Top 5 Midground Plants to Balance Your Planted Aquarium

Top 5 Midground Plants to Balance Your Planted Aquarium

The choice of plants and the location of them can have a significant impact on the aquarium’s appearance, particularly once they have been planted. Balanced tanks have taller plants in front and smaller plants at the back. But this dramatic height difference is not always visually appealing. To create a transition between the tallest and the shortest plants, aquascapers use middleground plants or medium-sized plant to make the aquarium look balanced. The plants look layered or stacked, creating a natural-looking aquascape.

These images show the difference. The photo on the left uses a short carpeting species in the foreground of the tank and a tall stem plant in the back. The plants are both visually appealing by themselves, but the striking height difference casts shadows in the middle of tank, and draws the eye there. The photo to right features similar plants: one in the front is a shorter carpeting species and the other in the background are tall stemmed plants. The tank also has plants of medium height in its middle. As the eye is gently drawn upwards from the front towards the middle and back to the tallest plants, the result is more balanced. This also looks natural, as plants can be found mixed together in nature.

Planted aquariums with no midground plants (left) versus with midground plants (right)

Let us help you get started by introducing you to the top five categories of midground plants that can enhance the beauty and appeal of your aquarium.

1. Anubias Plants

Anubias plants

Anubias nana (or Anubias barteri var. nana) is a very moderate-sized Anubias plant, making it an ideal plant for the midground of any aquarium. Even more attractive is the fact that this plant likes to be attached wood and rocks, which are generally placed around the middle. Anubias can be grown via a horizontal stem known as a rhizome, which sends its leaves up. Even in low light, you can expect full and bushy growth. Medium-sized leaves provide the perfect transition from small plants in front to tall plants in back and add a cozy place for shrimp and small fish to take cover. Other similar-sized Anubias species that can be substituted for Anubias nana are Anubias golden, Anubias gold coin, Anubias nangi, and Anubias coffeefolia.

2. Java Fern

Narrow leaf java fern (left) and Windelov java fern (right)

A great addition to any planted tank is the Java fern (Microsorum pereopus). In terms of tank placement, java fern is well suited as a midground plant due to its medium-sized leaves and the fact that it loves to be attached to wood and rocks just like Anubias species. The bright green leaves will add visual impact to the aquarium, but it won’t shade out any plants at the back.

Java fern ‘Windelov,’ which has lace-like tips on its leaves, offers more variety. This java fern is smaller than the standard Java fern and can be used in small aquascapes as a middleground plant.

3. Cryptocoryne Plants

Cryptocoryne plants as midground plants

The different color varieties of Cryptocoryne wendtii – such as tropica, green, reddish bronze, and even pink – are excellent midground plants due to their compact growing pattern and moderate leaf size. They make a great transition from the foreground of the aquarium to the back because they are medium height yet quite leafy once they’re well-established. Their wavy, crinkled leaf texture and different color variety options add the perfect visual spice to any aquarium.

Crypt lucens

Cryptocoryne Luzens is a gorgeous, narrow-leafed crypt that doesn’t grow more than a few inches when fully grown. This plant can be used as a midground plant in aquascaping. However, it appears to be very underutilized. This plant isn’t too large when compared to other crypts, and its long, thin leaves create a subtle transition from the tank front to back. This plant can look like thick grass, or reeds, when grown in.

4. Baby Tears

Micranthemum umbrosum

The larger baby-tears plant makes an excellent midground plant. However it must be trimmed regularly to keep its appearance tidy. The delicate stems of this plant are surrounded by round, green leaves. Cutting off the tips and replanting the stems will help give this plant a short and bushy appearance. Baby tears can continue to grow if left alone. It is technically a stem-plant. However, if kept pruned, its dainty, round leaves provide a beautiful midground texture.

5. Dwarf Chain Sword

Helanthium tenellum

A pygmy-chain sword or Dwarf Chain Sword is always a good choice. It is one of the fastest growing grassy plants and can grow quickly to give it a lawn-like appearance. It can quickly fill in any empty spots in your aquarium and grow to just a few inches high without trimming. This makes it a great choice in the middle of medium-sized aquariums. It has longer, broader leaves than foreground carpeting species such as micro sword and dwarf hairgrass, so it makes an ideal visual transition from those thinner blades of grass up front to taller species in the back of the tank.

At Aquarium Co-Op, our goal is to provide a curated collection of aquatic plants that will grow well for the average hobbyist. Explore our entire collection of midground plants for more ideas on your next planted tank.