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10 Stunning Red Aquarium Plants (Species List + Pictures)

Red aquarium plants are some of the most striking varieties in the hobby. Many are also some of the most challenging – but not all! There’s a red plant for all skill levels, so why not get to know these cultivars a bit better?

Caring for Red Aquarium Plants

Red aquarium plants in general tend to be more needy than green ones, especially stem plants. Most require some additional carbon dioxide and enriched substrates like ADA Aquasoil for optimal growth.

If you decide to go with an inert (nutrient-less) substrate, make sure you dose with a high quality fertilizer to fuel their growth.

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Also, you’ll need to pay special attention to your lighting when choosing to grow red aquarium plants. With few exceptions, all red plants are moderate to high light plants.

This is because red plants lose a little photosynthetic efficiency by creating red pigments within their leaves.

These pigments offer other benefits however, such as ultraviolet light protection in very high light environments and bitter tastes that ward off herbivores.

For these reasons, most plants concentrate red pigments into their soft, young growing tips closest to the light.

Another reason to think carefully about lighting for red plants is that they look better under actual red bulbs. LEDs that use a mixture of RGB (red, green, blue) bulbs versus pure white ones will look more intensely red.

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10 Best Red Aquarium Plants

Here are 10 of our all time favorite red aquarium plants:

Alternanthera Reineckii

Also abbreviated as simply “AR,” these beautiful plants are dual toned, with a green hue on top of their leaves and brighter red on the bottom. Since they don’t grow as tall as true background plants they are ideal for the midground unless using them for a nano aquascape.

AR has a fairly quick growth rate once established and given proper nutrition. There is also a dwarf variety, Alternanthera Reineckii “Mini” in the trade. AR Mini stays below 2-3 inches in height, making it ideal for nano and shrimp tanks!

  • Scientific Name: Alternanthera reineckii
  • Origin: Southern Brazil
  • Height: 8 inches
  • Light Requirements: High
  • Nutritional Needs: Moderate
  • Ease of Care: Moderate

Ludwigia Repens

This North American native is found in the warmest regions of the United States and Mexico. Ludwigia is extremely versatile and can tolerate a wide range of temperatures (68-80℉) and water chemistries (pH 6.0-7.5).

The only real must-have for this plant is adequate lighting. Ludwigia repens will grow in moderate light but in order to see true red leaves, you’ll need to provide high intensity plant lights.

If grown in a low light environment, Ludwigia loses its red color and may even drop lower leaves, concentrating growth on its upper portions. Each stem should be given 2 to 3 inches of space to give them room to spread their leaves out without shading its neighbor.

  • Scientific Name: Ludwigia Repens
  • Origin: North America
  • Height: Up to 20 inches
  • Light Requirements: Moderate
  • Nutritional Needs: Moderate
  • Ease of Care: Easy

Rotala Rotundifolia

Dwarf Rotala, Round-leaf toothcup…This plant has quite a few common names so the scientific name is the best way to discuss it.

This Asian native is naturally pale green but over the years aquarists have coaxed them to develop more and more red over time. Dwarf Rotala is one of the least demanding red stem plants; while you will see faster and thicker growth with carbon dioxide it can be grown without it.

Rotala rotundifolia can be coaxed to develop even redder coloration when nitrates are limited. High intensity lighting and nitrates at 5ppm or less can result in a brilliant crimson coloration that’s rare even for red aquarium plants!

  • Scientific Name: Rotala Rotundifolia
  • Origin: South and East Asia
  • Height: Up to 14 inches
  • Light Requirements: High
  • Nutritional Needs: Moderate
  • Ease of Care: Moderate

Echinodorus Red Devil

Amazon Swords are some of the most popular aquarium plants around. With their broad leaves and sprawling growth habit, they are ideal showpiece plants for any setup.

Echinodorus ‘Red Devil’ is a hybrid from several different species of Sword plant that isn’t found in nature. They are a little smaller than most sword plants, staying around 6-8 inches fully grown.

Typically the youngest leaves of this variety are red but they fade to green as the leaves grow older. However with high intensity lighting and an iron-rich substrate, the leaves will either stay red or turn a bronze green when fully mature.

  • Scientific Name: Echinodorus sp.
  • Origin: Hybrid
  • Height: 8 inches
  • Light Requirements: Medium
  • Nutritional Needs: High
  • Ease of Care: Easy

Rotala Wallichii

Also known as Whorly Rotala, it’s much better known by its scientific name. This plant has feathery leaves that turn pink to red under high lighting. Even for a stem plant Rotala wallichii is challenging.

