12 Best Plants for Goldfish Tanks and Aquariums

Keeping fish is a much-loved hobby across the globe, but it’s not just decisions about the fish you want to keep that face you when deciding to invest in a tank or aquarium.

Once you’ve decided to take the plunge and get yourself a tank, you need to start thinking about which plants you want to buy to help create a natural environment for them to inhabit.

If you keep goldfish, you want to match your plant choices to them because goldfish tend to eat and uproot many plants. And that’s why we’ve put this together guide for you on the best plants for goldfish tanks.

Best Plants for Goldfish Tanks and aquariums written beside a planted tank full of goldfish
© Sergii Figurnyi / Adobe Stock

Live aquarium plants have the wonderful benefit of enriching the water in the tank with oxygen, but it doesn’t all have to be science-based. Your choice of aquatic plants also offers you the perfect chance to personalize your aquarium and create something interesting and unique.

You’ll find below many beautiful and varied looking options just perfect your goldfish aquarium, but first we’ll take a look at what you need to consider before choosing particular varieties.

At a Glance: Our Top Picks for Best Plants for Goldfish

Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.

Should I Choose Live Plants or Synthetic?

This is a highly debated topic, and one that needs much more discussion than a few paragraphs, so we’ll be creating a separate article dedicated to this area. Once it’s finished, we’ll post a link here for easy access, but for now, take a look at our basic ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ list to get you started:

 

Synthetic Plants:

Pros:

  • No hard maintenance required! They take away a whole area that you would need to think about if you had live plants…you don’t need to worry about their health, lighting or nutrients if you chose synthetic.
  • A great variety is available, making it easy for you to find shapes, colors and textures to suit your needs.
  • Having healthy looking plants is guaranteed, meaning your fish will have lots of sturdy places to hide.

Cons:

  • Your fish won’t have a natural environment to live in.
  • Plastic plants have been known to have sharp edges, so you need to be careful what you pick if you don’t want to risk injury if your fish catches a fin on a sharp leaf.
  • Although you don’t need to maintain them to keep them healthy, synthetics still need cleaning on a regular basis to make sure there are no parasites or dirt making a home in them.

Live Plants:

Pros:

  • Goldfish love the experience of swimming around and playing with plants, so an interesting live environment will give them plenty of options for hiding and playing.
  • Your fish have a higher chance of a healthier environment due to water toxins being removed and the oxygen being produced by live foliage.
  • Variety is still really good with live aquatic plants for goldfish – there are plenty of hard wearing and easy to maintain options available that work well in a tank housing goldfish.

Cons:

  • Goldfish thoroughly enjoy eating anything they can find…including the plants in their tank, but this isn’t as bad as it sounds! Create an aquarium with harder wearing varieties that can take a bit of nibbling, and they are much more likely to fair well here. The other key factor is to remember to feed your fish! This may sound obvious, but well fed goldfish will nibble at your plants much less.
  • Substrate is very tempting for goldfish, they love to have a dig around while they search for food, and this can mean they uproot plants. If you plan your selections carefully though, this doesn’t need to be an issue.
  • Make sure you keep the size of live plants in check – you don’t want to let them get too big, and stop your fish from swimming around in the space they need and deserve.
  • Research carefully before adding a new plant to your tank, as some can be toxic.
  • If you don’t remove dead plants and allow the leaves to rot, you risk polluting your goldfish tank over time.
  • A planted tank will require you to learn and consider the lighting and nutrients you provide to them. You can find that info in our planted aquarium lighting guide, and if you;re looking for suitable units, we recommend the best LED aquarium lighting for plants here.

Although the ‘cons’ list for live plants may look scary, it’s very easy to combat the possible issues we’ve mentioned. There are lots of great varieties to choose from that are well suited to goldfish tanks.

A discussion of synthetic plants will be for another article, and we’ll come back and post a link here when it’s done… so from this point, we’re only going to focus on the option of live ones.

