11 Best Aquarium Plants for Angelfish: A Complete Guide

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Setting up a tank for Angelfish isn’t too tricky if you know what you’re doing. These fish are relatively accommodating compared to some of their aquatic counterparts.

But what about vegetation? Do angelfish need plants in their environment? Which ones should you pick to ensure they don’t just nibble on them or cause damage?

In this article, I’ll outline 11 ideal plant choices for an Angelfish tank and provide insights on how to introduce them without a hitch.

Let’s get started.

What Makes A Plant Suitable For Angelfish?

When selecting plants for your Angelfish, there are a couple of important considerations to bear in mind:

1. Non-Toxic to Angelfish

Angelfish are sensitive creatures, and introducing plants that release harmful substances can jeopardize their health.

You need to ensure that all plants in an Angelfish aquarium are safe and non-toxic to these majestic fish.

  • Safety First: Some plants release toxins that can harm fish. Always research a plant’s compatibility before introducing it to an Angelfish tank.
  • Natural Environment: In the Amazon, where Angelfish originate, they coexist with many plants that don’t release toxins harmful to them.
  • Adverse Reactions: Symptoms of toxic plant exposure in fish include erratic swimming, gasping for air, and lethargy.

2. Broad Leaves for Shelter

Angelfish, with their tall and triangular body shape, appreciate plants with broad leaves. 

These leaves provide them with hiding spots and mimic their natural habitat, offering a sense of security.

  • Natural Behavior: In the wild, Angelfish often hide amongst thick vegetation to evade predators and feel secure.
  • Spawning Ground: Angelfish prefer to lay their eggs on broad leaves, which provide a stable surface for attachment.
  • Stress Reduction: A sheltered environment reduces stress in Angelfish, leading to better health and vibrant colors.

3. Slow to Moderate Growth Rate

While plants with rapid growth can be beneficial for water quality, they can quickly overtake an aquarium and limit swimming space for Angelfish.

Slow to moderate-growing plants strike a balance between aesthetic appeal and maintaining the aquarium’s environment.

  • Tank Maintenance: Slow to moderate growers require less frequent pruning, making tank upkeep more manageable.
  • Stable Environment: Rapid growers can quickly consume nutrients, potentially leading to fluctuations in water conditions.
  • Space Maximization: Plants with controlled growth ensure Angelfish have ample space to swim and exhibit natural behaviors.

4. Compatibility with Warm, Soft Water

Angelfish thrive in warm, soft water, reminiscent of their natural Amazonian habitat. 

Therefore, plants introduced to their aquarium should ideally flourish in similar conditions without altering the water parameters detrimentally.

  • Natural Habitat: In the Amazon, Angelfish encounter warm waters with temperatures ranging from 76°F to 86°F (24°C to 30°C) and soft acidity.
  • Plant Adaptability: Plants such as Amazon Swords and Java Ferns naturally thrive in these conditions, ensuring they won’t deteriorate and pollute the tank.
  • Stable Conditions: Constantly changing water conditions can stress fish. Compatible plants ensure the environment remains consistent for Angelfish health.

5. Not Sharp or Abrasive to Fins

Angelfish possess delicate, long fins that can easily get damaged.

It’s crucial to avoid plants with sharp edges or rough textures, as these can cause tears or injuries to the Angelfish’s elegant fins.

  • Fin Health: Damaged fins can become sites for infections and diseases, leading to complications or even fatality.
  • Natural Movement: With safe plants, Angelfish can glide effortlessly, displaying their grace without the fear of injury.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: A tank filled with smooth-leaved, soft-textured plants complements the beauty of Angelfish, creating an attractive visual display for viewers.

Also Read: Angelfish Tank Setup

Best Plants for Angelfish

Taking these factors into account, here are 11 plants that thrive in an Angelfish fish tank:

1. Amazon Sword

The Amazon Sword is a staple in many aquariums, especially those housing Angelfish.

