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Aquarium Plants That Even A Beginner Can Care For

When starting a new aquarium, adding plants to the aquascape is a must to enhance the water quality, to provide fish with places to hide, and to make your tank colorful. There are hundreds of plant species available, but only a few of them are ideal for beginners.

Beginner plants are generally hardy, with fewer light, temperature, and pH requirements to worry about. Here is a set of seven plants that will enhance the aesthetic appeal of your tank without making your job as a novice aquarist any harder.

Java Moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri)

Java Moss is an extremely versatile plant that is easy to care for. It grows best in tanks with low light and moderate temperatures, but it will tolerate any amount of light and any temperature between 60-82 degrees Fahrenheit. It is typically used by aquarists as a carpet plant, but it can also be used for aquascaping or a supplementary food source. To propagate Java Moss, all you need to do is pick off a piece and add it to a new surface. The only maintenance it needs is a quick rinse and trim every 3-8 weeks, depending on how fast it grows. If your Java Moss is healthy, the tiny leaves that cover its tiny branched stems should be a bright green color.

Ozelot Sword (Echinodorus ozelot)

The Ozelot Sword is characterized by large green leaves with red, brown, or black marbling. They will make a great centerpiece for your tank and they will do best in the middle or back of the tank. If conditions are optimal these plants will grow rapidly, so the hardest part of caring for them will be controlling their growth with regular pruning. They prefer medium to high light and iron-rich substrates, but like Java Moss, they can grow in a large range of lighting and water conditions. The main difference you will see with higher light levels is an increase in red and brown coloration of the leaves.

Water Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis)

Water Wisteria is a unique freshwater plant that has heterophyllous leaves, which means that the leaves can be a variety of shapes depending on the water conditions. Regardless of their shape, the leaves are a bright green, and the plant can either be rooted in one spot or can provide a carpet for the tank. They grow best in sandy substrates, and they prefer hard water that is between 70-82 degrees. Once they are in those conditions they will grow rapidly, so you will need to trim them down so that they do not overcrowd other plants in the tank. Other than that, there is little else you will need to do to care for this hardy plant species.

Marimo Moss Ball (Aegagropila linnaei)

Although they are called moss balls, these plants are actually a form of algae. Green algae filaments are tangled together, growing outward from one central point to form a ball-like shape. Another unique characteristic of these plants is that as they produce oxygen, they will float to the top of the tank. The oxygen will gradually escape, but you can gently squeeze it out of them to make them sink back down. They prefer the foreground or midground of a tank, low to moderate lighting, and plenty of fertilizer. They grow very slowly, so you should not have to worry about marimos growing too big. On occasion you may need to roll the ball over, otherwise all of the growth will be concentrated on one side and it will lose its round shape.

Blue Water Hyssop (Bacopa caroliniana)

The blue water hyssop is sometimes called a “lemon bacopa” because the round, succulent leaves release a lemony scent if crushed. Beautiful blue flowers grow along their stems, and unsubmerged stems will also have tiny hairs on them. They can tolerate a wide temperature range, as well as different levels of water hardness. They can also do well in either low or high light, but they do prefer high light. In their natural habitat, the water hyssop can grow to immense sizes, so caring for them at home will require regular trims so they do not grow too tall or wide. Lastly, these plants are among the easiest to propagate. Simply cut a 3 to 5 inch piece off the top of the stem, remove the leaves from the lower half, and insert the cutting into potting soil that is well saturated with water.

Tips for Healthy Plants
Maintain a clean tank to ensure good water quality and to ensure enough light is reaching your plants.
Use a light specifically meant for aquariums. Direct sunlight can cause water temperatures to get too high for both your plants and your fish.
Use the proper substrate for your plant. Many beginner plants do just fine with sandy substrates.
Do not overcrowd your tank. If there are too many plants in the tank they will become nutrient-deprived.