Choosing the Best Plants for Goldfish Tanks

A fancy goldfish swimming upright in a planted tankThere’s a huge variety of live aquatic plants that look great in tanks, but to help you pick the right ones for you, we’ve created a list of a few common points that trip people up.

Cold Water Plants – Not Tropical

It may seem obvious, but if you don’t realize some plants don’t like cold water, then you’re in for a very hard time.

The basic starting point for selecting varieties for a goldfish tank is simply to pick ones that love cold water, because goldfish tanks are not heated!

How Much Effort You Want to Put in

It doesn’t matter if you want to spend hours caring for your plants, or buy them and give them very little thought once they’re there…there will be species to suit any and every preference.

Make sure you’re honest with yourself before you go shopping, and think about what level of maintenance you’re willing to commit to before you buy anything. Then you’ll be able to manage a beautiful and interesting aquarium with ease.

 

Select Plants Can Take a Bit of Abuse / Nibbling

As we mentioned in the ‘cons’ list for live plants, goldfish can’t resist the urge to nibble at the leaves around them. This really doesn’t have to be the end of the world though.

Feed your goldfish well, pick strong hardy varieties, and they’ll still look great and last a long time.

Select Plants That Either Float, Can be Anchored, or Root Deeply

Choosing plants that float rather than root is a nice easy way to get around the problem of goldfish uprooting things when they dig around in the substrate. There are lots of floating varieties that love cold water, so this is one great option.

Those that can be anchored or have deep roots in suitable substrate can also do well in goldfish tanks, as they are able to take the disruption of the fish searching around. (Click here to learn about the best substrate for planted tanks.)

The key point to remember is that fragile plants, or those that only root lightly, will not last long!

A List of The Best Live Plants For Goldfish Aquariums

To help you decide which aquatic plants are likely to suit your preference, and survive the nudges and nibbles of your goldfish, we’ve split our recommendations into two different lists: Those that float, and those that take root.

Floating Plants:

Anacharis (Brazillian Waterweed)

1 Imported Anacharis Bunch - 5+ Stems | Egeria Densa - Beginner Tropical Live Aquarium Plant

Many fish owners opt for Anacharis as it’s nice and easy to care for, and is great at removing ammonia which can be harmful for your fish.

Why are they good for goldfish?

While there’s a good chance your goldfish will take a liking to nibbling at Anacharis, they’re quite a hardy aquatic plant that can propagate quickly meaning they stand a fighting chance in a tank.

How much light do they need?

Anacharis are light-loving, which is why it thrives floating at the top of an aquarium. Do keep a look out for any sign that the leaves are withering though, as this means it’s getting too much light to stay healthy.

Where best to place them in the tank?

You can bury it if you want to, but to avoid constant nudges from goldfish, it may be better to go for the option of leaving it to float.

Substrate and rooting requirements:

Anacharis doesn’t root, but if you don’t want to leave it floating, you can weigh it down or tether it to objects in your tank.

Fertilization requirements:

You don’t need to add anything to keep Anacharis healthy, but it won’t harm it if you add fertilizer for the benefit of other plants.

Tips:

Once it dies, it can soon make a mess of your tank, so make sure you remove it quickly.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Duckweed (Lemnaceae)

Overhead shot of a carpet of duckweed

Duckweed holds the title of being one of the smallest flowering plants known to exist, and loves the very calm water you find in tanks and aquariums.

Why are they good for goldfish?

Duckweed is hardy and has a fairly fast propagation rate, meaning it’s able to withstand the interest of peckish mouths and is one of the most used and best plants for goldfish aquariums.

How much light do they need?

The preference is for a fairly high level of light, but this plant will happily do well under a huge spectrum of lighting conditions, so don’t worry too much about this being an issue.

Where best to place them in the tank:

Leave duckweed to float on the top of the water, but do keep an eye that it doesn’t cover it entirely.

Substrate and rooting requirements:

Duckweed doesn’t need to root so there are no requirements here.

Fertilization requirements:

During water changes, adding trace minerals to your aquarium will help this aquatic plant flourish and develop quickly.

