10 Slow-Growing Plants in the Tank

10 Slow Growing Live Plants in the Tank

When it comes to aquariums, there’s something truly captivating about the plants. However, as time goes on, many aquarium enthusiasts encounter a common challenge—the frequent need to trim and prune their plants. As a result, some of them start to consider slow-growing plant options.

There are several well-known slow-growing plants, such as Anubias, mosses, and certain Cryptocoryne species. However, there are also those that tend to be overlooked for some reason, even though they can outpace anyone in terms of slow growth speed.

In this article, I will look into the world of slow-growing plants, where patience and serenity intertwine. I will briefly describe the unique characteristics, care requirements, and aesthetic appeal of each plant.

Important: Indeed, many plants will grow slowly without the addition of CO2 injection or fertilizers. It is simply a matter of selecting the right candidates that will thrive rather than languish.

With these slow-growing plants, you will find yourself with minimal reliance on aquarium chemicals, and you will not have to spend money on CO2 systems.

My List of 10 Slow-Growing Plants in the Tank

  1. Marimo Moss Ball
  2. Subwassertang
  3. Anubias nana Petite
  4. Bucephalandra
  5. Cryptocoryne parva
  6. Cryptocoryne Wendtii
  7. Java moss
  8. Java fern
  9. Marsilea hirsuta
  10. Bolbitis Heteroclita

1. Marimo Moss Ball (Aegagropila Linnaei)

Marimo moss ball (Aegagropila Linnaei)While Marimo Moss Balls may not fit the traditional definition of plants, these intriguing spherical formations of filamentous green algae (Aegagropila Linnaei) are so unique and beautiful that they will definitely catch attention in any tank.

In fact, I would rank them among the top contenders for low-light planted tanks as well! One of the most appealing aspects of the Marimo Moss Ball is its remarkably slow growth rate.

Another great thing about Marimo Moss Balls lies in their effortless care requirements. You can simply drop them into your tank, no attachment is needed.

Marimo Moss Balls features include:

  • Slow growth rate of 0.2 inches (5 mm) per year
  • Lifespan of over 100 years
  • No filtration needed
  • Thrive without an air supply
  • Suitable for low to medium lighting
  • Perfect for aquascaping
  • Sensitive to chemicals, handle with care
  • Do not require the substrate.

Marimo Moss Balls Optimal Requirements:

The adaptability of Marimo Moss Ball is truly remarkable. It can thrive in both freshwater and brackish water environments, showcasing its undemanding nature and versatility.

  • Water pH: 7.0 – 8.0.
  • Hardness: Soft to hard water.
  • Temperature: 43 – 75°F (5 – 24°C)
  • Lighting: Low to Moderate lighting.

Propagation: by splitting. Gently squeeze out the water from the Moss Ball and carefully divide it in half. Then, reshape each portion into a new ball. That’s all there is to it!

Care level: Easy.

Marimo Moss Balls
PROS CONS
Has a unique form. Very beautiful and decorative. Cannot tolerate warm temperatures.
Hardy.  
Easy to care for and maintain.  
Does not require substrate.  
Lives for dozens of years.  
Great for nano tanks.  

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2. Subwassertang 

Subwassertang Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and PropagationSubwassertang (Lomariopsis sp.) is an aquatic plant with a unique and captivating appearance. Its visual characteristics make it easily recognizable and highly sought after by aquarium enthusiasts.

These amazing plants lack stems, leaves, and roots – they only have branching, deer antler-like, flat green thalli. The plant’s overall structure is irregular and lacks a distinct pattern, adding to its natural and untamed beauty.

Note: These are ancient plants that have remained from the times when mosses and ferns were the predominant photosynthetic plants on Earth.

This slow growth contributes to its intricate and dense structure over time, creating a lush and captivating presence within the aquarium.

Subwassertang features include:

  • Slow growth rate
  • All plants are clones of each other
  • Suitable for low to medium lighting
  • Sensitive to chemicals, handle with care
  • Do not require the substrate.

Subwassertang Optimal Requirements:

This is a very hardy plant and can be grown even in brackish water. So, there should not be any problem with that.

  • Water pH: 6.0 – 8.0.
  • Hardness: Subwassertang can tolerate a wide range of water hardness but it still prefers soft water.
  • Temperature: 68 – 75°F (20 – 24°C)
  • Lighting: Low to moderate lighting.

Propagation: by splitting.

Care level: Easy.

