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 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 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:
- micro and macro elements (fertilizers or root tabs containing iron),
- CO2 levels,
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.
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.
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.
- How to Spot Nutrient Deficiencies in Aquatic Plants
- Everything about Nitrates in Planted Tanks
- Phosphates in Freshwater Tanks
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:
|1. Alternanthera reineckii||Moderate||Medium to high||2 – 12 inches (5 – 30 cm)||Red, purple, and pink|
|2. Ammania gracilis||Moderate||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)
|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. 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|
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.