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13 Best Plants for Goldfish in 2021 – Reviews & Top Picks

Nicole Cosgrove

Greenpro Water Wisteria_Amazon

Keeping goldfish can be a fun and rewarding experience, but if you’ve ever attempted to keep live plants with your goldfish, you may have given up on your dreams of a beautifully planted tank. Keeping live plants in your goldfish tank has a ton of benefits though, including improving water quality by increasing oxygenation and reducing waste products, providing shelter for fry, and creating an overall enriching and natural environment for your goldfish. When it comes to keeping live plants with your goldfish, the trick is outsmarting your goldfish. Choosing plants that don’t require substrate, grow rapidly, or are generally unappetizing to your goldfish will allow you to keep a planted tank. These reviews round up the 15 best plants to keep with your goldfish.

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A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Winner
Java Fern Java Fern
  • Easy to grow
  • Reproduces readily
  • Multiple varieties available
  • Second place
    Hornwort Hornwort
  • Easy to grow
  • Rapid growth rate
  • Doesn’t require substrate
  • Third place
    Anubias Anubias
  • Low to moderate lighting
  • Most fish won’t eat it
  • Reproduces readily
  • Aponogeton Aponogeton
  • Multiple varieties available
  • Great for large and tall tanks
  • Can survive in low-light
  • Vallisneria Vallisneria
  • Easy to grow
  • Great for tanks or ponds
  • Easy to propagate
  • The 13 Best Goldfish Plants for Your Tanks – Reviews 2021

     1. Java Fern

    Greenpro Microsorum Pteropus Java Fern_Amazon

    • Growth rate: Slow to moderate
    • Max height: 12 inches+
    • Light demands: Low to moderate
    • CO2: Environmental, supplemental
    • Difficulty: Beginner

    Java fern may have a slow to moderate growth rate, but it’s the best plant to keep with your goldfish. Java fern doesn’t require substrate. In fact, if fully planted in substrate, its rhizomes will die, killing the plant. What this means for you is that you don’t have to worry about trying to keep it planted. Java fern likes to be attached to surfaces, so you can tie or glue it to items like rocks and driftwood, so it’s a whole lot harder for your goldfish to yank it loose compared to planted plants.

    Most fish find Java fern unappealing, so usually they won’t eat it or tear it up. It reproduces via rhizome division and plantlet production. If your Java fern looks like it has dots all over the leaves and the leaves begin to die off, this usually means that baby plants are developing. There are multiple varieties of Java fern with different, interesting leaf shapes.

    Pros
    • Easy to grow
    • Low to moderate lighting
    • Doesn’t require substrate
    • Can be glued or tied to surfaces
    • Most fish won’t eat it
    • Reproduces readily
    • Multiple varieties available
    • Doesn’t require CO2 supplementation
    Cons
    • Slow to moderate growth rate
    • Will die if fully planted

    2. Hornwort

    Hornwort Plant_Amazon

    • Growth rate: Rapid
    • Max height: 10 feet
    • Light demands: Moderate to high
    • CO2: Environmental
    • Difficulty: Beginner

    Hornwort is an extremely popular aquatic plant, and it’s easy to see why. This plant grows rapidly and can reach heights of up to 10 feet, making it ideal for large tanks and even ponds. It doesn’t grow much above the waterline, though, so you’re not going to end up with a 10-foot-tall plant in your living room. It has rough spines instead of leaves and most fish find it unappealing and difficult to eat. It grows rapidly, so even if you do have goldfish that are dead set on eating it, it will likely grow back before they can eat all of it.

    Hornwort can be planted in substrate, but it’s just as happy being allowed to float in the water. If you attempt to plant it and your goldfish keep uprooting it, then you can just let it float and it will continue to grow. You can propagate it simply by cutting the stems. Hornwort’s biggest downside is that it can shed its spines, especially in low-light environments, which makes a big mess in your tank.

