What Are the best plants for betta fish?

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Betta Fish are one of the most popular fish to keep as pets. Most pet stores sell them in small plastic cups with no decoration, substrate or cover. This can cause a lot of stress. When you bring your betta fish home, provide it the best-planted aquarium you can. This will improve its quality of life and yours. 

The following plants are recommended and discussed in this article:

Do Betta Fish Need Plants?

Yes, betta fish do need plants. Betta fish seek hiding places to feel secure and to rest in. If a betta does not have appropriate places to hide, they will become stressed. Stress increases a fish’s chances of succumbing to illness and can shorten their life. 

One indicator that your betta is not happy is a refusal to eat. If you have had betta fish before, you know that they can be little gluttons! If your betta refuses to eat, add plants to their aquarium and they will likely be eager to eat their next meal.

Recently, I purchased a handsome red betta from my local pet store. He was exhibiting signs of stress in his cup such as erratic swimming and refusing to eat. I brought him home and placed him in his new aquarium which included a moss ball, betta hammock, Java fern, and Anubias plant. He immediately swam into the Java fern and hid. 

Within hours he perked up and eagerly ate dinner when it was offered. He has not exhibited any signs of stress since he moved into this planted aquarium.

What is better; live or artificial plants for betta fish?

Some aquarists will say that it does not make a significant difference to your betta if they have live or artificial plants. But I believe that live plants are much better. I will discuss why I recommend live plants below.

Advantages & disadvantages of live plants

The most significant advantage of live plants is that they act as a natural filtration system. While they cannot replace a filter or proper aquarium cycling, they can help maintain healthy water conditions. 

Live plants create a more natural and aesthetically pleasing aquascape. They move and flow naturally with the current of water in your aquarium. They also create a natural habitat that your betta fish feel comfortable and happy living in. 

In comparison to artificial plants, they are also softer and will not harm your betta. The fact that live plants grow also means they provide increasing shelter to hide in.

Advantages & disadvantages of artificial plants

Artificial plants are a quick and easy solution for many people. They are cheap and will not die on you like live plants. Unfortunately, there are some disadvantages. 

The biggest disadvantage of artificial plants is that they can injure your betta fish. Many aquarium plants are manufactured with a wire in each leaf to enable you to pose them as needed. If a wire becomes exposed it will rust, and an exposed wire can also hurt your betta. 

Additionally, some artificial plants have sharp edges that can scratch your fish. This is the case with plastic plants and delicate finned fish such as the betta. Which is why I recommend silk plants instead if you choose to go artificial. 

If a betta fish sustains a scratch, this puts them at risk for contracting an illness. Not to mention it can tear up their beautiful fins. 

Most pet stores have a vast selection of plastic or silk plants. They may seem like they are a maintenance free option but they are not. Over time you will notice that these plants accumulate a thick slime which is called biofilm. Biofilm is a build up of waste matter and often includes algae. 

It is very important to clean these artificial plants thoroughly. This is done by rinsing them or even scrubbing them with a brush. Eventually, they may be so difficult to clean, or so dirty, that they should be replaced entirely.

Best Plants for Betta Fish

Now that we’ve gone over the importance of plants in your betta tank lets look at my recommendations for best plants for betta fish.

Marimo Moss Balls

Marimo Moss Balls are my first go to plant for Betta tanks. Bettas enjoy hiding behind them or resting on them. I especially recommend these plants for beginners who do not have experience with live plants. This is due to their simple care requirements, hardiness, and longevity. 

They are virtually maintenance free. They are very slow growing, require little light and no plant food in a stocked aquarium. I have had moss balls for years, and they have never required aquarium plant food.

When you perform weekly water changes remove the moss ball from your tank. Then gently squeeze it into your wastewater bucket or over a sink until water stops coming out of it. This removes the dirty water and any waste build up.

It may float after the water has been squeezed out, but should gradually sink as it fills with water again. 

Experience Level: Beginner – This is the easiest aquarium plant!

Ph: 6.8 – 7.5

Temperature: 72 – 82° F

Growth Rate: Very Slow

Tank Location: Foreground

Size: Approximately Two to Four Inches in Diameter

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Anubias Nana

The Anubias nana plant is also a solid choice for beginning aquarists due to their hardiness. They should have at least a ten-gallon aquarium and do not need a lot of light or a specific substrate. 