Subwassertang
PROS CONS
Hardy plant. Sensitive to Seachem Excel.
Can be used in nano tanks. Susceptible to algae growth.
Can tolerate a wide range of water conditions.  
Provides a lot of surface area for shrimp and fish to feed on.  
Provides a lot of cover for small fish and shrimp.  
Easy to propagate.  

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3. Anubias barteri var. Nana / Petite

Anubias nanoAnubias barteri var. Nana (or Petite), is an extremely popular aquatic plant that adds a touch of elegance to any aquarium. It is a compact version of the Anubias barteri species, known for its manageable size and lush green leaves.

This slow-growing plant features thick, leathery leaves that are dark green in color, with a glossy sheen. The plant has a sturdy rhizome, which serves as an anchor and allows it to be easily attached to rocks, driftwood, or substrate within the aquarium.

Anubias Nana is adaptable to various lighting conditions. Its hardy nature makes it perfect for beginners, as it can withstand changes in water parameters.

Anubias features include:

  • These plants have a hardy leaf structure.
  • They grow pretty slowly.
  • Anubias are undemanding tank plants and can thrive successfully even without fertilization.
  • Suitable for low to medium lighting
  • Do not require the substrate.

Anubias Optimal Requirements:

These plants are also very adaptable and can grow within a wide range of parameters.

  • Water pH: 6.0 – 8.0.
  • Hardness: Soft to hard water.
  • Temperature: 72 – 82°F (22 – 28°C)
  • Lighting: Low to Moderate lighting.

Propagation: by cutting the rhizome of the mother plant.

Care level: Easy.

Anubias
PROS CONS
Very beautiful plant. Prone to algae.
Has many varieties.  
Easy to care for and maintain.  
Hardy.  
Some species are great for nano tanks.  
Does not require substrate.  
Provides a lot of surface area for shrimp and fish to feed on.  
Provides a lot of cover for small fish and shrimp.  
Easy to propagate.  

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4. Bucephalandra

Bucephalandra plantBucephalandra species have thick, leathery leaves that come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, including shades of green, red, and even metallic blue. Its resilience, vibrant colors, and adaptability make it a popular choice among aquascapers and plant enthusiasts alike.

Due to their slow growth rate, Bucephalandra plants are well-suited for aquariums where low maintenance is desired.

One of the unique aspects of Bucephalandra is its ability to attach itself to various surfaces. This feature allows for versatile placement options, giving aquarists the freedom to create visually appealing layouts.

Bucephalandra features include:

  • Beautiful dark green or violet leaves.
  • In lower light setups, this plant will generally stay closer to green.
  • Bucephalandra grows slowly under low lighting.
  • These plants do not require, however, they will surely benefit from nutrient supply.
  • These plants do not need the substrate.

Bucephalandra Optimal Requirements:

  • Water pH: 6.0 – 8.0.
  • Hardness: Soft to hard water.
  • Temperature: 72 – 82°F (22 – 28°C)
  • Lighting: Low to High lighting.

Propagation: by rhizome.

Care level: Easy.

Bucephalandra
PROS CONS
Very nice-looking plant. Medium growth under medium light
Can change color depending on the light intensity.  
Easy to care for and maintain.  
Hardy.  
Does not require substrate.  
Provides a lot of surface area for shrimp and fish to feed on.  
Provides a lot of cover for small fish and shrimp.  
Easy to propagate.  

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5. Cryptocoryne parva

Cryptocoryne ParvaCryptocoryne parva is another great choice for aquarium enthusiasts looking for a slow-growing plant that adds a touch of greenery to their tank. This compact plant belongs to the Cryptocoryne genus and is native to Sri Lanka.

Cryptocoryne parva is characterized by its small size, with narrow, lanceolate leaves that grow in dense rosettes. The leaves can range in color from light green to a slightly reddish hue, adding visual interest to the aquarium.

One of the advantages of Cryptocoryne parva is its ability to thrive in low-tech setups, without the need for additional CO2 injection or high-intensity lighting.

Cryptocoryne Parva features include:

  • Cryptocoryne parva is very easy to maintain.
  • It grows so slowly that there is no need to trim it.
  • Enriched substrate (for example ADA Amazonia aqua soil (read more), etc) is preferable.
  • In spite of its tiny size, Cryptocoryne parva has a huge root system. So, once planted, it will be hard to move without making a mess around.
  • Cryptocoryne parva does not like shadows and needs more light than most other Cryptocorynes. Without light, it can lose its leaf plate under water. Therefore, it must never be overshadowed by taller

Cryptocoryne Parva Optimal Requirements:

  • Water pH: 5.5 – 7.5.
  • Hardness: Soft to hard water.
  • Temperature: 68 – 82°F (20 – 28°C)
  • Lighting: Medium.

