Do Coldwater Fish Need Plants? Keeping Your Fish Happy

Starting your own home aquarium is very exciting. Most people go for either a fresh or saltwater aquarium but when planning for my aquarium, I stumbled across coldwater tanks which don’t even need an aquarium heater, so they seemed easier to maintain. One of the questions I had to research was, do coldwater fish need plants?

In response to your question: Do coldwater fish need plants?” The answer is YES, coldwater fish need plants, as well as other forms of ornaments to hide, feel secure, and of course, feel like they are in their natural habitat.

Coldwater tanks are ideal for coldwater fish. And when I say coldwater tanks, I don’t mean a tank filled with chilled water. A coldwater tank is a tank that is unheated, it simply has the normal room temperature.

If you live somewhere hot in the summertime, you may even need an aquarium chiller to keep the temp down.

The term ‘coldwater tank’ may seem strange to those who are new to owning aquariums, but you may decide to start one…

So, if you’re interested in finding out more about the kinds of plants suitable for coldwater fish-tanks, then keep reading! I’ll be giving you all the info you need!

Best Plants for Coldwater Fish-Tanks

When setting up their coldwater tanks, many aquarists usually have the goldfish set-up in mind. This is expected, since goldfish are among the most common coldwater fish you can find.

However, there are many options when it comes to other species of coldwater fish, White Cloud Mountain Minnows inclusive.

So, what are the best coldwater plants for these little water creatures?

Stay with me, as I will be listing out some of the best options!

1. Marimo Balls (Aegagropila Linnea)

This is a great coldwater plant for your unheated aquarium, and I will tell you why. The algae responsible for forming the Marimo Balls grow naturally in ice-cold regions like Iceland and other Scandinavian countries.

This makes them compatible with your coldwater aquarium, and suitable for your coldwater fish! Marimo Balls are also easy to care for, which makes them ideal for a new, inexperienced aquarium owner.

There is one thing you have to keep in mind though, goldfish love munching on Marimo Balls, some species of large crayfish too. So, they may not be a good option if your tank is filled with Marimo feasting goldfish.

Other species of coldwater fish usually leave them alone, except for when they want to hide behind them of course!

2. Java Moss (Taxiphyllum Barbieri, Sometimes Vescicularia Dubyana)

Many aquarium owners love Java Moss. It is so easy to grow and it thrives in coldwater conditions.

They do not require extra Co2, fertilizer, or special lighting to survive. In fact, they can be left to float freely, or tied to drift-wood and rocks. That’s how easy it is to care for them!

All you really need to do is the occasional trim, just so the middle doesn’t turn brown, nothing more.

Temperatures between 15-30 °C/59-86 °F are ideal for the Java Moss plant, which are loved by smaller fish species, as well as dwarf shrimps, thanks to the amount of cover they provide.

These plants also offer excellent foraging ground for the shrimp, mainly because food particles usually get caught in-between them.

3. Cabomba (Cacomba Caroliniana)

This coldwater plant has been dubbed an “invasive species”, all thanks to how quickly it grows and spreads. But its speed in growth isn’t the only thing that makes it an excellent option for your coldwater tank, they are also easy to care for.

The Cabomba plant shoots up in straight branches, and their rapid growth is actually advantageous for your coldwater fish, being that it helps them absorb nitrates faster. Simply put, the faster the Cabomba branches grow, the faster the nitrates in your tank are absorbed.

For the Cabomba, a tank temperature of at about around 18 °C/64 °F is fantastic.

If you don’t mind your Cabomba being feasted on, then you can plant them with goldfish. Goldfish love chewing on them and truthfully, it’s a great addition to their diet.

Personally, my favorite feature of this plant is that it comes in color red, which can give your aquarium an extra touch of beauty!

4. Water cabbage (Samolus Parviflorus/Valerandi)

If you don’t like slow growers, then this coldwater plant isn’t for you, but if you don’t mind waiting, then this could be the best ever plant you can have in your unheated aquarium!

They are perfect for coldwater set-ups, being that they thrive in temperatures as low as 15 °C/59 °F.

Naturally, these small, foreground plants can be found in marshes, and they can also grow while submerged.

These little plants aren’t the most popular coldwater plants (maybe because of their slow growth), but just like the others I’ve talked about in this article, they are also easy to care for.

Oh, I actually forgot to tell you why they are called “Water Cabbage”. Well, it’s because they grow in small rosette shapes, similar to a regular cabbage or lettuce.

I need to remind you to provide your water cabbage with adequate light, or else they’ll grow out of their cabbage-like form.

5. Brazilian Pennywort (Hydrocotyle Leucocephala)

If you have a low-tech unheated aquarium set-up, then the Brazilian Pennyworth is a plant you might want to consider.

It is a very fast grower that doesn’t require extra Co2 or lighting to thrive. This makes it suitable for almost any kind of aquarium, and easy for the owner to care for.

Experienced aquarists claim this plant grows better when it is left free-floating, so you can try that too.

Young fry and shrimp species love the Brazilian Pennyworth. This is because they grow densely, and provide their much-needed cover.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Coldwater Fish Eat Plants?

Yes, there are species of coldwater fish that eat plants.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, goldfish and big crayfish have a habit of eating Marimo Ball plants.

What Is The Ideal Temperature For Aquarium Plants?

This depends on the type of plant and its original habitat. However, the ideal temperature for aquarium plants is 70 to 80° Fahrenheit. This is speaking generally.

Are Coldwater Plants Expensive?

The species of the plant and how common, or rare they are can determine how much they would cost. Coldwater plants can be sold for as low as $2 and as high as $20.

Once again, this depends on the plant species and its availability.


I trust your question – Do coldwater fish need plants? Has been properly answered.

I also hope the extra information provided in this article has been very helpful!

Take care!

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