Top 5 Plants for Your Shrimp Tank

Top 5 Plants for Your Shrimp Tank

by Michael

Natural living plants are the best way to decorate your aquarium. Besides the great look, they also play a huge role in boosting shrimp survival rate. However, there are plants that are particularly suitable for an aquarium with shrimp because of their compliance with the requirements for water parameters and lighting.

My top 5 list of the best plants for the shrimp tank consists of:

1. Java moss
2. Anubias

3. Java Fern
4. Bucephalandra
5. Water lettuce

Bonus plant – Rotala rotundifolia (the dwarf rotala)

All of them can be recommended because they are hardy and easy to maintain. Today I will give detailed information why you need to take a look at them if you want to choose a plant for your tank.

1. Java moss

Common Name Java Moss
Family Name Hypnaceae
Difficulty Very easy
Lighting Low to medium
pH 5 – 9
Water hardness Very soft – very hard
Temperature 15 – 32 oC (59 – 90°F)
Substrate Not needed
Growth Rate Slow to Medium
Placement in Tank Foreground / Midground
Height 5 – 10 cm (2 – 4 inches)
Co2 Not needed – Low
Propagation Splitting, cutting off daughter plants

Java moss and shrimpJava moss is the most wide-spread and an absolute favorite amongst shrimp breeders. Its many benefits to your tank lead to healthy shrimp, which means more success when trying to breed shrimp.

  1. These plants are one of the easiest plants to grow.
  2. They do not need any special care. Java moss is very undemanding regarding water parameters and lighting.
  3. It grows relatively fast even without any fertilizer what so ever. Therefore, shrimp breeders have one less problem. The point is that some fertilizers can contain copper which is extremely dangerous for the shrimp.
  4. In addition, it is possible to install java moss wherever you want. It attaches quickly to all surfaces thus, creating amazing aquascapes in the aquariums. In fact, you do not even have to plant it, if you do not want to. Basically, you can simply throw the plant into your aquarium and that is it! Tip: you can attach the plant with all sorts of things like a piece of fishing line, staples, pins or cotton thread until it has gained a hold on the decor.
  5. In shrimp breeding aquariums, java moss (because of its dense structure) is an excellent hiding place for the baby shrimp and molting. You can create a green wall where your shrimp will feel safe. Tip: If you need to remove the moss from your tank, give it a really good shake because the babies can be there. We do like to hide in it.
  6. Another good reason to have Java moss is that it is usually in great demand by pet shops and you can sell some. So, if it starts growing too luxuriant, it can be pruned with scissors and sold to the shops.
  7. Java moss reduces the stress on shrimp by providing more surface area.
  8. Java moss is also well known as a good source of carpet coverage.
  9. The structure of the plan acts like a spider web, it catches all the free-floating particles. Therefore, it creates a natural feeding ground for the shrimp. They will be constantly grazing on moss.

2.   Anubias

Common Name Anubias
Family Name Araceae
Difficulty very easy
Lighting Low
pH 5 – 8
Water hardness Soft – medium – hard
Temperature 22 – 28 oC.
Substrate Not needed
Growth Form Stem
Growth Rate Slow
Placement in Tank Foreground / midground
Height 25 – 45cm (10 – 18 inches)
Co2 Not needed – Low
Propagation Splitting, cutting off daughter plants

Anubias plantAnubias is a plant that is very easy to grow. They are great both for a beginner’s and a pro’s aquarium. Anubias does not demand much attention and can be floated or attached to driftwood, decorations etc. in any tank.  Anubias are very common for growing algae on their leaves and the more algae it has the happier your shrimp are. Especially, if you have Amano shrimp, who are voracious algae eaters. So, what else is good about this plant?

  1. You might be surprised to know that Anubias in the shade can grow better than some plants in the full light. They are great plants, especially for low tech tanks. That is really great because the shrimp do not need a lot of the light at all. Note: Unfortunately, if you want to get more algae, you need to have lights on in the tank.
  2. Anubias has low demands. This plant is extremely adaptable and can tolerate nearly any water quality or environment. It does not require any CO2 supply to be robust. Some aquarists say that you cannot kill this plant unless you really go out of your way to do it.
  3. It is a very slow growing plant with coarse leaves. Because of the thick structure, Anubias is relatively hard to break by accident, while doing the maintenance of the tank.
  4. Provides hiding places for shrimp and baby shrimp.
  5. In addition, the form of the leaves make it an attractive addition to the aquariums and can also be used to catch the eye in aquascaping.
  6. This plant does not depend on the substrate. It can be also attached to rocks or wood.
  7. Anubias is not dangerous to the shrimp. I have to say it because for a long time there was a myth that juice of Anubias (when pruned or cut) would be poisonous to shrimp and other invertebrates. Well, I did my research on this topic. You can read more about “Some Plants Can Kill Shrimp. Myth or Not?

3.    Java Fern

Common Name Java Fern
Family Name Polypodiaceae
Difficulty Easy
Lighting Low to moderate
pH 6 – 8
Water hardness   Soft – medium – hard
Temperature 20 – 28 oC. (68 – 82oF)
Substrate Not needed
Growth Rate Medium
Placement in Tank Midground / Background
Height 15 – 35 cm (6 – 13 inches)
Co2 Not needed – low
Propagation Adventitious Plantlet/Rhizome Division

Java Fern plantThis is another great plant if you are just starting your aquarium. Java Fern is a dream plant for you because:

  1. It is a hardy plant which really does not need any special conditions to help it grow. It does not require high light, good substrate or high nutrients, which is why it is so popular in aquarist hobby.
  2. This is one of the easiest plants to care for. Therefore, if you have ever had problems with growing aquarium plants, give this one a try.
  3. You will not worry that it can overrun your aquarium.
  4. Java Fern grows extremely slowly, or may not even grow at all if you bury them. Thus, you do not want to bury Java Fern, it is better to attach it to any rocks or wood.
  5. Java Fern has quite large and wide leaves, it is a surface for biofilm, microorganisms for your shrimp.

