What Houseplants Can Go in a Fish Tank?

little girl looking in fish tank

Oftentimes, beautiful fish tanks are seen in places like shopping malls, aquariums, and restaurants. If you would like to own, or already own a fish tank in your home, you may have many questions regarding which houseplants can be placed inside. 

The following list describes the most popular household plants that are non-harmful and may be placed in a fish tank:

  • Emersed and submersed plants:
    • Bella palm
    • Chamomile
    • Inch plants
    • Lavender
    • Philodendrons
    • Pothos
    • Marigolds
    • Monstera
    • Rosetta plants
    • Spider plants
  • Floating plants:
    • Java fern
    • Java moss
    • Water lilies

Additionally, you may want to know how these household plants coexist with common, aquatic fish. Who doesn’t want their fish and plants to live in harmony? Read on for answers and for more information regarding whether houseplants can really grow in fish tanks.

Can Houseplants Grow in Fish Tanks?

Household plants grow naturally in one’s home environment, but some can also thrive when placed in fish tanks! For example, household plants that require less natural sunlight, like pothos, philodendrons, and spider plants, are easier to maintain and may be placed in darker areas.

However, some plants, like flowering plants, may not grow underwater. Flowering plants are plants that produce seeds, flowers, or fruit. Aquatic flowering plants include water lilies and marigolds, which when placed underwater, sometimes send seeds to bloom on your tank’s surface instead of blooming themselves.

The two main kinds of plants that are generally found in a person’s home and can be used in fish tanks are: submersed and emersed. However, there are three main categories of aquatic plants which are discussed in the following list:

  • Submersed: Submersed aquatic plants have roots that will attach themselves to the bottom of your tank and leaves that are also entirely submerged.
  • Emersed: Emersed aquatic plants, like submersed aquatic plants, have roots that will attach themselves to the bottom of your tank. However, the plant itself will grow above the water.
  • Floating: Houseplants aren’t commonly categorized as floating aquatic plants. This is because floating aquatic plants float entirely atop the water with their roots either attached to the bottom of the tank’s substrate or submerged in the water. Three examples of floating, aquatic houseplants include java ferns, java moss, and water lilies.

Except for those who own ponds, many do not already have plants that float on water. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t many pet stores or stores with plant and garden departments that keep such plants in stock. For more information concerning submersed and emersed plants that can be placed in your fish tank, you may view the following NW Aquahobby YouTube Video.

How Do You Grow Houseplants in Fish Tanks?

To achieve the best results, and before purchasing any new houseplants, fish tanks, or fish, PetSmart.com recommends that you conduct thorough research. To help suit your individual needs, the following table has been compiled to describe the most important factors needed to optimally grow and sustain various common houseplants within fish tanks:

All Common Aquatic Houseplants:

Tank SizeConditions for Artificial Light
10 GallonsOne 15-Watt Tube
20 GallonsOne 30-Watt Tube or Two 15-Watt Tubes
30 GallonsTwo 20-Watt Tubes
40 GallonsTwo 30-Watt Tubes
50 Gallons Two 40-Watt Tubes
85 GallonsThree 40-Watt Tubes
Water Conditions: Change 10% of the Water Each Week

While it might be tempting to simply take household plants and place them in your fish tank, it is also worth mentioning that to safely embellish your aquarium, other precautions must be taken. For example, aquatic plants are unsafe to dispose of in the wilderness because they can introduce diseases to wild animals.

Alternate ways to dispose of aquatic houseplants and fish, according to MinnehahaCreek.org, include: sealing your aquatic plants in plastic bags before throwing them away or contacting your local veterinarian or pet store for proper and humane disposal advice of plants and animals.

Should You Put Houseplants in Fish Tanks?
Aquatic plants and animals in your home can transmit diseases to you, and safety precautions must be observed when handling them. PetSmart.com suggests that you always wash your hands thoroughly before and after placing your hands in your fish tank.

Furthermore, specific water conditions, such as pH balance and temperature, and your substrate (or the material used for the layer at the bottom of your tank) all affect how your houseplants will thrive and grow. In addition, many houseplants can go in fish tanks, and there are no common aquatic plants that will harm fish. However, some fish have been known to eat or even uproot these plants! Common species include:

  • Goldish
  • Mbuna
  • Oscars
  • Silver Dollars
  • The Common Pleco

Because some fish as popular as goldish may consume your entire plant, a common alternative to placing houseplants within your tank, are artificial plants. Because artificial plants come in a variety of styles and colors, require less maintenance, and will not bring in the same pests or parasites that a living plant could, inserting them into your fish tank may be safer than using living plants.

Furthermore, whether your fish tank is filled with salt water or fresh water depends entirely on which fish you own and will thus affect the plants you choose to place within. While the fish listed above all need fresh water to survive (except the Mbuna, which can tolerate, and even sometimes thrives in salt water), houseplants can only be placed in a tank with fresh water.

How Do You Place Houseplants in Fish Tanks?

When choosing which plants you will place in your fish tank, there are several things you must keep in mind. According to PetSmart.com, it is best to take the following precautions while adhering to the subsequent steps:

  • Be considerate of your fish: When placing houseplants in your tank, you must leave enough room for your fish to swim.
  • Layer the bottom of your aquarium: Layer 2 to 3 inches of gravel, or another substrate, that is compatible with your plants and fish.
  • Add aquarium fertilizer: Follow the directions on your product for the best results.
  • Fill the fish tank halfway with water before adding your plants: To the base of your plant’s stems, you must add gravel. For plants with bulbs and tubers, the gravel should instead be embedded right along the growing tip.
  • Add accessories and decorations before filling the rest of your tank: Items like thermometers and miniature furniture may be placed. Then, you can add the rest of your water, your air pump, and fish!

When proper substrates are used, such as sand, soil, or gravel, and when you take good care of your plants by regularly changing the water in your tank to ensure its freshness, your houseplants will typically live for 1 to 5 years. Additionally, most household aquatic fish live from 3 to 5 years, with some living as long as 20 years!


Unlike most domestic pets, fish cannot be held, cuddled, or even touched for long periods. The attraction for many buyers of aquariums is the relaxing and aesthetically pleasing nature of the vibrant colors and calming rhythms of the fish, plants, and accessories within. Yet investing in a fish tank is costly, time-consuming, and takes a great deal of patience.

However, by planting houseplants into an aquatic area, you are helping to enrich the environment by providing humans and animals with increased oxygen and purified air. While artificial plants are beautiful, require less maintenance, and may even cost less, there is no replacement for the contribution that real plants provide to the ecosystem.

By adding houseplants to your fish tank, you are making a positive impact in the comfort of your own home.

Kate Inskeep

Kate Inskeep is a mom of three from Illinois who loves growing things. She fell in love with houseplants after a friend gifted her some succulents. Before long, her windowsills were full of plants, and she was hooked.

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