50+ Underwater Red Plants for Your Tank

50+ Underwater Red Plants for Your Tank

Live plants in an aquarium always add beauty and a natural feel, but what really catches the eye are the contrasts. Adding plants with red leaves helps to create a special and vibrant contrast and color spot in a natural aquarium.

Therefore, red plants are a highly sought-after option for aquarium enthusiasts of all skill levels. However, finding the perfect variety can be a challenging task due to their diverse light and water parameter requirements, as well as the fact that not all red plants are equally vibrant in color.

In this article, I have prepared a thorough list of red plants that can thrive in an aquarium underwater, along with details on their special requirements, and maintenance needs.

Color Variation in Red Plants and Why Are They Red?

The color of underwater plants (red, purple, orange, or green), depends on the presence of pigments in their cells, which give them their characteristic coloration.

For example, chlorophyll is the main pigment that gives plants a green color. It is the main component of the photosynthesis system, and without it, the existence of higher plants is impossible. It also reflects green light, so it appears green to our eyes.

However, there are also many other pigments. For example, carotenoids and anthocyanins play an extremely important role in red plants.

  • Anthocyanins

Anthocyanins are responsible for the red, blue, orange, and violet colors in plants and are present in some varieties of red underwater plants.

The function of anthocyanins in plants is multifaceted. They act as antioxidants, protecting plants from damage caused by UV radiation (strong lighting) and some other environmental stressors.

Generally, these pigments are responsible for the colors of flowers, fruits, and leaves.

  • Carotenoids

Carotenoids are another class of pigments, which are responsible for the red, orange, and yellow colors. Like anthocyanins, these pigments also have several functions in plants.

Carotenoids help to protect plants from excess light and DNA damage, and also participate in photosynthesis.

Basically, carotenoids prevent chlorophyll from oxidizing in bright light. They take excess chemical energy from chlorophyll and convert it. To implement this process, a large amount of carotenoids is necessary, which provides red color to aquarium plant species.

Although these pigments are present in some green plants but are especially more prominently expressed in red underwater plants.

Carotenoids also play a role in plant development and growth. They are involved in regulating the expression of genes that control flower development, and leaf senescence. In some cases, they can also affect plant morphology and structure.

What Affects Red Plants

Red aquatic plants can come in various shades, ranging from pinkish to violet, with some having completely red leaves while others just may have a reddish tint.

The intensity of the red color in the plants often depends on certain conditions in the tank such as:

  • lighting,
  • micro and macro elements (fertilizers or root tabs containing iron),
  • CO2 levels,
  • hardness

Light

The intensity of light directly affects the synthesis of carotenoids and the manifestation of red coloration in plants.

Important: The intensity of light, not the duration, plays a main role!

The effect is better when the aquarium is illuminated with powerful lamps for 6-8 hours a day, rather than weak ones for 10-12 hours.

This is because pigments require a certain amount of energy for activation, and activation depends on the intensity of light.

Therefore, most red plants prefer strong and bright lighting. However, some plant species maintain their red color regardless of these conditions. Unfortunately,  there are not many species like that.

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CO2

The amount of carbon dioxide needed for red aquarium plants depends strictly on the amount of light and thus indirectly affects their coloration as well.

If there is too much light and too little carbon dioxide, the vegetation will begin to starve, and a starving plant cannot have a normal appearance.

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Micro and Macro Elements

Nutrients are components of all energy systems. Without them, energy accumulation and transformation are impossible, and pigments depend on these processes.

Additionally, during growth, vegetation requires building materials – the main ones being nitrogen and phosphorus. The lack of these elements will cause the leaves to turn yellow and growth to slow down or stop. It is necessary to add fertilizers that contain these elements to the water regularly.

Iron (Fe ions) is an integral part of chlorophyll. In addition, Fe is a component of some carotenoids. Therefore, aquarium plants (especially red ones) require constant maintenance of iron concentration at a normal level.

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Water hardness

As a matter of fact, hardness (Mg and Ca) also affects the coloration of aquarium plants.

For example, magnesium is a component of pigments, and without calcium, it cannot be properly assimilated, as these elements are interdependent. As a result, if there is a magnesium deficiency, there will be nothing for the pigments to synthesize from, and thus the red coloration of our plants will be poor in the best-case scenario.

Such problems are often observed in very soft water. Contrary to popular belief, red plants grow way better in hard water with a KH value above 6 and GH value above 12.

Nonetheless, even if you are a beginner, you can still choose a species that is right for you by getting to know the care requirements.

50+ Popular Underwater Red Plants

Here is a comprehensive list of red plants that can grow underwater in a tank:

Name Difficulty Lighting Size Color
1. Alternanthera reineckii Moderate Medium to high 2 – 12 inches (5 – 30 cm) Red, purple, and pink
2. Ammania gracilis Moderate-difficult Medium to high 20 – 30 inches (50 – 75 cm) Greenish-yellow (low lighting) and bright red or pink color (high lighting)
3. Ammannia praetermissa Difficult High 4 – 6 inches (10 – 15 cm) Reddish
4. Ammania senegalensis Moderate Medium to high up to 20 inches (50 cm) Reddish hue (under high lighting)
5. Aponogeton crispus “Red” Easy – Moderate Medium up to 16 inches (40+ cm) Red
6. Aponogeton undulatus “Red” Easy – Moderate Medium to high  up to 20 inches (50 cm) Red
7. Barclaya longifolia ‘Rubra’ Difficult Medium to high up to 20 inches (50 cm) Reddish-brown
8. Bacopa caroliniana Easy  Medium up to 8 – 16 inches (40+ cm) Green to reddish 
9. Bacopa colorata Easy – Moderate Medium to high up to 12 inches (30 cm) Purple
10. Barclaya longifolia “Red” Difficult Medium to high up to 20+ inches (50+ cm) Green to reddish/purple 
11. Blyxa aubertii Difficult Medium to high  4 – 15 inches (10 – 40 cm) green to deep red/purple
12. Blyxa japonica Moderate Medium to high 4 – 6 inches (10 – 15 cm) Green to reddish 
13. Bucephalandra sp. Easy Low to high 2 – 4 inches (5 – 10 cm) Green, blue to dark violet
14. Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Red’ (Flamingo) Easy to Moderate Low to medium 6 – 8 inches (15 – 20 cm) Green to red/purple 
15. Cryptocoryne beckettii ‘Petchii’ Moderate Medium to high  4 – 6 inches (10 – 15 cm)

