Top 5 Midground Plants to Balance Your Planted Aquarium
It is important to choose the right plants for your tank and place them in the best places. This will make the aquarium look more attractive, especially after they are established. For the most balanced tanks, taller plants are placed in the back while shorter plants are located at the front. But the dramatic height difference between the two isn’t always visually appealing. Aquascapers use medium-sized plants in the middleground to visually transition from the tallest plants at the back to the shortest plants in front. As the plants are layered, or stacked, this creates an aquascape that is more natural and visually balanced.
These images show the difference. In the photo at the left, you can see a shorter carpeting species in its foreground and a taller stem plant at the back. They are both visually attractive by themselves. However, the stark height difference creates a shadow in central tank which draws the eye to that area. The photo to right features similar plants: one in front is a shorter carpeting species and the other in the background are tall stemmed plants. This tank also includes plants that are medium in height. This gives the tank a more balanced look as the eye is drawn gently from the front to center and then up to the highest plants at the back. The result also looks more natural because plants are mixed in nature.
Planted aquariums without midground plants (left) and with midground plants. (right).
To help you get started, let us introduce you to our top 5 categories of midground plants that will enhance the beauty of your planted aquarium:
1. 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. The plant prefers to be attached with wood or rock. These plants are typically placed in the middle area of any aquarium. Anubias Nana grows from a horizontal stem, called a Rhizome. It will send its leaves upwards. A full, bushy growth pattern is possible even under low light. 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). Java fern can be used as a tank plant because of its medium-sized leaves. It also loves being attached to rocks and wood, just like Anubias. Although it will make a strong visual impact, its bright green leaves won’t completely shade the aquarium plants.
Java fern ‘Windelov,’ which has lace-like tips on its leaves, offers more variety. It tends to remain even more compact than standard java fern, so it can be used as a midground plant in smaller aquascapes as well.
3. Cryptocoryne Plants
Cryptocoryne plants as midground plants
Due to their small growing patterns and medium-sized leaves, the different Cryptocoryne Wendtii color options – including tropica, green and reddish-bronze – make excellent midground plants. 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.
Cryptocoryne Luciens is a lovely, narrow-leafed cryptocoryne that grows to a height of just a few inches once fully grown. Although it is not used much, this plant makes a good midground plant for aquascaping. It isn’t as large as other crypt species and its delicate texture transitions from the tank’s front to the back can be attributed to its slim leaves. The plant appears to be thick grass or reeds once it’s grown in.
4. Baby Tears
The larger baby tear plant makes a great middleground plant. It will need to be trimmed often to keep it neat. The delicate stems are complemented by the 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. If kept trimmed, the delicate, round leaves can provide a lovely midground texture.
5. Dwarf Chain Sword
A pygmy-chain sword or Dwarf Chain Sword is a great choice. It is one of the fastest growing grassy plants and can grow quickly to give it a lawn-like appearance. It can fill in any bare areas in an aquarium and will grow to a few inches without trimming, making it a great choice for the middle section of medium-sized aquariums. It is more visually appealing than other foreground grass species like micro sword and dwarf hairgrass because it has longer leaves.
Aquarium Co-Op’s goal is to offer a well-curated selection of aquatic plants that can grow well for hobbyists. Browse our entire selection of midground plants to get more inspiration for your next planted tank.