It requires soft, acidic to neutral water chemistry (pH 5.5-7.0), enriched substrate, carbon dioxide supplementation, and intense plant lighting. Failing to provide any one of these will cause this plant to wither and eventually die.

Given how hard it is to grow Rotala wallichii is often used by professional aquascapers looking to showcase their skill!

  • Scientific Name: Rotala wallichii
  • Origin: Asia
  • Height: 16 inches
  • Light Requirements: High
  • Nutritional Needs: Moderate
  • Ease of Care: Hard

Red Root Floater

If you’re looking for an easy to grow red aquarium plant the Red Root Floater is about as forgiving as they get! This plant is reminiscent of duckweed, frogbit, and other floating plants but won’t take over the surface nearly as quickly.

Like these other plants Red Root Floater wants to sit as close as possible to its light source. Ordinary tank lights will still allow it to grow but it may lose much of its redness without full-spectrum plant lighting.

Floating plants provide shade and act as nutrient sponges, preventing algae from taking over in the lower regions of the tank.

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

Red Tiger Lotus

The Red Tiger Lotus is a showpiece plant suitable for nearly any aquarium. There is also a dwarf variety that’s ideal for aquariums 10-30 gallons in size but will eventually outgrow nano tanks.

Lotuses and lilies in general are hungry plants. However their floating leaves provide them with unlimited light and carbon dioxide. All you need to do is provide supplemental fertilization and warm temperatures for them to thrive.

When planting a Lotus or Lily never bury the bulb entirely as this will cause it to die and rot. Only plant them 2/3rds of the way, leaving the top exposed to send leaves to the surface!

  • Scientific Name: Nymphaea zenkeri
  • Origin: East Africa
  • Height: Up to 2 feet
  • Light Requirements: Moderate
  • Nutritional Needs: Moderate
  • Ease of Care: Easy

Red Cabomba

Cabomba is a diverse genus of plants from the Americas. Most of what you see in stores is Carolina Cabomba, which is bright green. However its South American cousin is light red, turning golden if nitrate is limited.

Cabomba in general is quite demanding for such an inexpensive plant and Red Cabomba is even more so. It needs intense lighting, carbon dioxide, and either a rich substrate or water fertilization.

When given these things it will grow like a weed, however. Take care if keeping with fish; Cabomba has soft leaves and plant eaters like Mollies love the taste!

  • Scientific Name: Cabomba Furcata
  • Origin: South America
  • Height: 2+ feet
  • Light Requirements: High
  • Nutritional Needs: High
  • Ease of Care: Moderate

Red Watermilfoil

Red Watermilfoil is quite demanding, much like the similar Rotala wallichii. Feathery-leaved plants need a lot of tender loving care in order to thrive in captivity. Unlike the Rotala, Red Watermilfoil needs elevated nitrates (5-15ppm) or its growth will be stunted.

It also needs iron supplements and a rich substrate in order to properly grow. However it can thrive in a wider range of water parameters and tends to grow in a thick, busy habit once established!

  • Scientific Name: Myriophyllum tuberculatum
  • Origin: East Asia & Oceania
  • Height: 2 feet
  • Light Requirements: High
  • Nutritional Needs: High
  • Ease of Care: Difficult

Cryptocoryne Wendtii ‘Red’

Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘red’ is probably the easiest red plant to grow besides the Red Root Floater. Cryptocoryne in general are excellent low light plants. They like but don’t need carbon dioxide or enriched substrates to prosper but their growth will slow to a crawl if not fed a little.

C. wendtii has more of a bronze color that turns increasingly red with moderate full spectrum lighting. It’s also one of the larger Crypts, eventually reaching up to 16 inches.

Once you plant your Crypts, make sure you avoid disturbing them. Crypts of all kinds are sensitive to sudden changes in water parameters or being moved. When stressed they often suffer “Crypt melt,” where a few or even all of the leaves dissolve (but eventually grow back).

  • Scientific Name: Cryptocoryne wendtii
  • Origin: Sri Lanka
  • Height: 16 inches
  • Light Requirements: Low
  • Nutritional Needs: Low
  • Ease of Care: Very Easy
Jason Roberts
About Jason Roberts
Jason is an aquarium fanatic that has been a fish hobbyist for almost three decades.

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