Ten Plant for Tiny Tanks!

Posted by Aquatropic Staff on September 7, 2023

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Last week we talked about some critter stocking ideas for teensy tanks, and most of these ideas included some kind of plants. Amano shrimp are amazing little critters, and are cool any way you keep them, but they definitely look best in a planted environment. What we didn't get into much, were suggestions for plants to go into these tiny tanks. Choosing plants can be a daunting experience for any size tank, and when you add the size constraint of nano, pico, and jar size desktop displays, finding things that will stay small, or be trimmed to stay small while leaving a healthy plant can be tricky.

No planted aquarium is a “set it and forget it” situation, as they will all take some regular effort to achieve the result that is likely in the forefront of your mind. Regardless, the plants we've chosen are on the easier end of the spectrum. All aquatic plants will do best with supplemental carbon dioxide, and some will require it. If you're going down the planted tank route, we also suggest you look into our previous articles on carbon dioxide supplementation. With all the caveats out of the way, let's dig right in to Ten Plants For Tiny Tanks!

First on our list, and really no big surprise, is Java Moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri). This is a super hardy plant with easily met requirements. It is very low growing, and will attach to just about any surface, just tie it in place with a bit of monofilament to give it a chance to attach. It responds well to trimming. It is often used for rearing baby fish and shrimp.

American Shoreweed (Littorella uniflora) is a lakeshore plant common in the Americas and Europe. They grow in small rosettes, and they send out runners, which will sprout into new rosettes an inch apart or so. They don't need much light but will spread slower and the leaves will be thinner under low light conditions. This is an easy plant to grow, but also an easy plant to damage, so be mindful when working with it.

Another excellent choice for diminutive desktop aquaria is Water Hyssop (Bacopa Monnieri). It is accepting of a wide variety of conditions; under intense light, and trimming of vertical shoots, this plant will grow close to the bottom spreading out in a high carpet. Under lower light, and/or no carbon dioxide dosing, it will grow more vertically. Trim it to how you want it to look, but in a tiny tank, it makes a great “bushy” plant.

Green Pygmy Chain Sword (Helanthium tenellum var green) was once called Echinodorus tenellus var green. In a small tank with less intense lighting, this plant will likely stand on its own, looking a lot like a decorative, thick bladed grass clump; in this growth form, they rarely get much taller than five inches high or so. Under intense lighting with good food, this plant will grow out a lovely green carpet that can be trimmed as low as two inches high and still look very natural. It's an easy plant that can do well under a wide range of lighting conditions.

Helanthium has another very appropriate small tank plant in the genus, Helianthum bolivianus 'Quadricostatus'. This is an excellent, low demand plant, with bright green leaves, it's an excellent foreground plant in larger aquariums, but also makes a nice feature in a tiny tank, never really getting much bigger than six inches tall and six to eight inches around. This plant also frequently gets called Echinodorus bolivianus ' magdalenensis.

If you've seen our recent article on Cryptocorynes, then you know we're fans! Crypts can spread quickly and look very attractive as they do. Cryptocoryne albida var brown, is an excellent contrast plant. In a larger tank it might be a foreground species, but in our tiny tanks, these could be a feature. They stay a lovely reddish-brown color and have a gorgeous wavy leaf edge. Their leaves don't get much more than six inches long or so, making them a great addition to our mini planted tanks. Like most Crypts, they can grow in just about anything, but will grow very slowly in low-tech setups.

Not all carpet plants have to look like different lengths of grass! Marsilea hirsuta is a really cool plant, with leaves that look a bit like a four-leaf clover. These “clovers” can have less lobes and depending on the display can have anywhere from one to four lobes. They only get to about four inches high, but in some tanks will stay less than three quarters of an inch tall. When they are happy, they spread quickly!

Staurogyne repens is a compact bushy plant that would definitely be a foreground plant in a bigger aquarium but makes a great feature in a tiny tank. It will need to be trimmed but is easy to keep looking good at four or five inches tall. In lower light it will stay bushier, in higher light, it will have a tendency to spread horizontally. Regardless, this is a small, easy plant that would make a great home for some Shrimp!

A lot of people will be wondering why we haven't included an Anubias on this list, as they are the very definition of hardy aquarium plants. These people are correct, we recommend Anubias for just about any aquarium, but they have a tendency to get very large, and in the tiny tanks were talking about, this makes them a bit of a nonstarter. Instead, think about trying the Schismatoglottis prietoi this easy plant is more of a newcomer to the world of planted aquariums. It looks like a miniature Anubias, with leaves that grow only one to three inches long. It is very easy to grow, has limited demands and can be controlled by trimming runners.

There's a lot more plants where these come from, and even some more that would be suitable for our tiny, planted tanks. There are also some larger plants that tolerate and respond positively to trimming that might be considered as well, but trimming big plants is another article, for another day! Head over to your Local Fish Store and start asking about them getting you some plants from Aquatropic today!