Can Aquarium Plants Grow Without CO2? (20 Plants and Guide)

Can aquarium plants grow without CO2? If you’re a beginner, you’ve likely wondered this yourself. I’m here to tell you – yes! Many beautiful aquatic plants thrive without any supplemental carbon dioxide.

In this guide, I’ll enlighten you on everything from understanding the role of CO2 in plant growth and various aquatic greenery that flourish without it to maintaining such an environment effectively.

So, let’s get started!

Can You Grow Aquarium Plants Without CO2?

Yes, you can grow aquarium plants without CO2. Some plants do not need extra CO2 to live. They get what they need from the fish and tiny life in the tank water. Plants like Java Fern, Anubias, Amazon Swords, and Duckweed are easy to care for.

They stay healthy with light and nutrients from food waste or fish poop. Even beginners can grow these plants well. These plants help keep your tank clean by soaking up bad stuff from the water that can make your fish sick.

Understanding the Role of CO2 in Aquarium Plants

CO2 works like food for plants in an aquarium. They use it to grow and make energy. This process is called photosynthesis. During this, plants also make oxygen that fish breathe in the water.

CO2 comes from fish when they breathe out or from the air that gets into the water surface. Some plants need much CO2 to grow well, but not all types do.

So, I’ll tell you some plants that can manage low levels of CO2 found naturally in the water tank in the next sections. This makes them ideal for those who want easy-to-keep aquariums without extra costs on CO2 systems.

The Benefits of Having Aquarium Plants Without CO2

Having aquarium plants that don’t need CO2 makes fish tank care easy. You can enjoy a healthy and good-looking tank without extra work. Plants add beauty with their greens, reds, and browns.

They make your fish’s home more like nature.

These plants help in many ways, too! They take the bad stuff out of the water and give off oxygen for the fish to breathe. Low-light aquarium plants also do not need new lights, adding to cost cuts.

Plus, they block algae from growing by using food before it does.

You also save time because you don’t have to put in CO2 daily or clean up after high-maintenance tanks. Your aquarium stays nice without too much work or money spent on it.

Disadvantages of Having Aquarium CO2 Injection

Aquarium CO2 Injection can cause harm. It is tough to get the right amount. Too much CO2 kills fish. Also, this system costs a lot of money. You have to buy the kit and fill it with CO2 often.

This adds up over time.

Also, using Aquarium CO2 Injection takes work and needs care. Your plants and fish may suffer if you set it wrong or forget to check it.

Lastly, if there’s too much change in the amount of CO2 given daily, this could shock your fish and plants.

Comparing CO2 Plants vs. No CO2 Plants in Aquarium

When comparing these two types of plants, various factors come into play. Non-CO2 plants are easier to care for and require less maintenance than CO2 plants.

Here’s a comparison of the two:

CO2 PlantsNo CO2 Plants
Generally more demanding and require additional equipment such as CO2 injectors.Tend to be easier to care for with no need for additional equipment.
Often require specific light conditions and may not thrive without the right setup.Many can survive in low-light conditions, like Java Ferns and Anubias.
Can provide a variety of vibrant colors and shapes, but may need more attention to keep healthy.Cryptocoryne plants are known for their variety of colors and double as natural filters in the aquarium.
Some fish species require high levels of CO2 to thrive. Therefore, pairs well with CO2 plants.They are a good choice for aquariums that house fish that prefer less CO2 in the water.
Require careful maintenance to prevent water toxicity.These plants are ideal for those who prefer lower-maintenance fish tanks while contributing to a healthy ecosystem.

Remember, the choice between CO2 and non-CO2 plants ultimately depends on the type of aquarium setup you envision and the level of care and maintenance you are willing to invest.

List of Aquarium Plants That Don’t Need CO2

Here is a list of aquarium plants that thrive without the need for CO2 injection. Discover which ones will make your aquarium beautiful and low-maintenance. Read more to find out!

1. Java Fern

This is a popular aquarium plant that doesn’t need CO2. It’s a great choice for beginner aquarists because it grows well in low-lighting conditions and can be tied to rocks or wood in the tank.

Java Fern is known for its adaptability, which means it can thrive in various water conditions. One interesting fact is that this plant has leaves that contain chemicals. These chemicals repel animals from eating the leaves. That’s why it can be put in an aquarium with herbivorous fish.

