7 Fast-Growing Plants in the Tank

7 Fast Growing Live Plants in the Tank

The importance of fast-growing plants in the aquarium cannot be overstated. They introduce a whole new aesthetics and depth to any kind of aquascape.

However, there are other benefits derived from the presence of fast-growing live plants in the aquarium, these include: removal of excess nitrates, competition with nuisance algae, provision of a breeding place for egg scatterers, shade and hiding place for small fish & inverts, and foraging ground for fry & shrimp.

It is common knowledge that diverse species of live aquarium plants have varying growth rates which is mainly determined by the plant’s nature, followed by variables such as water temperature, acidity or alkalinity (pH) of the water, CO2, substrate type, lighting intensity, proper planting, and fertilization.

In this regard, fast-growing live plants are aquatic plants that have been duly observed to exhibit immense growth rates within short periods usually after cultivation or pruning.

I have compiled a detailed list of several fast-growing live plants that will reward you with ample vegetation in record time, this consists of the following aquarium plant species.

My Top 7 Fast-Growing Live Plants in the Tank include the following:

  1. Duckweed
  2. Hornwort
  3. Anacharis
  4. Dwarf Sagittaria
  5. Red tiger lotus
  6. Water wisteria
  7. Cabomba

1. Duckweed

Duckweed rootsDuckweed (Lemnoideae) is a very small free-floating aquatic plant known for its floating nature and very fast growth. This fast-growing plant is capable of tolerating a wide range of water parameters and the hardy trait makes it an ideal candidate for different kinds of tank setups.

Different species of Duckweed are present in North America, Southeast Asia, Europe, and South America, and it grows in mostly freshwater ponds and slow-moving streams in the wild.

The plant lacks obvious stems or leaves due to its miniature form, it features vibrant green fronds (less than 0.5 inch (1.5 cm) long) that create dense canopies on top of the water.

Basic requirements:

Duckweed grows very fast within a short period and it can thrive:

  • Water pH: 6.5 – 7.5
  • Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water (2 – 15 GH).
  • Temperature: 60 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit (15 – 30C).
  • Lighting: Moderate – high lighting.

Duckweed prefers still or slow water currents as opposed to fast-moving currents.

To cultivate Duckweed in an aquarium, just spread the small fronds on the water surface and wedge it with rectangular equipment to avoid creating a mess. The plant reproduces by cloning or asexual budding/division, forming new fronds within days after planting.

Duckweed
PROS CONS
Thrives in a wide variety of tank setups. It covers a large surface of the tank, if unchecked it can lead to oxygen depletion.
Requires very low maintenance. Blocks sunlight penetration.
Provides shelter/cover for fry and shrimp. The plant can be difficult to collect and dispose of after pruning.
Grows very fast.  
Great choice for amateurs.  
Helps in controlling toxins.  

Read more about it in the article Duckweed Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation”.

Duckweed – check out the price on Amazon

2. Hornwort

Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) is a fast-growing aquarium plant species native to North America. The plant inhabits slow-moving water in ponds, ditches, marshes, streams, and lakes.

It has a unique horn-like or needle-like appearance.

This species is characterized by a green to yellowish coloration, needle-like filamentous leaves borne on tall, slender stems. Notably, the plant lacks true roots, thus having to utilize its base leaves with root-like structure and the rhizoids to provide anchorage.

Hornwort is blessed with a fast growth pattern and very tall form—capable of attaining massive heights between 1-3 meters (40 – 120 inches) in no time. Under optimal conditions, this plant can easily add 1 – 2 cm (0.4 – 0.8 inches) every day, so endeavor to keep the growth in control through frequent trimming to halt it from overrunning your tank.

Additionally, Hornwort is hardy and tolerant towards a wide range of water parameters, hence why it is a good plant for beginners in the hobby.

Basic requirements:

Optimal growth conditions for Hornwort include:

  • Water pH: A slightly acidic to neutral pH (typically in the range of 6.0 – 8.0
  • Hardness: Soft to hard water ( 3 – 17 GH).
  • Temperature: This plant can thrive under the temperature of 64 – 86 °F (18 – 30 F) with around 75 to 79 (24 – 27C) being optimal.
  • Lighting: Medium lighting conditions.