    Pros
    • Easy to grow
    • Great for tanks or ponds
    • Rapid growth rate
    • Easy to propagate
    • Doesn’t require substrate
    • Can be allowed to float
    • Most fish won’t eat it
    • Doesn’t require CO2 supplementation
    Cons
    • Will shed spines in low-light environments
    • May be too large for small tanks

    3. Anubias

    Greenpro Anubias Barteri_Amazon

    • Growth rate: Slow
    • Max height: 4-12 inches+
    • Light demands: Low to moderate
    • CO2: Environmental, supplemental
    • Difficulty: Beginner

    Anubias is another great pick for goldfish tanks because, even though it grows slowly, it’s unappetizing to most fish. It also doesn’t require substrate and, much like Java fern, will die if its rhizome is fully planted. Anubias prefers to grow attached to surfaces, so you can glue or tie it to surfaces in your tank. It reproduces readily via rhizome division and grows well in low-light environments. It produces large, creeping root systems that grow more quickly than the plant itself and can take up a lot of space.

    There are multiple different varieties of Anubias that range from 2-4 inches tall to over a foot tall, so there’s an Anubias variety for just about any tank size. This does mean that it’s important for you to know what variety of Anubias you’re purchasing to ensure it won’t get too large for your tank.

    Pros
    • Easy to grow
    • Low to moderate lighting
    • Doesn’t require substrate
    • Can be glued or tied to surfaces
    • Most fish won’t eat it
    • Reproduces readily
    • Multiple varieties available
    • Doesn’t require CO2 supplementation
    Cons
    • Slow growth rate
    • Will die if fully planted
    • Large root and rhizome systems

    4. Aponogeton

    Aponogeton Ulvaceus Bulb - Aquarium Plant_Amazon

    • Growth rate: Rapid to very rapid
    • Max height: 18 inches+
    • Light demands: Low to high
    • CO2: Environmental, supplemental
    • Difficulty: Beginner to intermediate

    If you’re hoping for a plant that will grow faster than your goldfish can possibly eat it, look no further than Aponogeton plants. These plants can survive with very little light, but the better the lighting, the faster they’ll grow. Some people even report these plants growing multiple inches overnight. As they age, the growth rate slows, but usually they are quite tall at this point. Usually, goldfish won’t eat Aponogeton plants, but they are bulb plants, so the hardest part may be keeping the bulb planted long enough to fully root into the substrate.

    There are multiple varieties of Aponogeton available, and some are more finicky and difficult to grow than others. The popular Aponogeton ulvaceus and bolivianus varieties are more beginner friendly than the more delicate Madagascar Lace Aponogeton.

    Pros
    • Some varieties are easy to grow
    • Rapid to very rapid growth rate
    • Can survive in low-light environments
    • Most fish won’t eat it
    • Multiple varieties available
    • Doesn’t require CO2 supplementation
    • Growth rate slows once established
    • Great for large and tall tanks
    Cons
    • Some varieties are more difficult to grow
    • Grow best in moderate to high lighting
    • May be difficult to keep the bulb planted until it roots

    5. Vallisneria

    Vallisneria_Amazon

    • Growth rate: Moderate to rapid
    • Max height: 6 feet
    • Light demands: Low to high
    • CO2: Environmental, supplemental
    • Difficulty: Beginner

    For a tall, grassy plant that’s practically goldfish-proof, look no further than Vallisneria. Vallisneria is available in multiple varieties, with the largest variety reaching up to 6 feet in height. It won’t grow above the waterline, though, and instead floats gently across the top of the water, which can block lighting to other plants. It’s a great low-light plant, although the lower the light, the taller the plant may become since it will stretch for more light. Higher lighting will encourage shorter, bushier growth. It’s easy to propagate via root division and is unappetizing to most fish.

    This plant makes a great addition to fry tanks, providing shelter and a sense of security. Vallisneria does require planting in the substrate and can be easy to uproot before it becomes fully established.

