Easiest 11 Plants to Grow in Gravel

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Aquarium plants help keep your tank clean, facilitate oxygenating the water, and enhance the aesthetics. Many aquarium plants grow effectively in gravel substrate. Unlike sand, gravel substrate provides a home for beneficial bacteria to grow and aids the nitrogen cycle by converting toxic substances like ammonia into nitrates.

Gravels are river stones that not only give your tank a natural feel but also provide enough space for the roots of the live aquatic plants to anchor down since it’s not too dense. What’s more, since gravel itself doesn’t have any nutrients, it doesn’t affect the parameters of the water- Making absorption easier for aquatic plants in the tank.

Because it’s loosely packed, gravel substrate lets the roots of the plants spread throughout the bottom of the aquarium. In contrast, the density of sand doesn’t allow roots to spread so easily, even after adding root tabs and extra nutrients. But gravel substrate allows roots to grow easily and to absorb nutrients from the water.

Adequate water flow within the substrate is essential to keep the tank water clean. Gravel makes this easy since it allows water to flow right through, preventing a buildup of bacteria and amoeba.

Here’s another thing to love about growing plants in gravel substrate: It doesn’t get kicked up into the water and sucked into filters, because gravels are larger than soil and sand substrates.

In sand aquariums, water gets messy when cleaning, doing water changes, and adjusting equipment in the tank. Not so in gravel planted aquariums.

Now that you know how amazing gravel substrate is, let’s have a look at some of the easiest aquarium plants to grow in gravel.

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2. How do you grow aquarium plants in gravel?


When planting in gravel substrate, there’s not much to do differently from sand. There are two things to keep in mind: Nutrients, and the type of fish you keep.

Aquarium plants need oxygen and carbon dioxide to grow. Gravel does a moderate job helping the roots of root feeder plants to absorb nutrients. To boost this absorption you can add nutrient supplements in the form of root tabs, and with the help of the space provided by gravel, the plant will get nutrients as water passes through the substrate and reaches their deep roots.

One crucial requirement for growing plants with gravel is the presence of carbon dioxide. It’s used for photosynthesis, which allows plants to make their food. Aquatic plants need a constant supply of carbon dioxide to grow in tanks. It enters the water from the atmosphere and is always present in the tank, but fertilizing with a boost of carbon dioxide in the tank will enhance the growth of the plants.

Does this mean you have to feed your plants with nutrients every day? Nope. Fish waste present in the tank contains nutritious content (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) which needs to be removed. Live aquatic plants clean the tank by absorbing these nutrients for their growth, and interestingly these nutrients are nearly sufficient for the aquarium plants that grow in gravel.

The second thing to keep in mind when planting with gravel is that you should be careful with what gravel you use in aquariums with fish that are known for actively interacting with the substrate. For example, sometimes goldfish will suck in substrate and expel it, looking for food. Kissing gouramis will “kiss” and suction the substrate in search of food. Bottom feeders have sensitive barbels that will interact with the substrate while they browse the bottom of the water column. All of these fish could be harmed if gravel has sharp edges.

The gravel you use in aquariums like this should be round, with no sharp edges. If in doubt, don’t use it.

Now, let’s dive in to a few essential aquatic plants that are easy to grow well in gravel, even for beginners.

3. Easiest 11 Aquarium Plants to Grow in Gravel

3.1 Amazon Sword 



Amazon Sword



Amazon sword (Echinodorus grisebachii) is a rosette plant that contains wide leaves of light green color. Its large leaves makes it a perfect plant for growing in aquarium gravel. It’s an easy–to–care for plant that grows up to two feet, providing ample cover for fish and absorbing excess nutrients that could otherwise result in algae problems. (Meaning, it helps clean impurities from the tank!)

Amazon sword is one of the easy-to-grow aquarium plants that works well in gravel. If you want something low maintenance, go with Amazon sword. It can grow well in a variety of different water conditions, it’s affordable, and doesn’t require much care.

Amazon sword is an actual rooting plant, so you need to make sure that the roots of the plant get a large space because they’ll grow deep and wide.

The leaf blades can grow up to 23in long, and form a wide and strong root base. Pro tip: You can hide filters and pipes with its large leaf blades.

Amazon sword doesn’t require additional supplements and minerals, but providing nutrient and mineral supplements will benefit the plant and ensure healthy growth in aquarium gravel.

