10 Best Plants for Shrimp Tanks

Freshwater shrimp are a growing aspect of the aquarium hobby. They are active, beautiful, and fascinating to watch. All of them are also plant-safe, unlike many fish and snails!

Planted aquariums with shrimp are a delight but some plants work better with invertebrates than others. If you’re looking to set up a shrimp tank here are the 10 best plants for you to work with!

10 Best Plants for Shrimp Tanks

Here are 10 of our favorite shrimp tank plants:

Water Wisteria

Stem plants in general tend to be both light and nutrient hungry. However if there was one stem plant I’d recommend for aquarists who don’t care for fussy plants, it’s this one!

Water Wisteria is a member of the hygrophila group, which includes some very fast growing and easy to care for plants. It can be grown in low light aquariums but when given at least moderate lighting it’s leaves take on a lovely frilly form.

With even a bit of fertilizer and carbon dioxide Water Wisteria explodes in growth, needing weekly trimming to keep it in check. Shrimp will sit among the starburst like leaves picking them clean of algae and leftover food.

This plant can even be grown in a floating form! However it tends to messily cover the surface in a tangle that prevents much light from reaching the lower levels. Still, Water Wisteria is extremely low maintenance and easy for beginners!

  • Scientific Name: Hygrophila difformis
  • Origin: South Asia
  • Height: 16 inches
  • Light Requirements: Low to Moderate
  • Nutritional Needs: Low
  • Ease of Care: Very Easy

Java Moss

There are several semi-aquatic to fully aquatic mosses that are favorites of shrimp keepers. Of these, Java Moss is by far the most popular. Its light needs are so low that it will flourish even in aquariums with regular fluorescent bulbs.

In fact, it can sometimes be a bit of a nuisance. Java Moss tends to form thick tangles that can look very messy if not regularly trimmed. Some of its relatives, including Flame and Christmas Moss, naturally form neat patches.

Java Moss helps fish fry and baby shrimp not only find food but stay hidden until they are large enough to live with their parents. Its rapid growth also helps seal away nitrates and other chemicals that are toxic to shrimp.

  • Scientific Name: Taxiphyllum barbieri
  • Origin: Indonesia
  • Height: 3-5 inches
  • Light Requirements: Low
  • Nutritional Needs: Low
  • Ease of Care: Very Easy

Subwassertang

Subwassertang is a bit of a botanical mystery! It’s believed to actually be the gametophyte of a species of fern – gametophytes are a reproductive stage for many plants and algae.

However no one’s taken the time to figure out precisely which! And since Subwassertang seems to stay in this form, it makes things even harder for botanists.

That’s fortunate for us aquarists, though, because Subwassertang is incredibly easy to grow. Even breaking off portions of the rather fragile leaves helps them spread. Wherever they settle they will eventually attach and grow into new wavy balls of greenery.

Subwassertang has a very unique appearance and is quite inexpensive and easy to grow. It’s especially popular among shrimp keepers because it needs no tending, looks exotic, and shrimp love to forage among its “leaves.”

  • Scientific Name: Lomariopsis genus
  • Origin: Unknown
  • Height: Up to 5 inches
  • Light Requirements: Low
  • Nutritional Needs: Low
  • Ease of Care: Very Easy

Cryptocoryne

The genus Cryptocoryne includes several popular aquarium plants, the majority of which are excellent low light species.

While they grow fairly slow, they don’t need additional carbon dioxide, they can get most of their fertilizer needs from shrimp leftovers, and they are very beautiful.

Cryptocoryne parva is an excellent (if slow) carpeting plant while Cryptocoryne wendtii is a showy middle to background type. In fact, these plants come in so many varieties you could plant an entire tank with just Crypts and have it look like a professional aquascape!

The only thing to watch out for is Crypt melt. Once established these plants hate to be disturbed.

Sudden shifts in water parameters or being moved often causes a few or even all of their leaves to melt in days. However they eventually recover once they reestablish themselves.

  • Scientific Name: Cryptocoryne sp.
  • Origin: South Asia
  • Height: Variable
  • Light Requirements: Low
  • Nutritional Needs: Low
  • Ease of Care: Easy

Pearl Weed

Pearl Weed is an unusual plant that can carpet the bottom in the right conditions. It’s one of the best plants for shrimp tanks for aquarists that will give their plants a bit more attention!

Its light needs are variable because the more you provide it the more compact it will grow. To get a proper carpet of Pearl Weed, you’ll need some intense lighting (4-5 watts per gallon). It will still thrive under moderate lighting but it will grow more vertically before expanding outward.

Sale
Seachem Flourish Freshwater Plant Supplement
  • ENHANCER: Seachem Flourish Advance is an advanced...
  • GROWTH: The phytohormones play crucial roles in...
  • ADVANCED FORMULA: With regular use, Seachem...

Pearl Weed thrives with additional carbon dioxide as well; without it, it’s growth tends to stall somewhat. A nutritious substrate or liquid fertilizer addition plus regular pruning ensures it will form a nice carpet for shrimp to explore!