Its lush green leaves not only beautify the tank but also provide a familiar environment for the fish.

  • Broad Leaf Advantage: The large, broad leaves of the Amazon Sword serve as perfect hiding and resting spots for Angelfish, reminiscent of their natural habitat.
  • Warm Water Compatible: Native to the Amazon, these plants naturally thrive in warm water, aligning well with the optimal temperatures for Angelfish of 76°F to 86°F (24°C to 30°C).
  • Spawning Aid: Angelfish frequently choose the sturdy leaves of the Amazon Sword as a site to lay their eggs, making breeding more successful.

2. Java Fern

Java Fern is a versatile and hardy plant, making it a favorite choice among aquarists.

Its unique appearance and low maintenance needs match well with the requirements of an Angelfish tank.

  • Soft Texture: Java Fern’s soft, feathery leaves ensure Angelfish fins remain undamaged as they navigate around the plant.
  • Attachment Flexibility: This plant can be attached to driftwood or rocks, allowing aquarists to design a layered environment that Angelfish adore.
  • Low Light Loving: Java Fern doesn’t require intense lighting, ensuring that Angelfish, which prefer dimmer environments, remain comfortable and stress-free.

3. Anubias

With its robust nature and attractive appearance, Anubias is another top pick for Angelfish tanks. This plant complements the fish’s elegance while providing essential shelter.

  • Hardy Nature: Anubias is known for its resilience, tolerating a range of water conditions, making it a reliable choice for both beginners and experienced aquarists.
  • Smooth Edges: The smooth-edged leaves of Anubias pose no threat to the delicate fins of Angelfish, allowing them to swim freely.
  • Versatile Placement: Just like Java Fern, Anubias can be anchored to various decorations, letting you create a structured environment that Angelfish appreciate for exploration and refuge.

4. Water Sprite

Water Sprite, with its feathery foliage, is an excellent choice for creating a dense aquatic environment that Angelfish love.

This plant provides an ideal setting for the fish to hide and explore.

  • Dense Foliage: The intricate lace-like leaves of Water Sprite create thickets, offering Angelfish ample hiding spaces and a sense of security.
  • Rapid Growth: While its fast growth helps in water purification, aquarists should trim it regularly to ensure Angelfish have enough swimming space.
  • Floating Option: Water Sprite can be left to float, providing a shaded environment below, which Angelfish prefer, especially when the lighting is bright.

Also Read: Do Angelfish Need Hiding Spots?

5. Cryptocoryne

Cryptocoryne plants, often called “Crypts,” bring a touch of the exotic to aquariums.

Their diverse leaf shapes and colors complement the beauty of Angelfish and cater to their habitat needs.

  • Varied Selection: With numerous species available, you can choose Crypts with broader leaves that provide shelter and egg-laying surfaces for Angelfish.
  • Soft Water Affinity: Native to soft water habitats, Crypts sync well with the water preferences of Angelfish, ensuring both plant and fish thrive.
  • Mild Lighting: Cryptocoryne plants don’t demand intense light, aligning with the dimmer, more subdued lighting conditions Angelfish are comfortable in.

6. Vallisneria

Vallisneria, often referred to as “Val,” introduces tall, grass-like aesthetics to an aquarium. 

This plant creates a backdrop that Angelfish find both visually pleasing and functionally beneficial.

  • Vertical Growth: Vallisneria’s upward growth pattern provides Angelfish with vertical lanes to swim, mimicking the tall river grasses in their natural habitats.
  • Easy Maintenance: Being a hardy species, Vals require minimal care, making it easier for aquarists to maintain the right environment for Angelfish.
  • Soft Edge Assurance: The soft, ribbon-like leaves of Vallisneria are gentle on Angelfish fins, ensuring their graceful movements remain unhindered and injury-free.

7. Dwarf Lily

Dwarf Lily, with its attractive red-green leaves and unique growth pattern, adds a touch of color to an Angelfish tank.

