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Aquarium Plants That Don’t Need Soil

Last Updated on June 11, 2024 by admins

Aquarium plants are an important addition to any aquatic environment, and nowadays it’s possible to use aquarium plants that don’t need soil. Setting up and maintaining an aquarium can be a hassle, which is why many enthusiasts look for ways to save on both time and money. Not using aquarium soil or substrate is one way – there are, luckily, many aquarium plants that don’t need soil!

No Substrate Aquarium

It’s very common to see substrate used in modern aquariums. The smooth-looking minimalistic style and ease of maintenance are just some of the reasons for this. Most people decide on the substrate they’ll use in regard to the fish that they will keep. However, clean-bottom aquariums are currently trending and many owners are choosing to leave the bottom of the tank empty.

Even though substrate is common, it isn’t crucial for your aquarium!

One of the primary reasons behind owners not using substrate is maintenance! It’s much easier to clean your aquarium if you don’t have substrate on the bottom. This way, you don’t need a siphon when cleaning!

On top of that, substrate needs to be replaced after some time. If you don’t use it at all, you’re saving money in the long run.

This also makes the aquarium cleaner – fish won’t throw the substrate around if there isn’t any.

Lastly, the lack of substrate won’t affect the chemical composition of the water environment in any way that could endanger the fish.

However, there are also negative sides to leaving substrate out of your aquarium.

The first thing you’ll notice is the way an aquarium without substrate looks. Aquariums with substrate look more natural than aquariums without. Soil of some kind is always present in natural water environments and leaving substrate out might make your aquarium look empty.

However, this will also affect the living beings in your aquarium. Some fish use soil to hide, rest or play – not using substrate will make them uncomfortable. Additionally, plants will grow very slowly without substrate and it won’t take root well without substrate.

Lastly, the substrate has a functional role in keeping your aquarium clean. It acts as a natural filter and it keeps the tank clean. You’ll notice that fish droppings, for example, are much more obvious when there’s no substrate (and they’re not broken down as quickly). Choosing to keep an aquarium without substrate will make it easier for the water to get filthy!

No Substrate Aquarium Plants

Aquarium plants that don’t need soil are available! Not all plants rely on their roots to intake nutrients. This would be the biggest problem in theory, because plants can’t develop roots well if there’s no substrate. However, here are a few plants that can use their leaves to take protein and they don’t need substrate!

Water Lettuce

This is a floating plant that can provide protection and shade for your fish! Some fish won’t swim near the surface if there are no floating plants, but will gladly fill that space if they feel protected. Water lettuce isn’t the only floating plant you can use for your aquarium. Most of these plants propagate easily and they don’t need any special attention!

Water Lettuce


Even though Java moss is the most popular type, you can use any type of moss! Water moss is available in pet shops and you can attach it to rocks or driftwood. It will propagate with ease and it’s a useful cover for baby fish, which will hide in the moss!

Aquarium moss


This plant can grow as both a floating plant and out of substrate. It can propagate very easily and you might not even need to buy it, as it can spread from the cuttings of the main plant. This means that you can just ask someone with hornwort to give you a piece. Once you have a plant of your own in the aquarium, it’s easy to grow other plants.


Java Fern

This plant doesn’t do well with planting roots and it needs to be tied down to driftwood or a rock to be kept in place. The java fern will propagate itself very easily, as it will grow smaller plants on its leaves. These ferns are also very easy to decorate with – just untie them and move them to another spot when you feel that it’s time to redecorate.

Java Fern


This plant is very easy to take care of and it doesn’t need soil to grow! The anacharis will either float or it can be used as a background plant. It’s very tolerant regarding temperature and lighting, needing only moderate lighting, which makes this a great plant for beginners.

Tips On Keeping Aquarium Plants Without Soil

There are many things you can do to make your life easier regarding the upkeeping of your aquarium plants.

Firstly, using plant fertilizer is always a recommendation. There are many aquarium plant fertilizers that are completely safe for the fish – ask for advice at your local pet shop to see which fertilizer can be used with your plants.

Secondly, investing in a good set of aquascaping tools is a smart investment. Aquascaping takes time and effort, but using tools that are made for the job is going to make it a lot easier.

Lastly, make sure to regularly check your water’s pH level and temperature. Some plants need a specific pH level and temperature.

Aquarium Plants That Don’t Need Soil – Verdict

There are many aquarium plants that don’t need substrate to grow and you can easily adjust your water environment to those conditions. A few things, however, need to be considered.

Even though these plants don’t need soil to live and propagate, most plants still do much better when they’re rooted in soil, instead of floating. The soil works as a home of sorts, and it also helps them take nutrients (most plants take nutrients through the roots). On the other hand, plants that aren’t rooted in the soil are much easier to move around and that’s beneficial for both maintenance and decoration.

It’s much easier to clean and maintain your aquarium with plants that don’t need soil!

Read more about: Your Perfect Guide To Finding The Most Realistic Artificial Aquarium Plants

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