Propagation: by runners or lateral shoots

Care: Easy to Medium

Cryptocoryne Parva
PROS CONS
Compact size Huge root system (hard to relocate)
Easy to care for and maintain. Can melt (when first introduced to a new tank)
Hardy.  
Great for nano tanks.  
Easy to propagate.  
Root system prevents gas pockets.  

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6. Cryptocoryne Wendtii

Cryptocoryne wendtii comes in various color variations, including green, brown, bronze, and purplish. This diversity allows aquarists to create visually appealing and vibrant aquascapes.

This plant is also known for its slow growth (it rarely grows faster than 1 inch (2.5 cm) in a couple of weeks), making it an excellent choice for aquarists who prefer low-maintenance plants that won’t overrun the tank quickly.

Cryptocoryne features include:

  • Under low light, they will stand up and have a more vertical structure.
  • Depending on the variant of the plant, it can grow from 4 inches (10 cm) up to 8+ inches (20 cm) in height.
  • Need nutrient-rich substrate. 
  • Can also grow above the water.
  • Cryptocoryne wendtii is a flowering plant.

Cryptocoryne Wendtii Optimal Requirements:

  • Water pH: 6.5 – 8.0.
  • Hardness: Soft to hard water.
  • Temperature: 68 – 80°F (18 – 27°C)
  • Lighting: Low to Moderate

Propagation: by splitting, or cutting off daughter plants.

Care level: Easy.

Cryptocoryne Wendtii
PROS CONS
Easy to care for and maintain. Require substrates for its growth.
Can survive in a wide range of temperature conditions. Melt in a new environment.
However, they do not die! Do not throw them away. Just give them time.
Root system prevents gas pockets. A huge root system makes it hard to relocate.
Looks great.  

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7. Java moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri) 

Java moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri)Java Moss is a popular and versatile aquatic plant known for its slow growth rate.

Its delicate, branching structure creates a lush and natural appearance in aquariums. This plant can be easily attached to rocks, driftwood, or other surfaces, making it a favorite choice for aquascaping projects

Note: Don’t worry if it looks like a clump at first – it will soon spread out and become a beautiful, fluffy bush that adds a lot of visual appeals.

Java Moss is highly adaptable and can thrive in a wide range of water conditions, including low light and fluctuating temperatures.

Java Moss features include:

  • This is a low-growing plant. Can usually grow up to 2 – 4 inches (5 – 10 cm) in height.
  • No need for fertilizers but they will increase the growth.
  • Does not require any substrate for planting. It can be attached to any driftwood, stone, or decoration.
  • Can grow in water temperatures as low as 59 °F (15 °C).
  • Can form a carpet, wall, ball or even tree in the tank.

Java Moss Optimal Requirements:

  • Water pH: 6.0 – 8.0.
  • Hardness: Soft to hard water.
  • Temperature: 70 – 75°F (21 – 24°C)
  • Lighting: Low to Moderate.

Propagation: by splitting or cutting off daughter plants.

Care level: Easy.

Java Moss
PROS CONS
Very easy to care for and maintain. It is not the best-looking moss.
Very hardy.  
An excellent breeding place for shrimp and fish.  
Excellent as a foraging and hiding place.  
Its structure catches all free-floating debris.  
Does not require substrates for its growth.  
Great for nano tanks.  
It is cheap.  

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8. Java fern (Microsorum Pteropus)

Java Fern Windelov (Microsorum pteropus )Java Fern is known for its slow growth rate and unique appearance. With its distinctive leaf shape and dark green color, this plant adds a touch of elegance to any aquarium.

Java Fern is a hardy plant and can easily tolerate a wide range of water conditions, including low light levels.

Overall, it makes this plant a popular choice among aquarium enthusiasts. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced hobbyist, Java Fern is a low-maintenance plant that requires minimal trimming.

Java Fern features include:

  • The plant can have different leaf forms and structures which makes it even more unique.
  • Leaves can change coloration depending on the intensity of lighting. The lower the lighting, the brighter the green coloration.
  • Grows very bushy.
  • Slow grower.
  • Does not need the substrate.
  • Can be attached or left floating.