The plant absorbs a great deal of nutrients from the tank water, so do well to dose Nitrogen and Iron-based plant fertilizers every week to replenish the depleted nutrients.

Hornwort can be either floated on the water surface or rooted in the substrate, but it’s best to float it since it might rot when placed into the soil.

Hornwort reproduces by forming side shoots, you can also propagate it by cutting and replanting the mature stems.

Just like Duckweed, Hornwort is ideal for beginners, however, it needs constant care (pruning) to prevent it from overtaking the whole tank or blocking light from reaching live plants at the bottom.

Hornwort
PROS CONS
 A very beautiful plant. Brittle leaves. Needles break off very easily.
Fast growth rate. Can be a super hardy plant or die almost immediately.
Easy to care for and maintain.  
It has heavy metal absorption properties!  
This plant is amazing at reducing nitrates.  
It will also help to clear the cloudy water in the tank!  
Provides a lot of cover for small fish and shrimp.  
Provides a lot of surface area for shrimp and fish to feed on.  

For more information, read the article “Hornwort Care Guide – Planting, Growing and Propagation”.

Hornwort – check out the price on Amazon

3. Anacharis

Anacharis (Egeria densa) Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and PropagationThird on the list is Anacharis or Egeria densa which is a popular aquarium plant prized for its attractive growth, allelopathic properties, versatility, and adaptability to varying water conditions.

This plant is a fast-grower, and it can be recognized by the lush green foliage and very tall stems—capable of growing up to 3 m (9 ft). Anacharis bears finely serrated, narrowly lanceolate, sessile leaves which are arranged in whorls of 4-6; these leaves are often 1-3 cm (0.4 – 1 inch) long and 2.5 mm wide with a pointed leaf tip.

Basic requirements:

It’s easy for Anacharis to attain rapid growths in proper water conditions, the plant prefers:

  • Water pH: 6.0 – 8.0
  • Hardness: Soft to hard water (2 – 20 GH)
  • Temperature: between the range of 20 – 24 °C (68 – 75 °F)
  • Lighting: Moderate to high lighting.

This species is suited for floating or background planting in freshwater aquaria. It will grow either floated or planted in the substrate (gravel/sand spread on top of a thick layer of aqua soil). Planting Anacharis is simple, just bury individual stems about 1-2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm) deep into the substrate, and growth will kick off quickly.

In addition, you can propagate the plant by making cuttings from mature plants, this should be at least 4 inches (10 cm) long. Essentially, the addition of liquid fertilizers and CO2 will help the plant maintain its vigorous growth habit. Also make sure to trim the shoots regularly to prevent overgrowth/overcrowding at the surface.

Anacharis
PROS CONS
Excellent decorative addition for jungle aquascape. Can block nutrients and light for lower-dwelling plants in the tank.
Extremely effective against algae. Cannot be used in small tanks
Easy to care for and maintain. Susceptible to algae growth.
Provides a lot of surface area for shrimp and fish to feed on. Sensitive to Seachem Excel.
Provides a lot of cover for small fish and shrimp.  
Grows very fast.  
Easy to cultivate.  

For more information, read the article “Anacharis Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation”.

4. Dwarf Sagittaria

Dwarf Sagittaria (Sagittaria Subulata)Dwarf Sagittaria has been an aquarium hobby since forever. This is probably one of the most common species of plants, most fish stores have some sort of variation in this plant.

A fast-growing, easy to grow and undemanding plant— Dwarf Sagittaria is a perennial grass-like aquatic species used for decorating the mid-ground and background of tanks.

Dwarf Sagittaria or Sagittaria subulata is one of the fast-growing live plants in the hobby, it has a small structure and bright green leaves which are narrowly linear, arrow-shaped to ovate/oval in form.

Unlike mentioned above plants, this one requires a nutrient-rich substrate for the best growth. It forms a strong root system on the substrate despite its small size.

