Top 10 Aquarium Plants for Breeding Fish And Raising Fry

Top 10 Aquarium Plants for Breeding Fish and Raising Fry

If you plan on breeding fish and want to increase the survival rate and growth of the babies, we love using live aquarium plants. The foliage is beautiful and serves as a spawning site for the parents. The babies need to be fed regularly once they hatch. Microfauna helps the plants grow so that the young can graze. The plants can also absorb toxic waste chemicals that fish produce, which helps to purify the water. Additionally, the dense jungle of leaves provides hiding places for the young to hide from hungry adults. Some plants are particularly good for raising fry. We have listed the top 10 dense, fluffy plants that fish breeders love to use.


1. Java Moss

A pair of pygmy Corydoras, resting on Java moss (Taxiphyllum Barbieri).

Mosses such as Christmas moss or Java moss are the best because they are dense enough to provide cover for baby fish and shrimp. They also attract microorganisms and mulm for them to eat. The mosses can be used to cover eggs from fish that are prone to scattering them. They also have tiny tendrils that eggs can stick on and their branches help protect them from predation. Java moss is a must-try for beginners because it’s so easy to grow, has low light demands, and does not require substrate. For a more aged look, you can either attach the moss to a wire grid or wrap it around driftwood. Just add a little Easy Green all-in-one fertilizer to keep it growing well.

2. Pogostemon stellatus ‘octopus’

Pogostemon stellatus – “Octopus” is an easy-growing stem plant. It can quickly fill up your tank, provided you have enough nutrients and low-to medium lighting. The variation name “octopus” comes from its long, wispy leaves and branches that have a bright green color. The tentacle-like foliage can become very dense over time, creating pockets of space that only small fry can fit between while blocking out bigger predators.

This plant was initially grown out of water (or “emersed”) at the farm for quicker production. Therefore, it might have larger leaves when you receive it. These emersed-grown leaves will eventually melt back, and the plant will sprout new, skinnier leaves that are accustomed to being submerged underwater. Once plants arrive at our facility we begin the process for converting them back to their submerged state. You can speed up the process if your Pogostemon Stellatus plant is not fully converted when you receive it.

3. Water Sprite

Ceratopteris thalictroides

Water sprite, another fast-growing stem plants, is great at absorbing excess nutrients to clean the water for fish. It also helps prevent algae growth. When it is planted in the ground, it creates a tall, bushy mound of leaves with fine, lacy leaf for small shrimp and fish to shelter in. As a floating plant, its leaves grow wider and have rounded tips. It also grows thick roots to provide shelter for their babies and eggs. Like most stem plants, it prefers feeding from the water column and enjoys liquid fertilizers like Easy Green.

4. Guppy Grass

Najas guadalupensis

This species originates from North and South America and is so good at breeding fish that it has gained the nickname “guppy grass.” Think of it like nature’s version of the yarn spawning mop. It can be grown in the substrate but many hobbyists prefer to grow it as a floating mass of plant matter. Adult fish cannot reach guppy grass because its stems are densely populated with tufts of small, narrow leaves that interlock. Although the branches can be broken apart and propagated quite easily, it is difficult to ship and is not suitable for high flow tanks.

5. Mayaca fluviatilis

Mayaca fluviatilis

Mayaca fluviatilis is a rare plant that can create interesting textures in your aquarium. This South American species looks almost like a pipe cleaner. It has small, fine leaves that grow all along the stem. In fact, its fuzzy-looking leaves are reminiscent of mosses, which is why it has the common name “stream bogmoss.” While it is easy to care for, it does prefer medium lighting and liquid fertilizer to grow well. Once established, the stream bogmoss grows fairly quickly and will provide a lush hiding spot for both baby fish and shrimp.

6. Vallisneria

Vallisneria spiralis

An easy way to fill an entire aquarium with a forest of greenery is to plant vallisneria (or val). The background plant is a tall, grassy field that can reach up to the top of the aquarium. It provides fish with a secure cover and a safe place to rest their heads. Beginners love this plant because of its easy care, low light requirements, and ability to spread quickly. Vallisneria spreads by sending out runners, which each produce a baby flower at the end. The plantlets eventually become large enough to start their own runners. Once the val becomes established, it is robust enough to withstand the nibblings of fish like African Cichlids or Goldfish.

7. Tripartita Hydrocotyle “Japan”

Hydrocotyle tripartite

This plant is unique because of its small, thorny-shaped leaves. We also love its ability to spread its stringy stems along hardscape and substrate, much like creeping Ivy. It can be used as groundcover or draped on driftwood in the foreground. It is able to thrive in high-light environments (medium to high), unlike other species. Hydrocotyle tripartite ‘Japan’ has a compact, bushier growth structure that can be used to hide dwarf shrimp or baby fish in a high tech, planted aquarium. Trim off any areas that get too tall and replant them in the ground for propagation.

8. Bolbitis Fern

Bolbitis heudelotii

Bolbitis, which is also known as the African Water Fern, is one among the epiphyte varieties that are most commonly found in aquariums. This is because of its dense, textured fronds. While it is slower growing than most stem plants, a mature bolbitis can develop into a massive, emerald green shrub that easily conceals many small fish from view. This resilient plant does fine in waters with higher pH and GH and can be used in African cichlid, goldfish, and even monster fish tanks. Bolbitis is a branch-like, horizontal rhizome. It should not be covered, so don’t bury it in ground. Instead, attach it with sewing thread or superglue gel to driftwood and rock. You can find more information about how to plant epiphytes, and other types of plants, in our quick guide to planting methods.

9. Pearl Weed

Hemianthus micranthemoides

A bright green stem plant, pearlweed, is very similar to baby tears. But its slightly longer and more oval-shaped leaves distinguish it from other plants. Its tiny leaves and unkempt growth can make a thick jungle where little creatures can reside. We recommend that you leave the delicate stems of the pearl weed in its rock wool and dig a hole large enough to accommodate the entire pot in the substrate. This will preserve the delicate roots of pearl weed while it transforms to its underwater, submerged state. This species thrives under moderate to high lighting. It can grow all the way up to the surface so it can be used as a background or midground plant.

10. Frogbit

Limnobium laevigatum

For hiding newborn fish and eggs, floating plants with shaggy roots work well. Amazon frogbit is a favorite because of its round, green leaves which look similar to miniature lily pads. Their roots can reach as far as the substrate and create an upside-down rainforest. Frogbit spreads by sending runners and can be easily removed from large clumps.

As an alternative, dwarf water lettuce is another similar floating plant that is often used by breeders because of its extensive root system. Floating plants have a fast growth rate and are excellent at absorbing harmful nitrogen chemicals from the water. However, make sure not to let them cover the entire water surface or else they may out-shade the plants below and reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water.

These plants can increase the survival rate for fry, which will make you more successful in your next breeding venture. For more tips and tricks on spawning fish and raising fry, browse our collection of breeding articles.


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