 

Reddish purple
16. Cryptocoryne undulatus ‘Red’ Easy -Moderate Medium to high  10 – 20 inches (25 – 50 cm) Green to reddish-brown colors
17. Cryptocoryne albida “Red” Moderate Medium to high  up to 10 inches (25 cm) Red
18. Cabomba Furcate Difficult High up to 20 inches (50 cm) Orange, pink to red
19. Cuphea anagalloidea Easy -Moderate Medium to high  8 – 12 inches (20 – 30 cm) Reddish-brown with green stem
20. Didiplis diandra Difficult Medium to high 8 – 12 inches (20 – 30 cm) Reddish-brown (under high light)
21. Echinodorus tenellus ‘Red’ Moderate Medium to high up to 4 inches (10 cm) Purple or reddish
22. Echinodorus Ozelot Easy -Moderate Low to Medium 10 – 20 inches (25 – 50 cm) Green to reddish
23. Echinodorus ‘Hot Pepper’ (‘Red Rubin’ and ‘Red Diamond) Easy to moderate Medium to high 8 – 15 inches (20 – 40 cm) Reddish leaves with green veins
24. Hygrophila lancea Moderate High up to 10 inches (25 cm) Green to reddish/brown
25. Hygrophila polysperma ‘Sunset’ Moderate Medium to high 10 – 20 inches (25 – 50 cm) Orange to reddish
26. Hygrophila polysperma ‘Rosanervig’ Moderate Medium to high 10 – 20 inches (25 – 50 cm) Green to pinkish
27. Hygrophila pinnatifida Moderate Medium to high 4 – 15 inches (10 – 40 cm) Green to reddish-brown
28. Ludwigia repens Easy  Low to Medium Up to 20 inches (50 cm) Green to reddish
29. Ludwigia glandulosa Moderate to difficult Medium to high 10 – 20 inches (25 – 50 cm) Reddish-brown to purple
30. Ludwigia ovalis Moderate High up to 20 inches (50 cm) Red or pinkish leaves
31. Ludwigia palustris Moderate High up to 20 inches (50 cm) Green color on top and a reddish-purple
32. Ludwigia arcuata Moderate -difficult Medium to high up to 20 inches (50 cm) Green to reddish
33. Ludwigia brevipes Moderate Medium to high up to 15 inches (40 cm) Green to reddish
34.Limnophila aromatica Moderate Medium to High 10 – 20 inches (25 – 50 cm) Green leaves with a purple hue 
35. Lobelia cardinalis ‘Small Form’ Easy Medium to high 4 – 8 inches (10 – 20 cm) Green with purple hue
36. Ludwigia inclinata var. verticillata ‘Pantanal’ Difficult High up to 20 inches (50 cm) Pink to red
37. Ludwigia peruensis Moderate Medium to high up to 20 inches (50 cm) Green to reddish
38. Limnophila aromatica Easy to moderate Medium to high up to 20 inches (50 cm) Reddish-brown
39. Murdania sp. Pink’ Easy to moderate Medium up to 6 inches (15 cm) Reddish-purple
(under high light)
40. Myriophyllum mattogrossense Easy to moderate Medium to high 20 – 30 inches (50 – 75 cm) Green to reddish-brown
41. Nesaea crassicaulis Moderate to difficult High 15 – 20 inches (30 – 50 cm) Deep red or burgundy color (under high lighting)
42. Nesaea pedicellata Difficult Medium to high 6 – 10 inches (15 – 25 cm) Reddish to brown tint
43. Nymphaea zenkeri ‘Red Tiger’ Easy Medium to high  5 – 25+ inches (15 – 60+ cm) Red
44. Pogostemon stellatus ‘Octopus’ Easy Medium up to 6 inches (about 15 cm) Green with reddish-purple hue
45. Pogostemon Helferi var Red Moderate -Difficult Medium to high 3 – 6 inches (7 – 15 cm) Green with a red/purple tint.
46. Mermaid weed (Proserpinaca palustris) Moderate -Difficult Medium to high up to 15 inches (40 cm) Reddish-brown (under high light)
47. Rotala rotundifolia Easy to Moderate Medium to high 2 – 12 inches (5 – 30 cm) Green to reddish
48. Rotala macrandra Difficult High 8 – 12 inches (20 – 30 cm) Pinkish-red to a deep crimson
49. Rotala Wallichii Difficult High up to 20 inches (50 cm) Pinkish-red
50. Rotala indica Easy to Moderate Medium 3 – 6 inches (7 – 15 cm) Green to reddish-pink
51. Staurogyne repens ‘Rubin’ Easy to Moderate Medium to High up to 4 inches (10 cm) Green to reddish 

In Conclusion

As we can see, there are a lot of red plants that can grow underwater, each with its own specific needs for maintenance.

This is why doing your own research before making a purchase is essential. It will allow you to create a healthy and thriving underwater world with these beautiful plants.

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