What are the best plants for goldfish?

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Goldfish are aquarium classics for good reason. These pretty little tank critters are bright, colorful, and interesting to watch as they inquisitively explore the aquarium.

Yet they can be a complete nightmare for many plants in your aquarium. If you’ve ever kept goldfish, I’m sure you know what I mean!

With that in mind, in this article, we’ll take a look at the best plants for goldfish (to avoid them eating the whole aquarium). I’ve also detailed some of the things you’ll want to consider when choosing goldfish-friendly plants and weighed in on the ever-raging real-versus-artificial debate.

In this article, I’ll cover the following best plants for goldfish:

How to Choose the Best Plants for Your Goldfish

When choosing plants for any aquatic environment, you need to think about that environment’s specific needs and current ecosystem. Additionally, tanks containing goldfish have some extra special requirements due to the species’ very nibbly nature. 

Let’s take a look at what you need to know when pairing plants with your goldies.

Goldfish Are Destructive

Firstly, goldfish are destructive and you need to bear this in mind when choosing plants. It’s better to choose plants that remain deeply rooted or those that float on the surface. This way, your fish won’t easily pull the plants out of the substrate as they go about their daily plant attacks!

In some cases, it’s also a good idea to pair artificial plants with your live flora. However, artificial plants are a lot less interesting to your goldfishes taste buds than live options. 

More info on the live-versus-artificial aquarium plant debate later on in the article. 

Hiding Places

Secondly, goldfish like a snug, hidden place to feel comfortable and sleep. Choosing plants with wide leaves or adding ornaments your fish can squirrel themselves away in is a great idea. Hiding places help goldfish stay calm and feel safe in their environment.

As an added bonus, when fish of any species feel safe and secure, they are more likely to produce offspring. If you’re looking to breed fish, keep this in mind.

Further down the page, I’ll cover a variety of plants including those with large flowing leaves and others with long stems goldfish love to play in. 

Nutritional Benefits

Lastly, all fish have nutritional requirements and all require healthy water in an aquarium. Luckily, many live plants absorb the undesirable components produced by fish and produce beneficial elements, such as oxygen. 

When keeping such prolific poopers as goldfish, plants that naturally clean the tank are key to minimizing the amount of effort you need to put in.

You can help different plants work together in symbiosis by choosing aquarium plants with different requirements. For example, large surface plants that love to soak up the sun can help provide shade for plants that prefer to keep cool.

Artificial Plants Versus Live Plants

The long-standing artificial or live plant debate holds some interest to me. Personally, I feel there are distinct benefits to both options and I have aquariums with live and artificial plants.

Here are a few things to think about when forming your own opinion:

Unlike Artificial Plants, Live Plants Provide Nutrients  

When creating a healthy aquatic environment for your goldfish, or any species for that matter, you’ll want to choose plants with a variety of benefits.

While artificial plants can be beautiful and are super easy to maintain, they do not provide your tank and fish with the nutrients or health benefits of live plants. On the other hand, depending upon the plants you choose you may need to add supplemental aquarium fertilizer.

Living plants play a key role in the health of your aquarium by absorbing the carbon dioxide and ammonia produced by fish. In return, they produce oxygen. In many ways, plants are crucial to a full aquarium ecosystem

Artificial Plants Don’t Have Needs

It’s clear that unlike artificial plants, living plants have needs (primarily water, light, and nutrients). These needs can be particularly time-consuming for fast-growing plants that need regular pruning or trimming.

If you’re after an aquarium that will pretty much take care of itself, then artificial plants are probably the best choice for you. Just bear in mind that your fishy friends won’t be able to use plastic plants for food.

Live plants also require particular conditions to live, which you must think about. For example, specific pH levels and water temperatures (all of which we’ll cover for the plants below).

Artificial Plants Are More Rigid and Sturdy

Unfortunately with any tank species, particularly inquisitive and hungry goldfish, your living plants may be destroyed. 

Fish try to eat any live plants, damaging them and possibly removing them. This can result in plants being uprooted, decaying, or falling out of place. Not ideal after the time you’ve spent choosing and arranging them inside the tank!