These seven plant species are all well-suited for the beginning aquarist because of their minimal care needs. It is important to stick to plants that are easier to maintain when you are first starting out and work your way up to more challenging ones – if you start off with difficult plants that you cannot properly care for, they will die quickly and could even cause problems for your fish. With the beautiful beginner options listed above, you will be able to spruce up any aquarium with natural fauna, and your fish will be better off for it.

NEW 365 days returns policy!

We’ve updated this to make it easier for you to shop with us. It’s the best returns policy in the UK!

If you return goods within 7 days of receiving the items we can offer an immediate refund or credit. Refunds/credits are for the value of goods only excluding shipping. Simply fill in the details at the bottom of this page and send it back to us with your goods.

After 7 days and up to 365 days (from the day of purchase), you can still return the goods but we only offer a credit to your Aqua Essentials account. After 365 days we cannot accept returns. We believe this is THE BEST returns policy in the UK.

Note about returning goods: When returning goods, they have to be in perfect condition, un-used and arrive with us in perfect condition. This is a really generous returns policy so please don’t take advantage of our good nature 🙂

Goods that are damaged in transit are not accepted. If that is the case then no refund/credit applies. All goods being returned remain the risk of the customer until we have received them. Choose which ever postage method suits you most. We do not refund/credit for postage. If you received free delivery when ordering, our normal delivery charge will be applied and deducted from your refund/credit.

Special order items (i.e. those not held in stock) are non returnable items and are not subject to our returns or refund policy. If there is a delivery time scale on a product description, this indicates it’s a special order item.

Aquascape like a pro – interested? Read on…

This is seriously BEAUTIFUL rock that is pure joy. Some hobbyists think it’s the best thing since sliced bread…some call it Manten Stone. We call it Baltic Rock.

As soon as you pick it up you will know just what I mean and I want to take you on a quick mental journey.

Imagine buying this rock and it arriving at your door. You bring the well packaged box inside and place it on your table, undo the tape and look inside. You take the catalogue out and put it to one side and then pick out the first piece of that your eye is drawn to. The texture is rough, but not sharp. Rough from years of being outside and weathered. Then you bring it up to your nose and smell it. It has a distinctive smell, not nasty, just different but hard to pin down.  You suddenly notice the weight – it’s really dense and has an immediate feeling of quality. You’re excited about the possibilities of working with this rock.

Now you know you’ve definitely made the right decision and the fun begins when you start placing the rock into your aquarium, standing back then deciding if your placement is right or you need to give it more time before the positioning ‘sits well’ with you.

Super fast postage and free? Interested – read on…

We live in a world where everyone wants their stuff fast, and preferably free when it comes to postage. I’m no different and because of this I’ve created AE Gold which I think you, as a newsletter subscriber will be interested in.

It works like this:

It’s a  membership programme that gives you FREE EXPRESS delivery for a whole year. That’s right free for the next 365 days for an annual membership of £49.99. That means if you order with us more than 6 times in a year (and most of you do) you’ll make your money back + more 🙂

It’s a really simple set up. If you are interested in AE Gold and want FREE EXPRESS delivery for a whole year, click here.

Getting rid of blanket algae

Blanket Weed algae. You may or may not have suffered from this algae before – it’s certainly not the worst but it look like below:

blanket weed algae

How is it caused:  Low nutrients, low CO2 levels and poor water movement.

How to get rid:  Very simple – increase your fertiliser dosage and increase CO2 levels (use a drop checker like this one). Make sure your water distribution is really good – I know I say this every week but that’s because it’s very important.  If your plants aren’t swaying in the current, then you can bet that your nutrients and CO2 are certainly not getting to those locations (which will result in algae). Getting the basics right makes everything flow as it should.

You can physically remove this algae should you wish. Use your tweesers or fingers if need be and just hoick it out. If you see this algae coming back for whatever reason, just tweak what you’re doing and in most cases simple add a bit more of the usual (nutrients and CO2).


