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 our recommendations for the 13 best plants for goldfish and their tanks.
A Quick Comparison of Our Top Picks of 2023
The 13 Best Plants for Goldfish Tanks
1. Java Fern
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.
If you’re looking for the best plants for goldfish, you’ll have found a winner in the java fern.
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.
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.
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.
If you're new to the world of goldfish keeping or are experienced but love to learn more, we highly recommend you check out the best-selling book, The Truth About Goldfish, on Amazon. From diagnosing illnesses and providing correct treatments to proper nutrition, tank maintenance and water quality advice, this book will help you to ensure your goldfish are happy and to be the best goldfish keeper you can be.
If you're new to the world of goldfish keeping or are experienced but love to learn more, we highly recommend you check out the best-selling book, The Truth About Goldfish, on Amazon.
From diagnosing illnesses and providing correct treatments to proper nutrition, tank maintenance and water quality advice, this book will help you to ensure your goldfish are happy and to be the best goldfish keeper you can be.
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.
6. Bacopa Monnieri
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.
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.
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.
9. Water Sprite
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.
10. Water Wisteria
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.
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.
12. Peace Lily
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.
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.
Buyer’s Guide: Selecting the Best Plants for a Goldfish Tank
Choosing the Right Plants for Your Goldfish Tank
What to Know About Bringing New Plants Home
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.