Why add plants to your betta aquarium?

We always want to give the best to our pets. That would not be any different with our bettas. From the tank, filtering, and light system, to the substrate and decorations, there’re a lot of options to choose from. But that doesn’t need to be overwhelming!

red and blue beta fish

In this post, we’ll talk about the best plants to add to your betta fish aquarium, regardless of your tank setup. What about fake plants? We’ll also talk about them. So, don’t worry, there will be at least a plant that works for you.

Why add plants to your betta aquarium?

Plants help maintain the aquarium water quality by using the betta’s released CO2 during respiration, as a carbon source for photosynthesis, giving oxygen as a result. In nature, bettas make use of plants as a hiding spot, to rest, and to build a bubble nest around them. 

Can a betta fish eat plants?

Betta fish are carnivores, which means that they need a high-protein diet in the form of pellets composed of fish protein, insects, bloodworms, brine shrimp, among others. If your betta nibbles the plant’s leaves or the algae on the wall it might be out of curiosity.

How to make sure your plant is betta-safe?

Most aquatic plants are safe to be in your betta tank. Sometimes, house plants are sold with a betta in a bowl or a vase, such as peace lilies, pothos, and water lettuce. These plants contain calcium oxalate crystals that are poisonous when consumed. Also, they might overgrow, hindering the betta from surfacing. When non-aquatic plants die and decompose in the aquarium, they increase the pH, and nitrate levels, poisoning the environment.

 What about ‘Betta bulbs’?

‘Betta Bulbs’ are bulbs that will sprout aquatic plants when submerged. Usually, they sprout Aponogetons, but could also sprout semi-aquatic species.

If you get a betta bulb for your betta tank, there are some things to consider. Planting a seed and watching it grow can be exciting and rewarding, but we aren’t sure what we’re going to get.

We might get an aquatic, a semi-aquatic plant, or no plant at all. If the bulb sprouts an aquatic plant, that will be fantastic, whereas if it sprouts a semi-aquatic specimen, they’ll need extra care. They must grow out of the water to survive, so a small tank will not suffice. Lastly, if the bulb doesn’t sprout at all, it might rot in the tank before you notice. When choosing a betta bulb, plant it in a spare tank before transferring it to your aquarium.

What about bamboos in my betta tank?

Lucky Bamboo is a beautiful plant that goes well with any Betta tank, especially when their needs are met. Despite the name, lucky bamboo isn’t related to bamboo plants! Thus, it’s not toxic to your betta.

Like many other tank plants, it provides natural hiding spots for your betta and helps increase the dissolved oxygen level in your tank, besides using nitrate as a fertilizer. Lucky bamboo is easy to plant, trim, and propagate. So, rest assured you’ll have this plant as long as you wish.

Is it best to have live or fake plants in a tank?

Before you can answer this question, you must ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will my betta be happier among natural plants?
  • Do I have time to tend to plants?
  • Do I want a pretty-looking tank but not the extra work?
  • Can I have any issues when keeping live plants?

We will try to help you reach your answer by giving you some food for thought.

Will my betta be happier among natural plants?

That’s an easy question. Of course, it will! Live plants are beautiful. They come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. Natural plants also have different levels of maintenance and you can choose one that suits your lifestyle. You can pick a slow-growing plant that doesn’t require much trimming or you can choose a plant that will require more care but will also give your tank a unique look.

One of the advantages of having live plants in your aquarium is that they’ll help oxygenate the water via photosynthesis. They will absorb the CO2 in the water and release O2 after the process. Additionally, natural plants can help decrease the levels of nitrate from the water by using it as fertilizer. 

Do I have time to tend to plants?

This is a very personal question. If you don’t have the time to care for an extra addition to your tank, you might choose a fake plant for your tank. But, if you still want a live plant, go for the hardy ones, that grow slowly, and don’t require much light like Anubias barteri, for example. Ask the help of your local pet store or fellow aquarists. They’ll be able to share their own experiences too.

Do I want a pretty-looking tank but not the extra work?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a tank layout that is beautiful and that also doesn’t require any additional care other than your betta. Some fake plants are very realistic-looking and you won’t have to monitor water conditions and light supply, other than the ones for your betta. Plus, there’s no trimming or propagation needed. 

If you choose fake plants over live ones, make sure you don’t get anything very pointy or with sharp edges that might harm your betta. Silk and soft plastic plants are the best ones. And as with any other tank decoration, fake plants also need to be cleaned to remove any algae build-up. Having said that, don’t be put off by natural plants. Some specimens are super easy to care for.

Can I have any issues when keeping live plants?

Yes, you can have issues with natural plants. In the case of live plants, they require a source of overhead tank light (LED or UV) to grow optimally. So, if you don’t have an overhead aquarium light or you are not planning on getting one, then a fake plant might be a good option.

Some people would mention that another thing that puts them off having a live plant is that they need to add CO2 injection and fertilizer. You don’t need to worry about that! There’re various options to choose from that require none of these. This is because they can remove the CO2 and the nutrients (nitrate, ammonia, etc) from the water to meet their growing requirements. 

