they will grow faster under low lighting.

3rd Group

The third group is the one that I feel most aquarists are familiar with; plants that require low light but can also handle moderate light.

This includes some of the most popular aquarium plants in the world, including Hornwort, Hygrophila corymbosa 'Siamensis', Rotala sp. 'Red', Hemianthus callitrichoides, and many more.

As with all lists on Aquascaping World, this list is subjective. There are some plants that would fit into the groups above, but I have excluded them because they deserve extra mention for one reason or another (largely because they are popular plants that most people would know).

I have also only included plants that I have seen in person, so if you are wondering why your favorite low light plant is not on the list, then it's because I haven't seen it yet.

If there is still some confusion about which plants can go where feel free to leave a comment with your opinion.

The 35 Best Low Light Aquarium Plants To Buy

This is a list of the 31 best low light aquarium plants

1. Java Moss

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Java moss is an excellent foreground plant that grows best in low-moderate lighting. Under intense lighting, it may lose some of its colors, but under low or moderate light, it will grow very quickly, spreading across the substrate and attaching to objects through fine root-like structures.

This makes it great for planting on driftwood because you can tie it to the wood without worrying that it will fall off.

This plant can grow under almost any condition, but it does best in slightly acidic water with a temperature of 70F or below.

If you are thinking about trying this plant, then I would recommend buying the 'Golden' variety over other types because this one retains its green coloration under low lighting conditions.

2. Crypts (Cryptocoryne species)

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There are many species of Cryptocoryne, and some of them can be very demanding in terms of light, but most will do well in moderate lighting, and a few can even handle intense lighting (if you go with a 'petite' variety like the ones described below).

The biggest advantage of Crypts is that they come in many different sizes and growth habits, so you can pick one to suit your tank.

A small crypt planted on driftwood A huge Red Ludwigia planted with a medium-sized Crypt (both under moderate lighting).

The most common types of Crypts are the wendtii varieties which are small to medium-sized plants that spread across the substrate. There are also some larger varieties, known as 'petites', which remain smaller and compact under low light conditions.

Even though Crypts prefer slightly acidic water with a temperature between 70F and 80F, they are so popular that you can buy them almost anywhere.

Cryptocoryne sp. 'petite', sold as the "Mother Plant" Cryptocoryne sp. 'petite.'

I have personally had good results with both the 'petite' varieties and the regular wendtii types, although your mileage may vary depending on whether there is any stray lighting in the store where you are buying them.

3. Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus)

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This very popular plant is easy to attach to driftwood or rocks, making it an ideal foreground plant for larger tanks. It does not spread out over the substrate like Java moss but instead forms a small bushy plant.

Java Fern attached to driftwood-The leaves of Java fern is long and wavy, giving it a unique appearance.

In good conditions, the plant will grow quite quickly, although the wavy leaves can make it look less attractive under moderate lighting or strong currents. The best way to avoid this is by growing larger plants around it that will not be as affected by the water flow.

Java Fern is ready for harvest at around 14 weeks old. Although Java fern can survive in low light, it is not very hardy, and you should avoid exposing it to sudden changes in temperature or pH levels.

I recommend buying a more sensitive variety like 'narrow leaf' if you want to keep less demanding species, or you can easily buy a more hardy variety if you have the right conditions.

4. Echinodorus bleheri

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This is another excellent choice for aquascapers who want to recreate their own little piece of the jungle in their aquariums because it will grow attached to driftwood or rocks.

This species is also very undemanding and does not require any special treatments, but you have to be careful when planting them because their leaves can rot if they are not properly attached to the rocks or driftwood.

Echinodorus bleheri is another good choice for aquascapers who want to recreate their own little patch of foliage in the aquarium!

5. Water Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis)

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Water wisteria is a very popular plant that works well in almost any type of aquarium. It has long, narrow leaves which give it a delicate appearance, and it can be bought in either red or green varieties.

Water Wisteria planted with rocks Water wisteria would be well suited to any type of low-light aquarium. I have seen it do well in tanks with strong lighting, but you can also place it close to the substrate, and it will grow towards the light without too many problems.

