Red aquarium plants are extensively used as focal point plants in aqua scaping. Red plants can greatly enhance the aesthetic appeal of an aquarium, whether it is for fishes or crustaceans.

For a beginner, the identification of red aquarium plants based on the plant species might be really difficult. Most aquatic red plants may appear green initially.

Cultivating red aquarium plants requires some suitable scientific and practical understanding of a few basic concepts. These concepts are simple yet less considered.

Through this article, we will try to get acquainted with the species of red plants and some simple things to remember to keep them reddish as much as possible.

Brief Reference For Accessible Red Aquarium Plants

Rotala Rotundifolia Red
Family Lythraceae
Origin S-E Asia
pH requirement 6.5-7.5
Maintenance Level Easy
Propagation method Cuttings
Rotala Rotundifolia Red

Commonly called Roundleaf Toothcup, they are dwarven species. A friendly feature about these plants is that they are capable of growing without substrates.

Ideally, they are cultivated in group plantations (bundles) through the stem.

Liquid fertilizer is required if they are grown without soil substrate. The routine practice of trimming them can effectively promote new growth.

Aesthetically, they can be valuable plants as their leaves get pearly (silvery air bubbles) underwater.

Rotala Macrandra Red Mini
Family Lythraceae
Origin India
pH requirement 5-7.5
Maintenance Level Difficult
Propagation method Trim side shoot and replant
Rotala Macrandra Red Mini

This plant is commonly called the Butterfly Mini. The species is a very good indicator for water quality in the tanks.

Higher CO2 (optimally, 15-25 mg per liter) is required for their healthy growth and coloration. They are regarded as difficult plants to maintain. A decent amount of lighting @ 1-1.5 Watts per liter is essential.

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Ludwigia Repens
Family Onagraceae
Origin Cosmopolitan
pH requirement 6-7
Maintenance Level Moderate
Propagation method Cuttings
Ludwigia Repens

Popularly known as Water Primrose, they are of recent origin from plant tissue culture technique.

In overview, they are simple stem plants that are available at a low cost and have high propagative capacity.

Trimming them frequently can stimulate them to grow bushier. They have the potential to become an invasive species if introduced into the outside environment.

Ludwigia Natans Super Red
Family Onagraceae
Origin Central America
pH requirement 6-7
Maintenance Level Easy
Propagation method Cutting
Ludwigia Natans Super Red

Like most ludwigia species, these plants are easy to grow and replant. The feature that differentiates this plant from Ludwigia repens is their stronger pigmentation.

Ludwigia Palustris Super Red
Family Onagraceae
Origin Cosmopolitan
pH requirement 6-7
Maintenance level Moderate
Propagation method Cut stem and replant
Ludwigia Palustris Super Red

This plant is also closely related to Ludwigiarepens except that the leaves are much smaller and wavy.

Their deep, impacting reddish coloration can be used as a background focal point plant in tanks.

The aerial roots of this plant can be used for propagation by cutting and replanting. It is a good choice of plant for a new tank setup as it can prevent the growth of algae.

They are a fairly fast grower for beginners to propagate. They can often be seen growing to the top of the aquarium.

The appearance of aerial roots can be taken as the perfect time for trimming them.

Phyllanthus Fluitans
Family Phyllanthaceae
Origin South America
pH requirement 6.5-7.5
Maintenance level Easy
Propagation method Side shoots
Phyllanthus Fluitans

They are commonly called Red Root Floater as they are buoyant/non-submerging types. They are known to form carpets on the surface of the water.

This plant is beginners’ friendly and can survive in simple aquariums, but a low surface movement of water can help them establish itself well.

Most hobbyists consider them excellent plants for open-topped aquariums. They are known to grow quickly and may block light from reaching the depths of water.

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Faunal tank mates (Fishes, Crustaceans) that are bottom-dwelling in their habitat are compatible with this plant.

Nymphaea Tiger Lotus
Family Nymphaeaceae
Origin Africa
pH requirement 6-7.5
Maintenance level Easy
Propagation method Cut side shoots
Nymphaea Tiger Lotus

They are also called Red Tiger Lotus. This plant has similarities with the common water lily. They can grow well above the surface of the water.

The colors of this plant can vary from red to bronze depending on the lighting spectrum of the tanks.

Many seasoned hobbyists will recommend them for a large aquarium as solitary plants. The color that they will give will greatly depend on the levels of nitrate and phosphate.

They need a good filtration system to keep nitrate and phosphate concentrations at a very low level, otherwise, their color may appear more greenish than red.

In addition to fertilizers, magnesium and iron supplements are recommended. The utilization of iron by red plants is optimum at a pH of 6.5.