Tips:

Letting Duckweed grow over too much of your tank can cause problems with the oxygen levels in the water, so watch it carefully, and remove any that are starting to concern you.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Hornwort (Ceratophylum demersum)

Aquatic Arts Live Hornwort Plant - 2 Extra Large Bunches of Pond Plants Over 10 Stems

Ready availability in most shops makes hornwort a popular choice for many fish owners, and the somewhat different shape of its leaves makes it good for creating variety in your tank.

Why are they good for goldfish?

This is a nice cheap option, meaning there’s no need to pull your hair out if you notice your goldfish taking a shine to it!

It’s also fast-growing, so it does stand a good chance of survival against nibbles.

How much light do they need?

Stick to moderate lighting with this plant…it’ll die fairly quickly if there’s too much or too little light available.

Where best to place them in the tank:

Goldfish enjoy having this floating at the top of the aquarium, but if you would prefer you can bury it in gravel, or tie it to an object.

Substrate and rooting requirements:

Hornwort won’t root, but if you decide to bury it in gravel, it’s best to remove the bottom nettles to stop them dying off and rotting.

Fertilization requirements:

Just a small amount of fertilizer will help keep hornwort happy and healthy.

Tips:

New plants are formed from broken pieces of hornwort, so keep a close eye to ensure it isn’t allowed to over-run your tank if new plants start to grow!

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroids)

Water Sprite aka Indian Water Fern (Ceratopteris thalictroides) - 6 to 8 inch Bunch - Live Aquarium Plant by Aquatic Arts

Water sprite love clam water so tend to do well in tanks and aquariums with slower currents, and you’ll need to keep an eye on the growth rate to make sure it doesn’t fill up your tank!

Why are they good for goldfish?

Their fast growth rate means they can normally take the occasional nibble, and if your fish do take an interest in them, you might even have to trim them slightly less often.

How much light do they need?

Water sprite prefer bright light, but if you let it float on top of the water, getting a good amount of light isn’t normally a problem for them.

Where best to place them in the tank:

If you want to, there is the option of rooting Water Sprite in substrate, but water sprite is quite happy to float at the top of the tank, and this means they take less nudging from the goldfish.

Substrate and rooting requirements:

It’s fine to root water sprite if you don’t want it free-floating. If you choose to root it, make sure you have at least 2-3 inches of gravel to allow the roots space to grow.

Fertilization requirements:

You’ll need to add a good quality fertilizer to your tank to help keep Water Sprite healthy.

Tips:

Be very careful this plant doesn’t grow too quickly and take over your aquarium…given its fast growth rate, many people prefer to keep water sprite in larger tanks to allow it more space to spread.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Rooted and Tethered Plants:

Amazon Sword (Echinodorus bleheri)

Mainam Amazon Sword Plant Echinodorus Bleheri Tall Bunch Live Aquarium Plants Freshwater Planted Tank Decorations

There are several varieties of the Amazon Sword, but they’re all quite large, so this is a plant better suited to larger tanks.

Why are they good for goldfish?

Amazon sword is hardy, has a nice deep root and grows quickly, which means they’re good at withstanding any nibbles on their leaves, or bumps near their roots.

How much light do they need?

Only low to moderate light is needed to keep amazon sword happy.

Where best to place them in the tank:

Size should be a key factor in your decision here – this is a large plant, so you should make sure it won’t cover any smaller varietiess that need light.

Many owners decide to place it in the middle or back of the tank so they still have a good view of the fish once this plant begins to grow.

Substrate and rooting requirements:

3-4 inches of substrate will let amazon sword develop nice long roots, and help keep it steady when your goldfish are searching around the bottom of the aquarium.

Fertilization requirements:

Although it will be fine without any fertilizer to start with, long term you do need to regularly add some to the water to help this plant stay strong and healthy.

Tips:

Nice deep substrate is the trick to keeping the Amazon Sword healthy, so make sure you have this organized before you head out to buy some.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Anubias (Anubias barteri)

A few anubias in a fish tank settingThis is a great option if you’re looking for a bit of color variety in your tank, as the leaves on the Anubias are a darker green than many others (though the image looks otherwise…it’s just the lighting / camera), and so can help create contrasting shades.

