What are the best plants for betta fish?

Keeping live plants in an aquarium can seem daunting to a novice keeper, but it’s really not difficult. There are live aquarium plants on the market that are real hardy, your betta will love them. Bettas love aquarium plants, especially live ones. We’ll go through a few species that will thrive happily in your betta aquarium.

Why Have Plants?

Not only will live plants make your betta aquarium look awesome, they can actually help maintain the quality of the aquarium water! In the wild bettas would take refuge in plants and sometimes build a bubble nest around them, so live plants will make a betta feel right at home.

Bettas also like to rest, sometimes on an ornament or on the aquarium floor, but often they’ll perch on a plant leaf. If you put plants in your aquarium, they’ll provide your betta with the perfect spot to chill.

Are There any Problems with Keeping Plants?

It’s best to keep plants in your aquarium only if you have an overhead aquarium light — an LED or UV, for example. There are a few plants that will survive without an overhead light, though, and these are mentioned in our list below. A light will allow most plants to grow optimally. After all, light is very important to a plant’s health; good old photosynthesis.

If you do not have an aquarium light or are not planning to include one with your set up, fake or artificial plants are a good alternative.

Are Live Plants Better?

In terms of aethstetic, that’s up to you. You might prefer the look of fake plants to live ones. Generally live plants liven up an aquarium, make it more vibrant and provide a very natural setting for your fish. It terms of healthiness for your fish, live plants are better; some live plants can even help manage the quality of the water. When it comes to care, obviously artificial plants aren’t even alive so they won’t need critical water conditions or overhead aquarium lights. However, the maintenance aspect of live plants shouldn’t put you off — there are some living aquarium plants that a super easy to care for.

CO2 Injection and Fertilizer

DON’T PANIC! We know the title sounds scary but none of the recommended plants on the list below need CO2 injection and fertilizer. It’s only for real avid aquarium keepers that wish to keep sensitive plants. You may see these things mentioned when shopping for some plants for your betta, but for a beginner or if you just want some standard easy-to-care-for plants, you don’t need to worry about CO2 injection and fertilizer.

Aquatic Plants vs Semi-Submersible Plants

You may have seen some aquarium set-ups where plants can be seen growing out of the aquarium. An aquarium cultivated like this is usually crafted by experts and is not necessarily an aquarium, but a water garden. It is popular with some betta keepers to grow semi-submerged bamboo in an aquarium. You can read more on the risks of growing semi-submerged bamboo below.

Where can I buy live aquarium plants?

You should be able to buy live plants at your local aquatic store, or you can buy them online. We bought our latest Java Fern from aquariumgardens.co.uk, and we were really happy with the quality and service. We’ve also bought plants from Swallow Aquatics in the past, which is an aquatics store local to us that also sells online.

Disclaimer: we have no affiliation with these sites, we’ve just been impressed by their service. In time, we’ll list more buying options for different countries.

Our favourite live plants for a betta fish

Java Ferns

We have a Java Fern on wood for our betta, Naan; he loves it!

These plants are super hardy and don’t need sand or gravel to grow effectively. The Java Fern usually anchors itself onto driftwood, or sometimes an ornament or rock. That said, don’t attempt to bury this plant in the aquarium substrate: this is a mistake people make. It will end up killing the fern. This is one of a few plants that will grow quite happily without an aquarium light, provided that there is enough light hitting the aquarium externally. Naturally this plant likes low levels of light.

Java Moss

Java moss is extremely hardy and copes with various water conditions and lighting. It prefers low levels of light, so it will happily grow in aquarium without an overhead light. This moss grows on driftwood and rocks, much like the java fern, so it will not need substrate to grow. It doesn’t grow tall or fast, making it perfect for a betta nano aquarium (max height 15 cm).

Cryptocoryne Petchii

Another plant that does not need substrate to grow. The Petchii anchors itself by attaching its roots to driftwood, rocks, etc. It can happily grow in an aquarium without an overhead light as it likes low levels of lights. It can live in soft or hard water and doesn’t grow fast or large — it’s max height is 15 cm, making it perfect for a betta nano aquarium!

Anubias Nana

Much like the Java Fern, this plant grows by attaching itself to driftwood, rocks or aquarium ornaments. If you try to bury this plant in the aquarium substrate / gravel, it will rot and die. It’s a very hardy, pretty little plant, slow-growing and long-lasting. It can thrive in varied water conditions, but it will need an aquarium light. Apart from the need of a light this plant is super easy to grow in your betta tank.

Moss Ball / Floating Moss Ball or Cladophora

This is a super easy plant to care for. Basically it’s a species of moss that grows and forms a ball-like shape. It does not need to be anchored, but you can usually buy Cladophora anchored to aquarium wood. You can even buy ‘floating moss balls’, which bettas love. It’ll float on the surface of the water so the betta will play with it, use it as shelter, and possibly build a bubble nest around it. This plant is hardy and can survive without overhead aquarium lighting.

Amazon Sword Plant

These are also a very hardy plant and will grow under low levels of light. It’s recommend to only keep this plant if you have a large aquarium, 30L at least, as they can grow to be very large, very quickly. Unlike the Java Fern, these plants need to be anchored in substrate, gravel or sand, etc. Having iron-rich fertiliser in the substrate will also keep the plant healthy.

