If asked what their least favorite fish-keeping chore is, the majority of aquarium enthusiasts will answer “water changes”. Problems associated with too many nutrients in the water, such as algae, reduced oxygen levels or fish illness, are also a thorn in the fish-keeper’s side. Aquatic plants that grow quickly under average light can help address these issues in a beautiful way, while also oxygenating the environment. Additionally, they allow fish to establish territories, provide hiding places, and contribute to a more natural aquatic habitat overall.

The concept is a simple enough one to grasp. The faster a plant grows, the more nutrients it requires to maintain that growth. Those nutrients come from the environment, which reduces ammonia and nitrates. This makes them invaluable for reducing aquarium maintenance and tempering the effects of aquarium cycling.

Twenty years ago, you could only grow a handful of aquatic plants using the lighting that came with the aquarium. Now aquariums come with standard lighting that is sufficient for many plants. They may not grow as quickly as they would with more light, but several species still grow at an impressive pace. Once bitten by the plant bug, aquarists will often search for tank models that both support plant growth and provide the optimum display of their aquascaping efforts.

“The main thing to look for when starting a planted aquarium is a tank which is deep from front to back, allowing plenty of room for plant life to grow,” explains Mark Cropper at Swell UK. For example, “When it comes to starting a planted tank, the Dennerle Scaper’s Tank 50L Complete Plus is an excellent choice for those looking to create a lush aquascape. This particular tank also has curved front corners which don’t obstruct your views of the aquarium.”

Easy, Fast-Growing Plants for Natural Cleaning

6 Fast-Growing Plants for Natural Cleaning in Standard AquariumsHygrophilia – Several species of aquatic plants in the Hygrophilia family are notoriously fast growing and easy to please, including Hygrophila polysperma, Hygrophila corymbosa and Hygrophila difformis (Water Wisteria).

Ceratophyllum demersum (Hornwort) – Plunk a handful of Hornwort in the water and in no time it will form a massive tangle of green with red highlights, even under regular aquarium lighting. Add a bit of fertilizer occasionally and it will grow so fast you’ll swear you can see it extending. Hornwort comes with a bonus natural chemical that inhibits algae growth.

Ludwigia repens – This classic fast grower offers the opportunity to add a little red to your lower-light tank. Most red plants require higher lighting.

Elodea and Egeria (Canadian Waterweed, Anacharis) – The two species are very similar and both literally grow like weeds. Both Elodea and Egeria grow so fast, they’re banned in many states.

Limnophila sessiflora (Dwarf or Asian Ambulia) – Grows extremely fast in low-medium lighting. Add a little fertilizer with an emphasis on iron and it will reward you with lush growth. Trim the top off regularly so it doesn’t emerge from the water and replant the trimmings.

Valisneria (Jungle Val) – Vals create a natural, grassy look. They look great along the back of your aquarium where they will quickly reach the surface if they’re happy. The key to their happiness appears to be primarily iron, which you can easily provide with a plant substrate like Flourite and/or with “root tab” fertilizers. Valisneria spreads naturally with runners and will fill your tank with tall, waving leaves that fish love to weave through.

The above aquarium plants are usually easy to find in stores, or check out your local fish club auction.

Important note: By nature, fast-growing aquatic plants can be invasive. You should never, under any circumstances, dump or flush aquatic plants. Share extras with other aquarium hobbyists, burn or compost them. It’s also important to verify these plants are legal in your area before acquiring them.

Amano, Takashi. Nature Aquarium: Complete Works 1985-2009Nature Aquarium: Complete Works 1985-2009. 2011.
Barber, Terry Ann. Wilson, Rhonda. The Simple Guide To Planted AquariumsThe Simple Guide To Planted Aquariums. 2005.

You may also be interested in reading:
DIY Natural Fertilizer Balls for Aquarium Plants (Infographic)
5 Easy, Low-Light Aquarium Plants Even I Can’t Kill
How to Get Rid of Aquarium Algae the Natural Way
Top 15 Natural Foods and Herbs for Breeding Fish


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6 thoughts on “6 Fast-Growing Plants for Natural Cleaning in Standard Aquariums

  1. I can’t think of any to add but you picked some great ones. My tank is overrun with hygro as we speak……time to get the pruning sheers out and give them a hair cut. 😉

  2. I bought a bowfront to plant and two more since the first because they look so amazing. Fish are so much happier and healthier with live plants. Plastic can help with hiding places but the fish seem to know the difference. That sounds a little crazy but it’s true LOL!

  3. I’ve had all of these plants at one time or another and they can take over fast if you don’t prune. I got rid of the floating plants because they block light from other plants but I still have tons of fry surviving so they must have enough hiding places.

  4. Nothing grows faster than duckweed if you wanta floating plant. I didn’t know they’re making tanks for plants now but I’m excited to shop for one now. It’s been a long time since I bought a brand new tank.

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