The 5 Best Live Plants for Goldfish Tanks

By Matt Leighton,

Amazon Swordplant

Goldfish are some of the most beautiful and intelligent aquatic creatures you will ever meet. They are also notoriously mischievous and persistent when it comes to digging up live plants.

Nevertheless, in natural aquatic settings, plants play several key roles in the chain of life. This includes:

● Breaking down waste generated by fish and other creatures and using it for food.
● Taking in carbon dioxide and release oxygen.
● Serving as hiding places for fry, young fish, and other creatures.
● Providing food for creatures that require plant matter for a healthy diet.

Many people put artificial plants in a goldfish tank because they do not want to deal with the expense of constantly buying new live plants. This, in turn, usually leads to fish die-offs and complete failure because of the amount of waste that goldfish produce.

Let’s say you decide to keep 6 small goldfish in a 40 gallon tank. Even with robust filtration, you will wind up doing water changes every few days if plants are not available to break down nitrates and nitrites into something less toxic to fish.

To add insult to injury, goldfish can be very skittish creatures when confined in tanks that are too small. All the stress from changing the water will cause them to bash into the sides of the tank or anything else in their path while they are in a panicked state. This, in turn, leads to gill and other injuries that can kill them.

By contrast, if you keep those same fish in the exact same setup with live plants, you will not have to do as many (if any) stressful water changes.

Just bear in mind, however, when it comes to goldfish, there is also no substitution for a large enough tank. Therefore, when it comes to considering aquatic plants, you should think about which ones will also transfer readily to a pond or significantly larger aquarium.

Traits that Make a Plant Appealing to Goldfish

Before you begin shopping for live plants, it helps to know something about what goldfish look for in plants. Here are the main traits that draw goldfish to plants:

● Big leaves for hiding places
● Tender leaves to snack on
● Sheds leaves where food may hide
● Provides shade from bright lights

5 Best Plants to Keep With Goldfish

No matter whether you keep goldfish in a tank or pond, one or more of these 5 plants will help create a safe, healthy, environment for your aquatic pets.

1.Aponogeton Ulvaceous

These hearty plants grow from bulbs and produce fairly large leaves. They will grow well in both pond and aquarium settings.

If you have a pond that partially freezes over in the winter months, or temperatures get very cold, it may be necessary to take these plants indoors and then replant in the spring. Other than that, they will do fine in most water chemistries, and medium to bright light settings.

Just make sure the bulbs have at least 10 – 15 well established leaves before placing them in a tank or pond with goldfish. Since Aponogeton have soft leaves, goldfish will have a good time snacking on them. Fortunately, the plants also grow very quickly and will keep up with the fish.

Aponogetons also have very large and extensive root systems. Once they establish themselves in the substrate, it will be very hard for goldfish to uproot them. Until the root network is established, put netting around the plant’s base to keep the fish from digging in.

2.Amazon Sword (Echniodorus bleheri)

This is another very hearty plant that can endure a wide range of temperatures and water chemistry. It will grow faster and do better in bright lighting, and also need some iron supplementation. As with Aponogeton, you may need to remove it from ponds that get too cold during the winter months.

Amazon Sword plants are ideal for goldfish because most don’t like the taste of the leaves. Even if they sample the plant early on, most goldfish will soon leave it alone.

Root wise, Amazon Swords can be readily uprooted by goldfish. Therefore, you will either need to grow them in pots, or use netting over the substrate.


In many ways, Hornwort is the premier plant for a goldfish tank or pond. It is one of the best plants for absorbing nitrates and keeping the water chemistry in good balance. Hornwort will also grow well in just about any water chemistry and lighting condition,and will do fine in cold temperatures.

Since Hornworts have sharp needle-like leaves, goldfish usually don’t like to eat them.

Hornworts also do not have roots, which means goldfish cannot uproot them. You can simply let these plants float on the surface to provide shade, or you can anchor them to rocks or driftwood.

Never bury the stems, as this will cause them to rot.

4.Umbrella Palm

The Umbrella Palm is considered a tropical plant. It will still do well in most climates as long as you winter it indoors. This plant does not require fertilizer or any other special treatment. You may need to trim the roots from time to time, or cut the plant back if it gets too big.

Even though goldfish need plants to hide and play in, they also need a lot of open swimming space. When it comes to a pond setting, you would be surprised at how quickly they can become cramped by fast growing plants.

The Umbrella Palm is ideal for goldfish ponds because its roots extend deep into the substrate where they absorb nitrates and other waste materials. At the same time, the leaves do not take up space under water.

Since the plant grows fairly large, it provides decent shade without clogging up the surface where vital oxygen exchange takes place.

5.Water Lily (Nymphaea)

Some water lilies can remain in frozen over ponds. There are also varieties that grow to different sizes. Contrary to popular belief, they can be grown in aquariums as well as ponds. These plants will do fine in most light settings and do not require special fertilizers.

As for additional care, you may have to pull the pots up from the pond and winter the bulbs indoors if the temperatures get too cold, depending on the type. Some species can be wintered in frozen ponds as long as the pot is kept in a spot that doesn’t freeze over.

Few things are more peaceful than an idyllic pond with water lilies flowering on the surface. When you add the brilliant gleam of goldfish, any pond becomes a work of poetry and art. Some goldfish will enjoy snacking on water lilies, while others leave them alone.

These plants produce huge leaves that help shade the surface. As such, removing one or two leaves is much easier than trying to snip dozens from a more prolific plant.

Today, there are hundreds of species of aquatic plants that you can try growing in a goldfish tank or pond. Some plants, such as Duckweed, cover the surface too quickly and can suffocate the inhabitants of any tank. Other plants, such as the five listed above, provide a robust growth rate and other features that make them useful to keep with goldfish.


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