9 Best Aquarium Plants That Grow in Tanks with Gravel or Sand

Do you have only sand and gravel substrate in your tank? Are you curious about the best aquatic plants to grow on these substrates? Do you wish to have a close observation of these plants? Read on to find out some of the best plants that can grow in tanks with gravel or sand.

Growing plants on gravel and sand add beauty and quality to your tank. Some of the best plants to grow include Amazon sword, Anubias, Java Moss, Hornwort, Anacharis, Giant Hygro, Jungle Vallisneria, Asian Ambulia, and Water Sprite. 

Each of these plants has distinct appearances and unique features. They also have different requirements for growth aside from the substrate needs they have in common.

1. Amazon sword

Amazon sword is one of the most common plants that can grow on gravel or sand. This fast-growing plant can be as tall as 16 inches when the conditions are right. One of the unique features of this plant is that it is easy to care for and hardy.

Amazon swords can tolerate a wide range of conditions, making them one of the hardest aquatic plants. It is particularly perfect in cold regions because it grows best around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This plant is not light-demanding, so moderate light is enough to groom them.

Gravel is one of the best substrates for the Amazon sword. But you need a solid substrate base for Amazon sword to provide the proper support. The substrate can be 2.5 inches thick.

You don’t need special tank conditions to grow an Amazon sword, and it can tolerate pH within the range of 6.5 to 7.5. The water hardness can consolidate between 8 to 15 degrees DH.

2. Anubias

Anubias is another exciting plant you can include in your fish tank. It is suitable for professionals and beginners alike because it is easy to care for and hardy. The plant can survive a wide range of tank conditions.

Anubias can cope with almost any lighting condition. But it grows faster under high light conditions and vice versa. So, it is best to use moderate lighting, at least 2 to 3 watts per gallon.

This plant will grow on almost any substrate to have them on both gravel and sand. For better growth, you can boost Anubias with fertilizers. Carbon dioxide will also help you to promote the development of your plant.

The ideal temperature for Anubias to grow is usually within the range of 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. It will also thrive best in a pH range of 6.5 to 7.8. The water hardness tolerance range for Anubias is between 3 to 8 KH.

3. Java Moss

Java Moss is one of the most common members of the moss family. It is arguably the hardest and the easiest plant to grow in the tank. Little wonder it is one of the top choices for beginner aquarists.

Java Moss can tolerate and will thrive under a wide variety of tank conditions. This fast-growing plant provides a lot of hiding places for small fish because of its leaves. It can grow up to 4 inches; hence, carpeting its substrate.

This green plant is not particular about light demands, and Java Moss will thrive under any light aside shades. But the plant will grow better, faster, and denser with bright light.

Java Moss will thrive ideally without fertilizer. Nevertheless, all plants will benefit from fertilizers, and Java Moss is not an exception. You can leave this plant to float in the tank, and it will find somewhere to attach.

The best substrate for Java Moss is gravel. It makes it easy for the plant to attach and carpet its surface. Consider tying Java Moss to other substrates before introducing it to your tank.

4. Hornwort

Hornwort might not be as common as java moss or Amazon sword, but it is one of the most used plants. It is one of the easiest plants to grow, and it can reach a maximum size of 10ft. Hornwort is one of the best oxygenating plants and will develop rapidly.

Hornwort will cope with a variety of tank conditions. It does not even need additional carbon dioxide and fertilizer to thrive. But this plant grows better in the presence of bright light; the higher the light supply, the better it grows.

This plant does not have true roots, but it will find a way to attach to its substrates. So, you can use it with both gravel and sand. Similarly, they can cope with a variety of water parameters.

Hornwort can tolerate temperatures as low as 59 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 86 degrees. It will thrive at a pH range of 6 to 7.5. This plant will thrive in water hardness within the scope of 5 to 15 dGH.

5. Anacharis

Anacharis is another fast-growing aquatic plant that is easy to care for in the tank. This green plant can grow up to 6 to 8 inches under the proper condition. It is an ideal choice for beginners, and it does not require carbon dioxide and fertilizers.

Ideally, Anachris will thrive best under moderate light conditions. It is best to provide it with at least 2 watts per gallon for optimal growth. If you keep Anachris under low light, it might not survive.

Anacharis will grow well on both sand and gravel. It is best to note that planting this plant on a nutrient-rich substrate will help it grow properly. You can leave your Anacharis to float around in the tank.

The best water parameter for Anacharis to thrive is not too demanding. It thrives best in a temperature range within 60 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. It tolerates a pH range of 6.5 and 7.5 and a water hardness of 3 to 8 KH.

6. Giant Hygro

Giant Hygro is otherwise called a temple plant. This hardy and fast-growing plant is one of the top choices for beginners because it is easy to grow and care for in the aquarium. Giant Hygro can grow as tall as 24 inches; hence, its name.

Giant Hygro produces distinctive velvet-colored flowers once it establishes itself in the tank. This plant will grow well under moderate lighting. You can provide the plant with a light quality of 2 to 3 watts per gallon.