Water wisteria attached to driftwood using fishing line Water wisteria has a unique leaf structure, and the roots grow very quickly once they reach the substrate.

I recommend planting them with their leaves just above the surface and allowing them to grow out towards your other plants, but you should always allow a few centimeters of the stem to remain above water as this is an emersed species that can handle some air exposure even though it will continue growing underwater.

As with all the plants in this section, water wisteria does not handle any sudden changes in temperature or pH levels very well.

If you are thinking of buying this plant, then I recommend that you get a more sensitive variety instead of trying to grow it without additional equipment.

Although this species will survive under standard lighting conditions, I recommend using fluorescent lights as they will help this plant grow thick and lush.

Water wisteria grown with standard lighting conditions Water wisteria prefers a temperature between 76 and 80F but can live anywhere between 65 and 90F. You should aim to keep the pH of your water around 6.5-7.5.

If you are having problems keeping the pH low, then there is a good chance that your water is either too acidic or basic for this species. Seachem Excel and API's phosban are both good products to help you get the right balance of chemicals in your aquarium.

6. Flame Moss (Vesicularia montagnei)

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Flame moss is an extremely popular choice among planted aquarium hobbyists due to its thick, lush appearance and bright green appearance.

This plant has recently become more readily available in local fish stores because of increased popularity, but it still requires very high lighting conditions to prevent browning and the overall decline of the plant.

I have never had any problems with this type of moss in a low-lighting aquarium, and it does not require any special attention to keep it looking healthy.

This is a slow-growing species, but if placed on driftwood or rocks, then it will quickly spread across the tank floor.

Flame moss-grown emersed Flame moss will attach itself to most anything, but you can attach it to driftwood or rocks using a fishing line if you want.

It is a low-maintenance species that does not require regular fertilization in order to thrive, and I generally recommend keeping it under high lighting conditions with CO2 injection.

Flame moss-grown underwater Flame moss will also grow extremely quickly if you fertilize the water column, and it will brighten up any aquarium.

I personally love flame moss as a species because it is very hardy, does not require special attention, and can grow extremely fast if placed under high-intensity lighting conditions.

Seen here is an emersed grown specimen with bright green leaves attached to driftwood using a fishing line.

7. Moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia)

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Moneywort is a highly attractive aquatic plant that is often seen in man-made ponds, but it can also be used successfully in the aquarium. This species has round, succulent leaves and will grow either emersed or underwater, depending on the conditions.

As you can see in the picture above, this species will grow quickly and produce long stems that branch off into smaller shoots with round leaves at their ends.

If planted underwater, then moneywort will spread across the aquarium floor, and if grown emersed, then it will stay near its original location where you planted it. Either way, moneywort is a flexible plant that can grow in just about any type of water column.

This is another great choice for low-light aquariums due to its high tolerance for underwater conditions. It does not require much fertilization, and you will only have to worry about removing dead leaves when they begin to rot under the substrate.

When grown emersed, the round leaves will turn green and become more like moss. This is one of my favorite choices for low light aquariums because it can be used emersed or submersed, does not require any special attention, and looks absolutely stunning in any type of recycled water column.

8. Dwarf Baby Tears (Hemianthus callitrichoides)

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Another attractive, easy to care for low light aquarium plant is dwarf baby tears which will grow in nearly any water column and lighting conditions.

This species can thrive with just basic CO2 injection, and it does not require regular fertilization due to the fast movement of the water within the aquarium.

Dwarf baby tears is a very hardy species that looks especially attractive when planted in groups, and it will spread quickly, making for a nice carpeting plant in any type of low-light aquarium.

As stated above, this is one of my favorite choices for all types of aquascapes because it requires little maintenance and looks very attractive when planted in groups.

9. Ludwigia Repens (Ludwigia Sp.)

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This is another great choice for aquascapers who are looking to build a natural-looking aquarium because it can grow quickly with basic CO2 injection and will not require any special care.

Ludwigia repens is one of my personal favorite choices for low-light aquariums because it is an extremely resilient species that will grow in just about any water column.