    Pros
    • Easy to grow
    • Great for tanks or ponds
    • Moderate to rapid growth rate
    • Easy to propagate
    • Most fish won’t eat it
    • Multiple varieties available
    • Can survive in low-light environments
    • Doesn’t require CO2 supplementation
    Cons
    • Grows best in moderate to high lighting
    • May block lighting to lower plants in tank
    • May be difficult to keep planted until it roots

    6. Bacopa Monnieri

    Bacopa Monnieri_Amazon

    • Growth rate: Rapid
    • Max height: 12 inches+
    • Light demands: Moderate to high
    • CO2: Environmental, supplemental
    • Difficulty: Beginner

    Also called Moneywort, Bacopa monnieri is a great aquatic stem plant that can be grown emersed or fully submerged. It produces small, delicate flowers that bring a little color and interest to the tank. Most goldfish will leave Bacopa monnieri alone, although some find the tender leaves tasty. It does require substrate for planting and is easy to uproot before the roots become fully established. It grows best in moderate to high lighting, but otherwise, Bacopa monnieri doesn’t require any special care outside of routine pruning. It’s easy to propagate via stem cuttings and can be grown in tanks or ponds.

    Pros
    • Easy to grow
    • Rapid growth rate
    • Does not require CO2 supplementation
    • Can be grown emersed or submerged
    • Produces small flowers
    • Most fish won’t eat this plant
    • Easy to propagate
    Cons
    • Grows best in moderate to high lighting
    • Some goldfish will eat this plant
    • May be difficult to keep planted until it roots

    7. Myriophyllum

    Myrio Filigree plant_Amazon

    • Growth rate: Rapid
    • Max height: 24 inches+
    • Light demands: Moderate to high
    • CO2: Environmental, supplemental
    • Difficulty: Intermediate

    Myriophyllum is a stem plant available in multiple varieties and can be found in red and green coloration. This rapid-growth plant is easy to propagate via stem cuttings and can grow well in both tanks and ponds. Some varieties of Myriophyllum, like Parrot’s Feather, are considered invasive, though, so ensure they do not get out of your pond into the natural environment. Myriophyllum can exceed 2 feet in height and produces soft, bushy bunches of spines instead of leaves. Most goldfish will leave it alone, but its rapid growth rate means it will usually grow back before your fish can eat all of it if they take a liking to it.

    This is a great plant for fry tanks. It can grow under moderate lighting but will grow most rapidly under high lighting. High lighting will also bring out its best coloration.

    Pros
    • Easy to grow
    • Rapid growth rate
    • Does not require CO2 supplementation
    • Most fish won’t eat this plant
    • Multiple varieties and colors available
    • Delicate bunches of spines instead of leaves
    Cons
    • Invasive in some areas
    • Grows best under high lighting
    • Best coloration under high lighting

    8. Ludwigia

    Ludwigia Repens Rubin_Amazon

    • Growth rate: Moderate to rapid
    • Max height: 20 inches+
    • Light demands: Moderate to high
    • CO2: Environmental, supplemental
    • Difficulty: Intermediate

    Ludwigia is a stem plant that is available in a handful of varieties, some of which are the most intensely red plants in the aquatics trade. High lighting and CO2 supplementation bring out the best lighting, but moderate to high lighting without CO2 supplementation can elicit slightly less bright red coloration. Ludwigia is easy to propagate via stem cuttings and can exceed 20 inches in height. Its light and CO2 preferences make it an intermediate growing difficulty, but it can be grown by beginners with proper lighting.

    Ludwigia can be grown emersed or submerged and is usually not eaten by goldfish, although they do seem to be fond of uprooting it.

