What Aquarium Plants Don’t Need Soil? (Top Pick & Tips)

Ever found yourself scratching your head, trying to figure out which plants can thrive in your aquarium without the added worry of soil? Trust me, I understand. But did you know that some species can thrive by absorbing water nutrients alone? They don’t need any kind of substrate.

Welcome to this handy guide where we’ll explore these incredible “soilless” plants. They make maintenance super easy and lend an enchanting natural touch to your aquarium. So, are you all set to dive deep and uncover just how straightforward aquatic gardening can really be? Let’s get started!

Aquarium Plants Don't Need Soil

What are Aquarium Plants That Don’t Need Soil?

Some aquatic plants don’t need soil to grow. These are known as substrate-free plants. Java moss, for example, can live without soil or substrate. It is easy to stick them onto rocks, driftwood or other things in the tank.

They also do well when light is not bright.

Java fern and Anubias are two more examples of these kinds of plants. Like Java Moss, they can be stuck onto items in the tank and don’t ask for much light. Plants like these help the fish tank a lot by making oxygen and cleaning water.

List of Aquarium Plants That Don’t Need Soil

1. Java Fern

Java Fern is a water-loving plant from Southeast Asia. It’s part of the Microsorum pteropus family. This plant grows underwater, so it is great for fish tanks. You can tie Java Fern to a rock or piece of driftwood using fishing line or plant weights.

It grows slowly but does well with some liquid fertilizer and a little bit of pruning now and then. Many people just starting out with aquascaping like to use Java Fern because it is easy to take care of and can live in many types of water conditions.

2. Anubias

Anubias is a popular aquarium plant that doesn’t need soil to grow. It is a hardy and resilient plant, making it suitable for beginners. Anubias Nana is a smaller variety of the Anubias Barteri and can thrive in low-light conditions.

One great thing about Anubias plants is that they can easily be attached to hardscape features like driftwood or rocks in the aquarium. This means you don’t have to worry about planting them in substrate or soil.

Anubias has pretty green leaves that make your aquarium look nice. It’s easy to take care of.

3. Bucephalandra

Bucephalandra is a popular aquarium plant that has become increasingly popular in recent years. It stands out because of its unique and interesting textured leaves, which add visual appeal to any tank.

These plants are suitable for most freshwater tropical aquariums and are known for their hardiness. They can thrive in various tank conditions, making them a versatile choice for aquarists.

Bucephalandra is originally from Borneo and typically grows in fast-flowing rivers and streams. They are known as rheophytic plants.

4. Water Lettuce

Water Lettuce is one of the popular aquatic plants that don’t need soil to grow. It’s a fast-growing plant, which makes it great for larger tanks. The best part is that Water Lettuce can freely float in the water without needing any substrate.

This means you can simply let it drift on top of the water, creating a beautiful sight in your aquarium. Another advantage of Water Lettuce is that it requires low maintenance. This makes it suitable for beginners who want an easy-care plant.

Plus, this plant provides shade and cover for fish, helping them feel more comfortable and at home in their tank environment.

5. Duckweed

Duckweed is a floating plant that doesn’t need soil in an aquarium. It creates a nice habitat for fish and helps them feel safe by providing coverage on the water’s surface. Duckweed also has another important job – it absorbs extra nutrients from the water, which helps prevent algae from growing.

Originally used to feed ducks and fish, there are over 40 species of duckweed, with nine commonly found in aquariums.

6. Amazon Frogbit

Amazon Frogbit can be a great addition to your aquarium because it provides food and shelter for freshwater fish and invertebrates.

I personally find it really easy to take care of, and it can thrive in different types of aquarium setups. One amazing thing about Amazon Frogbit is that it helps improve water quality by absorbing excess nutrients and reducing the growth of algae.

It also reproduces easily by producing daughter plants or sending out runners that develop into new plants.

7. Java Moss

Java Moss is a popular and versatile plant for aquariums. It’s known for being a slow grower, which means it requires less maintenance. That makes it great for beginner aquarists who are still learning the ropes.

One of the benefits of Java Moss is its ability to be easily attached to rocks, driftwood, or other surfaces in the aquarium. This makes it convenient and flexible for arranging your tank decor.

Another advantage is that Java Moss doesn’t need CO2 injection or fertilizers to thrive. This makes it a low-maintenance option for any aquatic enthusiast.

8. Hornwort

This plant is a great choice for beginners because it’s low-maintenance and easy to care for.

Hornwort doesn’t need any special lighting or temperature requirements, making it an ideal option for any tank setup.

One of the benefits of having Hornwort in your aquarium is that it improves water quality. It helps to oxygenate the water by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen through its leaves.

This makes the environment healthier for your fish and other aquatic life.

You can keep Hornwort as a floating plant on the surface of the water or anchor it to decorations or substrates within your tank. Its long, feathery stems create a beautiful, natural look and provide hiding places for small fish and fry.

9. Cabomba

Cabomba is a popular aquatic plant that can be kept in aquariums. It has beautiful green or purple-red leaves, which add a vibrant touch to any tank. You can choose to either plant Cabomba in the substrate or let it float freely in the water.

This versatile plant is hardy and adaptable, able to survive in tropical conditions as well as extreme temperatures. The best part is that Cabomba doesn’t necessarily require CO2 injection. So, It’s a great choice for beginner aquarium enthusiasts.

10. Water Wisteria

Water wisteria is a popular aquarium plant that doesn’t need soil to grow. It has beautiful lacy leaves and a bright green color, making it an attractive addition to any fish tank.

Originating from the Indian Subcontinent, water wisteria can be planted directly into the substrate or allowed to float freely in the water. It grows rapidly, providing valuable hiding places and coverage for fish and other aquatic creatures in the aquarium.

This versatile plant adds both beauty and functionality to your underwater landscape.

