11 Plants Your Neon Tetras Will Love In Their Tank

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Neon tetras are truly remarkable, and I’ve been caring for them for many years. My fish tank is brimming with plants, providing plenty of hiding spots for the neon tetras and their fry.

However, which plants are most beneficial for neon tetras in terms of providing cover and creating a suitable environment?

What Makes A Plant Suitable For Neon Tetras?

1. Non-Toxicity

It’s vital to ensure that the plants introduced into the aquarium aren’t harmful to neon tetras. 

This involves researching each plant species before purchase, and ensuring they’re specifically marked as safe for use in fish tanks.

Many popular aquarium plants, like java fern or anubias, are safe options.

2. Soft Leaves

Neon tetras, like many fish, have delicate bodies and can be injured by rough or sharp plants.

Selecting plants with soft, smooth leaves (like mosses or water wisteria) can minimize the risk of harm. Avoid plants with hard, pointy leaves that could potentially cause injuries.

3. Proper Size

Size matters when choosing plants for neon tetras.

These fish are small and enjoy navigating through dense vegetation for protection and play, so plants that can provide a thick foliage are ideal.

However, these should not overcrowd the tank or dominate the swimming space of the fish. Moderate to small-sized plants, like java moss or dwarf hairgrass, are typically good choices.

4. Water Conditions

In addition to these, consider plants that can thrive in the same water conditions as neon tetras.

These fish prefer slightly acidic water (pH 6.0 to 7.0), and warmer temperatures (20-26°C or 68-79°F).

Ensure that your plants will thrive under these conditions too.

Also Read: Neon Tetra Tank Setup

Considering these factors, here is a list of 11 excellent plants that your neon tetras will enjoy having:

1. Marimo Moss Balls

The Marimo moss sphere is an algae-based entity rather than an actual plant, but it proves to be quite convenient to care for.

It thrives in low light conditions, which is why most neon tetras tend to pay no attention to these moss spheres.

Despite its slow growth rate, this algal sphere plays a vital role in keeping your neon tetra aquarium clean.

It effectively removes nitrates from the water and provides a home for beneficial bacteria. 

Additionally, it helps control the growth of less desirable types of algae, making it a great choice for aquariums that house slow-growing plants such as anubias and java fern.

To maintain their round shape, remember to occasionally rotate your moss spheres, but otherwise, you can leave them undisturbed for long periods of time.

During regular water changes, simply rinsing the sphere should suffice to remove any tetra waste or particles that may have become trapped in the fibers.

2. Brazilian Water Weed

Also known as the Anacharis Elodea, the Brazilian Water Weed is renowned for its impressive growth, which allows it to completely cover an aquarium.

This characteristic is particularly advantageous for neon tetras.

Similar to other fish, neon tetras require hiding spots, and the Brazilian Water Weed provides an abundance of them throughout the aquarium.

This is especially beneficial for young tetras, as they can seek shelter and grow effectively. Under optimal conditions, the plant will quickly populate your aquarium within a few days.

In addition to providing hiding places for neon tetras, the Anacharis is highly effective at purifying your tank.

It efficiently removes harmful chemicals, promoting a cleaner and safer environment for the fish. However, it is important to regularly trim these plants due to their continuous growth.

If you wish to introduce this plant to your aquarium, you can acquire a segment of it and implant it into your substrate.

3. Moneywort

The resilient Moneywort, a tall stem plant adorned with tiny leaves, grows robust and sturdy. 

By grouping Moneywort stems together, similar to how you would with Anacharis, you can create a lush sanctuary for your neon tetras in the aquarium.

Although the Moneywort plant appears lush and tempting, neon tetras do not consume live plants.

Even if they were to nibble on them, these plants can withstand any potential damage caused by the small mouths of neon tetras.

With moderate lighting and sufficient nutrients, the Moneywort can quickly reach the water’s surface.

An interesting characteristic of this plant is its ability to extend beyond the boundaries of your tank, creating a captivating spectacle.

4. Anubias

Without a doubt, Anubias is one of the most ideal plants to pair with neon tetras. It possesses robust and sturdy leaves that can endure the enthusiastic pecking of tetras.

The plant comes in various forms and requires minimal specific care to thrive. With proper nurturing, Anubias can grow into a substantial plant and even produce delicate blossoms.

For a “mat-like” look at the base of the tank, you can arrange the compact version of Anubias, known as Anubias petite, together.

Anubias doesn’t need any substrate and actually prefers to keep its roots exposed, which is especially advantageous for those who maintain a substrate-free tank.

5. Hornwort

If, like me, you lack natural gardening skills but still want an attractive plant to enhance your aquarium, consider Hornwort.

It’s also known as Coon’s Tail due to its vibrant shape. This plant is incredibly versatile and has minimal requirements.

You don’t need a complex substrate, supplements, CO2, or strong lighting. Surprisingly, it can thrive in a wide range of environments.

When exposed to brighter light, it becomes denser and grows rapidly, increasing by several inches in just a week.

From my own observations, neon tetras tend to leave it alone because of its robust needles that replace delicate leaves.

Hornwort can tolerate various temperatures and is one of the few plants that can survive outdoors in a pond during winter.

It absorbs high levels of nitrates, which helps control algae growth.

This makes it a fantastic addition to your aquarium, as it can grow almost as tall as the available space, creating a beautiful backdrop.

Also Read: Do Neon Tetras Need A Filter?