Natural plants help recreate the betta’s natural environment. Contrary to fake plants, they need tendering and a light supply. However, some pants are super easy to care about.  After pondering these questions, you might figure out what’s best for your aquarium set up at this time.

15 live plants for your betta fish aquarium – a friendly table

We have made a table listing 15 live plants for your betta aquarium. There you can find the plants’ common names, their scientific names, and whether they are aquatic, semi-aquatic, or can be planted either way. You are also going to see the level of maintenance they require, their light supply needs, and their maximum height. Finally, we mention a few facts to help you choose the best aquatic plant for your betta setup.

PlantScientific nameTypeCareLightsupplyHeightCuriosities
Amazon SwordEchinodorus bleheriSemi-aquaticEasy to  moderateHigh± 3 ft(91.4 cm)-Suitable for larger tanks;-Needs CO2 to boost growth;-Has hammock-like leaves.
Marimo Moss BallsAegagropila linnaeiAquaticModerateLow to moderate8 to12”(20-30cm)-They’re algae-Prefer a temperature of 75 F;-Bettas can play or build a nest around it.
PennywortHydrocotyle leucocephalaSemi-aquaticEasyLow8” (20 cm)-Has dime-sized, penny-shaped leaves;-Needs regular trimming or can make it difficult for a betta to surface.
Hygrophila Hygrophila polyspermaSemi-aquaticEasyLow to moderate28” (71cm)-Broad-leafed plant;-Great resting spot for bettas;-Min. 20-gallon tank.
Wendt’s Water TrumpetCryptocoryne wendtiiAquaticModerateLow to high6 to10”(15-25cm)-Has different colors (green, brown, red);-Leaves have different textures and sizes (5’ to18’)
PlantScientific nameTypeCareLightsupplyHeightCuriosities
Java Fern Microsorum pteropusAquaticVery easyLow to moderate14”(35cm)-Very hardy and popular among aquarists;-Anchors itself onto driftwood and grows fast;-Has bright green leaves.
Anubias NanaAnubias Barteri var. NanaSemi-aquaticVery easyLow to high7”(17.5 cm)-One of the best live plants for betta tank;-Needs to be attached to driftwood or rocks to grow;-Present slow growth;-Ideal for small tanks.
Water Sprite Ceratopteris thalictroidesAquaticEasyModerate4 to18”(10-20cm)-It’s a species of aquatic fern;-Makes an excellent hiding spot;-Needs regular trimming.
Java Moss Taxiphyllum barbieriSemi-aquaticVery easyLow to high2 to 4” (5-10cm)-Very hardy aquatic plant;-Can grow attached to driftwood, planted in the substrate, or floating on the water surface.
Hornwort Ceratophyllum demersumAquaticVery easyLow to highUp to 1ft.(30.8 cm)-Leaves similar to a feather bristle;-Tolerant to cool and tropical temperatures;-Over 300 species;-Needs regular trimming.
Glossostigma Glossostigma elatinoidesSemi-aquaticDifficultHigh1-2”(2.54-5.0cm)-Appreciated among advanced aquarists;- Ideal for foreground use;-Demands a lot of light to grow;-Can be planted in a small aquarium.
Water WisteriaHygrophila difformisSemi-aquaticEasyLow to moderateUp to 1 ft.(30.8 cm)-Does well on low-light tanks;- Bright green leaves with an unusual shape;-Can be in a 10-gallon tank if trimmed.
Anacharis or Elodea Elodea densaAquaticVery easyModerate to highUp to 10 ft.(308 cm)Tolerant to cool and tropical temperatures;-Need a lot of light;-Remove water toxins and halt algal growth.
Bucephalandra, BuceBucephalandra sp.AquaticEasyLow to high10”(2.54-5.08 cm)-Fairly new plant among aquarists;-Has 30 different varieties, each with its size, shape, and coloration. -Very slow-growing plant
Anubias Barteri Anubias Barteri (var. barteri)AquaticVery easyLow to high18 – 24”(25-61 cm)-Super hardy;- Very slow-growing- Grows attached to driftwood or rock

Conclusion

Natural plants can enrich your betta’s environment, provide it with places for your betta to explore, hide, rest, and even build its bubble nest next to them. They can also consume the CO2 present in the water as well as the nitrate using them as a carbon source for photosynthesis and fertilizer, respectively.

Fake plants are also an option since they don’t require a lot of maintenance or any lighting requirements. Make sure you choose soft fake plants and remove them for cleaning when necessary. Avoid the hard ones with sharp edges so your betta can’t get hurt. Do you know a great plant that is not on this table? Share it with us by leaving a comment below.

Reference

Hargreaves, V. (2007). The Complete Book of the Freshwater Aquarium: A Comprehensive Reference Guide to More Than 600 Freshwater Fish and Plants. Thunder Bay Press. 304 p.

Hiscock, P. (2005). Aquarium Plants: Comprehensive Coverage, from Growing Them to Perfection to Choosing the Best Varieties. B.E.S. 208 p. 

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