A Look at Some Low Light Plants

Vesicularia Montagnei - Christmas Moss
December 2010
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A Look at Some Low Light Plants

by Anthony Rae 2010

As a general guideline, if your lighting is 1 watts per 5 liters of tank water volume or less (eg. 20 watts light in a 100L tank), your tank is considered low light and it will restrict your plant choices. Here is a list of suitable plant if your tank falls under the low light category:


These African plants are usually found growing along the edge of streams,sometimes fully submerse,often extending out of water for several meters among ferns etc on each side of the stream. They have the habit of using their roots to support the rhizome above the substrate as if they are walking on stilts. Roots are able to attach onto corrugated surfaces like tree roots or rocks. Once attached, the roots may start growing into the substrate in search of food. Never push the roots into the substrate. Instead,the plants may be tied with cotton or wire to rocks or driftwood. The various forms of A barteri including 'Nana' are among the hardiest of aquatic plants.


JAVA FERN (Microsorium pteropus)

This fern is found in the same type of habitat as Anubias, though not in Africa. Similarly, Java Fern should not be planted in the substrate,rather tied to supports as above. Java Fern is a choice for brackish water tanks or cichlid tanks, as well as planted tanks. There are several varieties to choose from including 'Windelov' with its crested  foliage and 'Narrow' , with its extra fine leaves. Like most ferns,they can take shady to quite well lit conditions but prefer cooler water.



Another plant from the deep forests and often found growing around waterfalls and fast moving creeks. To get them started,try attaching them to a support placed in the outflow of your filter.



This aquatic fern is often mistaken for a moss or liverwort. It is in fact the gametophyte of a terrestrial fern,which in this very rare case, fails to develop leaves and roots. Fabulous for unheated tanks but also grows well up to about 28C. Tied with cotton to driftwood,it will soon form a lush growth which ontrasts beautifully against other plants in the aquarium. Very classy look for such a hardy, fast growing plant.



Various mosses are sometimes available at good Aquariums. You may find Java Moss, Willow Moss, Peacock Moss, Christmas Moss, Taiwan Moss, Flame Moss etc. Each has its own growth shape and can be tied effectively to all types of supports. You can create your own 'Moss Wall' by spreading moss evenly over plastic mesh and then 'sandwiching' with another sheet of mesh.



Crypts are found through south east Asia and Papua New Guinea. There are several species readily available and often sold in tiny pots. Most prefer warm water and will grow in any of the popular substrates. Crypts are an excellent choice for long term planted tanks where they soon form dense thickets of lovely foliage. They are also an ideal choice for the Paludarium since they are commercially grown emerse. Many people are now growing Crypts emerse since they are much more likely to come out of water.

The plants mentioned here can all be relied on to grow in low light conditions. Of course they can also be grown in quite bright light and would show stronger growth in a High-Tech set-up with Co2 injection.


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