Gravel is a good choice for planting an Amazon sword in the tank because the roots of the plant are extensive, and gravel is accommodating in its lower density. Just remember not to bury the crown of the plant in the substrate!

a. Parameters

Moderate lighting is needed for growth; be sure you provide 11-12 hours of lighting daily.

I recommend keeping low water flow with a temperature between 72-76 degrees Fahrenheit and pH 6.5-7.5 of the aquarium to give suitable conditions for your plant to anchor in the aquarium.

2.2 Anubias Nana



Anubias Nana



One of the most popular plants in the aquarium hobby, anubias nana is very easy to care for and will stay green even in low light conditions (though it will grow more slowly). It grows well on gravel substrate- Just remember to leave the rhizomes above the gravel.

Anubias is used mostly as a foreground and midground aquarium plant in aquariums. It won’t grow well if you bury it in the gravel substrate as this will damage the roots of the plant.

No need to create any special conditions in your tank to grow Anubias nana, but it does grow best in clean water with sufficient light (low to moderate) and nutrients. You can add supplementary nutrients and carbon dioxide (CO2) to optimize the growing process.

This plant grows well in gravel: Just gently place the plant on the substrate. It doesn’t require thick layers of gravel. You can also tie it to driftwood (tip: This makes it easier to remove from the tank later if needed, since the roots won’t be tied up in the substrate!)

Anubias grows up to 7.5 inches; its size is one of the reasons that it doesn’t require much care, since it doesn’t require trimming).

a. Parameters

Low to medium lighting is needed for the growth of the plant. However, it’ll stay green even in very low light conditions.

The ideal temperature for this aquarium plant is 72-85 degrees Fahrenheit. It requires a warm environment or climate to effectively grow in the tank. Anubias nana needs comparatively low water flow in the aquarium. Strong flows are not recommended.

The ideal pH level for Anubias nana is 5.5-7.5, which suggests it requires slightly acidic to neutral water. In addition to this, it grows well in water with 2 to 6 dGH water hardness.

This easiest aquarium plant doesn’t have any special requirements in the terms of tank size. Its small size makes it an excellent choice for small aquariums, as long as the water quality is keenly monitored.

2.3 Java Fern



Java Fern



Java ferns (Microsorum pteropus) are popular aquarium plants because they are easy to grow and can grow without substrate. Java fern has thick green leaves and reddish veins on long stalks which attach it to gravel. It can sustain in different environments and lighting conditions.

Java ferns are best as mid-ground or background plants in your tank, because planting it in the front of your aquarium may hide or cover the view of all the wonderful creatures you have inside! Also, this plant grows into a bushy structure, so I recommend you plant Java ferns at distance from one another if you’re planning to plant more than one.

The Java fern absorbs nutrients from aquarium water through its leaves. To keep your plants healthy, give them a liquid fertilizer once a week.

It grows well on aquarium gravel because it forms roots easily. Here’s the key to growing your Java ferns: Don’t bury the rhizomes in gravel, because similar to anubias nana, it will end in rotting the whole plant. No thanks!

a. Parameters


Java fern is a green leafy plant; it grows slowly at a rate of one inch per month. The size of a fully grown Java Fern is 13 inches to 14 inches. It requires little care and no specific requirements. In their natural habitats Java fern grows in shady places, and this is what they need in the aquarium, too! Give them low to moderate lighting to keep them happy. The ideal lighting for Java ferns is low; in the wild, these plants are found in very shady environments. It’s reasonably hardy but excessive lighting can harm this plant.

The ideal temperature for Java fern is 68-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and the ideal pH level is 6-7.5 to mimic the natural environment. It grows well in water with 3 to 8 dGH water hardness.

Other than being sensitive to lots of light, this might be the easiest plant to grow; it can grow healthy in various lighting conditions and environments.

2.4 Staurogyne Repens


This small, slow-growing aquarium plant is undemanding and reasonably easy to keep with aquarium gravel. Staurogyne repens are bright green with stiff stems. The dense appearance of this plant gives it a carpet-like effect, even though it’s a stem plant. Cool, right?!

Usually growing between 2 to 4 inches, it’s mostly used as a foreground plant and a middle-ground plant in the aquarium. When small shoots are planted closely in the tank, they soon become a greenish carpet. This ability of Staurogyne repens makes it a perfect choice when it comes to foreground aquatic plants.

Staurogyne repens can do well in aquarium gravel because of the small roots which easily stick to the gravel.