If you buy more than one Anubias be sure to plant them approximately two inches apart. This will allow them enough room to grow out. 

Like all Anubias the durable long-lived leaves are prone to algae growth. Due to this they may benefit from snails or being placed in current to reduce the algae build up. 

Conveniently, Anubias nana happens to like the exact same water temperature that betta fish do (78° F). Bettas also enjoy hiding in the Anubias plant and will rest on the plant’s leaves. 

These plants also attach to decor, so you can be creative with placing them in the tank. Many people appreciate the atheistic appeal of the plant attached to driftwood or rocks.

Experience Level: Beginner

Ph: 6.0 – 8.0

Temp: 72 – 82° F

Growth Rate: Slow

Planting location: Foreground or Mid-ground

Size: Approximately 6 Inches Tall

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Amazon Sword Plant

The Amazon Sword Plant is another excellent choice for a betta tank.

The Amazon Sword Plant grows tall and as such does best in a larger taller tank such as a 29 gallon. If the conditions are right in your tank they can grow as tall as eighteen to twenty inches.

You can place it in a tank as small as a 10 gallon but it will need frequent pruning. The Amazon Sword Plant also needs ten to twelve hours of light per day for best growth.

It is common for the plant to have a few leaves die when first planted in an aquarium. You may also observe leaves becoming yellow and cracking. If you experience this, simply allow it time to acclimate and settle in. 

If the plant doesn’t rebound after acclimating and continues to yellow you may need to fertilize. Root tabs are a simple and easy way to do this.

Experience Level: Beginner

Ph: 6.0 – 7.5

Temperature: 72 – 80° F

Growth Rate: Slow and Steady

Planting location: background

Size: Approximately Twenty Inches

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Java Fern

Java Fern is another plant that I recommend for those starting their first betta fish aquarium. 

On average these plants grow about ten inches long. This is a manageable size for the average betta set up, which is a five to ten gallon aquarium

They do not need much light and make great low light plants. Low light has the added benefit of minimizing algae growth in your aquarium. Combined with snails and ghost shrimp, algae would have an uphill battle ahead.

They require the same water levels and temperatures that betta fish do, making them an ideal tank mate. Bettas also enjoy hiding in these plants. Their leaves offer a broad cover, making them perfect for Bettas showing signs of stress.

Java ferns are also a wonderful option for those who enjoy aquascaping. They can also be a budget-friendly option. One plant may be cut into smaller pieces and attached elsewhere in your betta’s aquarium. This gets you more for your money. Or if you asked your betta, more money for blood worms.

Experience Level: Beginner

Ph Level: 6.0 – 7.5

Temperature: 69 – 82° F

Growth Rate: Slow

Planting location: Background

Size: About 13 Inches Tall

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Java Moss

One of my favorite plants for betta aquariums is Java Moss. This plant is very easy to maintain. If you don’t consider yourself a green thumb, java moss is a fine choice for your aquarium. This plant thrives under the same water temperature and water levels that betta fish do. 

If you have struggled with excessive algae growth in your aquarium, java moss is an ideal selection because it can survive in low light. Using low light will limit algae growth. 

Aquascape enthusiasts love java moss because it is so versatile. This plant can grow floating freely in the water without attaching to anything. It also has the ability to attach itself to any surface, creating a natural habitat for Bettas. 

You can attach java moss to aquarium decorations, driftwood, or rocks. It can be trained to grow along the surface of nearly any object. Done correctly, this will create a very visually appealing aquascape.

Java moss can also carpet aquariums, which the low swimming members of community aquariums appreciate. Betta fry also love java moss because it provides them with a cozy hiding place.

Experience Level: Beginner

Ph: 5.5 – 8.0

Temperature: 59 – 82° F

Growth Rate: Slow

Planting location: Foreground

Size: Approximately four inches

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Hornwort

Betta fish also enjoy hornwort planted in their aquariums. Hornwort provides many hiding spots and it can be planted in the substrate or float freely. 

Like all live plants, they also act as a natural filter, absorbing waste and toxins from the tank.

If you plan to breed betta this plant is an excellent choice. All you need to do is allow the hornwort to float in your aquarium or grow to the water surface. Doing so will give the male betta an ideal place to construct its bubble nest. 

Also, due to the structure of the plant, it may encourage mating. This is due to the fact that the hornwort provides great structure for the fry to seek shelter in. 

