16 Easy Planted Tank Ideas For Your New Aquarium! (Beginner-Friendly)

Planted tanks and aquascaping are more popular than ever, offering endless creative possibilities for aquarium enthusiasts.

I’ve curated a selection of my favorite planted tank ideas, including something for everyone.

Novices and seasoned aquarists will find plenty of inspiration to perfect your next aquarium project.

Beginner-Friendly Planted Tanks

Beginner-Friendly Planted Tanks
Beginner-Friendly Planted Tanks

Suitable Plant List

  • Anubias Angustifolia
  • Anubias Coin Leaf
  • Anubias Caladiifolia
  • Java Fern
  • Trident Fern
  • Bucephalandra Kedagang
  • Bucephalandra Sintang
  • Bucephalandra Theia Green

Beginner-friendly planted tanks typically use epiphyte plants and hardscape to simplify maintenance.

Epiphyte plants are easy to care for because they don’t require substrate; they attach to hardscape and absorb nutrients directly from the water column.

To set up, add cheap inert sand or gravel to your tank, position your hardscape, and attach the epiphyte plants.

Beginner-Friendly Planted Tanks

If you like this style and want to learn more, I have a step-by-step article on how I built this betta fish tank.

Get a couple of broad-leaf Anubias and a Java fern, and then use Bucephalandra and smaller Anubias plants for detailing.

My article on different types of Anubias can help you find the perfect variant for your tank, but Anubias coin leaf is a personal favorite.

Walstad Planted Tanks

Walstad Planted Tanks
Walstad Planted Tanks

Suitable Plant List

  • Limnophila Sessiliflora
  • Rotala Rotundifolia
  • Hygrophila Polysperma
  • Ludwigia Mini Super Red
  • Staurogyne Repens
  • Cryptocorynes
  • Echinodorus
  • Eleocharis
  • Salvinia

The Walstad method is an excellent choice for people new to planted tanks.

Start by adding about an inch of inexpensive topsoil to the base of your aquarium, then cover it with a layer of gravel.

Aim to plant at least half of the substrate with fast-growing stem plants and lightly stock your tank.

This approach is not only cost-effective but, when done correctly, eliminates the need for a filter.

Walstad Planted Tanks

Fast-growing stem plants can be easily propagated, which helps reduce costs.

Trim the excess growth from the top of the stem plant and replant it into your substrate. The trimmings will develop roots within days, giving you a new plant in your tank.

A single pot of Limnophila Sessiliflora, Rotala Rotundifolia, or Hygrophila Polysperma can be propagated to provide plenty of stem plants.

Jungle Style Planted Tanks

Jungle Style Planted Tanks
Jungle Style Planted Tanks

Suitable Plant List

  • Vallisneria
  • Hygrophila Polysperma
  • Rotala Rotundifolia
  • Hygrophila Pinnatifida
  • Red Tiger Lotus
  • Anubias Barteri
  • Java Fern
  • Echinodorus
  • Cryptocorynes
  • Anubias Caladiifolia
  • Java Moss

Jungle-style planted tanks are easy to create and typically look stunning once the plants have grown in.

The main idea of a jungle tank is to plant it and let everything grow naturally. The plants compete for space, light, and nutrients, developing unique growth patterns in the tank.

Broadleaf plants like Anubias, Java fern, Echinodorus, and Cryptocorynes can cover large areas, keeping costs low.

With plenty of light and nutrients, you can quickly achieve a lush, low-maintenance aquascape that looks wild and suits most popular fish species.

Island Composition Planted Tanks

An Island Compesition Aquascape
An Island Compesition Aquascape

Suitable Plant List

  • Hygrophila Polysperma
  • Rotala Rotundifolia
  • Ludwigia Mini Super Red
  • Limnophila Sessiliflora
  • Cryptocorynes
  • Anubias
  • Bucephalandra
  • Trident Fern

Island aquascape compositions can be surprisingly easy, as your planting area is confined to the “island,” making it a beginner-friendly project.

Experienced aquascapers can opt for more challenging plants, but the concept works just as well with easy plants.

Begin by adding substrate to the tank, then create a base for the island using rocks, add some driftwood, and finally plant the tank.

If you’re on a budget, cheap lava rock and spider wood are great options, but most hardscape materials will work well.

Jarrarium Planted Tanks

Jarrarium Planted Tanks
Jarrarium Planted Tanks

Suitable Plant List

  • Hygrophila Polysperma
  • Rotala Rotundifolia
  • Limnophila Sessiliflora
  • Eleocharis
  • Salvinia

Planted jarrariums are an excellent way to dive into the planted tank hobby without a significant financial investment.