It’s a very easy plant to keep in your aquarium gravel because it doesn’t demand much light. (Just know that it’ll show less growth if exposed to low light conditions.) No special requirements here around tank size; It’s an undemanding plant that grows well in gravel, albeit a slow grower.

You can add CO2 to the tank to supplement the plants to aid their growth. Adding CO2 to your aquarium during the day can optimize the growth of your plant.

While planting Staurogyne repens, place it ½ inches deep only. Don’t place the plant deep in the gravel, otherwise, it will begin to rot.

a. Parameters


For best growth results, this plant requires medium light for about 10 hours daily. An aquarium light will be fine. Excessive natural light may cause algae growth.

Staurogyne repens prefers warm conditions. The ideal temperature for the plant is between 68 and 86°F. It requires water hardness between 3 and 10 KH, and can sustain different ranges of water pH. It can tolerate water pH between 5.0 and 8.0, but the ideal pH range is between 6.0 and 7.0.

2.5 Cryptocoryne Wendtii



Cryptocoryne Wendt



Cryptocoryne wendtii is a budget-friendly low-maintenance plant; these features make it great for beginners. It’s also small in size with a slow growth rate; this makes it an ideal mid-ground or foreground aquarium plant for fish tanks, as well as an excellent choice for small aquariums.

Cryptocoryne Wendtii works well with gravel substrate. But, it does require some maintenance (mostly nutrients and careful planting) to grow well. It’s a good choice for you if you want to add aesthetic beauty to your aquarium.

To grow well in a fish tank, it needs potassium and iron. I recommend providing cryptocoryne Wendtii with supplementary essential nutrients to aid its growth, because this plant grows extremely well in enriched substrate. Since it absorbs nourishment and nutrients from the roots, adding supplementary root tabs will help it grow and stay healthy.

When planting Cryptocoryne Wendtii, make sure there’s lots of gravel substrate in the bottom of the tank. Place it at least 3 inches deep to firmly anchor the plant.

a.      Parameters


Cryptocoryne Wendtii has a medium to fast growth rate. This aquatic plant achieves a maximum height of 15 cm (6 inches). As it’s a low-maintenance plant it requires low to medium lighting level. The ideal temperature required for growing Cryptocoryne Wendtii is 73° to 84° F. The required water hardness for Cryptocoryne Wentti is 3-8 KH.

2.6 Vallisneria






A tall, green aquatic plant that comes in different varieties in the market, vallisneria (vallisneria sp.) is one of the easiest aquarium plants that grows well in gravel and sand alike.

Because it comes in different sizes and shapes, the structure of the leaves depends on the type of vallisneria. Its various shapes include straight, twisted, or spiraled leaves with rounded tips and tiny spines on the margins of leaves. It’s known as a very undemanding and low-maintenance aquatic plant.

Vallisneria is a great addition to your fish tank to use as a vertical accent background plant. That said, there are some varieties of vallisneria that are suitable as mid-ground plants too.

You can add CO2 supplements to promote healthy and positive growth. Root tabs are also a good option to make sure the nutrient needs of this plant are being met in the aquarium.

To plant vallisneria, put its roots in the gravel substrate, and soon it’ll create a strong root system.

a.      Parameters


To promote the growth and development of vallisneria (or any aquatic plant, for that matter!) maintain optimal water conditions. Since it’s a tall plant, you need a minimum 10 gallon tank in which to plant it.

The optimal water temperature for vallisneria is between 68 – 82 degrees F, though it can also sustain a temperature range between 59 – 86° F. Please note that vallisneria cannot grow well in acidic water conditions. It requires ideal pH between 6.5 – 8.0.

Vallisneria can grow in soft and hard water, but the ideal water hardness ranges between 4 – 18 GH. When it comes to lighting, this plant appreciates moderate to high light. Exposure to bright light will encourage the leaves to maintain a vibrant green.

2.7 Dwarf Sagittaria


Dwarf sagittaria (Sagittaria pusilla or Sagittaria subulate) is a popular foreground plant to grow in gravel.

Because it’s slow growing and can tolerate a wide range of conditions, it’s a great fit for any aquarium.

Dwarf sagittaria is also a great foreground plant.

It can sustain a variety of water conditions. If you provide this plant with adequate nutrients, it’ll spread in the fish tank like carpet on the gravel substrate. Gradually, it’ll cover the base fully and give a “runner”-like look.

If you want quick growth of dwarf sagittaria, use liquid fertilizers and nutrients. Providing supplementary carbon dioxide is also beneficial for lush plant growth.