It is a root feeder, hence it will appreciate nutrient-rich substrates such as ADA Amazonia soil and Caribsea Eco-Complete, whereas gravel or sand substrates should be fertilized with root tabs to provide essential nutrients for the plant.

Basic requirements:

  • Water pH: 6.0 – 8.0.
  • Hardness: Soft to hard water 2 – 15 GH.
  • Temperature: 20 – 28 °C (68 – 82 °F)
  • Lighting: Low to Moderate lighting.

Furthermore, CO2 injection will help the plant to grow quicker and healthier, without CO2, the growth will be slower. Fertilization is a necessity too, especially fertilizers rich in Nitrogen and Iron since the plant is sensitive to low levels of iron which often results in discoloration or yellowing of the green leaves.

Dwarf Sagittaria should be planted into the substrate, about 1 inch or 2-3 cm deep, make sure not to bury the root crown too deep into the substrate to prevent rot. While at it, space out the plantlets (2 – 3 inches apart) to enable them to grow optimally and form a wonderful carpet in no time.

Dwarf Sagittaria propagates by letting off runners which spread like a carpet on the tank floor; these runners can be pinched off and replanted in the substrate.

Dwarf Sagittaria (Sagittaria subulata)
PROS CONS
The plant is hardy and durable. Requires regular trimming.
Ability to tolerate cooler temperatures. Might be hard to transplant from emersed form to submersed form.
Anchors well in the substrate.  
It can thrive in low light.  
Growth rate is fast under optimal conditions.  

For more information, read the article “Dwarf Sagittaria Care Guide – Planting, Growing and Propagation”.

5. Red Tiger Lotus

Red Tiger Lotus (Nymphaea zenkeri)Red tiger lotus is a beautiful and unique aquatic plant of the Nymphaeaceae family. Nymphaea zenkeri or Red tiger lotus is native to Southeast Asia and West tropical regions of Africa.

It has attractive and charming arrow-shaped or heart-shaped red leaves/lily pads that develop striped variegation under intense lighting conditions.

Red Tiger lotus is quick to grow and can take most of the space of your aquarium. Therefore, you need to trim it and keep it under good surveillance to control its rapid growth.

Nymphaea zenkeri is a fast-growing plant; capable of attaining enormous heights up to 25 inches (60 cm) within the first few months.

Basic requirements:

The plant can thrive in a variety of tank setups.

  • Water pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water (2 – 15 GH).
  • Temperature: 72-80 degrees Fahrenheit (22-26C).
  • Lighting: Medium to high lighting.

A nutrient-rich substrate is considered ideal by many enthusiasts since it is capable of supporting the plant’s abundant root system and nutrient needs.

Dose the plant with liquid fertilizers (preferably root tabs) and little amounts of CO2 to maintain a fast-growth habit and healthy look.

The proper way of planting Red tiger lotus is by placing the bulbs halfway info the substrate, not too deep to prevent rot, and the roots should be well-contained before it spreads all over the bottom of your tank. On the other hand, you can propagate by detaching the bulbs from mature plants for replanting.

If you need an exquisite, fast-growing plant to complement the greens in your tank, the Red tiger lotus is perfect for the job.

Red Tiger lotus
PROS CONS
Beautiful and decorative. Need deep and nutrient-rich substrate.
Easy to care for and maintain. A huge root system makes it hard to relocate.
Hardy. Does not like to be moved.
Fast growth rate. Ugly aerial roots.
Root system prevents gas pockets.  
Provides a lot of surface area for shrimp and fish to feed on.  
Provides a lot of cover for small fish and shrimp.  

For more information read the article “Red Tiger Lotus Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation”.

Red Tiger Lotus – check out the price on Amazon

6. Water Wisteria

Water Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis)Water wisteria (Hygrophila difformis) is a popular aquarium plant species native to Southern Asia, prized for its fast-growing nature, beautiful structure, ease of care, and versatility.

Hygrophila difformis is characterized by bright green, lace-like leaves with serrated margins (1 – 4 cm/ 0.5 – 1.5 inches long), height between 7 – 20 inches (20 – 50 cm), and width 5 – 10 inches (15 – 20 cm); this shows how tall and dense this plant can get.