This versatile plant adds beauty and depth to any aquatic landscape without the need for CO2 injection.

2. Anubias

Anubias can thrive in low-lighting conditions and can be attached to rocks or wood in the tank. This plant has dark green, sturdy leaves and is native to Africa and Asia.

It’s adaptable to different water conditions and can grow on various surfaces in your aquarium. This plant is easy to care for and can handle different water conditions, so it’s good for beginners.

3. Vallisneria

Vallisneria is an aquarium plant that can grow in low light conditions and doesn’t need CO2. It is a tough and adaptable plant that can thrive in different types of water. Vallisneria has small rhizomes that anchor it to surfaces. It can grow floating or on the aquarium floor, with or without substrate.

This makes it a versatile choice for any aquarium setup.

4. Moss

Moss, especially Java Moss, is a versatile and low-maintenance aquarium plant. It can grow in different tank conditions and attach itself to various surfaces. This plant provides shelter and hiding places for fish and other aquatic organisms.

Not only that, moss helps improve water quality by absorbing excess nutrients and reducing algae growth. If you want to propagate moss, it’s as easy as breaking off a piece of the plant and attaching it to a new surface.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced aquarist, moss is a great addition to your aquarium.

5. Cryptocoryne

Cryptocoryne are popular among fish keepers because they provide a place for fish to hide and add beauty to the aquarium.

To keep Cryptocoryne plants healthy, fertilize them with root tabs or clay balls. These plants absorb nutrients through their roots. Like other live plants, Cryptocoryne can help reduce algae growth and improve water quality in the aquarium.

These plants are perfect for beginners and people wanting a simple, low-maintenance aquarium.

6. Amazon Swords

Amazon Swords are popular aquarium plants. These tall, lush plants can serve as background plants in your aquarium, creating a beautiful and natural look.

They are perfect for beginners because they are easy to grow and maintain. Amazon Swords can tolerate low-light conditions, making them suitable for various setups. You don’t have to worry about adding CO2 into the water for these plants to flourish.

Amazon Swords have beautiful green leaves that make any aquarium look elegant. They don’t need extra CO2 or high maintenance.

7. Water Weeds (Elodea)

Water Weeds, also known as Elodea, are stem plants that can easily grow in aquariums. They can be planted or left to float freely in the water. Elodea Najas, a type of Water Weed, is particularly suitable for shrimp aquariums or tanks with small fish seeking hiding places.

This fast-growing plant thrives in warm waters and adds a natural look to your tank while providing shelter for aquatic pets. Beginner hobbyists and those who don’t want extra equipment can easily grow it without CO2 injection.

8. Bucephalandra

Bucephalandra is a plant that grows slowly and needs similar care as Anubias plants. Anubias is also a popular choice for aquarium lovers.

Bucephalandra is an excellent aquarium plant for beginners who don’t use CO2 systems. This is because Bucephalandra can thrive without supplemental carbon dioxide.

One unique trait is that the leaves contain chemicals that repel herbivorous fish. So Bucephalandra won’t get eaten by plant-munching fish species. This makes it compatible with tanks with those types of fish.

Bucephalandra is a very hardy and versatile aquarium plant. It can adapt to different water conditions. This resistance makes Bucephalandra thrive in many setups.

9. Dwarf Sagittaria

Dwarf Sagittaria is a great plant for creating a natural, carpet-like look in your aquarium. It grows low and spreads out when given nutrient-rich soil. This substrate provides the nutrients Dwarf Sagittaria needs to thrive.

Though CO2 supplementation can benefit its growth in high-carbonate water, it’s unnecessary. Dwarf Sagittaria grows well without injected CO2. This makes it an excellent option for beginner aquarists or anyone who wants to use something other than CO2.

10. Hornwort

Hornwort is an aquarium plant that can thrive with or without carbon dioxide. It’s a low-maintenance plant that grows quickly and can be planted in the background of an aquarium or allowed to float on the water’s surface.

One interesting fact about Hornwort is that it releases chemicals from its leaves, which repel animals from eating it. Because of this, it can be a good option for shrimp aquariums or for small fish seeking hiding places.