To plant: place the plant 2-3 cm deep in the gravel. Remember; don’t fully bury the crown of the plant. I also recommend that you provide spaces in between each dwarf sagittaria so that there’s ample space for them to grow and give a dense carpet-like feel.

a.      Parameters


The size and growth of dwarf sagittaria depend on its exposure to light. In high lighting, it’ll grow up to 3 inches. However, in moderate to low light exposure it can grow 5-6 inches.

For healthy growth, dwarf sagittaria demands moderate to high lighting. Light is a must in the growth and development of the plant. If your fish tank doesn’t have sufficient lighting then it’s recommended to add supplementary additional fertilizer or carbon dioxide.

Dwarf sagittaria can withstand a wide range of water conditions. It can grow in slightly acidic and alkaline water alike; it requires a pH of 6.5 to 8.0 to grow in an aquarium.

2.8  Red Tiger Lotus



Red Tiger Lotus



Red tiger lotus (Nymphaea Zenkeri) is a popular aquatic plant, which also grows in gravel. It adds a lovely aesthetic to your fish tank, and as long as you meet its needs, it’s not hard to keep.

The red tiger lotus is an ideal focal plant for aquariums, and is often planted as a mid-ground and background plant.

This live plant grows well when the substrate is enriched with a lot of nutrients and supplements to live in your aquarium. For this purpose, root tabs are a good option. You can also infuse your gravel with plenty of fertilizer for this plant, but it’s not mandatory.

Some tips when planting the red tiger lotus: Be careful while planting it. The roots must be buried in a gravel substrate, about ½ inch deep. Don’t bury it any deeper than that or this can cause root rot.

Lastly, don’t bury the bulb of the red tiger lotus in the substrate or the plant won’t do well.

Once planted, the root system will soon grow under the gravel substrate.

a. Parameters


Red tiger lotus is a unique plant species, tolerant of a wide range of water temperatures and other water parameters. It grows well in temperatures with degrees between 71 – 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Interestly, it can grow in low-light aquariums. That said, I still recommend providing medium–high lighting to the plant for best results.

With a minimum tank size of 10 gallons, red tiger lotus is even suitable for smaller aquariums.

For healthy development and growth, the ideal water pH required is between 6.0 and 8.0. In terms of water hardness, the red tiger grows well in 2 – 15 dGH. However, it can also survive in soft or hard water.

2.9 Java Moss 



Java Moss



Java moss is a much-loved freshwater plant that comes in various shades of green. It gives your aquarium an aesthetic ambiance that really feels like a natural habitat.

Java moss is known not only for its eye-catching appearance but also for detoxifying water in the fish tank. It gives your tank an aged look. Plus, it’s easy to care for and affordable. What’s not to love?

Java moss is a popular foreground and background plant. Growing well on both gravel and sand, it gives an aesthetic feel to the floor and walls of the fish tank.

With the unique ability to sustain themselves even in poor water conditions, these are hardy plants at their best. They’re easy to care for and don’t require supplementary nutrients or specific water conditions.

While providing extra nutrients isn’t mandatory, adding carbon dioxide and fertilizers will encourage growth.

Since Java moss is not a true root plant, you need to place the plant 2 inches in the substrate under light. It will take a few days to fully anchor in the gravel.

a. Parameters

You can grow Java Moss in a fish tank of any size! It’s generally recommended to use 5 gallon or larger aquariums because this aquatic plant takes up a lot of space. If your tank is smaller than 5 gallons, it may get overrun with Java moss.

The ideal temperature for Java moss is from 59 to 86˚F. It can sustain in water pH from 5.0–8.0 but grows well in pH from 5.0–7.5. Amazingly, Java moss can maintain its growth and benefits even in poor water quality.

Moderate or low lighting (for 8–10 hours daily) is sufficient for this aquatic plant. Providing bright lighting allows dense growth but also increases algae growth.

2.10 Madagascar Lace



Madagascar Lace



Madagascar Lace (Aponogeton madagascariensis) is undoubtedly one of the most marvelous and best aquarium plants. It’s an aquarium showstopper.

And once you get familiar with its needs, it’s easy to keep. Madagascar lace can grow in various conditions of water and light, and can sustain its growth even in less-than-ideal circumstances inside the fish tank.

The look and aesthetic of Madagascar Lace is pleasing: it has leaves with no connective tissue, giving it a lace-like appearance. This makes it a delicate-looking, unique aquarium plant.