Jars are typically only large enough for shrimp but are perfect for gaining experience with aquatic plants.

I have an article on how I built my first shrimp jar, but the process is simple enough for most people to figure out on their own.

Finding jars of sufficient size can be a challenge, but repurposing old cookie jars or clean pickle jars is a quick, easy, and cheap solution.

Once you have your jar, add 1 inch of topsoil to the base, cover it with an inch of sand or gravel, and then add your live plants.

Most jars take about a month to develop before you can introduce shrimp. My article on different types of Neocaridina shrimp can help you choose the perfect shrimp for your jar.

Planted Shrimp Breeding Tanks

My Shrimp Tank
My Shrimp Tank

Suitable Plant List

  • Moss
  • Stem Plants
  • Floating Plants

Shrimp breeding tanks can be an excellent way to start with planted tanks while also earning some extra money.

Moss is the primary plant for this type of tank because shrimp love it. They graze on it, use it for cover, and it provides perfect hiding spots for baby shrimp.

Java moss is a great option because it’s cheap, easy to find, and easy to grow, but I prefer the look of Christmas moss.

Shrimp aren’t picky about the type of moss, so just add any moss to the tank.

My article on common reasons cherry shrimp don’t breed can help you get your shrimp breeding faster, but it’s fairly straightforward.

Maintain suitable, stable water parameters for a month or two, and your cherry shrimp should start breeding.

Below is a table showing the recommended water parameters for cherry shrimp.

Water Temperature65-80°F (18.5-27°C)
Water FlowStill-Low
pH6.7-8
GH6-10 dGH
KH3-10 dKH
Ammonia0 ppm
Nitrite0 ppm
Nitrate<20ppm
Red Cherry Shrimp Water Parameters

Nature Style Planted Tanks

Nature Style Planted Tanks
Nature Style Planted Tanks

Suitable Plant List

  • Vallisneria
  • Hygrophila Polysperma
  • Rotala Rotundifolia
  • Hygrophila Pinnatifida
  • Red Tiger Lotus
  • Anubias
  • Java Fern
  • Echinodorus
  • Cryptocorynes
  • Java Moss

Nature-style planted tanks are visually appealing and easy to create, making them ideal for beginners.

The term “nature-style” can vary in meaning, which can make researching this type of tank a bit challenging.

These tanks range from regular jungle setups to biotopes or heavily planted tanks. Using lots of easy-to-care-for plants is an easy way to achieve good results with this setup.

Nature Planted Tanks
Nature Planted Tanks

Maintenance will depend on the types of plants you choose, but opting for slow growers will keep maintenance to a minimum.

These tanks can be low-tech or high-tech, so you can add CO2 and high-powered lighting to elevate the aquascape if desired.

Stem Plant Heavy Tanks

Stem Plant Heavy Planted Tanks
Stem Plant Heavy Planted Tanks

Suitable Plant List

  • Limnophila Sessiliflora
  • Rotala Orange Juice
  • Bacopa Caroliniana
  • Rotala Rotundifolia
  • Pogostemon Deccanensis
  • Hygrophila Rosanervig
  • Ludwigia Mini Super Red
  • Hygrophila Polysperma
  • Bacopa Compact
  • Pearlweed
  • Staurogyne Repens

Tanks focusing on stem plants often serve a practical purpose but can also be aesthetically pleasing when properly aquascaped.

These tanks are commonly used as breeding environments for fish that may eat their young as fry hide among the stem plants, increasing their chances of survival.

Incorporating fast-growing stem plants also helps maintain safe water parameters, ensuring the well-being of the fish.

Riparium Planted Tanks

Riparium Planted Tanks
Riparium Planted Tanks

Riparium tanks are unique because they feature plants above and below the water surface.

Most aquatic plants suitable for other tanks will thrive underwater in a riparium, but selecting the right emergent plants can be more challenging.

Many terrestrial plants don’t like saturated roots, but pothos and peace lily are excellent choices for this setup.

You can use Poth-O-Carry units to hold the plants in place or tape them to the side of your aquarium.

The plant roots grow in the aquarium water, absorbing a lot of ammonium and nitrates for growth, which helps maintain safe water parameters.

My fish love to hide among the pothos roots, and my shrimp often graze on them.

Planted Nano Tanks

Planted Nano Tanks
Planted Nano Tanks

Planted nano tanks experienced a surge in popularity during the lockdowns, and their appeal has only grown since.

I prefer low-tech planted nano tanks and I’m naturally drawn to these smaller setups, which are an aquascaper’s dream.

