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Starting low-tech, cold water fish tank is quite easy, but stocking them can be tricky given that most freshwater species (both fish and plants) prefer tropical water temperatures.
As a result, a common question asked, more so by new hobbyists, is “can aquarium plants grow in cold water.”
The short version of it is YES, there are some species of plants like Leptochilus pteropus (Java fern) and Elodea densa (Anacharis) that are happy in cold water.
Even so, note that “cold water plants” usually refers to aquarium plants that can survive in colder temperature, but not necessarily needing the water to be cold. Also, different plants will take lower temperatures than others.
Most plant species that grow in aquariums are native to tropical climates, which means they lean towards a minimum water temperature of about 70°F. However, there are a few plants that are happy in chilly conditions, hence are perfect for cold water tanks with fish like goldfish.
Keep reading for more insight on cold water aquarium plants. I’ve made a list of the best species and the best temperature for each.
But first, let me answer this more pressing question for better insight later on.
What is The Best Temperature for Aquarium Plants?
As I have mentioned in the quote above, most plants species that grow in aquariums are native to tropical climates, and thus prefer a water temperature that matches these conditions.
On average, the biggest share of aquarium plants will do best in a water column with the temperature anywhere from 70°F and 80°F. Still, few prefer cooler water, while others will survive in pretty high temperatures.
I also recommend you consider your aquarium plants and fish together in respect to your tank temperature, as opposed to two separate entities. For instance, if you plan on keeping fishes like discus, and ram cichlids, that like the water temperature to be 80+, then the plants you buy should also like it on the warm side.
Keep your cold water plants with fish like goldfish, minnows, weather loach, and danios because they don’t have a problem living in chilly conditions.
Most planted aquariums are in the middle ground of tropical water temperature, somewhere in the range of 73°F to 78°F, and most plants popular to the hobby do well in these conditions; Same as most fish you are most likely to keep in your freshwater aquarium.
7 Aquarium Plants That Can Grow in Cold Water
Several aquatic plants can survive in cold water, but not all will thrive, while some do better than others. Below are seven species that are most likely to thrive under these conditions.
#1 — Anacharis (Elodea densa)
Elodea densa, more commonly referred to as anacharis, is a pretty attractive aquarium plant.
The plant is native to South America and is characterized by a long stem with small green leaves covering the entire plant. The shade on an anacharis plant can vary from plant to plant depending on the conditions in a fish tank.
Overall, the plant prefers soft to moderately hard water with a ph of 5.0 to 7.5, and medium lighting.
Also called Brazilian Elodea, anacharis is easy to grow and propagate hence ideal for beginners. It can also thrive under a variety of conditions and is particularly known for its ability to handle a wide range of water temperatures (50°F to 82°F). For this reason, Elodea densa makes part of the few aquarium plants that can survive in both cold and tropical fish tanks.
#2 — Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus)
Java fern is a hardy, but a beautiful, delicate-looking aquarium plant that not only makes for a good addition for planted aquariums but also tanks with boisterous fish like cichlids and other large South American species.
Growing up to 8 inches tall, with creeping, green rhizomes, this fern makes a perfect mid or background plant. Also, Java fern is amphibious, meaning it can grow either partially or fully submerged.
Java fern will thrive in an aquarium with an alkalinity of 3 to 8 KH, ph of 6.0 to 7.5, and low to moderate lighting.
Like anacharis, Java fern plants can tolerate a wide range of water temperature (60°F to 82°F), hence a good for choice for cold water tanks, and will even measure up to the destructive nature of goldfish.
#3 — Vallisneria
Vallisneria is one of the least demanding aquarium plants in terms of care.
Also called vals, the plant resembles seagrass and is valued for its quick growth and versatility growing submerged or even across the top of the fish tank.
Eel grass (Vallisneria) is particularly popular with goldfish keepers because the plant can survive in cold water, albeit reaching a lesser height.
In appearance, vals is a mid-green color but may appear darker towards the tips. The leaves are mostly long, narrow and spiraling, and can grow up to 2 feet high.
Grow Vallisneria as a background plant in a water column with a ph anywhere from 6.5 to 8.0.
#4 — Madagascar Lace Plant (Aponogeton madagascariensis)
Madagascar lace is a prized plant in the fish keeping hobby, named from the structure the leaves grow in displaying a beautiful skeletal latticework design throughout.
The leaves are broad and long with a delicate appearance.
Madagascar lace plant is demanding than other plants in this list, but under the right condition, your plant can even flower regularly in the fish tank.
So, be sure to not fully bury the bulb in a substrate to keep your lace plant happy and thriving. Also, add the plant in cool, crystal clear water with not too much light (moderate).
An aquarium temperature anywhere from 65°F to 74°F and a ph of 6.5 to 7.5 should be fine.
#5 — Hornwort (Coontail)
Hornwort aquarium plant is a plant that is quite popular in the fish keeping hobby that can grow free-floating and submerged.
Though it is considered an invasive species in some regions due to its rapid growth, the plant is also pretty easy to start and care for and is undemanding of water conditions.
Coontail is suitable both for tanks with cold water and for tropical aquariums. Many aquarists also find it quite useful for soaking up nitrates in breeding tanks or to provide hiding spaces for fry and shrimp in community aquariums.
Hornwort plants will thrive in an aquarium with soft to very hard water , low to high lighting, and a ph anywhere between 6 and 7.5.
#6 — Variegated Japanese Dwarf Rush
Variegated Japanese sweet flag, Acorus variegated midground plant or variegated Japanese dwarf rush plant is a stiff, shiny aquarium plant that has dark green leaves which form dense clumps and arching foliage that has cream to chartreuse stripes.
This plant can be grown in aquariums, terrariums, or a bog environment as long as it is not fully submerged. In fish tanks, the Japanese dwarf rush creates a colorful, grass-like addition.
Though the plant is slow-growing, it’s also hardy and can be kept in cold water as well as tropical fish tanks, hence is ideal for first-time live aquatic plant keepers.
Japanese sweet plant will tolerate light ranging from full-high to partial shade, a ph of 6.5 to 7.5 and an aquarium temperature anywhere from 50°F to 82°F.
#7 — Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum)
Amazon frogbit is an easy plant to care for that grows floating and native to Central and South America.
The plant is one of the best ornamental species, it produces small, white flowers upon reaching maturity. The plant is quite versatile growing in both pond and aquariums reaching up to 20 inches in fish tanks.
In contrast with most aquatic plants, frogbit is also quite flexible and can grow in varying water conditions, including cold water tanks. Preferably, start your Amazon frogbit in soft to moderately hard water that is between 64°F to 84°F in temperature, and 6.0 to 7.5 ph.