Top 5 Midground Plants to Balance Your Planted Aquarium

Top 5 Midground Plants to Balance Your Planted Aquarium

It is important to choose the right plants for your tank and place them in the best places. This will make the aquarium look more attractive, especially after they are established. The most balanced-looking tanks tend to have taller plants in the back of the tank and shorter plants up front. The dramatic height differences between the two are not always visually appealing. This is why aquascapers use midground plants or medium-sized plants to create a visual transition from the shortest plants in the foreground of the aquarium to the tallest plants in back. As the plants are layered, or stacked, this creates an aquascape that is more natural and visually balanced.

These images show the difference. In the photo at the left, you can see a shorter carpeting species in its foreground and a taller stem plant at the back. The plants are both visually appealing by themselves, but the striking height difference casts shadows in the tank’s middle and draws the eye there. The photo to the right shows similar plants. There is a short, carpeting species in the front and taller stem plants in the background. The tank also has plants that are medium-high in the middle. The result is a more balanced appearance as the eye is gently drawn up from the front to the middle and up to the tallest plants in the back. It also appears more natural as plants grow mixed together in nature.

Planted aquariums with no midground plants (left) versus with midground plants (right)

We have compiled a list of top 5 midground plants to enhance the beauty of your tank.

1. Anubias Plants

Anubias plants

Anubias nana (or Anubias barteri var. Anubias nana is a medium-sized Anubias species, which makes it a great choice for the aquarium’s midground. This plant’s uniqueness is its preference to attach to rock and wood, which are often placed in the middle of an aquarium. Anubias can be grown via a horizontal stem known as a rhizome, which sends its leaves up. Even under low light, a full and bushy growth pattern can be expected. Medium-sized leaves provide the perfect transition from small plants in front to tall plants in back and add a cozy place for shrimp and small fish to take cover. Other similar-sized Anubias species that can be substituted for Anubias nana are Anubias golden, Anubias gold coin, Anubias nangi, and Anubias coffeefolia.

2. Java Fern

Narrow leaf java fern (left) and Windelov java fern (right)

A great addition to any planted tank is the Java fern (Microsorum pereopus). Because of its medium-sized foliage and love to be attached to rocks and wood like Anubias, javafern is a great choice for tank placement. It will provide visual impact with bright green leaves, yet it won’t completely shade out the plants in the back of the aquarium.

If you are looking for more variety, java fern ‘Windelov’ offers a bit more texture due to the lace-like tips of its leaves. This java fern is smaller than the standard Java fern and can be used in small aquascapes as a middleground plant.

3. Cryptocoryne Plants

Cryptocoryne plants as midground plants

Due to their small growing patterns and medium-sized leaves, the different Cryptocoryne Wendtii color options – including tropica, green and reddish-bronze – make excellent midground plants. They make a great transition from the foreground of the aquarium to the back because they are medium height yet quite leafy once they’re well-established. Their wavy, crinkled leaf texture and different color variety options add the perfect visual spice to any aquarium.

Crypt lucens

Cryptocoryne lucens is a beautiful, narrow-leafed crypt which doesn’t get more than a few inches tall when fully grown. Overall, this plant seems underused, but it makes an ideal midground plant in aquascaping. It isn’t as large as other crypt species and its delicate texture transitions from the tank’s front to the back can be attributed to its slim leaves. When grown in, this plant has the appearance of thick grass or reeds.

4. Baby Tears

Micranthemum umbrosum

The larger baby tears plant makes a great midground plant – though it will need to be trimmed regularly to keep it looking tidy. The delicate stems of this plant are surrounded by round, green leaves. Cutting off the tips and replanting the stems will help give this plant a short and bushy appearance. Baby tears can continue to grow if left alone. It is technically a stem-plant. If kept trimmed, the delicate, round leaves can provide a lovely midground texture.

5. Dwarf Chain Sword

Helanthium tenellum

Dwarf chain sword, or pygmy chain sword, is always a great choice because it is one of the easier grassy plants that grows quickly to create a lawn-like appearance. It will easily fill in bare spots in the aquarium and grow to a few inches tall without trimming – making it a great option for the middle section in most medium-sized aquariums. It is more visually appealing than other foreground grass species like micro sword and dwarf hairgrass because it has longer leaves.

At Aquarium Co-Op, our goal is to provide a curated collection of aquatic plants that will grow well for the average hobbyist. Browse our entire selection of midground plants to get more inspiration for your next planted tank.