People who build these tanks approach them with the mindset of creating art, using their plants as the primary feature and their fish as complementary elements.

A quick look at the aquascape hashtag on Instagram shows the impressive skills of those who work with nano tanks.

Many seasoned aquascapers use CO2, fertilizers, and high-powered lighting to maximize plant growth.

This can be expensive, so if you’re on a budget, consider looking into low-tech nano tank options.

Dirted Planted Tanks

Dirted Planted Tanks
Dirted Planted Tanks

Suitable Plant List

  • Limnophila Sessiliflora
  • Rotala Rotundifolia
  • Hygrophila Polysperma
  • Ludwigia Mini Super Red
  • Staurogyne Repens
  • Cryptocoryne Wendtii
  • Eleocharis
  • Salvinia

Dirted tanks are similar to Walstad tanks, with a significant overlap between the two.

Walstad tanks typically feature a higher number of fast-growing stem plants, lack a filter, and have minimal hardscape. In contrast, dirted tanks usually include a filter, fewer plants, and more hardscape elements.

There is often debate over the exact definitions of each, but both are excellent choices for beginners.

Dirted tanks allow for more creative aquascaping since the use of a filter lets you allocate more space to hardscape rather than plants.

The distinction between the two is often blurred, and I consider them to be essentially the same type of tank.

Single Plant Tanks

Anubias Planted Tank
Anubias Planted Tank

Single plant tanks focus on using one type of plant and allowing it to grow naturally.

Pearlweed is an excellent choice for this type of aquarium because it grows in all directions and is ideal for lightly stocked Walstad setups.

One of the best features of pearlweed is its ability to carpet the tank. Let it grow tall at the back and sides while trimming it in the middle to create a lush carpet.

Moss is another great option, and I have a shrimp tank that solely uses moss, though a moss-based tank does require a filter.

Many people also have success using the anubias genus. Although the different species and varieties of anubias are technically different plants, they provide a variety of leaf shapes, colors, and textures to keep the tank visually interesting.

Dutch Variation Planted Tanks

Dutch Variation Planted Tanks
Dutch Variation Planted Tanks

Dutch aquascapes are a distinct type of planted tank, but I prefer Dutch variations for several reasons.

A true Dutch-style aquascape avoids hardscape and relies on high-end plants that require CO2, fertilizers, and high-powered lighting.

I lean towards low-tech setups that often include hardscape. However, I understand that many people love Dutch aquascapes.

Before starting a Dutch-style tank, make a list of all the necessary items, as the high costs can be a deterrent for beginners.

If you have the budget, research everything thoroughly to understand how to properly use your CO2 and lighting unit to avoid issues with algae.

Triangle Composition Planted Tanks

Triangle Comp Planted Tanks
Triangle Comp Planted Tanks

Triangle aquascapes compositions provide a heavily planted tank while providing ample swim space for your fish.

The concept is straightforward: create a triangular shape with your plants, starting with the taller ones on one side and gradually reducing their height as you move across the tank.

You can achieve this by trimming stem plants or using shorter plants.

Triangle Comp Planted Tank
Triangle Comp Planted Tank

Integrating hardscape into this type of tank is easy, allowing for a perfect blend of hiding spots and swim space for your fish.

Trimming stem plants to maintain the triangle shape often requires more time and effort than beginners anticipate.

Using slower-growing plants as you work down the triangle can be a more manageable option with bacopa compact and staurogyne repens being excellent options.

Heavily Planted Tanks

Heavily Planted Tanks
Heavily Planted Tanks

Heavily planted tanks emphasize plants over fish, providing less swim space for the latter.

Instead of meticulously planning every detail like in an aquascape, you add the plants and let them grow naturally.

This approach is similar to a jungle-style tank, but while jungle tanks typically feature broad-leaf plants, heavily planted tanks have no such restrictions.

Alexander from the Fishtory YouTube channel showcases numerous heavily planted tanks using this style.

His videos regularly display these aquariums, demonstrating how beautiful they can become when allowed to flourish on their own.

Heavily Planted Aquarium
Heavily Planted Aquarium

Red Heavy Planted Tanks

Red Heavy Planted Tanks
Red Heavy Planted Tanks

Red-heavy tanks are a niche within the planted aquarium hobby that some enthusiasts love.

An even more specialized variant, known as the Danish-style aquascape, exclusively features red plants.

The concept is straightforward: focus on adding red plants to the tank and let them grow naturally.

Plants like Ludwigia, red Rotala, red root floaters, red tiger lotus, and Alternanthera reineckii are well-suited for this type of aquarium.