6. Water Lettuce

Water Lettuce has large leaves and long roots. These roots absorb nutrients from the water and provide excellent cover for any neon tetras swimming near the surface.

Although the chance of fish being snatched by birds is minimal, the floating plants offer a sense of security. You will notice more neon tetras freely exploring the tank as a result.

Make sure your aquarium water is nutrient-rich, as Water Lettuce is a fast grower that produces runners to propagate new plants.

7. Amazon Sword

The Amazon Sword plant, also known as Echinodorus Bleheri or Echinodorus Grisebachii, is often mentioned as a great addition to aquariums housing neon tetras.

These plants can grow to impressive heights and sizes as they mature, creating a safe haven for neon tetras and their young.

They are especially beneficial for egg-carrying neon tetras during spawning. To successfully grow these plants in your aquarium, root tablets are necessary.

While they have a moderate growth rate, using fertilizers, carbon dioxide, and appropriate lighting can significantly speed up their growth.

However, if you have a small aquarium, it would be wise to avoid the Amazon Sword plant.

8. Cryptocoryne

Cryptocoryne belongs to a diverse genus of plants, similar to Anubias. Numerous varieties of Cryptocoryne exist, with “C. Wendtii” being one of the most popular. 

These plants require secure rooting in the aquarium substrate and perform well in moderate lighting without the need for additional CO2.

Cryptocoryne provides neon tetras with an ideal jungle-like environment near the substrate.

Whether a female is seeking to avoid male attention or juvenile neon tetras are orienting themselves, these plants offer a perfect solution.

To successfully cultivate Cryptocoryne, enriching the substrate with nutrients is crucial.

Nutritious aquarium soil works effectively, but if you are a beginner and only wish to grow a few plants, root tabs will suffice.

In my own tank, I currently have a variety of Cryptocoryne, which I supplement with liquid fertilizers. This demonstrates that no plant is solely reliant on root feeding, contrary to popular belief.

9. Java Fern

The Java fern is a beautiful addition to your aquarium, whether you want it to serve as a backdrop or a central feature.

It has robust, stringy foliage that effectively resists attacks from neon tetras. The plant provides a lush and leafy habitat where fish can explore and find shelter.

One of its remarkable qualities is its hardiness, ensuring survival unless you actively try to harm it.

Another advantage is that the Java fern is not picky about light or fertilizer and can thrive without soil. You can easily anchor it onto pieces of wood or stones for convenience.

Given the right conditions and enough time, the Java fern can grow up to 14 inches, becoming a captivating element in any aquatic landscape.

In my own experiments, I’ve discovered that neon tetras, regardless of their species or size, do not disturb this plant.

This makes it an excellent choice for smaller tanks as a backdrop or larger ones as a centerpiece.

10. Java Moss

Java Moss is an excellent choice for breeding neon tetras as they provide ample hiding places for the juveniles.

Java Moss is versatile and can thrive under moderate to low lighting.

While allowing a large moss ball to float in your tank is an option, it is preferable to secure some moss to a piece of wood using a fishing line.

Java Moss is essential for neon tetra keepers, especially in smaller tanks.

In confined spaces, adult neon tetras and juveniles live closely together, making it challenging for the young ones to find cover. Java Moss can assist in such scenarios.

Java Moss is highly versatile and is used by both novice and experienced aquarists to create attractive aquascapes.

Try adding some moss to a piece of wood and observe its spreading. With favorable conditions, it can grow rapidly and will require regular trimming.

11. Guppy Grass

Guppy grass is a type of aquatic plant that grows quickly.

It’s known by different names like Common water nymph and Najas grass, and it’s loved by people who have aquariums, no matter their experience level.

People like guppy grass because it’s great for guppies and can also be a nice addition to a neon tetra tank.

It provides a safe hiding place for baby fish and a favorite spot for adult fish to swim around.

This plant is strong and can adapt well. It can float in the water or be rooted in the aquarium without needing extra CO2. It’s easy to take care of and grows easily.

Also Read: Do Neon Tetras Need Light?

Do Neon Tetras Require Live Plants?

No, neon tetras do not necessarily require live plants in their tanks. However, live plants can significantly benefit the fish and the overall aquarium environment.

Here are the key points:

  • Enhanced Environment: Live plants mimic the natural habitat of neon tetras, providing hiding spots and reducing stress, which contributes to their overall health.
  • Improved Water Quality: Live plants absorb nitrates and other toxins, helping to keep the water clean and healthy for the fish.
  • Oxygen Production: Through photosynthesis, live plants produce oxygen, which is essential for the fish.
  • Optional but Beneficial: While live plants are not a strict necessity, their benefits make them a highly recommended addition to a neon tetra tank.
  • Artificial Alternatives: If live plants can’t be maintained, silk plants are a safer alternative to plastic ones, which can have sharp edges that harm the fish.


To recap the key highlights I mentioned earlier:

  • Live plants contribute to the overall well-being of neon tetras by providing shelter and creating a suitable environment in the tank.
  • Live plants have the ability to purify water by absorbing nitrates and regulating water conditions, benefiting the health of neon tetras.
  • Incorporating an abundance of plants is crucial for caring for neon tetras, especially during breeding, as they provide numerous hiding places for the fish and their fry.
  • Tall plants and floating species, such as Marimo Moss Balls and Amazon Frogbit, offer ample cover and encourage neon tetras to explore the tank freely.
  • While neon tetras can survive without live plants, incorporating them enhances the natural habitat of the fish and provides additional benefits, such as water purification.