The lily pads formed on the surface provide shade and enrichment for the fish below.

  • Surface Pads: The floating lily pads offer a natural canopy, shielding Angelfish from excessive light and creating a mosaic of shaded areas.
  • Color Contrast: The red undertones of Dwarf Lily leaves provide a striking contrast to Angelfish, enhancing the aquarium’s overall visual appeal.
  • Substrate Rooting: As Dwarf Lilies anchor deeply into the substrate, they can help stabilize the tank environment, providing Angelfish with a stable and enriched habitat.

8. Water Wisteria

Water Wisteria is recognized for its beautiful, finely divided leaves. This plant is not only an aesthetic addition but also offers various functional benefits to an Angelfish setup.

  • Adaptable Growth: Water Wisteria can adapt its leaf structure based on lighting, ensuring it remains a valuable addition regardless of the tank’s light conditions.
  • Nitrogen Absorption: This plant is efficient in absorbing excess nutrients, especially nitrates, ensuring the water remains clean and conducive for Angelfish.
  • Thick Refuge: Its bushy growth provides a dense refuge for Angelfish to retreat to, replicating the thick vegetation they are accustomed to in the wild.

9. Bacopa

Bacopa, with its small, round leaves and vertical growth, offers both aesthetic and environmental benefits to an Angelfish aquarium.

It’s a favorite for aquarists aiming to replicate a natural riverine setting.

  • Steady Growth: Bacopa grows at a moderate pace, ensuring the aquarium remains balanced without frequent trimming interventions, benefiting both the plant and Angelfish.
  • Oxygenation Boost: Bacopa is efficient in oxygenating the water, promoting a healthier environment for Angelfish to thrive in.
  • Delicate Structure: Its soft stems and leaves ensure that the sensitive fins of Angelfish are not at risk when swimming through or around the plant clusters.

10. Rotala

Rotala, known for its slender, colorful stems and tiny leaves, can transform an aquarium into a vibrant underwater garden.

This plant not only boosts the tank’s aesthetic appeal but also caters to the needs of Angelfish.

  • Color Spectrum: Depending on light conditions, Rotala can display a range of colors from green to pink to red, creating a visually appealing backdrop for Angelfish.
  • Soft Texture: Rotala’s delicate leaves are gentle to the touch, ensuring Angelfish can swim through without risking damage to their fins.
  • Bushy Formations: With proper pruning, Rotala can form dense bush-like structures, offering Angelfish ample hideouts and resting places.

11. Hornwort

Hornwort, a free-floating aquatic plant, is admired for its feathery, needle-like foliage. This plant offers multiple benefits, making it a practical choice for an Angelfish habitat.

  • Floating Cover: As a free-floating plant, Hornwort can provide a natural surface cover, shading Angelfish from intense light and offering a protective layer against potential surface threats.
  • Toxin Absorption: Hornwort is renowned for its ability to absorb excess nutrients and toxins, maintaining water quality and ensuring a healthier environment for Angelfish.
  • Spawning Assistance: The dense, soft bristles of Hornwort can sometimes serve as a spawning medium for Angelfish, especially when other preferred surfaces aren’t available.

How to Introduce Plants to a Tank with Angelfish?

When introducing plants to a tank with Angelfish, it’s essential to ensure the plants are free from contaminants and suited to the fish’s natural environment.

A gradual introduction allows Angelfish to adapt without stress, ensuring harmony in the tank.

  • Quarantine First: Always quarantine new plants for 1-2 weeks in a separate container to ensure they’re free from pests or diseases.
  • Acclimate Gradually: Just like with fish, plants should be acclimated to the tank’s water conditions, typically over an hour, to avoid shock.
  • Placement Matters: Ensure plants are placed in locations that allow Angelfish free swimming space and access to their favorite spots.
  • Monitor Fish Behavior: After introduction, observe Angelfish for a few days to ensure they’re not showing signs of stress or discomfort.
  • Regular Maintenance: Prune and maintain plants regularly to ensure they don’t overtake the tank, ensuring ample space for Angelfish to thrive.