Water wisteria is a versatile plant; it can be grown submerged or floating above the water surface. If you are aiming for the fastest growth, let it float on the water surface, preferably close to the light source to encourage rapid growth 

Basic requirements:

Water wisteria grows fast and healthy in tanks with:

  • Water pH: 6.0-8.0
  • Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water.
  • Temperature: 20 – 27 C (68 – 82 F).
  • Lighting: Moderate lighting condition.

Propagation is by stem cuttings.

These cuttings will form their own roots in a couple of days and develop further into new independent plants. Water wisteria is a good choice for aquarists in need of a fairly easy and bushy fast-growing plant species for their freshwater tanks.

Water Wisteria
PROS CONS
Easy to maintain. Blocks sunlight penetration when floated.
Affordable. Temperature affects leaf structure and color.
Easy to propagate.  
Great choice for beginners.  
Provides cover for fish and shrimps.  

Read more about this plant in the article “Water Wisteria Care Guide – Planting, Growing and Propagation”.

Water wisteria – check out the price on Amazon

7. Cabomba

Cabomba Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and PropagationCabomba is a genus of aquatic plants from the water-shield family Cabombaceae. This genus contains the popular green-leaved and red-leaved species (C. caroliniana, C. aquatica, and C. furcata) which are loved in the aquarium hobby for their aesthetical features, hardy nature, and fast-growing capabilities (with the exception of Cabomba furcata).

Cabomba plant has delicate needle-like leaves that grow on thin brittle stems, similar to the popular floating species Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum).

The color of the leaves is either pale/lime green or reddish-purple in color. The stems can grow up to 8 – 20 inches (20 – 50 cm) in the aquarium, adding up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) per day under favorable growth conditions. They will continue to grow rapidly towards the surface if not timely pruned.

Basic requirements:

  • Water pH: A slightly acidic to neutral pH (typically in the range of 6.0 – 7.5
  • Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water (3 – 8 GH).
  • Temperature: This plant is best grown under the temperature range of 20 – 28 °C (68 – 82 °F).
  • Lighting: Medium-high lighting conditions.

The plant can grow in any kind of substrate be it gravel, sand, or aqua soil. In addition, it will appreciate CO2 injection (not mandatory) and regular fertilizer addition in the tank water to provide abundant nutrients needed for healthy, fast growth and best coloration.

You can grow Cabomba in the aquarium by placing healthy stems about an inch deep (2.5 cm) into the substrate. Make sure to hold down the stems using lead weights, or place them inside ceramic rings before planting in the substrate to guarantee a firm hold.

Cabomba can equally be floated on the water. In this case, it will get constant access to CO2 which will boost its growth rate immensely. The stems tend to form adventitious roots after a while to absorb nutrients from the water column.

In terms of propagation, simply make cuttings (about 4 – 5 inches) from the mature stems and replant them in the substrate.

Cabomba
PROS CONS
Nice looking plant (except aerial roots). Fragile structure. Needles break off very easily.
Fast growth rate. Does not tolerate well the change of environment.
Easy to care for and maintain. Does not like to be moved.
Good at sucking up nitrates and ammonia. Ugly aerial roots.
Provides a lot of surface area for shrimp and fish to feed on.  
Provides a lot of cover for small fish and shrimp.  

For more information, read the article “Cabomba Care Guide – Planting, Growing and Propagation”.

Some Other Interesting Options:

If you have not found the right plant for you, don’t worry! Of course, there are other fast-growing plants in the hobby, for example:

In Conclusion

Having slow-growers like Cryptocoryne parva, Marsilea hirsuta, Buce plant (Bucephalandra), Staurogyne repens, Brazilian micro sword, Anubias, Marimo moss balls, etc. in planted tanks would be extremely frustrating to aquarists that fancy fast growth patterns.

All seven aquarium plants highlighted in the list tend to display rapid growth rates under ideal tank conditions, and they require minimal care to thrive, so make a pick or two from the pack and go planting!

With regular fertilizer application, intense lighting, and proper water parameters— your chosen fast-growing live plant will remain healthy, put out new shoots, and grow rapidly as desired.

Related articles:

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

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