Java Fern Optimal Requirements:

  • Water pH: 6.0 – 8.0.
  • Hardness: Soft to hard water.
  • Temperature: 68 – 82°F (20 – 28°C)
  • Lighting: Low to Moderate.

Propagation: by rhizome and through the production of plantlets.

Care level: Easy.

Java Fern
PROS CONS
Very beautiful and decorative.
Can be used in aquascaping.
Can block nutrient and sunlight absorption for lower-dwelling plants in the tank.
Easy to care for and maintain.  
Dense shade cover for shy fish and shrimp.  
Can survive in a wide range of temperature conditions.  

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9. Marsilea hirsuta

Marsilea Hirsuta Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation logoMarsilea hirsute has small, clover-shaped leaves that resemble the leaves of a terrestrial four-leaf clover. Each leaf consists of four lobes, giving it a charming and decorative look.

Since Marsilea hirsuta does not grow fast, your first trim might be only after 2 months of planting. 

This plant is adaptable to both low and high-light environments, although it tends to grow more compact under lower light levels. Under low lighting but it will cause the plant to grow slower and a little bit taller as if it is trying to reach for more light.

Marsilea hirsute features include:

  • This is a low-growing plant. Can usually grow up to 2 – 4 inches (5 – 10 cm) in height.
  • No need for fertilizers or CO2 but they will increase the growth.
  • Need nutrient-rich substrate. 
  • Can grow in water temperatures as low as 59 °F (15 °C).
  • Can form a carpet in the tank.

Marsilea Hirsuta Optimal Requirements:

  • pH: 0 – 7.0
  • Water Hardness: Soft to hard water
  • Temperature tolerance: 64 – 77°F (18 – 25°C)
  • Lighting: Moderate

Propagation: by splitting

Care level: Easy to medium

Marsilea hirsute
PROS CONS
Easy to care for and maintain. Require substrates for its growth.
An excellent breeding place for shrimp and fish. Grows slightly vertical under low light
Excellent as a foraging and hiding place.  
Great for nano tanks.  

Related article

10. Bolbitis Heteroclita

10 Slow Growing Live Plants in the Tank - bolbitis heudelotiiIn nature, Bolbitis heteroclita thrives in moist environments, making it preferable to cultivate in paludarium setups. When submerged, this plant grows very slowly, with a new leaf appearing every 2-3 months.

Bolbitis heteroclite is also a small plant. Generally, it grows up to 4 inches (10 cm). So, it will be a great choice for nano aquariums.

It is best to attach the plants to driftwood or other decorations. Moderate to low lighting is sufficient for their growth.

Bolbitis heteroclita features include:

  • This is a low-growing plant.
  • There are several varieties of Bolbitis heteroclita, each with its own distinct appearance.
  • No need for fertilizers or CO2 but they will increase the growth.
  • No need for the substrate. 

Bolbitis heteroclita Optimal Requirements:

  • pH: 0 – 7.0
  • Water Hardness: Soft to moderate water
  • Temperature tolerance: 72 – 80 °F (22 – 27 °C)
  • Lighting: Low to Moderate

Propagation: by splitting

Care level: Medium

Bolbitis heteroclite

PROS CONS
Beautiful plant Slightly sensitive plant
An excellent breeding place for shrimp and fish.  
Excellent as a foraging and hiding place.  
Its structure catches all free-floating debris.  
Does not require substrates for its growth.  
Great for nano tanks.  

Related article:

A Few More Options of Slow-Growing Plants:

  1. Staurogyne Repens
  2. Brazilian micro sword
  3. Eriocaulon Cinereum
  4. African water fern (Bolbitis Heudelotii)

In Conclusion

While fast-growing plants excel in nutrient uptake, one of the key advantages of slow-growing plants is their minimal maintenance requirement, as they do not need frequent trimming.

Aquarists can benefit from this by enjoying their planted tank without having to constantly prune their plants. This will save them valuable time, energy, and a great deal of stress.

With their ability to maintain a consistently slow growth rate, these plants will provide a beautiful and low-maintenance option.

Related articles:

  1. Submerged Aquarium Plants as Nitrate Suppressors
  2. Top 7 Nano Aquarium Plants
  3. Top 10 Low Light Aquarium Plants. Pros and Cons
  4. How to Remove Algae with Plants
  5. Top 7 Floating Plants for Beginners
  6. Top 5 Plants for Your Shrimp Tank
  7. Advanced Guide to Planted Tank Lighting.
  8. Top Coldwater Aquarium Plants

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