Aquarium Plants That Do Not Need Substrate And How To Care For Them

It’s challenging to grow tank plants without substrate, but can you have a tank without substrate? Thankfully, yes.

This article will discuss some aquarium plants that do not need substrate. Let’s read on to discover the details through the article below!

Aquarium Plants That Do Not Need Substrate

Many tank plants can live without substrate. The ones that we mention right here are the easiest to care for; their appearance also beautifies your aquarium.


  • Lighting: Moderate to High
  • Temperature: 40ºF to 77ºF
  • pH level: 6.0 to 7.5

If you don’t have much experience raising fish tanks, Hornwort will be one of the safest choices because it’s easy to grow. You may also like its light green hue.

This plant can live without a substrate. Yet, remember to install a powerhead in the aquarium because it needs strong currents.

Other tips for taking care of Hornwort are fertilizing it and letting it float at the top. The two methods can give cover for your fish fry to boost your pet’s growth.

Java Moss

  • Lighting: Low to Moderate
  • Temperature: 68ºF to 79ºF
  • pH level: 5.5 to 8

The Java Moss is a wonderful addition to any tank and demands very little maintenance. With silky green leaves, this aquarium plant has a distinctive look.

Java Moss grows slowly and is readily trimmed to preserve its best appearance. You can also keep it untrimmed for a more flawless look.

Before placing this species in your aquarium, ensure that it has something to hold onto because it lacks a root system. You can use rock or driftwood for this purpose.

Make sure Java Moss has something to hold onto


  • Lighting: Low to Moderate
  • Temperature: 73ºF to 82ºF
  • pH level: 5.5 to 8.0

Anubias is an excellent option for those who don’t have access to powerful illumination but want to maintain a natural-looking aquarium.

If your fish don’t like plants, the Anubias species should be your first consideration. This plant has a low profile and serves as a protective layer for timid fish looking for a place to hide from aggressive tank mates.

As your tank develops, you can let Anubias float on top of it. Yet, it will grow roots. At this stage, you should attach it to driftwood.

Water Lettuce

  • Lighting: Low
  • Temperature: 72ºF to 82ºF
  • pH level: 6.5 to 7.5

This quickly growing species is best suited for large aquariums since fish like to swim among its large leaves.

Some people grow Water Lettuce on substate. Yet, you can choose to raise it as a floating plant. It can still grow well and form stunning leaf shapes.

Water Lettuce grows through fractured stems that open up at their nodes to generate shoots and roots. You can pick young plants and plant them in other parts of your aquarium or trim the parent plant’s small leaves.

Water Lettuce can be a floating species 

Green Cabomba

  • Lighting: Low to High
  • Temperature: 72ºF to 82ºF
  • pH level: 6 to 7

Green Calomba makes a striking foundation for your bigger fish or adds accents to your aquarium when grown into the substrate.

Due to its beautiful, lacy appearance that blooms into dense groups, the Green Cabomba can act as an emphasis or soft cover species.

Large fishes, such as some herbivorous fish, like a little shelter, and the plant may grow pretty tall and give them enough of it.


  • Lighting: Low
  • Temperature: 50ºF to 80ºF
  • pH level: 6.5 to 7.5

Like the Water Lettuce, Anacharis can grow on the substrate or float on the top of the tank. It can retain a lot of nutrients, which is advantageous because you don’t have to worry much about the maintenance.

Bright leaves on Anacharis make it popular with both experienced and beginner fishkeepers. Give them low- to medium-light environments, and they can thrive.

This species is susceptible to variations in ammonia and pure water quality.

Hence, although caring for the plants is not a hard task, you must always keep the aquarium clean.

Water Wisteria

  • Lighting: High to Very High
  • Temperature: 70ºF to 85ºF
  • pH level: 6.5 to 7.5

Because of Water Wisteria’s flexibility, you can grow it either attached to driftwood or allow it to float on the top of your tank. It can wrap around logs and rocks for a striking impact.

These beginner-friendly tank plants look gorgeous and do not demand much care. Their long leaves can spread out over the water’s surface while the roots cling to the hardscape surrounding your tank.

This species is beginner-friendly

What Do Aquarium Plants Need?

Here is a summary of tips on caring for them in your planted aquarium.

  • Water: These species can stick to driftwood or float on the surface. Yet, you need to submerge them in the water.
  • Light: Plants need light for their photosynthesis process to develop. Most of them require around 10 to 14 hours of light every day.
  • Nutrients: Each species requires a set of nutrients, but the three most important for most are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

This video will show you more tips for growing the plants in your aquarium:

The Bottom Line

Do all aquarium plants need substrate? The answer is no. Hence, you can choose the plants that can live without substrate for your aquarium.

Many species are easy to grow and make your tank stunning. Remember to learn what your chosen plants need and give them the best condition.

Hopefully, you will find this article helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. Thank you for reading!