Artificial plants are generally sturdy and harder for fish to destroy or remove from the ground.

What Are the Best Plants for Goldfish?

Now that you have some key live-versus-artificial plant points in your head, it’s time to check out some of the best aquarium plants for goldfish 

I’ve covered quite a few here, from live to artificial plants. Plus, check out an interesting tunnel design at the end of the article.

Java Fern

We know that all fish benefit from additional nutrients in their aquarium. In this case, a Java fern may be exactly what you are looking for. These vibrant green plants are often sold attached to natural driftwood. The function of this is to provide additional cellulose, lignin, and tannins.

These compounds may sound familiar to experienced goldfish owners, but for new fish keepers, the trio combined helps aid digestion in your aquarium species. 

Microsorum pteropus is traditionally found in Thailand and Malaysia and is named after the island of Java. However, these plants have been cultivated in other regions due to their popularity as aquarium plants. 

Java ferns are low-maintenance plants that thrive in a variety of aquarium environments. They are perfectly adaptable to bright lights and dim lights, as well as sediment and no sediment.

The larger leaves, compared to other popular aquarium plants, may help your goldfish feel at ease by providing hiding and resting places.

  • Care level: Easy
  • Growth rate: Slow to moderate
  • pH: 6–7.5
  • Water temperature: 68–82 Fahrenheit
  • Maximum size: 13.5 inches

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Anubias

One beautiful quality of the Anubias is its ability to flower underwater. This is brilliant for aquariums full of green leaves and plant growth, which may become a little dull for both your eyes and your tank’s inhabitants.

Although the Anubias is not a fast-growing aquarium plant for goldfish, it is a very long living one. Therefore, you can create an underwater habitat that grows steadily for years. As goldfish can live for five to ten years or even more, these plants and your fish could become best friends.

To grow these plants well, there are a few basics to follow including soft substrate and water that is a little warmer. Ideally, it should also be slightly acidic.

Thanks to their tolerant natures, Anubias can survive in a beginner’s aquarium—perfect for those of you just learning the basics. As an additional bonus, your Anubias will stick with you until you become an aquarium master!

Anubiases are not eaten by herbivorous species, however, your omnivorous goldfish may take a liking to it. Remember that it’s not ideal to pick a lot of aquarium plants that goldfish eat as your aquarium will end up looking very bare.

  • Care level: Easy
  • Growth rate: Slow
  • pH: 6–7.5
  • Water temperature: 78–82 Fahrenheit
  • Maximum size: 7.5 inches

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Water Sprite

Unsurprisingly, the water sprite did not acquire its name from anything related to the drink. Perhaps we call it this because of it’s magical, fairy-like qualities. This pretty bright green plant is happy floating or planted mid-ground.

Ceratopteris thalictroides is an excellent choice for aquarium newbies who are looking for fast-growing plants to quickly fill their waters. Though the plant has a swift growth rate, you can easily control it: if the plant is given more light, it will grow faster. Conversely, less light will make it grow slowly.

When first introducing water sprite to an established aquarium, it’s important to keep up with its nutrient needs as it can be quite demanding. To keep your aquatic environment healthy and stable, you might add some nutrient pellets.

Water sprite has a maximum size of approximately one foot, making it ideal for aquariums of this size. However, if you would like a fully submerged plant then a larger aquarium is best. Likewise, water sprite survives well out of the water, meaning it can provide beautiful surface coverage for smaller aquariums with open lids.

  • Care level: Easy
  • Growth rate: Moderate to fast
  • pH: 6–7.5
  • Water temperature: 68–82 Fahrenheit
  • Maximum size: 13 inches

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Duckweed

Duckweed’s small, magical-looking oval leaves will float on the top of your aquarium, providing the perfect amount of shade for your goldfish. Lemna minor is a purely floating plant, with multiple leaves attached to one small stem, which hangs in the water. 

Goldfish eat anything in their way and love exploring the aquarium. This makes floating plants better options, as they’ll be out (mostly) of the way of your goldfish. However, don’t put it past your fish to nibble the roots.

If you need a plant that will quickly provide shade for your goldfish, duckweed is an excellent choice as it divides (its method of reproduction) fairly quickly, meaning you won’t have a long time to wait for growth.