Anubias Hastifolia

Another aquarium plant that will latch itself to rocks and wood. This is a hardy aquarium plant and great for a novice with a medium to large aquarium (30L minimum). This plant can grow to be 80 cm tall in the right conditions. It likes low to medium levels of light, so it can grow happily in an aquarium without an overhead light. This plant is very slow-growing.

Pogostemon Helferi

Your betta will feel right at home with this plant in its aquarium as Pogostemon Helferi is native to Thailand, as are bettas. This little guy is perfect for a betta nano aquarium as it doesn’t grow large at all and doesn’t necessarily need gravel/ substrate. This plant can attach itself to rocks.

The only reason this plant isn’t higher up the list is that it need sufficients aquarium lighting and water fertilizer to grow. When planting, separate the pot into 4-5 small portions and plant 3-4 cm apart. Over time Pogostemon Helferi will form a dense carpet. Alternatively, plant between rocks or wood for a nice effect. Cut away any dead or decaying leaves to help the plant get off to the best start.

It’s worth noting that this plant can be slightly temperamental. If you see yellow leaves then try increasing nutrients in the water. It’s a very pretty plant with an interesting shape and vibrant green colouring. If you can manage to care for this aquarium plant successfully, the aesthetic reward will definitely make it worthwhile.

Bamboo for a betta aquarium: What You Should Know

“Bamboo? That’s not an aquarium plant!” – this may be your initial reaction when someone mentions the idea.

And, nope, it’s not — it’s more of a potting plant — but it is a plant favoured by dedicated betta-keeping hobbyists. You may have seen some set-ups where bamboo is grown in the water with bettas.  This works fine but DON’T BE MISTAKEN. Bamboo is hardy in or out of water, but it is not classified as an aquarium plant. This means you’ll need a specialised set-up to allow this plant to grow happily and healthily.

Here are a few things to note if you plan to grow bamboo in an aquarium:

Do not fully submerge the plant. If you look at a mature Lucky Bamboo Plant, the leaves sprout from the top. The top of the bamboo or any sprouting area with leaves should not be submerged in the water. Doing so will kill the bamboo. This is why you’d need a pretty special set-up to grow this plant in a betta aquarium.

For starters you’ll need an open top aquarium to allow the bamboo sprout to sit OUT of the water. As we know, bettas can jump out of water and may attempt to at any given chance. You’ll need to come up with some way of keeping the bamboo out and the betta in. Some keepers with open betta aquarium will say their bettas never jump out, but who’s to say your betta is like theirs. Even if you create the most optimal bamboo / betta aquarium, with any change in condition, the betta may decide to take a death-defying leap.

You’ll also need a strong, thick substrate, light gravel or sand. The roots need to anchor in the bottom of the aquarium properly. If you’re going to be keeping any other fish with your betta, you want to make sure they won’t get to the roots and eat them. This will cause the bamboo to die. Bettas are carnivores so they wouldn’t nibble the roots, just remember that other critters might (especial aquarium snails).

If you can pull of an aquarium with bamboo, it’ll look fantastic. We’d love to see a photo of your aquarium, so feel free to email us or post it in the comments.

Betta Bulbs

You may have seen ‘Betta Bulbs’ on sale; maybe in pet stores, aquatics stores or online. Being named ‘betta bulbs’ they’ve become quite popular with betta keepers, so let’s look at some good and bad aspects about introducing betta bulbs into your aquarium.

What actually is a betta bulb?

A betta bulb is essentially a tuber that sprouts an aquatic plant when submerged in water. They sprout Aponogetons, a Water Lily-like plant, but they have been known to sprout different plant species, some semi-aquatic, some fully aquatic.

Why buy a betta bulb?

Betta bulbs can be a very fun and interesting project for an aquarium. To watch a plant grow and develop is an interesting experience, and even more so when it’s underwater. It’s known that the bulbs can contain different species of plants, so not knowing which type of plant you’re going to get can add to the excitement.

What are the downsides of betta bulbs?

If a betta bulb sprouts a semi aquatic plant, beware; these plants need to grow out of the water to survive, and you don’t want the plant growing into the hood of the aquarium.

The thought of growing a plant from seed or tuber in an aquarium is unique, and can be a fun project, but it’s probably not the best idea to just drop the bulbs straight into your betta aquarium – it’s unpredictable and they can affect the chemistry of the water. In some cases, the bulbs won’t even sprout and can end up rotting in the aquarium!

As much as betta bulbs can be a cheap alternative, if you wish to keep plants in your betta aquarium, we recommend buying plants pre-grown, like those in the list above, There’s no risk and you don’t have to wait for a result. By all means maybe grow some bulbs in a separate aquarium, then if a healthy plant does sprout, transfer it to your betta aquarium.

Grow a bulb in a separate aquarium first

If you want to try a betta bulb for your aquarium, we recommend you grow the bulb in a separate aquarium or container and add it to your betta aquarium once it sprouts and shows signs of growth. Once added to your betta aquarium, if it shows signs of decay, rot or appears to stop growing, remove it and add it back into the original aquarium/container to see if it grows anymore. This is in case it’s died – you don’t want it to rot in your betta aquarium if it has.