4. Bucephalandra 

Common Name Bucephalandra
Family Name Araceae
Difficulty Easy
Lighting Low to high
pH 5 – 8
Water hardness   soft – medium-hard
Temperature 22 – 28 oC (72 – 84 oF)
Substrate Not needed
Growth Rate Slow
Placement in Tank Foreground / midground
Height 5 – 10 cm (2 – 4 inches)
Co2 Not needed – Low
Propagation Cuttings

Bucephalandra plantBucephalandra is a fairly new species of plant to the aquarium hobby. They are pretty much like Anubius. However, what makes it so unique, is the extremely wide variety of colors it can display, as well as having many different leaf shapes as well.

  1. Bucephalandra is very adaptable and can grow within a wide range of parameters. They are not fussy about parameters but they want them stable. Though, in lower light setups, this plant will generally stay closer to green.
  2. Like many other plants, you can wedged between rocks and decorations, or attach to rocks or 
  3. It can grow really well without any fertilizer.
  4. This plant proves a lot of surface for the biofilm, which will make you shrimp happy.

5. Water lettuce 

Common Name Dwarf Water lettuce 
Family Name Araceae 
Difficulty Easy-medium
Lighting Medium (Fast under the right lighting)
pH 6 – 7
Water hardness    Soft – medium
Temperature 21 – 27 oC (70 to 80 °F )
Substrate Not needed
Growth Rate Fast
Placement in Tank Floating
Height Small to very large

5 – 25 cm ( 2 – 10 inches)

Co2 Not needed – Low
Propagation Pull apart each section of the plant

Water lettuce plantLast but not least in this list are floaters. Water lettuce (to be precise – Pistia Stratiotes) is my favorite floating plant.

  1. Besides being attractive and looking nice in your aquarium, Water Lettuce is absolutely wonderful for sucking up nitrates and ammonia. Frankly saying, you can get floating plants, submerged or rooted plants as well. The main idea here is that they need to feed off of the water column for the most part. Of course, water changes are still required. Do not just add floating plants and expect it to be the only source of nitrate removal in your shrimp tank. However, it helps and Water lettuce is great at this job.
  2. Another great advantage of Water lettuce for the shrimp tank is that its complex root system works excellent with powder shrimp food like Bacter AE. The long roots provide another surface for shrimp to explore and find food. This is especially important for baby shrimps. This is the place you will see a lot of baby shrimp grazing on.
  3. An evergreen, the long dangling roots also serve as a safe haven for adult and baby shrimp.
  4. It provides much-needed shade for shrimp, therefore, making them more active and less shy.
  5. Water lettuce is very easy to care, just keep them on water and they will grow.

The only downside of Water lettuce is that it can completely cover the top of the tank, blocking all the light for any other plants below. It would be a good idea to remove some plants during tank maintenance anyway.

Tip: If you have a hang-on-back filter and a small tank, Water lettuce can be pushed around the tank by the current. The solution to this problem is simple – create a “roped off area” for the plant by using clear air tubing strung across the top of the aquarium.

Bonus plant – Rotala rotundifolia (the dwarf rotala

Common Name Rotála rotundifólia (The dwarf rotala)
Family Name Lythraceae
Difficulty very easy
Lighting Medium to High
pH 5 – 8
Water hardness    soft – medium-hard
Temperature 20 – 28 oC (68-82oF)
Substrate Soil, sand, gravel
Growth Form Stem
Growth Rate medium – Fast
Placement in Tank Midground / Background
Height 5 – 25 cm (2 – 10 inches) 
Co2 Not needed – Low
Propagation Head Cuttings

Rotala rotundifolia plantActually, it is also one of my favorite plants. The only reason why it is not in the Top 5 because it is a rooted plant and requires a special aquarium set up for that.

This beautiful aquarium plant is one of the best choices for almost any aquarium for lots of reasons but mostly because:

  1. It is a very tough plant. It can survive the cycling. The point is that a lot of people prefer ADA Amazonia soil as a substrate in their tanks and as we know, ADA Amazonia leaches a lot of ammonia (from 4 to 8 ppm). Unlike some of the more sensitive plants, which cannot handle that level of ammonia and start “melting”, Rotala rotundifolia is doing absolutely OK. Therefore, you can add them during the beginning of the cycle.
  2. It does not grow too fast and that is why it will not overcrowd the tank.
  3. The beautiful long leaves create a lot of surface, which is a very important factor in shrimp breeding.
  4. Another huge advantage of the Rotala rotundifolia is that its roots prevent anaerobic pockets in the substrate (hydrogen sulfide gas or (H2S). Which is highly toxic in the aquarium.
  5. It grows really nicely in the tanks and looks very cool. Without pruning, the plant will take a bushy appearance which is suitable for shrimp breeding tanks. Rotala rotundifolia seems to be just right for the shrimp tanks.

Conclusion

All in all a mix of these easy-to-grow plants will help a beginner aquarists develop a long lasting ecosystem.

All of these plants will benefit in baby shrimp survival rates. They will provide great refuge for young shrimp and also increases the surface area in which shrimp can graze. In addition, on top of the many benefits, they are extremely easy to keep and propagate without all of the hassles of constant maintenance that comes with high-tech planted tanks. 

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