Madagascar Lace absorbs supplements and important nutrients from the substrate for its growth and development. The roots of the plant take the waste produced by fish and also absorbs ammonia, uric acid, urea, and phosphates. As a result, it helps clean the water of the aquarium.

Madagascar Lace grows well when planted in gravel substrate. It should be planted at least 2 inches deep.

a. Parameters

Madagascar Lace reaches a maximum height of 6 to 8 inches. It requires 12 hours of lighting daily to promote healthy growth. The average size fish tank required to grow Madagascar lace is at least 10 gallons.

This plant grows well in temperatures between 68 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and its growth slows down when the water temperature creeps up to 79 °F. Keeping Madagascar lace at 82 ° F for any prolonged period will result in the death of the plant.

Madagascar Lace requires slightly acidic water pH. The appropriate pH level is 5.5 to 7.5. It can live in both hard and soft water, but the ideal water hardness is 4-15 dGH.

2.11 Marimo Moss



Marimo Moss Ball



Marimo moss ball (Aegagropila Linnaei) is easily the best option for beginners because it’s soooo easy to look after. It’s basically indestructible.

Marimo moss grows well in gravel and will maintain the shape in which it was first planted. This plant can survive in a wide range of water hardness and temperature conditions.

Most amazing of all, if you take care of them, Marimo moss balls can live for up to 10 years in a tank!

Marimo moss is slow-growing, so adding nutrients will aid the growth and health of the plant. Providing supplementary carbon dioxide and fertilizer will facilitate its growth.

Planting Marimo moss is as simple as its requirements: After purchasing, rinse it with clean water and place it directly on the substrate. Soon the mature Marimo moss will put out buds.

Pro tip: You can propagate these buds! Cut a few of them off and place them wherever else in the tank you’d like it to grow. Its small size and incredibly hardy nature make it perfect for tiny nano tanks.

a. Parameters 


Marimo moss balls like cool conditions. In natural habitats, it’s found in cool lakes. In the aquarium, Marimo moss balls require a temperature of less than 75° F. I recommend keeping the aquarium away from direct sunlight. In hot weather conditions consider moving your fish tank to a cooler place if needed, as excessive overheating may result in destruction (to say nothing of your fish!)

The ideal pH for the Marimo moss ball is 7.0 to 8.0 to engage the plant in optimal growth and development. Marimo moss balls can survive in a wide range of water hardness; the optimal water hardness required is a range of 2 to 20 dGH.

3.      Benefits of Growing Plants in Gravel


Gravels help the roots of the aquarium plants to set in place. In addition to this, it’s an attractive addition that gives a natural sea-like environment to the other lives present in the tank.

The use of gravel makes the fish tank look natural and aesthetically amazing.

It acts as a natural purifier, which absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) in the tank and produces oxygen (O2) for the fish.

They absorb toxic nutrients such as ammonia, which in turn purifies the water in the fish tank. It also gives ample space for the fish to hide, explore, and reproduce.

The nature of the gravel allows water to pass through it, which prevents the growth of amoebas and germs in the gravel substrate.

I really like Trafish Aquatics’ videos, and they did one specifically on planted gravel aquariums. If you want to learn how to set one up, I recommend checking it out!


4.      Conclusion


With so many things to love about gravel substrate, it’s no wonder more people are looking into the plants that go best with it. Hopefully you have a clearer idea of what gravel-friendly plants you might choose for your freshwater tank. When in doubt, Marimo moss will grow just about anywhere!

Madagascar lace is an elegant, unique addition, while old faithfuls Java moss and Java ferns will always get the job done with pizzaz.

Just make sure that when using gravel substrate, you’re using gravel with no sharp edges! This is very important for fish that interact often with the substate, such as kissing gourami or goldfish.

Adding these plants to your fish tank will make it look more like a natural habitat. Plus, they reduce nitrates and carbon dioxide from the tank water, helping to keep your aquarium clean.



Additional Sources

16 Best Aquarium Plants That Don’t Need Substrate To Grow



To say that I’m obsessed with all things saltwater is a bit of an understatement. Aquarium Passion has served freshwater and saltwater aquarium hobbyists for over 10 years, and I'm committed to keeping the information accurate and free. My post-bac certification in Sustainability informs my writing about aquarium conservation efforts. When I'm not writing at AP, I'm out in the ocean or researching weird fish.


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