  • Scientific Name: Hemianthus micranthemoides
  • Origin: United States
  • Height: 1-3 inches
  • Light Requirements: Moderate to High
  • Nutritional Needs: Moderate
  • Ease of Care: Moderate

Pygmy Chain Sword

Pygmy Chain Swords are one of my favorite foreground plants because they can grow in a wide range of temperature and chemistry conditions!

When given adequate lighting, some carbon dioxide, and fertilizer, they send runners out in all directions to colonize the substrate.

Seachem Flourish Tabs Growth Supplement - Aquatic Plant Stimulant 10 ct
  • GROWTH TREATMENT: Seachem Flourish Tabs are growth...
  • VITAMINS: Seachem Flourish Tabs are rich in iron,...
  • NUTRIENTS: When inserted into the gravel, Seachem...

Like all Sword Plants, Pygmy Chain Swords are heavy root feeders and should be given a nicely enriched substrate. If not using a proper planting substrate consider adding root tabs to provide nutrition directly to the roots!

Once fully established they create a lovely mini-forest along the bottom for shrimp to explore. They also grow faster and with less fuss than most foreground carpeting plants!

  • Scientific Name: Echinodorus tenellus
  • Origin: North & South America
  • Height: 2-3 inches
  • Light Requirements: Moderate
  • Nutritional Needs: High
  • Ease of Care: Easy

Red Root Floater

Red aquarium plants can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. They are often high light, nutrient hungry types that die if they don’t have their needs met.

Fortunately, Red Root Floaters can get all of the light and carbon dioxide they need by staying right at the surface. Their extended roots then soak up nitrogen and other fertilizers right from the water column.

While they look like overgrown Duckweed they don’t grow nearly as fast. However they can eventually cover the surface, shading out algae and other undesirable organisms.

Shrimp also love to pick out algae and microorganisms from their feathery red roots, which grow several inches in length.

  • Scientific Name: Phyllanthus fluitans
  • Origin: Amazon River
  • Height: floating plant
  • Light Requirements: Very High
  • Nutritional Needs: Low
  • Ease of Care: Easy

Bucephalandra

Most aquarists are familiar by now with Anubias and Java Fern as hardy low light epiphytes. Epiphytes are plants that can attach directly to hard surfaces rather than needing to be rooted in gravel or sand.

Bucephalandra are a genus of plants from Borneo that grow in much the same way: along streams and waterfalls in shady jungle groves. They have beautiful leaves that sometimes have two tones; green and purple are the most common.

They grow just as slow as Anunbias and Java Fern but are a great choice for aquarists looking to add plants to their hardscape. They do prefer carbon dioxide supplementation but can grow well without it.

  • Scientific Name: Bucephalandra sp.
  • Origin: Borneo, Indonesia
  • Height: 2-6 inches
  • Light Requirements: Low
  • Nutritional Needs: Low
  • Ease of Care: Easy

Java Fern

Java Fern is one of the most popular aquarium plants in the world for a very good reason! It’s nothing short of bulletproof!

It hardly needs any light, doesn’t need added carbon dioxide, the waste from your shrimp gives it all the nitrogen it needs, and prefers to grow on rocks and driftwood. Of course, if you give it these things it will grow much faster but it’s the best set-and-forget plant around!

Sale
Seachem Flourish Glue
  • Performance driven at affordable prices
  • Made in the USA with quality materials
  • Field tested to ensure nothing but the best for...

Simply use a bit of string or planting glue to fix your ferns in place until they attach themselves. Eventually it will create small clones along its leaf edges that break away to form new plants.

Java Fern comes in several varieties, including Flame Tip and Trident. All are just as easily grown in shrimp tanks. 

  • Scientific Name: Microsorum pteropus
  • Origin: Java, Indonesia
  • Height: Up to 20 inches
  • Light Requirements: Low
  • Nutritional Needs: Low
  • Ease of Care: Very Easy

Marimo Moss Ball

Marimo Moss Balls are very unique in appearance but are quite popular now; chances are you’ve seen a few bouncing along at your local fish store. These are actually cold water algae found naturally in pristine streams in Japan and Northern Europe.

Since many shrimp prefer temperate to moderately tropical conditions (65-72℉) Marimo Moss Balls do well with them. You may even see your shrimp riding them as they roll along with the slight current they prefer. Shrimp also pick out detritus, ensuring nuisance algae can’t grow on top of your Moss Balls.

These plants grow rather slowly and despite being so common aren’t as easy as people think. The main challenge is keeping their water cold and nutrient levels low. Otherwise, problem algae tends to grow over them and kill them.

If they begin to fade, place your Moss Ball into a cup and place it in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. This cold bath refreshes them substantially!

  • Scientific Name: Aegagropila linnaei
  • Origin: Northern Eurasia
  • Height: Up to 6 inches cross
  • Light Requirements: Low
  • Nutritional Needs: Very Low
  • Ease of Care: Moderate

The Aquarium Handbook

The Aquarium Handbook is our premium eBook that contains everything you need to know about setting up and maintaining an aquarium the right way.

Click below to check out 90+ awesome pages of illustrated fishkeeping guides!

The Aquarium Handbook Cover