Why are they good for goldfish?

It’s fairly uncommon for goldfish to take a liking to anubias as a snack, so they do well longer term.

How much light do they need?

Low lighting is best for anubias, as they aren’t great lovers of direct light. If you have your aquarium in a fairly lit area, think about getting other plants to shade it.

Where best to place them in the tank:

As long as you remember to consider the lighting requirements, this can be down to personal preference.

Substrate and rooting requirements:

This plant can actually be left to float if you chose, but most people prefer to tether it to a decoration or object within the tank like driftwood.

You cannot bury the roots of the Anubias in substrate, as they will rot very quickly.

Fertilization requirements:

Fertilizer isn’t particularly needed for anubias to do well, but it won’t do it any harm if you add some for the benefit of other plants!

Tips:

Keep on top of cleaning your tank, or you may risk anubias disintegrating if it becomes polluted and dirty.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus)

Aquatic Arts Java Fern - Huge 3 by 5 inch Mat with 30 to 50 Leaves - Live Aquarium Plant

Depending on the size of your aquarium, you can choose to plant Java Fern on its own, or in small groups.

They won’t take over your tank as their maximum height is around 8 inches, so you don’t have the worry about over-running like with some other varietiess in this list.

Why are they good for goldfish?

This is a plant that goldfish aren’t normally known for eating, so it’s perfect for your tank. It’s also nice and hardy, and easy to maintain.

How much light do they need?

Low to moderate light is best for Java Fern, with too much light meaning its leaves turn transparent.

Where best to place them in the tank:

Because it loves the darker areas in the tank, Java Ferns often do well next to larger plants, so they can use them as a canopy.

You need to be able to tie it to something in the tank, but if you can manage that, they aren’t picky about where to be placed.

Substrate and rooting requirements:

Don’t bury a Java Fern, as it’ll quickly start to rot if you cover the rhizome.

Instead, you need to attach it to an object like a rock or stone, or another decorative item in your aquarium.

Fertilization requirements:

It doesn’t matter what particular fertilizer you chose to add, but a small amount will help to keep the Java Fern healthy and thriving in a tank.

Tips:

If you’re new at tying plants, make sure you’re careful not to create a hazard for your goldfish by using too much string, or leaving it too loose so the plant floats about the item.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Java Moss (Taxiphyllum Barbieri)

Aquatic Arts Java Moss - Live Aquarium Plant Large 25 Square inch Portion

If you’re going for a natural look in your aquarium, this is a great option for you! It can be placed anywhere, so it’s easy to change the look of different areas in your tank to help add variety.

Why are they good for goldfish?

There’s a chance your goldfish will decide to nibble at Java Moss, but if you keep them well fed, you should be able to keep this growing with no major issues.

How much light do they need?

Keep lighting low to moderate for this easy to care for moss to thrive.

Where best to place them in the tank:

This can be left down to preference, as you can attach this to anything and it will thrive in any area of your tank. It can be left to float, but this is a much less common option.

Substrate and rooting requirements:

Java Moss won’t root so you can place it anywhere you like.

Fertilization requirements:

You won’t need to add anything to your aquarium for this moss to do well.

Tips:

This will grow quicker in the cold water environment of a goldfish tank, so you should see positive results even if your fish do like to nibble at it.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Parrot Feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum)

Parrot Feather Bunch - 5 Stem Plants - Water Garden Live Pond Plant

This inexpensive plant is a great addition to a goldfish tank and offers your fish places to hide and play.

Why are they good for goldfish?

Goldfish do seem to like to nibble on Parrot Feather, but it does grow quickly, so if you keep your fish fed, they’re likely to have a good rate of survival.

Parrot feather is also a fairly cheap, so it’s not a disaster if you need to top up with new ones after a while.

How much light do they need?

Nice bright light is best for parrot feather to do well.

Where best to place them in the tank:

This plant does well in bunches, and can get quite tall (around 12 inches), so people tend to place them to the sides or back of the tank to provide a backdrop while keeping a good level of visibility in the foreground.