The smallest aquarium in the world

Have you seen it? So small! This tank is so small it only holds two teaspoons of water. The tank measures 30x24x14mm and there’s a baby zebra danio in there if you look close. No filter though…

The chap who designed this tank is also famous for writing on small items such as a grain of rice, poppy seeds and human hair! Good job he has a steady hand.

smallest aquarium in the world

or you can visit his site and see the caravan of camels he placed in the eye of a needle!

Go Dutch

These types of scapes were super popular in the 90s, and I mean everyone who had a crack at planted aquariums did it this way. Loads of colour, loads of fish movement. It was only later on in the 90s that Takashi Amano turned things round and began producing iwagumis.

Anyway, it got me thinking – I don’t really see any Dutch aquariums these days and wondered if you are aquascaping one at home?

One Minute Intro

We felt this was a concise way for customers who are new to us, to know what we are all about. We’re calling it the One Minute Intro as it’s short and sweet.

We Work With… hobbyists around the world who are passionate about planted aquariums and strive to produce the best aquascape they possibly can.

Who Have A Problem With…their planted aquarium whether it be algae, aquascaping problems or something else.

What We Do Is…offer solutions to all planted aquarium issues.

So That…our customers get the right advice just when they need it.

Which Means That…your hobby remains a pleasure!

If you appreciate this post perhaps you could share on Facebook or retweet on Twitter 🙂

HUGE Planted Aquarium, ADA style…

Once in a while I stumble across amazing videos on YouTube and today I have a real corker for you. Even though I’ve been dealing with planted tanks for 15 years, I’m staggered at what I have seen below in terms of scale. Takashi Amano, aka ADA really pulls this one out of the bag. I only wish there were subtitles.I would really love to know what you thought about this clip – does it inspire you? How big an aquarium would you go? Have you ever seen rocks or wood so big that are suitable for an aquarium? I sure as hell haven’t 🙂


Pagoda Rock – great for planted aquariums

Pagoda Rock can be summed up in one word – excellent. It’s a highly unusual but very attractive rock which in my opinion is particularly suited for planted aquariums. The texture is unusual with the layering which takes place within it making it look like over the years, day by day, a thin layer has been added leaving you with a rock which looks…old.

One of the biggest difficulties when choosing decor for a planted aquarium is to select rocks which give the aquarium maturity. Choose rocks which aren’t aged, and it can throw the whole scape off immediately. Want to know what they look like in a planted aquarium? This is how Mark Evans uses it…

Look closely at it and you can see the detail – this is a fantastic feature. Pagoda Rock is versatile, easy to scape and looks terrific in a planted aquarium as I am sure you will agree. One question I am regularly asked is rock and pH, and my answer is nearly always the same. It may effect your water parameters a little but certainly nothing to be worried about, especially if you are using CO2.

So why not treat yourself today with this terrific rock. If you’re wondering what 10kgs of rock looks like…

And to top it all off, if you invest in 10kgs, you also qualify for the cheaper price of £30. The other benefit of investing in 10kgs or more of rock is choice – you literally have so much more to play with and the end result always means a better looking aquascape.

Three aquarium items that you should not get second hand

With the economic downturn we are all looking for savings to be made, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

One is that looking for savings is a good move, the other is that cutting corners where it involves safety is not.

Below I list three items that you should get brand new, they usually go wrong quickly and have a high fail rate.


Why shouldn’t you get an aquarium heater second hand? With so many offers online for second hand items, the aquarium heater is one that you should get new. Many aquarium heaters fail, either they get stuck on the one position or they fail to heat up the water. Both will kill all your livestock.

Many fish keepers spend hundreds if not thousands on their tank, on substrate, lights, rocks, fish, etc, yet many people do not think twice about buying a heater second hand.

Aquarium water treatment or conditioners

Do you actually know what is inside a open bottle? Would you buy juice from a shop if the bottle was already open? Same with aquarium products. Don’t bother with half used bottles. First many products have a use by date from the date they were open, and you do not know when they were open, secondly you do not know what else is mixed on it, and last the savings you may made will not matter if something goes wrong. Buy from a reputable shop and have peace of mind.