10. Anubias Nana (Anubias Barteri var. nanan)

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This species is preferable over the other anubias plants because it has a slow-growing and low-light tolerant nature that makes it suitable for all aquascapers who want to recreate a natural appearance in their aquariums.

This species is one of my top personal choices for low light aquariums because it can grow attached to driftwood, gravel, or any type of rock.

Anubias is a very hardy and undemanding choice for aquascapers who want a low-maintenance option in their aquariums!

11. Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides)

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This is another great option for aquascapers who want to recreate their own little patch of wildlife in their aquariums.

This fast-growing species will quickly grow into a large plant that you can attach to driftwood or rocks with fishing lines or zip ties. It does not require any special treatments or nutrients and can live in just about any type of water column.

Water sprite does not require much maintenance, making it perfect for aquascapers who want to recreate their own little patch of foliage in the aquarium!

12. Fern (Nephrolepis)

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Most types of ferns are suitable for low light aquariums because they are not picky about water column conditions. I personally prefer using it in my low light aquariums, with its leaves reaching all the way to the bottom of the tank.

This species will grow attached to driftwood, rocks, or substrate, and it does not require any special treatments, but you have to be careful when planting them because their leaves can rot if they are not properly attached to the rocks or driftwood.

Ferns are a good option for aquascapers who want to recreate the look of their own little patch of fauna in their aquariums.

13. Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium Spongia)

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This is another very attractive, easy-care species that can grow both emersed and submerged in any type of water column. Despite its appearance, Amazon frogbit is not a species that can be grown on driftwood or rocks because it needs to have its leaves fully submerged in the water column at all times.

Another good choice for low light aquariums is because it does require any special maintenance and looks especially attractive when planted in clusters near the surface of the water column.

Amazon frogbit (Limnobium spongia) is grown underwater and emerged.

14. Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)

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This is another great plant for aquarists who have low to mid lighting aquariums because it can grow quickly with basic CO2 injection, and it will also require little fertilization.

Hornwort is also a very attractive option for aquascapers because of its fast movement within the water column, and it looks especially stunning when planted against driftwood or rocks.

Hornwort is grown underwater and emerged.

15. Amazon Sword Plant (Echinodorus Bleheri)

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This plant can grow submerged or emersed, but I recommend choosing the emersed form of this species for aquascapers who want to create a more attractive aquarium with their low light aquarium.

16. Ambulia (Ambulia Sp)

This is another great choice for aquascapers who are looking to create a natural-looking aquarium with soft, green leaves that are accented with light pink undertones.

This species is very easy to grow, but you have to make sure that all of its leaves are fully submerged at all times because it needs a continuously high water column for it to thrive.

17. Water Wisteria (Hygrophilia Corymbosa)

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This is another great choice for aquascapers because it does require CO2 injection to grow quickly, but its leaves really stand out because of their red undertones that are only enhanced when the aquarium lights are turned off.

Water wisteria is a great option for low light aquariums because it can be planted in both emersed and underwater conditions and will look especially lovely when planted in small clusters near other low light aquarium plants.

18. Crypt Wendtii "Red"

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This is one of the best low light aquarium plants because it can be grown both emersed or submersed, and its red color will shine through even the dimmest aquarium lights.

Crypt wendtii will grow quickly in low light conditions, but it does not require CO2 injections to look great, and the red coloration of this species is very attractive when planted in small groups.

19. Cryptocoryne Petchii

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This is another great choice for aquascapers because it grows quickly and looks especially fantastic when planted in small clusters that resemble a patch of grass.

I would recommend this species for any aquarium with low lighting conditions because the leaves grow very long and will look better than most other aquatic plants when planted on the substrate.

20. Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera Deliciosa)

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This is another great choice for aquascapers who are looking to create a natural-looking aquarium with smooth leaves that resemble those of the common houseplant.

Swiss cheese plant requires CO2 injections and very bright lighting conditions, so it is not a good option for low light aquariums, but the fact that its leaves stand out amidst dim lighting conditions does make this an attractive choice.

21. Pogostemon Erectus

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This species of plant is one of my personal favorites due to its unique leaf structure and its ability to grow quickly in low light aquarium conditions.

