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Five Easy Beginner Stem Plants for your Aquarium Aquascape.

Five Easy Beginner Stem Plants for your Aquarium Aquascape.

Posted by Artur M. Wlazlo on 9 Jan 2024

As our selection in our online store at Modern Aquarium demonstrates, there are many plants to choose from when designing your underwater garden. Over the years, we have come to rely on or come back to certain plants repeatedly when designing our planted tanks. We think that the time has come to share our top five picks for stem plants for your aquascape.

1. Rotala Red (Rotala Indica)

Rotala Red (Rotala Indica)

This plant has been our favorite for many years now. It was probably one of the first stem plants that I successfully kept in my aquariums. Rotala Red can assume different colors depending on the conditions under which it is grown. Under strong light, and when planted in good substrate and with an injection of CO2, Rotala’s small oval leaves will turn pinkish/red. We love this plant because it is an easy aquarium plant to grow and adapts easily to varied water conditions. When planted in dense groups, it can also be used to create various heights in your planted tank by trimming it to your desired length.

2. Pearl Weed Baby Tears

Pearl Weed Baby Tears - Potted

This beautiful plant is simply great for all tanks, especially nano tanks. It is also a great aquatic plant for beginners. While its appearance makes seem delicate, this aquarium plant is tough. It does not require CO2, growing fast and out-competing algae for any excess nutrients in the aquarium. This is important because a nasty outbreak of algae can destroy even the most beautifully designed aquascape by choking the plants and making the aquarium unsightly. We also love to pair up this plant with shrimp and love watching shrimp pick off any detritus and bits of algae from their tiny round leaves. Depending on your aesthetics, you can let the plant grow tall and create a jungle-like appearance in your aquarium or trim it with aquascaping scissors to keep it close to the substrate creating a lush lawn-like effect.

3. Ludwigia Peruensis

Ludwigia Peruensis

If you are looking for a splash of color, Ludwigia Peruensis is your plant to go. When we are looking for a plant with a dramatic and immediate visual impact, this is the aquatic plant we turn to. The super-rich red colors produced by Ludwigia Peruensis are unrivaled by any other plants. However, for the plant to exhibit and maintain such rich coloration, proper light and fertilization must be provided. The plant will need supplemental iron fertilization to exhibit the deep reds shown in the photo below and planting it in a nutrient-rich substrate will set you up for success. In many of our setups, we also add CO2 to ensure its robust growth. However, the high-tech tank is not necessary to keep this plant healthy.

4. Hygrophila Pinnatifida

Hygrophila Pinnatifida

This wonderful and unique plant is difficult to pin down to any specific category. It sort of looks like a fern, but it isn’t and has stems but also a very bushy and jungle-like appearance. In fact, the unique shapes of the leaves that Hygrophila Pinnatifida produces make it so desirable and one of our top five picks for planted aquariums. The odd shape of the plant will instantaneously break up any monotony in the aquarium’s design and draw the viewer’s attention. This aquatic plant can be attached to a driftwood like an epiphyte plant, allowing you to create visually interesting and naturally looking aquascapes. Under low to moderate light, Hygrophila Pinnatifida will maintain its green color but under more intense light and with iron and CO2 fertilization it will exhibit purplish to reddish hues.

5. Hornwort

Hornwort (Ceratophyllum Demersum)

We understand that this might be considered a controversial pick by some of the most experienced aquascapers because it is such a common plant. However, we have used it in many of our aquascapes both because of its beauty and practical considerations. Hornwort produces attractive needle-like leaves that sprout outward from its stem. In our opinion, healthy Hornwort will rival any other stem plant for beauty. Importantly, we also utilize this plant for down-to-earth practical reasons. Hornwort is a fast grower and will consume copious amounts of nutrients from the water column, preventing or eliminating any algal blooms. Over the years, we have learned that algae is the number one reason for aquascaping failures. Successfully kept planted tanks have properly balanced nutrient levels, enough for the plants to thrive but not enough for algae to take hold. In new aquarium setups, achieving a proper balance of nutrients is extremely difficult but a plant like Hornwort can be an enormous help. By consuming excess nutrients from the water column, Hornwort makes them unavailable for algae to use, helping you to keep your aquarium algae-free.

Aquascaping with stem plants.

There is an enormous variety of stem plants to choose from when aquascaping your aquarium. Some are chosen for their visual impact and others for practical reasons. Out top five stem plants for beginner aquarists combine both beauty and function. So, start exploring Modern Aquarium’s online store and take your aquascaping adventure to the next level by designing a beautiful and lush underwater aquatic garden of your own.