Alternanthera Reineckii
Family Amaranthaceae
Origin Central/South America
pH requirement 6.5-7.5
Maintenance level Moderate
Propagation method Cut stem and replant
Alternanthera Reineckii

These plants have long leaves that appear purplish under ideal conditions. They may require a CO2 level of 6-18 mg per liter.

A moderate light intensity of 0.5-0.8 watts per liter can help them develop their color well.

Alternanthera Rosanervig
Family Amaranthaceae
Origin Central/South America
pH requirement 6.5-7.5
Maintenance level Moderate
Propagation method Cut stem and replant
Alternanthera Rosanervig

Most hobbyists refer to them as AR, as their scientific name is somewhat tongue-twisting.

One distinguishing feature of this plant is the presence of visible veins on the leaves.

Limnophila Aromatica
Family Plantaganaceae
Origin SE Asia
pH requirement 6.5-7.5
Maintenance level Easy
Propagation method Cuttings
Limnophila Aromatica

They are thin plants with evenly spaced leaves on the stem. One peculiar feature of this plant is that it died off after flowering!

These beautiful plants can be grown either by emersion or submersion Regular trimming may be required to stimulate their growth.

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In SE Asian countries, they are found growing in rice fields (after rice cultivation).

They are suitable for deep tanks as they can grow tall. Surprisingly, one may even find them in Vietnamese cuisines.

Echinodorus Red Diamond
Family Alismataceae
Origin Cultivar
pH requirement 5.5-8.0
Maintenance level Easy
Propagation method Adventitious shoots
Echinodorus Red Diamond

They are rare species of a plant in the Amazon Sword Plant variety. They are easy to identify with their classic single sword-shaped leaves.

This plant is ideal for almost all aquariums and is easy to maintain. Aesthetically, they can be used as a centerpiece plant in an aquarium.

Their excess growth can be controlled by removing the largest leaves

Cryptocoryne Pink Flamingo
Family Araceae
Origin Borneo
pH requirement 6-7
Maintenance level Easy
Propagation method Cut by rhizome
Cryptocoryne Pink Flamingo

This plant is among the rarest and most exotic red aquarium plants. Though commonly called Crypt Flamingo and Crypt Pink Panther, finding one might be a hurdle.

Their color is unmatched in the form of beautiful pinkish shades. Though they are hardy species to survive, an optimum temperature of 24°C with an ample supply of CO2 is essential.

Ammania Senegalensis
Family Onagraceae
Origin Western and Central Africa
pH requirement 6.5-7.5
Maintenance level Difficult
Propagation method Cutting
Ammania Senegalensis

They are relatively new to the aquarium world and are not beginner-friendly plants. They can be identified by their irregular leaf surface.

The color change in this plant is quite pronounced. The emersed plants are greenish while submerged ones turn reddish.

Nesaea Crassicaulis
Family Lythraceae
Origin Unknown/Worldwide
pH requirement 6-7
Maintenance level Moderate
Propagation method Cut stem and replant

They occur in a light peachy color under ideal conditions. The arrangement of leaves is unique, with four leaves sprouting around the main stem. The main stem is also reddish.

Hygrophila Pinnatifida
Family Acanthaceae
Origin India
pH requirement 5-8
Maintenance level Moderate
Propagation method Cut stem and replant

Introduced in 2010, this plant is popularly used in aquascaping. They are epiphytic plants that can be easily attached to rocks as per your desire.

Their leaves have serrated edges like a blunt saw. They can either be grown as an emersed plant to produce large green leaves or kept submerged to give more reddish pigmentation.

Barclaya Longifolia
Family Nymphaeaceae
Origin Asia
pH requirement 6-7.5
Maintenance level Easy
Propagation method Cut side shoots
Barclaya Longifolia

This red aquarium plant has dark-reddish, long, and broad leaves that can sway gracefully in agitated tanks. The edges of the leaves are also wavy for easy identification.

Lagenandra Meeboldii Red
Family Araceae
Origin India
pH requirement 6-7.5
Maintenance level Easy
Propagation method Cut along Rhizome
Lagenandra Meeboldii Red

They are slow-growing plants, unlike most species of red aquarium plants. The leaves of this plant have the peculiarity of having a dusty appearance on the surface.

Other features of this plant include large oval leaves and suitability for almost all aquariums. They can be kept as a mid-ground plant in aquascaping.

Shy fishes and crustaceans love this plant as it provides a lot of hiding spaces and shades.