This plant will thrive wildly on both gravel and sand substrates. It is best to use fine gravels to make it easy for the plant to thrive. All you need to plant Giant Hygro is to lay the plant on suitable substrates. The stem will develop roots that will attach to the substrates.

You can enhance the growth of this plant with fertilizers since it is consistently producing flowers. The plant requires a regular supply of trace elements like iron and potassium. You can help them get it from suitable fertilizers.

The ideal water parameter for Giant Hygro includes a temperature range of 72 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit. It has a pH tolerance range of 6 to 7.5 and water hardness of 3 to 8 KH.

7. Jungle Vallisneria

Jungle Vallisneria is one of the best oxygenating plants for fish tanks. It is fast-growing and can grow up to 6 ft. However, this plant is not as easy to care for compared to others like java moss.

This plant is relatively hardy and will thrive in a wide range of conditions. But it is not a good choice for beginners because its maintenance is tricky. Jungle Vallisneria will cope with moderate lighting conditions and will grow faster with bright lights. Ideally, it is best to keep it within 3 to 4 watts per gallon.

Jungle Vallisneria will grow on both sand and gravel substrates. It requires a moderate amount of iron for best growth. So, you can consider complementing its growth with suitable fertilizers.

Jungle Vallisneria will tolerate a wide range of temperatures. It will cope with temperatures as high as 85 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as 65 degrees. It requires hard water and a pH range of 6.8 to 8.

8. Asian Ambulia

Asian Ambulia has several names, including ambulis, Asian Marshweed, and dwarf ambulia. This plant is fast-growing and will tolerate a wide range of conditions. It can grow as tall as 15 inches, which helps it provide a hiding place for fish.

Asian Ambulia needs only slight to moderate light conditions. On average, it will thrive with 2 to 3 watts per gallon. This plant will benefit from fertilizers, but it is not necessary for the plant’s survival.

Asian Ambulia can use both sand and gravel substrates. It can cope with a temperature range of 52 to 89 degrees Fahrenheit. It also requires a pH range of 5 to 8 and water hardness of 2 to 21 degrees KH.

9. Water Sprite

Water Sprite is another suitable plant for fish tanks, including a beginner’s tank. The plant can grow up to 13 inches, and it is easy to care for in the tank. It can tolerate diverse tank conditions and water parameters.

Water Sprite requires moderate to high lighting. On average, you can stick to 2-3 watts per gallon for this plant in your tank. A nutrient-rich substrate is enough for the plant without using fertilizers.

Water Sprite can grow on almost any substrate, including gravel and sand. It requires a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5 and a 68 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit temperature bracket. A stable water hardness between 3 to 8 KH is enough to support the plant’s growth.

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Can You Plant Plants in Gravel?

Of course, you can plant your plants in the gravel, giving you the best growth. In fact, it is one of the best substrates in fish tanks. It is an ideal substrate for plants with no true roots.

It makes it easy for the stem to attach to the gravel substrates. It also allows carpet grass to cover the face of its substrate.

Can I Plant Aquarium Plants Straight into Gravel?

The precise answer is YES. You can plant aquarium plants straight into gravel for both established and new tanks. All you need is a rubber or other suitable material that will help keep the plant attached to the rock.

Gravels allow water to flow through them. So, it helps them get enough water and nutrient supply required for their growth. It is best for plants with no true roots and those that can get nutrients with their leaves.

Do Aquarium Plants Grow Better in Sand or Gravel?

Both sand and gravel work perfectly for aquarium plants, depending on the nature of each plant. Sand works better for burrowing plant species. It suspends the plant’s roots, supplies nutrients, and provides support.

Gravel works best for plants that lack true roots and need to attach. Gravel is also an excellent choice for plants that get nutrients from plants. It allows water to flow through to ensure a proper supply of nutrients and water.

Can You Grow Carpet Plants in Gravel?

Of course, you can grow carpet plants in gravel, depending on the size. It makes it easy for the plants to attach and spread over the surface. Gravels also allow each stem to cling with ease to provide more support.

Can You Mix Gravel and Sand in An Aquarium?

Of course, you can use sand and gravel together in an aquarium. But it would be best if you kept some things in mind before going ahead with such plans. First off, regardless of how you place them, the sand will settle at the bottom while the gravel moves upwards.

Note that it would be a bad idea to use sand with gravel when you have an under-gravel filter. The sand can block the vital process of the filter, therefore causing problems in the tank.


Gravel and sand are two impressive substrates in a fish tank. They support the growth of various plants. It is best only to use plants that will thrive on the substrates in your tank.

The list above contains suitable plants that can grow on gravel or sands. Also, ensure you consider your tank needs when choosing the best plant for your tank. The plant’s choice will help you to figure out the best substrate.


John Brandon

John has kept fish all his life (since he was about 5). He started with keeping guppies and fell in love with fish keeping almost straight away. That was 40 odd years ago. These days John still keeps fish and currently has two large tanks where he keeps many different types of fish such as Angelfish, Neon Tetras, Goldfish, Guppies and many more.

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