    Pros
    • Moderate to rapid growth rate
    • Multiple varieties available
    • Sought after for bright red coloration
    • Most fish won’t eat this plant
    • Does not require CO2 supplementation
    • Easy to propagate
    Cons
    • Grows best with high lighting and CO2 supplementation
    • Red color may be dulled without high light or CO2
    • Intermediate growing difficulty
    • May be difficult to keep planted until it roots

    9. Water Sprite

    Water Sprite_Amazon

    • Growth rate: Moderate
    • Max height: 12 inches+
    • Light demands: Low to high
    • CO2: Environmental, supplemental
    • Difficulty: Beginner

    Water sprite is a great plant for goldfish tanks because it’s practically indestructible. It can be grown planted or floated but will produce large root systems either way. Water sprite can propagate from a single leaf, so if your goldfish try to eat it, it will likely sprout roots from all the pieces left behind. Even though it may sound like it will take over your tank, the moderate growth rate ensures you can keep up with its growth by pruning and removing torn up pieces that may root. It can be grown in low-light environments but will grow best with moderate to high lighting.

    Water sprite has fine, attractive leaves and is a lovely shade of bright green. In some areas, Water sprite may be considered invasive, so don’t let it out into the natural environment, even in small quantities.

    Pros
    • Easy to grow
    • Propagates extremely easily
    • Can be grown in low-light environments
    • Doesn’t require CO2 supplementation
    • Can be planted or floated
    • Doesn’t require substrate
    Cons
    • Invasive in some areas
    • Grows best in moderate to high lighting
    • May be difficult to get rid of
    • Some fish will eat or shred this plant
    • Large root systems can take up a lot of space

    10. Water Wisteria

    Water Wisteria_Amazon

    • Growth rate: Rapid
    • Max height: 20 inches
    • Light demands: Moderate to high
    • CO2: Environmental, supplemental
    • Difficulty: Beginner

    Water wisteria has the unique ability to alter its leaf shape based on the amount of lighting it receives and how far it is from the light. This means that water wisteria plants that are planted in the bottom of the tank will take on larger leaves than floating water wisteria. It can be grown floated but prefers to be planted in the substrate. While it has a rapid growth rate, it usually will not grow for the first few weeks it’s in a new environment. In fact, it’s prone to leaf melt when introduced to a new tank environment, so you may see some of the plant die back before it begins growing for you. Like water sprite, it can root from a single leaf, but propagation is most successful when stem cuttings are used.

    Pros
    • Easy to grow
    • Propagates easily
    • Leaf shape is determined by lighting
    • Doesn’t require CO2 supplementation
    • Can be planted or floated
    Cons
    • Grows best in moderate to high lighting
    • Grows best in substrate
    • Some fish will eat or shred this plant
    • Large root systems can take up a lot of space

    11. Pothos

    Pothos Live Indoor Plant_Amazon

    • Growth rate: Moderate to rapid
    • Max height: 20 feet+
    • Light demands: Low to high
    • CO2: NA
    • Difficulty: Beginner

    If you’re a keeper of houseplants, you probably recognize Pothos by name and wonder why it’s on this list. Pothos is hardy, easy to grow, and loves water, making an unexpected but ideal plant for your goldfish tank. This plant cannot be fully submerged in your tank, but it will happily absorb nitrates from your tank and grow just as well as it would in a pot. Pothos vines can be allowed to hang, creep, or climb, so you have options with what to do with the vines as they grow.

    This is one of the best plants for absorbing nitrates and even though your goldfish may nibble on the roots, they’re unlikely to eat them or ruin the entire plant. Pothos plants require pruning to prevent leggy vines and do not like to be exposed to cool drafts.

    Pros
    • Easy to grow
    • Absorbs nitrates effectively
    • Goldfish are unlikely to eat the roots
    • Can hang, creep, or climb
    Cons
    • Cannot be submerged
    • Require routine pruning
    • Should not be exposed to drafts
    • Grows best in moderate to high lighting

    12. Peace Lily

    Peace Lily_Amazon

    • Growth rate: Moderate
    • Max height: 2-6 feet
    • Light demands: Low to high
    • CO2: NA
    • Difficulty: Intermediate

    Peace lilies are another terrestrial plant that can be grown with its roots in the water of your goldfish tank. Your goldfish are unlikely to damage the plant’s roots to a point that the plant won’t grow, and peace lilies are great at removing nitrates from your tank. These plants cannot be submerged and should not be kept in homes with cats and dogs, as the flowers can be highly toxic. The flowers and foliage are attractive, though. Most peace lilies don’t exceed 18-24 inches in height, but some cultivars can reach up to 6 feet.