Substrate and rooting requirements:

You’ll need to anchor parrot feather in small bunches into the substrate, but remember to get a fairly decent depth, or your goldfish may nudge them away. 2 or 3 inches is usually a good depth to aim for.

Fertilization requirements:

A small amount of fertilizer will help parrot feather to  thrive.

Tips:

If Parrot Feather grows too tall, you can trim the tops to a preferred height, and re-plant the cuttings to create more plants in your tank.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Water Trumpet (Cryptocoryne)

Top view of some water trumpet aquarium plants
By Haplochromis (-) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
There are lots of different species of cryptocoryne available, so no matter the size of tank you have, you should be able to find something to suit your needs.

Why are they good for goldfish?

Similar to the Amazon Sword, water trumpet roots well, so is able to withstand any nudges your goldfish might produce while they’re searching for snacks.

How much light do they need?

Low to moderate light will produce the best results from this plant, but do check for the individual species you buy, as some do prefer more intense lighting levels.

Where best to place them in the tank:

This is down to preference and the particular species you buy…consider the height of the species you prefer before deciding on where to place it.

Substrate and rooting requirements:

You’ll need a nutrient-rich substrate to keep Water Trumpet healthy, and ideally will have 2-3 inches to make sure their roots have room to spread.

Fertilization requirements:

A small amount of fertilizer will help keep water trumpet healthy.

Tips:

You’ll need a bit of patience if you want to grow this plant, as they do need a bit of time to settle in and develop in any new environments.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis)

Hygrophila Difformis Water Wisteria Potted Freshwater Live Aquarium Plant Fish Tank by Greenpro

If you want variety in your tank, this is a nice choice, as wisteria and it’s leaves look very different to most varieties.

Why are they good for goldfish?

Wisteria is a good survivor, and although it prefers to be rooted, it can be left to float if you’re having trouble with your fish nudging it. It grows quickly, meaning it’s more likely to survive any light nibbles.

How much light do they need?

Moderate light is best for this plant, with the ideal level being 2-3 watts per gallon.

Where best to place them in the tank:

Place wisteria to the sides or back of the tank if possible, so they don;t obscure the view of smaller plants or indeed your fish!

Substrate and rooting requirements:

wisteria does respond better if it’s rooted in substrate, although it can be left to float if that is your preference.

Fertilization requirements:

A regular dose of iron-rich fertilizer will help make sure your Wisteria stays healthy.

Tips:

You’ll need to prune wisteria fairly regularly as it does grow quite quickly.

 

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Vallis / Eelgrass (Vallisneria)

1 Vallisneria Italian Bunch - Beginner Tropical Live Aquarium Plant

Lots of fish owners love to have this as a ‘backdrop’ in their tanks and aquariums, and because they grow so quickly, you can create a natural background environment in a short space of time.

Why are they good for goldfish?

Goldfish do normally like to nip at this plant, but with their fast growth rate and production of ‘runners’ as propagation, goldfish will have to try very hard to kill it off.

How much light do they need?

Low to moderate light is all that is needed for eelgrass to do well.

Where best to place them in the tank:

Due to their tall thin leaves, most people choose to plant them along the back of the tank, and allow them to spread across to create a ‘backdrop’.

Substrate and rooting requirements:

Place the roots under the substrate in your tank, but make sure you don’t cover the crown area where the leaves begin to grow.

Fertilization requirements:

Eelgrass isn’t fussy, but good quality fertilizer will always help fast and healthy growth.

Tips:

You can trim the tops of eelgrass with scissors if it becomes too tall for your tank – it doesn’t harm the plant to do this, and you’ll need to do it on a fairly regular basis.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Top Tip: Quarantining Plants

It can be very easy for parasites and disease to spread to your tank from new plants, so it’s a good idea to quarantine any new species you buy in a separate tank before adding them to your main one.

