What plants are safe to use with axolotl tanks?
What plants are easy for beginners and don’t demand much in terms of substrate or care?
I’ve experimented with many plants over the years, and here are my picks for axolotl tanks!
Best Plants for Axolotl Aquariums:
Recommended Plant List:
These plants can live in cold water, with low light, they are durable and do not require added CO2 injection or dosed fertilizer:
- Java Fern
- Moss Balls
- Water Lettuce
- Sweet Potato Vine
- Lucky Bamboo
- Amazon Swords
- Onion Plant
- Water Wisteria
Note: though maybe popular due to its ease of care, I personally do NOT recommend java moss as an aquarium plant for axolotls. While some keepers do not experience issues, the axolotl may try to eat it and it can get gummed up in their throats. I experienced it firsthand and had to pull the plants out of the axolotls mouth to help it. From then on, no more moss in with the axolotls for me.
Out of the ones listed above, I like these the very best:
1. Elodea (Most Beginner-Friendly)
Elodea is by far my top pick of aquarium plants for axolotls. It is called water weed for a reason.
This stuff can grow in almost any environment.
It is found in glacial lakes in Mexico natively, the kind where axolotls used to live.
It does NOT require any substrate, CO2 or fertilizers.
It does not mind cold water.
It does not mind low light.
It is a stem plant, and due to its rapid growth abilities is wonderful for removing pollutants from the water.
It is excellent at producing oxygen for the water.
2. Hornwort (Most Durable)
Hornwort is very difficult to kill.
It is one of the strongest plants in terms of cold durability.
It can take the coldest temperature better than any aquarium plant I know of.
Under the right conditions it grows very fast.
It is very similar to Elodea in terms of care needs.
However the drawback is it sheds its needles as it adjusts to new water, which can last about a month before it stops doing that.
3. Anubias (Most Variety)
There are a wide range of species of anubias, all of which can look quite different from each other.
I have seen aquascapes where all they used are anubias species, and they can look quite amazing.
The leaves of this plant are rubbery, and it can thrive in the lowest light with the littlest care, usually requiring no more than animal waste for nutrients.
However it is not a very useful plant in terms of purifying the water due to its incredibly slow growth.
They should not be planted in substrate.
If the rhyzome is buried, the plant will rot away and die!
They should be weighed down or tied to driftwood or rocks.
4. Java fern
This attractive plant thrives with minimal care.
Like anubias, it should not be buried in the substrate, but weighed or tied down.
It sends out (adorable) baby plants on the ends of its leaves, multiplying gradually until the plant takes on a bushier shape.
It’s a great background or midground option.
There are also several varieties available, such as needle leaf java fern.
Pothos is a great choice when you are looking for something to purify the water.
This plant should not be totally submerged in water – its leaves should be kept in the air, but the roots will grow in the water and remove toxins, and also remove nitrate (which is a huge plus).
Pothos is not a demanding plant by any means.
It doesn’t need tons of light and can thrive in just about any setup.
It also can be used to create attractive creeping plant growth around the tank for an aesthetic bonus.
If you’re looking for something to really block out the excess light, duckweed is your friend.
Duckweed will form a layer of green plantlets on the water surface.
These are great for purifying the water and creating a more shaded environment for your axies.
It’s also a great food source for many fish, though the axolotls aren’t fond of it.
Bonus Plant: Water Lily
Water lilies are one of the best plants for axolotl tanks because they don’t mind cold water.
Their leaves are broad and large, and offer lots of shelter from the light…
… Especially when they are allowed to grow to breach the surface of the water and form the classic lily pad appearance on the water surface.
Besides blocking light, water lilies are great at purifying the water from toxins and nitrates.
They can even produce beautiful flowers!
Advantages of Plants
Keeping live plants in your axolotl aquarium has several advantages.
- By helping to purify the water (specifically, removing nitrates, as most aquarium filters are designed to remove the other more toxic substances such as ammonia and nitrite), plants can help you go longer between water changes.
- They help to make your tank beautiful and more natural to its inhabitants, as well as afford shelter for small fish and inverts (some people like to keep guppies/shrimp in their tank, whose babies can benefit from the hides live plants afford).
- Plants, specifically those that float, can help shield excess light from entering the aquarium from above. As axolotls do not like bright light, this is a definite advantage. As a double bonus, floating plants are more efficient at purifying the water from toxins as opposed to those that are left to grow fully submerged in the water.
- Live plants can help the axolotl to feel happier in its environment, giving it a more stimulating place to live in as opposed to a boring, bare tank.
Considerations for Plants
Planted tanks have several advantages (more on that later on).
Which are the best species for the job?
When choosing plants, there are some important things to consider:
1. Water Temperature
Will the plants be able to thrive in water that is kept much cooler than the typical tropical fish tank?
Because if not… you may end up with a bunch of melty, mushy plants on your hands.
We will want to find species that are not sensitive to being kept in cooler water.
There are many popular aquarium plants that are not good choices simply because they need a higher range of temperatures to grow properly.
The good news is that under normal circumstances, axolotls do not eat aquarium plants.
They are carnivores and are not inclined to turn your plants into an expensive salad.
Axolotls are known for being diggers.
They often like to root around in the substrate, for whatever reason, and this can disturb the roots of some of the more delicate species.
Delicate plants such as Monte Carlo may tire of being stomped on all the time by the axolotls’ feet.
(After all, they are Mexican walking fish!)
Hence, they are not the most popular fauna for aquascapers.
We can work around their messy tendencies by choosing plants that are not easy to uproot – or better yet do not require keeping their roots in the substrate at all.
Many varieties of aquarium plants require very high wattage of light in order to grow and thrive.
Such plants are not ideal for axolotls, because axolotls do not appreciate being blinded.
Yes, I guess you could use a cave hide and keep a bright light on all day long, but then your axolotl would probably spend all of its time in the hide and what is the point of that, besides making your axolotl unhappy of course.
To me this is not the best method for the animal’s sake.
My recommendation is to pick plants that do not need powerful lighting.
And in general, these are less demanding species as well, so they are better for those who are new to keeping axolotls or planted tanks.
Plants that require CO2 are probably not a good pick for the axolotls, as that means they are already picky.
Beginners will likely do best with plants that are not CO2 demanding and can thrive in low-tech setups.
So with that said, please find below my…
Filling your axolotl tank with beautiful plants will help you and your little friend to enjoy the aquarium that much more.
I hope this post helped you with choosing safe plants for your axie – thanks for reading! 🙂