    While they can grow in low lighting, they grow most successfully in bright, indirect lighting. Peace lilies require high humidity and can be dramatic plants, making them best for intermediate growers.

    Pros
    • Absorbs nitrates effectively
    • Goldfish are unlikely to eat the roots
    • Attractive flowers and foliage
    • Most varieties won’t exceed 24 inches in height
    Cons
    • Intermediate growing difficulty
    • Grows best in bright, indirect light
    • Avoid keeping in homes with dogs and cats
    • Require high humidity

    13. Duckweed

    duckweed live plants_Amazon

    • Growth rate: Very rapid
    • Max height: <1 inch
    • Light demands: Low to high
    • CO2: Environmental
    • Difficulty: Intermediate

    Duckweed is a perfect addition to a goldfish tank because goldfish just may be one of the only fish that can keep this crazy grower under control. Duckweed can double in size in under 24 hours, meaning it can take over your tank quickly. This floating plant is difficult to get rid of no matter how much you remove from your tank. However, goldfish love to eat duckweed. Between how quickly your goldfish will eat it and how quickly the duckweed grows, you should always have a manageable amount for your goldfish to snack on without it overtaking your tank. Duckweed can be used in homemade fish food recipes, as well.

    Pros
    • Goldfish will keep this plant under control
    • Can be used in homemade fish food
    • Can survive in low-light environments
    Cons
    • Extremely rapid growth rate
    • Difficult to get rid of
    • Easily overtakes tanks if not being eaten
    • Intermediate difficulty due to how difficult it can be to manage
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    Buyer’s Guide

    Choosing the Right Plants for Your Goldfish Tank

    • Growth Rate: Consider the growth rate of any plants before you bring them home to your goldfish tank. Some plants require very routine pruning, which can be a lot to take on on top of other tank maintenance. Some plants will take over your tank within weeks if not kept pruned appropriately.
    • Nutrients: Some plants are root feeders, meaning they pull nutrients from the substrate, while others are water feeders, meaning they pull nutrients from the water column. Inert substrates, like sand and gravel, provide no nutrients to root feeders, which means your plants will require root tabs and other supplementation. Plants that pull nutrients from the water column will do a better job of keeping nitrates and other waste products under control.
    • Tank Size: Some plants get very large, like Jungle Vallisneria, making them poor choices for nano and small tanks. Other plants stay very small, like Anubias nana, making them poor choices for large tanks if not purchased in large quantities. Consider plants that will properly fill your tank without overtaking it.
    Goldfish _dien_Shutterstock
    Image Credit: dien, Shutterstock

    What to Know About Bringing New Plants Home

    • Quarantine: Anything live you bring to your tank, whether plant or animal, should be quarantined before adding to your tank. This will help you catch diseases and pests before they’re introduced to your main tank.
    • Patience: Sometimes, it takes plants some time to get settled into their new home in your tank. Be patient while they adjust. If you notice leaf melt or lack of growth for the first few weeks, this can be completely normal for many plants.
    • Rooting Tricks: There are two main ways you can try to outsmart your goldfish with live plants. One is choosing plants you can attach to surfaces with string or aquarium-safe glue. The other is choosing plants that need to be rooted and using plant weights to help keep them planted. Plant weights are moldable, versatile pieces of metal that allow you to add some weight below the substrate to help keep your plants planted until they develop an established root system to hold them down.

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    Conclusion

    The best picks for plants for your goldfish tank are Java fern, because of its ease of growth and propagation, Hornwort, because of its hardy nature, and Anubias, because of its ease of growth and versatility. These reviews only covered the top 13 plants for your goldfish tank, though. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of plants you could try in your goldfish tank. Sometimes, the only way you’ll find what works in your own tank is trial and error and trying to stay a few steps ahead of your goldfish.

    Nicole Cosgrove

    Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.