11. Marimo Moss Balls

Marimo Moss Balls are unique aquarium plants that don’t need soil to grow. They are actually a type of algae, not a traditional plant. Marimo moss balls can thrive in various water conditions, making them adaptable to different types of aquarium setups.

These fascinating balls obtain their nutrients through photosynthesis and water. So, you don’t need to worry about providing fertilizers for them. Marimo moss balls also offer some benefits for your aquarium.

They can help improve water quality by absorbing nitrates and harmful substances. This helps create a healthier environment for your aquatic life.

Benefits and Considerations of Soil-less Aquarium Plants

Easy maintenance

Taking care of aquarium plants that don’t need soil is a breeze. These plants need little care, making them great for beginners or those wanting low-maintenance options.

Unlike plants that require substrate, these non-soil aquatic plants don’t need to be planted in the gravel or sand at the bottom of the tank. Instead, they can be attached to driftwood or rocks, eliminating the need for an additional layer of substrate.

To have healthy aquarium plants, make sure the lighting and temperature are right. Also, change the water regularly and trim the plants when needed.

No need for substrate

Some aquarium plants don’t need soil or gravel to grow. They can thrive without any substrate at all. These plants, such as Java Fern, Anubias, and Water Lettuce, can be attached to driftwood or rocks in your tank.

This means you won’t have to worry about maintaining a substrate layer or dealing with messy cleanup. Plus, these plants offer the added benefit of natural filtration for your aquarium water.

Just make sure to provide them with proper lighting and nutrients so they can flourish in their substrate-free environment.

Can be attached to driftwood or rocks

Attaching aquarium plants to driftwood or rocks is a great way to add natural beauty to your tank. Plants like java fern and anubias can be anchored by tying their rhizomes with fishing line.

Wood, especially driftwood, provides a stable base for these plants in the substrate. You can make your aquatic environment look more natural by attaching them to driftwood or rocks. This creates visually appealing arrangements.

Provide natural filtration

Aquarium plants that don’t need soil provide natural filtration in the tank. They help maintain water quality by removing carbon dioxide, ammonia, nitrates, fish waste, and decaying matter from the habitat.

These plants play a crucial role in creating a balanced ecosystem in the aquarium. By acting as a living filtration system, they contribute to keeping the water clean and healthy for the fish and other aquatic life.

Some plants may require additional nutrients

Certain aquarium plants may need extra nutrients to thrive when grown without soil. Some plants, like Java Fern, can get nutrients from water, while others need extra nutrients.

You can add liquid fertilizers to give plants the nutrients they need to grow. These nutrients include nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sulfur.

To improve plants’ growth and health, ensure they get enough essential elements. Nutrient deficiency in aquarium plants can lead to stunted growth or even death.

Tips for Growing Soil-less Aquarium Plants

Proper lighting and temperature

To grow soil-less aquarium plants successfully, proper lighting and temperature are essential. These plants require a full spectrum of light with a Kelvin rating between 6,500K and 8,000K.

The lighting should have a good spread to cover the entire tank and generate less heat to avoid harming the plants. Consistent lighting conditions are crucial for plant growth. Keeping an eye on the temperature is also important as it can impact the health of these plants.

By providing suitable temperature range and maintaining consistent lighting conditions, you can create an ideal environment for healthy growth of soil-less aquarium plants.

Regular water changes

Regular water changes are essential to maintaining a healthy and thriving aquarium. It is necessary for improving the appearance of the water and keeping it clean. Water changes help remove any build-up of waste, excess nutrients, and toxins that can harm both fish and plants.

To keep your aquatic plants healthy, change the water regularly to maintain good water quality. But be careful not to change the water too often, as it can harm plant growth. Plants need time to adjust to new conditions.

So, finding the right balance is crucial for maintaining a successful aquarium ecosystem.

To perform regular water changes effectively, you should carefully consider the size of your tank and its inhabitants. Typically, smaller tanks require more frequent water changes compared to larger ones.

It’s generally recommended to change around 10-15% of the tank’s water every week or two weeks. This will help in preventing algae blooms while providing fresh nutrients for your plants.

Providing nutrients through liquid fertilizers or root tabs

To ensure the healthy growth of soil-less aquarium plants, it is important to provide them with the necessary nutrients. This can be done by using liquid fertilizers or root tabs. Liquid fertilizers are added directly to the aquarium water and are absorbed by the plants through their leaves.

This method is particularly effective for stem plants in the aquarium. On the other hand, root tabs are small tablets or capsules that dissolve in the substrate and replenish essential nutrients like potassium and iron.

They are recommended for easy and efficient fertilization of live aquarium plants. By providing these nutrient supplements, you can help your soil-less aquatic plants thrive in their environment.

Control population growth of floating plants

To maintain a balanced aquarium ecosystem, it is important to control the population growth of floating plants. While these plants can be beneficial in terms of nutrient absorption and algae control, allowing them to reproduce rapidly can disrupt the overall health and balance of the aquatic environment.

Regular monitoring and removal of excess floating plants will help prevent overcrowding and ensure that other plant species have enough space to thrive.

Prune and maintain plants regularly

Pruning and maintaining aquarium plants regularly is key. It encourages healthy growth and stops overcrowding. Trimming plants helps shape their look and keeps your tank attractive. It also prevents problems from too much growth.

With regular care, your plants stay healthy. And your aquarium provides a good home for fish. So watch your plants closely. Give them the attention they need. Proper pruning and maintenance keep your aquarium and plants looking their best.


In conclusion, there are many aquarium plants that don’t need soil. These plants can float or be attached to other surfaces in the tank. They provide beauty and natural elements without the need for substrate setups.

So if you’re a beginner or just looking for low-maintenance options, these soilless plants are a great choice for your aquarium.

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