Also Read: Do Angelfish Need A Heater?

Do Angelfish Like Heavily Planted Tanks?

Yes, Angelfish do appreciate well-planted tanks, as the vegetation closely mimics their natural Amazonian habitat.

However, the key is to strike a balance between dense plantings and open swimming spaces.

  • Natural Environment Replication: In the wild, Angelfish navigate through thick vegetation, making a densely planted aquarium feel like home.
  • Security and Shelter: Dense plants provide Angelfish with hiding spots, spawning surfaces, and a general sense of security.
  • Balance is Crucial: While they love plants, Angelfish also need open areas to swim. Ensure at least 40-50% of the tank remains as free-swimming space to maintain their comfort.

Do Angelfish Eat Plants?

Yes, Angelfish have been known to nibble on some plants, especially softer varieties. 

However, they are not dedicated herbivores, and this behavior is often influenced by their environment and diet.

  • Opportunistic Feeders: While primarily carnivorous, Angelfish might occasionally nip at soft plants if other food sources are scarce.
  • Soft Plant Preference: Plants like Cabomba or tender new growth can be more susceptible to Angelfish nibbling compared to tougher species.
  • Stress Indicator: Excessive plant-eating can sometimes indicate stress or inadequate diet, signaling the need for care adjustments.
  • Spawning Behavior: During breeding, Angelfish may clear areas of plants to create a suitable spot for their eggs, which can be mistaken for eating.

How to Keep Angelfish from Eating Your Plants

To prevent Angelfish from feasting on your plants, provide a balanced diet, introduce plant-safe species, and monitor their behavior closely.

By catering to their dietary and environmental needs, you can ensure harmony in the tank.

  • Balanced Diet: Offer Angelfish a varied diet, including high-quality flakes, pellets, and occasional live or frozen foods, to keep them satiated.
  • Choose Tough Plants: Opt for plants with tougher leaves like Anubias or Java Fern that are less appealing for nibbling.
  • Regular Feeding Schedule: Feed Angelfish 2-3 times daily in small quantities to ensure they’re not hungry enough to turn to plants.
  • Observe & Adjust: Keep an eye on any plant damage. If nibbling persists, consider adjusting the tank environment or consulting fellow aquarists for insights.

Do Angelfish Require Live Plants?

No, Angelfish do not strictly require live plants to survive in an aquarium setting.

However, live plants can significantly enhance their environment, mimicking their natural habitat and offering various benefits.

  • Natural Habitat Replication: Live plants recreate the Amazonian environments Angelfish originate from, providing familiarity and comfort.
  • Water Quality Improvement: Plants help absorb harmful nitrates and produce oxygen, leading to a healthier tank environment for the fish.
  • Stress Reduction: The presence of live plants offers shelter, spawning surfaces, and general security, reducing Angelfish stress and promoting natural behavior.


For those of you who are just skimming through, here’s a short summary:

  • Angelfish prefer plants that are non-toxic, have broad leaves for shelter, and grow at a slow to moderate rate.
  • The ideal plants for Angelfish should be compatible with warm, soft water and should not have sharp or abrasive textures that can damage their fins.
  • Eleven recommended plants for Angelfish include: Amazon Sword, Java Fern, Anubias, Water Sprite, Cryptocoryne, Vallisneria, Dwarf Lily, Water Wisteria, Bacopa, Rotala, and Hornwort.
  • When introducing plants to an Angelfish tank, it’s important to quarantine, acclimate, and place them properly to ensure the fish’s comfort and safety.
  • While Angelfish appreciate densely planted tanks that mimic their natural Amazonian habitat, they also need open swimming spaces; and although they might occasionally nibble on plants, maintaining a balanced diet and environment can prevent this behavior.