Can Aquarium Plants Grow Without Soil?

Can Aquarium Plants Grow Without Soil?

There are many aquarium plants that grow well without soil or any form of substrate, these are called floating aquarium plants.

Can Aquarium Plants Grow Without Soil? Yes, some aquarium plants can grow without soil if they get sufficient and adequate amounts of all nutrients they require to survive and thrive. The purpose of aquarium soil is to provide nutrition to the plants, but they can get nutrients from other sources. Also, some plants are floating plants and lack real roots, so they do not need any substrate.

Can Aquarium Plants Grow Without Soil?

Plants are an essential component of an aquarium, and you can not make it suitable fish habitat without plants. When you want to add a green environment to the tank, plants are the best option. Also, they absorb nitrates and ammonia from water as their food and act as natural filters.

Mostly plants need to anchor in a substrate to make them stable and grow well. Soil is the best choice of substrate for most plants but not for all. Also, there are substrates other than soil substrate that are preferable for many plants. 

What is aquarium soil?

Aquarium Soil is an active substrate layer consists of mineral particles, organic matter, and microorganisms. It comes in use to place on the bottom of the tank with an average grain size of 2-3 mm.

Soil acts as a source of nutrition for the plant but when you are adding such plants in the tank that do not require soil, provide them nutrients through other mediums. Many plants do not need soil and grow well without it. You can leave the aquarium plants in the pots.

Why is soil required in the aquarium?

 It provides various benefits in the tank including,

  • It provides a surface to plant and anchor plants in it.
  • Ensures proper growth of plants and stimulates red coloration in plants
  • Provides all the nutrients to the plants
  • Allows beneficial bacteria to grow on
  • Lowers water pH and softens water
  • Alter water parameters

Why garden soil is harmful in the aquarium?

Garden soil is not safe for fish and plants because it is not organic and can kill your aquarium fish. It may contain many harmful substances such as chemicals, additives, harmful microorganisms, insects.

You have to make it safe and non-toxic before adding it to the tank to prevent damaging inhabitants. Gather it in a bucket and remove all solid, visible contaminants and after spread on baking sheets—heat for 20 minutes to kill all microorganisms and spores and sterilize it.

How do aquarium plants grow without soil:?

Nutrients, sunlight, air, and water are the basic requirements of plants, and they can not thrive in the absence of them. You have to provide all these necessary elements to plant if you want to keep your aquarium plant healthy and growing.

Source of nutrition

When plants do not use soil as a source of nutrients, they absorb these nutrients from water through their leaves. The roots of these plants take in as much water as they need and get their nutrition.


You must add extra nutrients to the water for such plants, and adding liquid fertilizers is the best way. The fertilizers contain all essential nutrient that a plant need and helps grows it faster.

Fish wastes

Another source of nutrition for these plants is fish wastes that are ammonia and nitrates. When the fish produces wastes in the water, the plant roots absorb them. These wastes act as a source of nitrogen, potassium, and other required elements for plants and it prevents aquarium plants from turning yellow.

Areas to place them

These plants usually float in tank hence do not require soil for anchorage. You can also tie them to any hard-scape of your tanks, such as driftwood, rocks, ornaments, and decoration.

You can also spread some plants on the floor to make a bed or carpet-like moss. You should regularly trim and replant aquarium plants.

List of Aquarium plants that do not need soil to grow

Many aquarium plants do not need soil to live and grow, and they are the best choice for aquariums without soil substrate. Here are 20 aquarium plants that do not require soil.

Hydrocotylyte tripartita

Hydrocotyle tripartita is a plant that can grow without soil and propagates through runners. If you provide it soil substrate, it grows too aggressively and makes it out of control, so it is better to attach it with cracks, cervices, or any hard-scape. It is easy to grow, and tying it with wood or stones helps you control its growth.

Hygrophila pinnatifida

It is an aquarium stem plant that does not necessarily require soil and grows well with driftwood or rock. As it grows very fast and aggressively, it becomes wilder and hard to control. It has beautiful pinnate leaves with a red hue and propagates through runners. 

It requires high light and low nitrogen content for its growth and can grow without soil to avoid excessive nitrogen. It coordinates well with other aquarium plants such as anubias and mosses because of its unique color.


Anacharis is the favorite plant of aquarists and grows amazingly fast. It has fresh leaves and can float on water, hence grow without soil substrate. It is easy to grow with moderate light and looks extremely beautiful in an aquarium.

It has several names like Brazilian Elodea, Brazilian waterweed, and egeria. It is a stem plant that tolerates a wide range of water parameters and is ideal for beginners. It gets nutrition from water by absorbing them through leaves. 

It does not have real roots, so you do not need to anchor it in any substrate. You can also tie or attach it to driftwood or other decorations in the tank. 

It does not require fertilizer when in cold water, but it needs liquid fertilizers in a tropical fish tank. 


Duckweed is a floating plant and is ideal for beginners as you do not have to anchor it in soil. It gets nutrition from water and grows faster without an extra level of care. It purifies the water as it absorbs nutrients from the water and reduces the chances of algae production.