External Filters

Many filters rubber rings have a usable life, same as it happens to your car, many items wear off after a while, and they need to be replaced. Would you like to come home and have half the tank water on the sitting room floor?

Cal Aqua Nano Drop Checker

Most of you are pretty familiar with drop checkers and I have written about them on here before. If you’re not (do a quick search on our blog), they’re a must have product for a planted aquarium without any question of doubt. They measure your CO2 levels in your planted aquarium.

All drop checkers work in the same manner but all differ in looks and shape and the new Cal Aqua Nano Drop Checker has to be one of the smartest drop checkers I have ever seen. It’s so delicately made and so tiny at a mere 3x3cm you could easily lose it in your planted aquarium. Whilst you don’t of course want to lose it, keeping as much equipment out of the tank is the idea as it distracts from the aquascape. Any equipment in the tank should ideally be glass (where ever possible).  This drop checker comes with everything you need too – 15ml of bromo blue which means that when your solution turns green, you have the ideal CO2 levels in your planted aquarium (30 ppm). It also comes with a clear suction cup.

Although aimed towards smaller aquariums I personally think it’s suitable for all sizes of aquariums from the very small to the very large. Positioning wise, try placing it under your filter outlet – this will give you a really good idea as to your CO2 levels in your tank.

Are you using a Cal Aqua Nano Drop Checker in your tank? We would love to see a picture.

Maintenance Tools For Planted Aquariums

Without these our maintenance regime would be considerably more difficult. But what exactly do we mean by tools? Tweesers, scissors, glass cleaners, gravel cleaners – these are some of the tools you should always keep in your cabinet. Below is a selection of tools that most hobbyists should use.

When planting an aquarium, traditionally hobbyists used their fingers which although was functional was somewhat cumbersome. Today we use tweesers (curved or straight tipped) – the major benefit of this is the ease in which plants can be picked up and delicately placed into your substrate. Not only that but tweesers are also useful for picking up plants or removing debris from your tank.

Scissors are also available in curved or straight tip. Curved tends to be more popular and is very useful when trimming foreground plants – the curved section allows you to cut a better angle. Nevertheless a good pair of sharp scissors are excellent for keeping your plants in good shape. The scissors available are normally 12” long so you can reach a good distance and are very useful if you need to trim the base of any plant that is hard to reach.
Spatulas/Rakes are used primarily for smoothing gravels and substrates. Often when plants are moved about or indeed planted for the first time, substrates can become disturbed. A spatula or rake is a flat shaped and is unique in its design and purpose.
Magnetic glass cleaners are a wonderful tool that are used for cleaning algae off the inside panes of your aquarium. Algae can build up quite quickly on glass so using magnetic cleaners once a week keeps things clean. This tool is separated into two sections – a rough side on one and a smooth on the other. The rough side sits on the inside pane  and the smooth on the outside. A top tip when cleaning is to make sure no gravel gets stuck on the inside as it is easy to scratch the glass. The added benefit is that the inside piece floats so it if you dislodge it when cleaning, rather than it sinking to the bottom and you having to hook it out, it floats to the surface.

The last piece of equipment which is extremely important to a planted aquarium is a a gravel cleaner.  Although strictly it’s not used for what it was initially designed for (at least not in a planted aquarium). Rather than plunging the cleaner into the substrate it’s a better idea to hover slightly above it, only suctioning debris such as dead plant matter and fish excrement. Of course while this is being performed you are removing tank water as well. It’s really important to replace water regularly (minimum of 30% per week in a non CO2 tank), as not only is this better for the fish, but it helps to reduce any excesses that may have built up. In tanks which use CO2 these water changes need to be increased and 40-50% once or twice a week. By not performing these types of water changes you invariably end up with issues.

Lastly if you’re looking for a useful tool set, that has scissors, tweesers and a rake then I highly recommend the Aqua Essentials 3 piece tool set. It comes packaged in a neat leather case with a zip to keep your tools in one place and costs only £29.99.