11. Hygrophila Polysperma

Hygrophila Polysperma is a visually striking aquarium plant. Its stems branch out in different directions for an irregular, wild look. This unique growth pattern makes it an interesting accent in planted tanks.

Beginners will appreciate how well Hygrophila Polysperma grows without added CO2. It thrives without supplementation, making it perfect for low-tech setups. This hardy plant adapts to different water conditions, too. So aquarists of all experience levels can succeed with Hygrophila Polysperma.

12. Water Wisteria

Water Wisteria, also known as Hygrophila Difformis. It’s a popular choice for beginners or those looking for low-maintenance plants.

Water Wisteria is a slow-growing plant that can be planted in the substrate or left to float freely in the aquarium. While it doesn’t require CO2, regular fertilization is necessary to support its growth and keep it healthy.

With its vibrant green leaves and graceful appearance, Water Wisteria adds a beautiful touch to any aquarium setup.

13. Ludwigia Repens

Ludwigia Repens is a go-to aquarium plant for its vivid red coloration. It adds beautiful, eye-catching accents to underwater landscapes. Best of all, Ludwigia Repens thrives without CO2 supplementation.

Even without injected carbon dioxide, this plant grows well in moderate lighting. Its adaptability allows it to flourish in various tank setups. So Ludwigia Repens is an excellent option for beginner and experienced aquarists alike.

No matter your aquarium vision, Ludwigia Repens’ versatility and hardiness make it a worthwhile choice.

14. Brazilian Pennywort

Brazilian Pennywort is a great option for aquarium hobbyists who want low-maintenance plants. It doesn’t need special lighting, making it suitable for beginners.

This plant adds a tropical touch to your aquarium and enhances its appearance. Brazilian Pennywort needs good light to grow well. It can grow fast, so you might have to trim it often.

15. Water Lettuce

Water Lettuce is an ideal choice for beginners as it is easy to care for and maintain. This plant can help reduce algae growth in your aquarium, making it easier to keep the water clean and clear.

Water Lettuce can be planted in the substrate or left to float freely on the water. Its large leaves provide shade and cover for fish, creating a natural and visually appealing environment.

Whether you choose to plant it or let it float, Water Lettuce will add beauty and improve the overall health of your aquarium.

16. Water Spangles

Water Spangles, called Salvinia, are small floating plants perfect for small aquariums. These low-maintenance plants thrive without added CO2. This makes Water Spangles a great pick for beginners or anyone wanting an easy, natural look.

By floating at the surface, Water Spangles shade the tank. They also compete with algae for nutrients, helping reduce algae growth. So Water Spangles add beauty while benefiting the tank’s health.

17. Marimo Moss Balls

Marimo Moss Balls are a type of aquarium plant that can be attached to different surfaces in your tank. These unique plants are great for beginners because they are low-maintenance and easy to care for.

Marimo Moss Balls offer many benefits for your aquarium, such as helping to reduce algae growth and improving water quality. They are also resistant and adaptable to various water conditions, making them versatile for any tank.

Additionally, Marimo Moss Balls absorb excess nutrients in the water, which can help reduce the risk of algae growth.

18. Red Tiger Lotus

Red Tiger can thrive in a range of pH levels but prefers slightly higher values.

The plant thrives in temperatures of 72°F to 82°F. It requires regular maintenance, such as trimming, for healthy growth.

With proper care, Red Tiger Lotus can reach lengths up to 12 inches.

19. Moneywort

Moneywort, also known as Bacopa Monnieri. It can grow without CO2, although it may benefit from its addition. Moneywort is a slow-growing plant that can be planted in the substrate or on driftwood.

Moneywort in your aquarium has an advantage – it removes nitrates from the water, reducing water changes. Many aquarists choose Moneywort for its aesthetic appeal and ease of care.

20. Micro Swords

Micro Swords are small, grass-like foreground plants that thrive without CO2 supplementation. Their dense growth resembles lush green grass, adding beauty to aquariums.

These plants prefer water temperatures of 70-82°F and adapt to various pH levels and lighting conditions. Their versatile water parameter tolerance makes them widely compatible.

However, these plants have a slow growth rate. Trimming is necessary to maintain their desired shape and prevent them from taking over the aquarium.

Are there any floating plants that don’t require CO2?