An added plus is that any species in your aquarium can benefit from a little shade, including your other living plants and duckweed provides this.

A key reason why many aquarium enthusiasts love duckweed as one of the best plants for goldfish is its detoxification abilities. The plant actively helps keep your fish healthy and happy.

  • Care level: Easy
  • Growth rate: Fast
  • pH: 6–8
  • Water temperature: 42–91 Fahrenheit
  • Maximum size: N/A floating plant. Leaf lengths around 8 mm 

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Banana Plant

Nymphoides aquatica, aka the banana plant, acquired this funny name thanks to the banana-like shape of its roots. This plant is known worldwide for its large floating heart-shaped leaves, much like what you’d expect frogs to be sitting on in a lily pond.

The banana plant can grow well when left to float and will thrive within one to two weeks. However, they can also be rooted if you’re looking for plants to fill up the base of your goldfish tank. The plant will also produce beautiful small white flowers.

A pretty plant is great, but what about the benefits it confers? Nymphoides aquatica is a long-lasting plant so you won’t need to buy new plants every few weeks to keep your aquarium alive. Furthermore, banana plants store a variety of nutrients in their roots and stems. These nutrients are then diffused into the aquarium’s water.

The banana plant is fairly easy to maintain and will grow very well when kept in the right conditions.

  • Care level: Easy
  • Growth rate: Moderate
  • pH: 6–7.5
  • Water temperature: 70–82 Fahrenheit
  • Maximum size: 6 inches

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biOrb Easy Plant Sets

You may already have many living plants in your aquarium, but if you’re introducing goldfish (or maybe you already have some) it’s a good idea to stock up on artificial plants.

Goldfish can decimate a tank’s plant inhabitants, so sturdy and resilient artificial plants can help maintain the environment. Plus, they’re hard to damage and will preserve your hard work!

Although they don’t provide nutrients, biOrb plant sets are vibrantly colored and brighten up the aquatic environment. The “plants” feature red leaves crafted from soft silk—ideal on your goldfishes delicate scales, ensuring they can swim around the plants without hurting themselves.

The small bulbs at the base of these plants allow you to easily plant them in your substrate, keeping them upright and secure. 

A large pro to these silky artificial plants is that they’re compatible in any tank. You can create the ideal environment for your goldfish without worrying about the survival of your plants in sub-optimal conditions. 

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Exotic Environments Rock Tunnels with Silk Style Plants

Lastly, and sticking with the best artificial plants for goldfish, is this rock tunnel decorated with plant leaves.

Rock tunnel ornaments will take your decorated aquarium one step further in both aesthetics and functionality. The tunnel itself provides a calming and out-of-sight hiding place for your goldfish. If they are producing offspring, this may be an ideal place for laying eggs.

The gentle leaves on top will flow in the water, creating a moving display that your species can swim in and out of without damaging their scales or fins.

The ornament itself is safe for freshwater, saltwater, and terrain aquatic environments. You won’t have to worry about it decaying or damaging an already thriving habitat. If your aquarium looks a little dull, adding ornaments in interesting shapes can brighten up the display.

Lastly, these artificial leaves and tunnels are great for aquarists seeking aquatic plants with little to no maintenance besides the occasional clean.

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My Picks

To finish things off, I have to say the two options I am going to buy for my aquariums are the banana plant and the rock tunnel. Here are my reasons why.

I’ll admit, I love the banana plant’s look and the funny shaped roots, and it truly is one of the best plants for goldfish. It’s easy to maintain and grows pretty fast given the right light requirements. 

Plus the easy care factor is exactly what many of us are looking for, myself included. I don’t have all the time in the world to be pruning and monitoring my plants constantly.

Although I am what you might call an enthusiast for all things living inside my aquarium, I’m not a purist and I can’t deny the benefits of some artificial sculptures. 

The rock tunnel is excellent for the goldfish as it can’t be destroyed easily, and requires absolutely no maintenance. Plus, it looks great and stands out amongst the green!

Hopefully, now you’ll feel far more confident when deciding which of the best plants for goldfish to add to your tank. Best of luck with both the plants and your fish! 

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