It floats beautifully on the surface of the water and does not require fertilizers to grow and thrive. 

Riccia fluitans

Riccia is another floating plant with a medium growth rate and is easy to grow in the aquarium. It is a popular aquarium moss plant-like java moss, and many aquarists want to add it to their fish tank. It requires a daily dose of supplements or liquid fertilizers for nutrition.

It does not require soil or any other substrate for survival or growth and amazingly floats on the water surface. You can also tie it with hardwood or rocks when you do not want to let it float on the water surface. Also, you can place it as a foreground carpet on the floor of your fish tank.

Brazilian pennywort

Pennywort is a floating or foreground plant that grows fast with moderate light requirements. It is easy to maintain as it can tolerate a wide range of water parameters. Also, it needs an optimal level of carbon dioxide.

Like other floating plants, it also floats on the water surface and absorbs nutrients from the water. Attach it to driftwood or rock and can spread it on the tank floor as a foreground carpet. You have to add fertilizers to the tank for its proper growth as it requires good nutrition.

Rotala Indica

Rotala Indica is a stem plant that grows well without soil substrate but requires sufficient care. It is a fragile plant and needs careful handling, and you should not keep it with aggressive fish as they can damage it. 

It requires a high amount of light and absorbs nutrients through leaves from the water. It is a floating plant that needs fertilizer supplementation and a sufficient amount of carbon dioxide for growth and color maintenance.

Ludwigia repens

Ludwigis is a stem plant with beautiful green and red color leaves and is very famous because of its color. It is also a floating-plant that does not necessarily need soil in the fish tank.

The plant is not too demanding but requires liquid fertilizers for survival and growth as it receives nutrients from the water. It is better to place it in the background by tying it to a hard-scape.

Water wisteria

Wisteria is a friendly plant that does well with most fish and can grow without soil substrate. It looks attractive when you anchor it to driftwood or rocks in the mid-ground or background.

Java moss

Java moss is the common aquarium plant worldwide and serves as the best decoration when you attach it to the hard-scape.

It can float on a water surface, and if you want to add creativity, make moss balls or cover it over some decor pieces. It is not demanding at all and can survive in any water condition and parameters.

You can also make a floor bed by evenly distributing the moss all over the floor that serves as a carpet. Also, java moss does not require fertilizers for growth and survival and acts as a hiding place for small fish and invertebrates.

Water lettuce

The plant is thick and floats on the water surface of the aquarium but is challenging to grow. It requires high humidity to grow well with moderate light and no fertilizers.

It looks too natural and outstanding while floating on water, giving an impression of the pond.


Hornwort is a fast-growing aquarium plant and is super easy to grow in the tank because it can survive in changing water conditions. It lacks real roots, so you can anchor it with ornaments or wood using its leaves or just let it float in your tank.

Hornwort does not require fertilizers as it efficiently absorbs nutrients from the water. Also, It enhances filtration by soaking up nitrates from the water.

Marimo moss balls

These are moss balls that float on the water surface and looks too beautiful. They are the same as the java moss balls and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. These balls are the easiest to handle and grow without any substrate.


Anubias grow well when you attach them with driftwood and do not require any soil. It is prone to algae growth on its leaves if you do not take care of it. You can position it anywhere in the tank, and it is better to place it to connection points between hard-spaces to hide them; Also, you can float it in the tank.

It comes in various leaf shapes, sizes, and colors and is more suitable to attach to driftwood or rocks. It has rhizome instead of real roots, and you can ties it to any tank ornament. Adding some amount of liquid fertilizers helps make it grow faster.


This aquarium plant is becoming more famous nowadays and is a tall, fast-growing stem plant. It is delicate, tricky to handle, and is not preferable for beginners. Avoid keeping it in the tank having plant-eaters like goldfish, and many of the fish stay at the bottom of the tank.

Like all the above plants, you can ties it in the background or let it float on the water surface.

It is a stunning plant with a dense, silk-like structure and delicate leaves and looks stunning when floating on water.

Java fern

It is another most common and favorite aquarium plant for hobbyists. It usually starts growing slowly and can survive in any tank conditions. The plant rhizome does not get in the soil, and you can tie it to any object in the tank.

It is an inexpensive plant, and attaching to the driftwood gives an exotic natural tree look. It is not demanding and does not require substrate as it is a water column-feeder plant. The addition of liquid fertilizers helps in its growth as it receives nutrients from the tank water.

Amazon sword

Amazon sword is not a root feeder, and it grows well without soil or any other substrate. You can anchor it to decorations or rocks and add fertilizers to the tank to enhance its growth.

Amazon frogbit

Amazon frogbit is a floating aquarium plant and has sponge-like leaves, which makes it unique from others.

It grows very fast and floats beautifully on the water surface, which encourages fish to swim closer to the surface. Also, the plants offer shade to the fish and provide them protection from scorching light.

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