There are floating plants that don’t need CO2. These include:

– Water Lettuce

– Water Spangles

– Duckweed

These plants can provide shade and cover for fish in the aquarium and add visual appeal. Water Lettuce can grow to the size of a hand, making it visually striking. Water Spangles are smaller and more suitable for smaller aquariums.

Duckweed is a fast-growing plant that spreads quickly and serves as a natural food source for fish.

Are there any Low-light aquarium plants with no CO2?

Several low-light aquarium plants can thrive without CO2 supplementation. These plants are great for beginners or those who prefer a low-maintenance setup. Here are some examples:

– Java Fern

– Anubias

– Cryptocoryne plants

– Amazon swords

– Vallisneria

– Water wisteria

– Brazilian pennywort

– Hornwort

– Red Tiger Lotus

– Micro Sword

What Are Some Easy Aquarium Plants No CO2?

Here are some easy aquarium plants that don’t need CO2:

– Java Fern

– Anubias

– Vallisneria

– Moss (such as Christmas Moss and Flame Moss)

– Cryptocoryne

– Amazon Swords

– Water Wisteria

– Brazilian Pennywort

– Hornwort

These plants are low-maintenance and can thrive in aquariums without CO2 supplementation. Regular trimming and cleaning will help promote their healthy growth.

How to do a planted aquarium without CO2?

Setting up a planted aquarium without CO2 is easy and affordable. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you:

  1. Choose the right plants: Select aquatic plants that don’t require CO2 supplementation. For example, Java Fern, Anubias, Vallisneria, Moss, and Cryptocoryne.
  2. Set up the tank: Clean the aquarium and add a substrate layer. Use aquarium soil or gravel designed explicitly for planted tanks.
  3. Add decorations: Place rocks or driftwood in the tank to provide hiding spots for fish and anchor plants like Java Fern and Anubias.
  4. Install lighting: Choose low to medium light fixtures for your planted aquarium. Avoid high-intensity lights that may promote algae growth.
  5. Fill the tank: Slowly fill the aquarium with water at room temperature. Treat tap water with a dechlorinator to remove harmful chemicals.
  6. Plant the aquatic plants: Trim roots and damaged leaves before planting them on the substrate. Space them out according to their growth requirements.
  7. Maintain proper water conditions: Regularly monitor water temperature, pH levels, and ammonia levels using test kits. Keep them within suitable ranges for your chosen plant species.
  8. Provide adequate nutrients: Use root tabs or clay balls as fertilizer for root-feeding plants like Vallisneria and Cryptocoryne.
  9. Consider liquid fertilizers: Add liquid fertilizers made for planted tanks without CO2 injection if necessary.
  10. Control algae growth: Maintain a balance between lighting duration and intensity to prevent excessive algae growth in your tank.
  11. Perform regular maintenance: Prune dead or yellowing leaves from your plants and regularly remove debris from the tank.

How to Maintain Aquarium Plants Health Without CO2

To maintain the health of aquarium plants without CO2, follow these steps:

  • Provide adequate lighting for the plants.
  • Use a nutrient-rich substrate for planting.
  • Ensure proper water parameters, such as temperature and pH.
  • Regularly trim and prune the plants to prevent overgrowth.
  • Monitor and maintain proper water quality through regular water changes.
  • Add liquid fertilizers specifically formulated for aquarium plants.
  • Consider supplementing with root tabs for additional nutrients.
  • Avoid overcrowding the tank with too many plants or fish.
  • Keep an eye out for signs of nutrient deficiencies or plant diseases.
  • Remove any decaying or dead plant matter promptly to prevent algae growth.

Can you grow red aquarium plants without CO2?

Some red aquarium plants can be grown without CO2. Here are a few examples:

– Moneywort: This low-growing red plant has a slow growth rate and can be cultivated without CO2.

– Anubias: This red plant species can thrive in low-light conditions and does not require CO2 supplementation.

– Java Fern: Another red plant that does well without the need for CO2.

These plants can still benefit from adding a liquid iron supplement to the water changes, which helps support their growth.

Additionally, moneywort can be planted on top of driftwood to create a natural design in the aquarium.


Many aquarium plants can thrive without the need for CO2 injection. These plants offer easy and low-maintenance options for aquarium beginners.

So, let’s choose the plant that suits your taste and start creating a vibrant and healthy underwater ecosystem.


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