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. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but the foliage serves as spawning sites for the parents to lay their eggs. The babies need to be fed regularly once they hatch. Microfauna helps the plants grow so that the young can eat. The plants also filter the water and absorb the toxic chemicals from the fish. We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 dense and fluffy plants fish breeders use to raise fry.
1. Java Moss
A pair pygmy corydoras laying on java moss. (Taxiphyllum barieri)
Mosses like java moss and Christmas moss are at the top of the list because not only are they dense enough to provide good cover for baby fish and shrimp, but they tend to attract mulm and microorganisms for them to forage on. For fish that scatter their eggs, mosses have little tendrils that the eggs can easily stick to, and their branching stems help hide them from predation. Java moss is an excellent choice for beginners as it requires very little light and doesn’t require substrate. For a more aged look, you can either attach the moss to a wire grid or wrap it around driftwood. To keep it healthy, you can add some Easy Green all-in one fertilizer.
2. Pogostemon stellatus ‘octopus’
Pogostemon Stellatus “octopus” is a fast-growing stem plants that can fill up your tank with enough nutrients and low to moderate lighting. Its long, wispy and brightly colored leaves give it its name “octopus”. Over time, the tentacle-like leaf can become dense and block out larger predators.
This plant is originally grown out of water (or emersed) at the farm for faster production and therefore may have broader leaves than usual when you first 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. When plants arrive at our facility, we begin the process of converting them to their submerged form. To speed up the conversion of your Pogostemon. stellatus, if it is less than half converted upon arrival, you can lift it up to the surface to allow it more light and carbon dioxide (CO2) from air.
3. Water Sprite
Water sprite is another stem plant that grows quickly. It is good at absorbing excess nutrients and helping to prevent algae growth. When planted in the ground, it forms a tall, bushy mound with fine, lacy leaves for small fish and shrimp to seek shelter. The floating leaves are much more wide with rounded tips and grow thick roots that fish can use to lay eggs or graze on. It prefers the water column to feed and can be fertilized with liquid fertilizers such as Easy Green.
4. Guppy Grass
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. Guppy grass is nearly impenetrable by adult fish because the stems produce closely spaced tufts of short, narrow leaves that interlock with each other. The branches break apart and propagate quite easily, but that also makes the plant harder to ship and not as suitable for high flow tanks.
5. Mayaca fluviatilis
If you’re looking for a unique plant that will provide interesting textures in your planted aquarium, you have to try Mayaca fluviatilis. This South and Central American species has very fine, small leaves growing all along its stem, making it look like a yellow-green pipe cleaner. 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. The stream bogmoss will quickly grow and provide a great hiding spot for shrimp and baby fish once it is established.
An easy way to fill an entire aquarium with a forest of greenery is to plant vallisneria (or val). This background plant looks similar to a tall field or grass. It can grow high enough that it covers the water surface, providing fish security. Beginners love this plant because of its easy care, low light requirements, and ability to spread quickly. Vallisneria is propagated by sending out runners. Each plant produces a baby plant at its end. The plantlets eventually reach large enough size to be able to send their own runners. Once the val has spread all over the world and is well-established it is strong enough to withstand the nibbling by fish like African goldfish and cichlids.
7. Tripartita Hydrocotyle “Japan”
We love this unique plant because of its small, clover-shaped flowers and its ability spread its stringy stems along hardscape and substrate, much like creeping Ivy. It has the versatility to be used either in the foreground as ground cover or draped across driftwood. Unlike many of the other species on this list, it does best in medium to high light environments and would benefit from CO2 injection. Hydrocotyle tripartite Japan’s compact and bushier growth patterns are ideal for hiding baby fish and dwarf shrimp in high-tech aquariums. Trim off any areas that get too tall and replant them in the ground for propagation.
8. Bolbitis Fern
Bolbitis, also known as the African water fern, is the most common epiphyte plant sold in aquarium hobby. This is due to its thick, texture fronds. Although it takes longer to grow than other stem plants, mature bolbitis can become a large, emerald-green shrub that conceals small fish. This tough plant is able to withstand high pH and GH water and can be used in African cichlid, African goldfish and even monster fish tanks. Bolbitis’ horizontal, branch-like Rhizome should not be covered. Instead, you can attach it to driftwood or rock with sewing thread or super glue gel. You can find more information about how to plant epiphytes, and other types of plants, in our quick guide on methods for planting.
9. Pearl Weed
Although it looks very similar to baby tear, pearl weed has oblong-shaped, longer leaves. Its small leaves and unkempt growth can serve to form a thick jungle for little creatures to reside within. 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 submerged, underwater form. This species does best under medium to high lighting and can grow upwards all the way to the surface, so you can keep it as a background plant or a midground plant with some trimming.
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 all the way down to the substrate and create the look of an upside-down forest. Frogbit spreads by sending runners, so it can be easily removed in large numbers.
Dwarf water lettuce, a similar floating plant, is also available. This is because of its large root system. Floating plants grow very quickly and therefore are great at absorbing toxic nitrogen chemicals from the water. You should keep them from covering the entire water surface as they can shade plants below and reduce the amount dissolved oxygen.
These plants are excellent at raising fry survival rates and can help you to be more successful with your next breeding endeavor. For more tips and tricks on spawning fish and raising fry, browse our collection of breeding articles.