A guideline for quarantining is that 3 weeks should pass in a separate tank before you can consider new foliage safe to add to your aquarium. And don’t forget to gently wash your new plants before you place them into their quarantine tank to get rid of any parasites this can easily remove.

We hope you enjoyed our guide to the best plants for goldfish tanks and aquariums, if you have any questions, comments or feedback on what you’ve learnt or read, please do hit us up in the comments section below.

Happy fish keeping!

 

Image credits: © Amazon.com

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B Hamilton

Hey there! I'm Brian, a lifelong enthusiast and fish keeper with a wealth of knowledge and experience on freshwater aquariums, that I love to share on this site. If you have any questions or need any help, please do ask in the comments section below, I'd love to hear from you and will help where I can.

10 thoughts on “12 Best Plants for Goldfish Tanks and Aquariums”

    • Hi Eric,

      It does indeed. It is a very rapid grower, and any such plant that grows quickly is going to be good at removing nitrates from the water, using them up to fuel growth.

      I wouldn’t recommend trying to rely only plants for this task though, but always recommend filtration.

  1. Hi Brian. Great article. I just found 2 abandoned goldfish in a tiny bowl in a park. I’ve never kept goldfish before. I read they need 30 gallons of water each but I don’t have room. I got a 10 gallon tank and added a filter and gravel. However the nitrates and nitrites are soaring! The pet store gave me Nite Out 2 and Pimafix. Will these help? I want to add plants but what do I do immediately?

    • Hi Coco, sorry for the late reply, I’ve been away from the site for a couple of weeks!

      The best immediate action you can take is to do a large water change, making sure you treat the water with a conditioner to remove chlorine and chloramnines. However, ongoing, you really do need a bigger thank. I don’t know how big your fish are right now, but Goldfish grow large and create A LOT of waste, so keeping good water parameters in a 10 gallon tank is going to be all but impossible.

    • Tiger lotus will be OK. It’s very fast growing, and should be able to outgrow the pace of goldfish eating it. Being a bulb plant though, your goldies may uproot it, so you will want to place rocks large enough for them to be unable to move around the base of the plant to prevent them uprooting it.

      Lilaeopsis needs high light intensity to do well which should be considered, and without it will probably be eaten away to nothing by goldfish, so not sure it would manage to survive.

      African Water Fern I’m not sure about specifically? Most ferns do well in goldfish tanks though, because they are quite tough and fibrous, making most goldfish turn their noses up at it and leaving them alone if their diet is otherwise well catered for.

  2. Hi from Indonesia!
    Your article is so HELPFUL!
    I just got a pair of goldfish as present last week and have been learning how to take care of them.
    I heard that gravels will make it hard to keep the tank clean as goldfish is heavy waste producer, so I wonder what kind of substrate will be best for the plant as well as for the fishes if I’m going to add some greens into the tank.
    Thanks, Brian!

    • Hi Vein,

      Brian’s taken a break from the site for a while so I’ll step in.

      Gravel is perfect for goldfish tanks, as goldfish like to dig and root around in them. Sand is also good for the same reason, though there are pros and cons to each. Please see our article on ‘substrate for goldfish tanks‘ for advice.

      Hope this helps!

  3. Hi there,

    Been having some issues with water cleanliness and oxygenation, so I feel like turning to live plays would help. I have one goldfish in a ten gallon. I’m thinking of the amazon sword, parrot feather, and Vallis. Will one goldfish’s waste/leftover food be enough to help these plants survive? I know you don’t know everything about my tank conditions, but is there one you suggest over the others? Thanks!

    • Hi Melissa,

      The plants you mention are hardy, good beginner level plants and will need little to no fertilizer to survive, all should do well in a goldfish tank. However, you should know that aquarium plant fertilizer is very cheap, lasts a very long time, is very simple to measure and add to a tank, and is so user friendly that it just makes sense to purchase and use some anyway, because there really is nothing to lose for only a tiny investment of time and money.

      For the record, I would recommend upgrading to a larger tank for your goldfish if you can, as they do far better in tanks 30 gallons+ for a single goldie (plus 10 gallons for each additional fish thereafter.)

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