Pogostemon erectus can be planted in the substrate, or it can be tied to driftwood and rocks with fishing line or cotton thread.

I recommend this species for any aquarist looking for a fast-growing shade-tolerant aquarium plant that will not take up very much space when fully grown.

22. Ambulia (Limnophila Aromatica)

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This is another great choice for aquascapers because it does require CO2 injections to grow quickly, but its leaves really stand out because of their red undertones that are only enhanced when the aquarium lights are turned off.

Ambulia is a great option for low light aquariums because it can be planted in both emersed and underwater conditions and will look especially lovely when planted in small clusters near other low light aquarium plants.

23. Hygrophilia Polysperma "Rosanervig"

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This is one of the best low light aquarium plants because it can be grown both emersed or submersed, and its red color will shine through even the dimmest aquarium lights.

Hygrophilia polysperma "rosanervig" will grow quickly in low light conditions, but it does not require CO2 injections to look great, and the red coloration of this species is very attractive when planted in small groups.

24. Cryptocoryne Beckettii "Clear Leaf"

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Cryptocoryne beckettii should be one of the best low light aquarium plants, especially if your tank is covered in algae because it requires very low light conditions to look its best and the clear leaves allow it to grow in almost any lighting conditions.

This species can be planted in both emersed and underwater conditions and will come back from the roots even if it is replanted into a new setting.

25. Cryptocoryne Undulata "Tropica"

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This is one of the best low light aquarium plants because it requires very little care and will look its best even when grown in extremely dim lighting conditions.

Cryptocoryne undulate "Tropica" looks especially good when planted with a fine-leaved species such as Hygrophila polysperma "rosanervig" because it will contrast with the leaves of that species.

26. Anubias Nana "Broad Leaf"

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This is another great option for aquascapers who are looking for a hardy shade-tolerant aquarium that will thrive in low lighting conditions.

Anubias Nana is especially desirable because it has very wide leaves with wavy edges, which creates a unique look when planted in a group and looks great even if grown emersed.

27. Cryptocoryne Wendtii "green"

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Cryptocoryne Wendtii is a slow-growing aquarium plant that requires low lighting conditions in order to grow quickly, and its red coloration makes it stand out nicely when planted in groups.

This species of Cryptocoryne can be planted in both emersed and underwater conditions and looks gorgeous when grown with Rotala rotundifolia or Rotala macrandra.

28. Cryptocoryne Parva "Borneo"

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This is another great choice for aquascapers who are looking for a shade-tolerant aquarium plant that will grow quickly in low lighting conditions.

This species of Cryptocoryne does require CO2 injections, but once it starts growing quickly, it will create a thick carpet that looks stunning when planted in groups.

29. Rotala Rotundifolia

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This is another excellent choice for aquascapers who want to recreate the look of their own little patch of fauna in the aquarium because it can grow fully emersed or fully submerged underwater.

This species is also very undemanding and does not require any special treatments. Rotala rotundifolia is a fast-growing and undemanding species that can be used to create your own little patch of foliage in the aquarium.

30. Bacopa Caroliniana "Little Fantasy"

Bacopa Caroliniana Live Aquarium Plants Stems...
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This is another excellent hardy aquarium plant that can be planted both emersed and underwater and does not require CO2 injections to look its best.

Bacopa caroliniana is especially beautiful when grown with low light-demanding species such as Vallisneria Americana or Cryptocoryne wendtii and can be grown emersed or submersed.

31. Rotala Rotundifolia "red"

Rotala rotundifolia is another great option for aquascapers who are looking to create a thick, lush carpet in their aquariums with very little effort.

This fast-growing stem plant is another shade-tolerant aquarium plant that looks stunning when planted in groups and can either be grown emersed or submersed.

Conclusion

There are many hardy aquarium plants that can be grown in very dim conditions, and aquascapers should experiment until they find their favorite shade-tolerant species.

If you are interested in learning more about creating an aquatic landscape with the least possible effort, then you should check out this article.

If you would like to read more articles like this one, then please follow this blog, and if you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to leave them in the comment section below.

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