Hornwort is also an ideal plant for a beginning aquarist as it is not difficult to grow. This plant should be grown in at least a fifteen-gallon aquarium. It is also useful in reducing algae growth and oxygenating the aquarium water. 

It may occasionally shed plant debris. But, these can be used to propagate new hornwort plants if you so choose. 

Experience Level: Beginner

Ph: 6.0-7.5

Temperature: 59 – 86° F

Growth Rate: Fast

Planting location: Background

Size: Large; they can grow as long as ten feet!

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Betta Hammocks

While they are technically artificial plants I do recommend that any betta owner give them a try. Betta hammocks are typically 1 to 3 plastic leaves with a suction cup to attach to the side of the aquarium. They are placed near the water surface. The intent is to provide a place for your betta to rest on.

Many people have a lot of success in getting their bettas to rest on betta hammocks. My bettas normally do not use them to rest on but prefer the live plants instead. Instead, my bettas have used them to secure a bubble nests to. 

They can also be useful for feeding Bettas who do not eat quickly. Simply put the food in the tank over the hammock. If it isn’t eaten right away it will sink and rest on the hammock where it can be easily picked up and eaten later. 

Betta hammocks can also be essential in hospital or quarantine aquariums. If ill fish are too weak to swim, they may rest near the surface on their hammock. This allows them to breathe air when necessary without having to struggle to swim to the surface.

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Artificial Plants

Artificial aquarium plants are usually the first plants beginning aquarists buy. They make setting up your first betta aquarium a breeze. Children are especially drawn to artificial plants due to the many bright colors available. 

However, I generally do not recommend these plants for betta aquariums. They can pose safety hazards to your betta fish. Plastic plants can have rough edges that catch and tear a bettas fins. Additionally, after some time metal wires that provide rigidity to the plant may become exposed. 

They can also become hangouts for biofilm and algae. A dirty plant can make your betta more susceptible to illness. These plants can be cleaned by rinsing or with a toothbrush. But will need to be eventually replaced when they become too dirty. 

If you do decide to go with artificial plants be sure to buy silk plants instead of plastic. Bettas have delicate fins and plastic plants have the potential to tear them. 

Despite the downsides, artificial plants do have their place. If you are beginning with aquariums they are a simple way to get started. Just remember that they are not a total set it and forget it solution. They will need to be cleaned and replaced as needed. 

Considerations to keep in mind when purchasing aquarium plants

When you buy fish to add to a community aquarium it’s always a good idea to inspect them. Do they look healthy? Is the tank clean?

The same considerations should be made when shopping for aquarium plants. A plant living in a dirty aquarium, or with sick fish, has the potential to spread disease to your betta fish. 

Some pet stores sell plants attached to driftwood. Though tempting to buy, it is possible that there are tiny snails inhabiting the driftwood or the plant. Even if you do not see tiny snails on the plants or driftwood, there could be snail eggs. 

Aquarium snail infestation with red betta

Snails can be a beneficial addition to your aquarium clean-up crew. Unfortunately, the snails that usually hitchhike on plants are generally considered a nuisance. They are known to clog filtration systems and become unsightly when they overpopulate. 

To avoid purchasing a plant that has aquatic diseases, or nuisance snails, it is best to buy plants that are grown in tanks without fish in them.

Lighting and plant care considerations for live plants

The aquarium plants listed below are easy to care for in general. Once the plants are planted you should ensure they receive enough light. You may also need to put a little consideration into what substrate you need for your planted aquarium.

Depending upon the variety you may need to prune them if they are large or a fast grower. But, most of the plants I am recommending will not need pruning or trimming. 

Some of the plants have lower light requirements than others. I prefer plants with low light requirements for a couple of reasons. There is a lower chance of an algae bloom developing and they require lower maintenance. 

Aquariums that receive too much light are more likely to have significant algae growth. While some plants can assist in algae control, no plant can completely prevent growth if the tank is constantly subjected to light.

Final Thoughts on The best plants for betta fish

Live plants are the best choice for your betta tank. Aside from just being a soft, safe place for your betta to hide they have other benefits as well.

I recommend any one of these live plants for your betta tank. But if I had to choose just two to start with it would be a Merimo moss ball and an Anubias in a small betta tank.

What are your thoughts? Do you have other plant recommendations for a small betta tank? If so, please comment below!

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