Natures Grub Tropical Insect Mix

We’ve recently taken on a new brand of food called Natures Grub – high quality food with lovely packaging. But it’s sometimes difficult to get that message across to our customers, especially with food. So it got us thinking…You can see from this short clip, the food is tasty, the fish enjoy it and it’s a bit different from your ordinary stuff. So why not give it a try today – treat yourself and your fish by following this link.

For the entire range of Natures Grub fish foods click here.

An interesting podcast on Aquascaping

I’m a big fan of podcasts for a variety of reasons and there are some that are better than others. I discovered a podcast on Twitter the other day and wanted to share it with everyone:

It’s a 45 minute chat with Mike Senske from ADG ( If you’re not familiar with this company check out their website. They are without doubt the best aquascapers in the world and their podcast discusses how they started and some of the trials and tribulations they have to deal with as an aquascaping company. Interestingly enough the majority of their clients do not have planted aquariums, or certainly high tech one’s as ADG say they need daily tending to and most cannot afford to pay for that sort of attention. The lower tech tanks are dealt with on a weekly basis and therefore are more affordable.

There are 3 other podcasts that can also be found on the same page, but this one stands out for me.

Would love to hear your opinions on the podcast when you have listened to it.

Lastly, don’t forget we’re on Twitter and it would be great to converse with anyone who uses Aqua Essentials website – to find us, look for user name AquaEssentials.

TMC AquaGro Scissors & Tweesers

It was only a matter of time before TMC started investing a little more into their AquaGro range and they’re consistently producing excellent products that will inspire you and make your life a little easier when maintaining a planted aquarium.

TMC AquaGro Curved Tip Precision Scissors, TMC AquaGro Curved Tipped Tweesers and TMC AquaGro Straight Tip Precision Scissors

These tools are made of the highest quality stainless steel and they are really comfortable in your hand. Easy to operate with a long reach (approx 11″) these tools allow for quick planting and easy trimming of even the thickest stems.

You can see the other tools of the trade here.

All are packaged nicely so would make a great present or just a treat to yourself.

Quicker browsing

We’re delighted to announce that you can now browse quicker on Aqua Essentials. We’ve listened to the feedback so far and are implementing changes.

You wanted faster – you got it 🙂

Simply hover over any of the categories at the top of the page and a drop down will show allowing you to find the product/s you need quicker.

Enjoy and happy (quicker) browsing.

Drop down image

More rocks for your aquarium

We’re often being asked questions like how many rocks do I get if I buy 5kgs and it’s often difficult to say – all rocks vary in size and shape so we felt it was best if we took some pictures so you can visualise exactly what sort of quantity you would get for your money!

Below is a selection of rocks for your tank that come in10kg boxes. They are of course available in 5kg boxes and per kg.

Mini Landscape

Petrified Wood

Petrified Wood

Dragon Stone

White Holestone

White Holestone

Black Snail Stone

White Holestone

Most rocks will have little effect on pH which is generally a big concern for hobbyists. They have all been sand blasted so no sharp edges are left.

Mixed beach pebbles for aquariums

Ever wanted a really natural look in your aquarium but just weren’t sure where to find the right decor?  We have natural beach pebbles that look incredible in an aquarium. 

The bags of pebbles range is size from 4-15cm approximately are dark grey in colour and there are no sharp edges for fish to catch themselves on. What’s more the 4kg bags are a real bargain at £6.99.

Other benefits are these pebbles won’t effect your water parameters like pH. If you want to our range of other pebbles available follow this link.

Root Tabs in a planted aquarium

While adding liquid fertilisers to your planted aquarium is essential for good healthy plant growth, so is adding root tabs to your aquarium.

Plants absorb nutrients through their leaves and their roots and this is particularly important with plants such as Echinodorus that are heavy root feeders. If you want to see really spectacular results the addition of root tabs will make the difference.

All root tabs are very easy to insert into the substrate, some are only the size of a one penny piece and you simply pop them into the root ball of your plant. Typically you should do this every 2 months or so, depending on how quickly your plants grow.

Root tabs are not a replacement for a complete substrate, but they certainly help.