Myriophyllum Tuberculatam
Family Haloragaceae
Origin S-E Asia
pH requirement 5-7
Maintenance level Difficult
Propagation method Cuttings
Myriophyllum Tuberculatam

Commonly called Red Watermilfoil, they are easy to spot. The stem is tall and the leaves appear like needles. Leaves grow on the secondary stems in two opposing directions.

Cabomba Piauhyensis Red
Family Cabombaceae
Origin South America
pH requirement 5-6.8
Maintenance level Difficult
Propagation method Cutting, splitting
Cabomba Piauhyensis Red

Also called Cabomba Plant, it comes under the difficult category for maintenance and growth. This plant has a high demand for a good amount of light to show coloration.

They are cultivated as submerged-type plants. The leaves of this plant bloom in the shape of a funnel around the main stem.

Eriocaulon sp. Quinquangulare Red
Family Eriocaulaceae
Origin Vietnam
pH requirement 4.5-7.0
Maintenance level Difficult
Propagation method Cuttings
Eriocaulon sp. Quinquangulare Red

This aquatic plant is also called the Crimson King. It is suitable for small-size tanks and fits best as the foreground plant.

The size of this plant is small, and it requires more effort for propagation. Naturally, it does not spread. Manual propagation is necessary.

Proserpinaca Palustris
Family Haloragaceae
Origin North America
pH requirement 6.5-7.5
Maintenance level Moderate
Propagation method Cut stem and replant
Proserpinaca Palustris

These plants are commonly called Mermaid Weed and Marsh Mermaid Weed. They have small serrated leaves attached to a beige-colored stem.

Some experienced keepers suggest that a good amount of light can stimulate their leaves to have more serrations.

Didiplis Diandra
Family Onagraceae
Origin Cosmopolitan
pH requirement 6-7
Maintenance Level Moderate
Propagation method Cuttings
Didiplis Diandra

Commonly known as the Water Hedge. They are slender plants that can grow tall. Multiple leaves grow around the main stem. They are easy to grow and propagate.

Cuphea Annagalloidea
Family Lythraceae
Origin USA
pH requirement 6-7.5
Maintenance level Easy
Propagation Method Cuttings
Cuphea Annagalloidea

These plants can be easily confused with Rotala species due to their similar appearance. This species of plant is complicated to maintain for a beginner.

A high supply of CO2 and light, as well as an optimal temperature (70°F-87°F), are required.

How Red Aquarium Plants Appear Red?

The fact that plants appear red is because of compounds called anthocyanins and anthocyanidins. The presence of these chemical compounds reflects away the red light spectrum.

All the other visible light spectrums (VIBGYO_) are absorbed by the plants, so we cannot observe them visually except for the unabsorbed part (red).

How Can We Keep Red Aquarium Plants Red?

The amount of red pigment present in plants depends on several factors. The most important one is the light intensity received by them.

Other factors such as pH, minerals (iron and magnesium), carbon dioxide, nitrate, and nitrites have some key roles. Let’s take a look at all the factors…

  • Light Intensity: Red Aquarium Plants that have received more light emit more reddish-orange colorations. Sometimes, the part of the plants (tip) that has the closest proximity to the light source is more colorful than the rest.
  • pH: Generally, red plants require a lower level of pH (Acidic pH) to give better colorations. This adaptive mechanism can be explained based on better iron utilization at lower pH.
  • Minerals: Most red aquarium plants may require iron and magnesium supplements. They are known to thrive better when supplied with these minerals.
  • Carbon dioxide: Plants have the unique ability to produce their food by utilizing CO2 in the presence of light. The supply of this gas becomes essential in aquariums most of the time.
  • Nitrate and phosphate: Red aquarium plants are sensitive to the levels of these chemicals in the water. A higher concentration of nitrate and phosphate can change their coloration to a greenish color.

All these factors are the major parameters that can be supplied in ample amounts to increase the reddish, pinkish, or purplish pigmentation of your plants.

Can Red Aquarium Plants Remain Red Without Co2?

Carbon dioxide is not the only ingredient for the reddish coloration of plants. Some plants can retain their pigmentation with additional CO2 supplements if other factors are optimal.

Plants like rotala species are particularly vulnerable to CO2 low levels, whereas in the majority of these aquatic plants, CO2 is not strictly required.

How Can We Manage Red Plants Against Diseases?

Effective management of plants against diseases is relatively easy. Any abnormality/aberration can be seen in the leaves or stem in the form of discolorations (other than green).

The suspected parts of plants that are presumed to be unhealthy can be cut off and disposed of responsibly. In the case of retarded growth, reconsider checking the nutrient levels and lighting.

Basic Tank Set-Up Guide

The setting up of tanks for red aquarium plants is pretty simple. One can put it into the perspective of setting up an underwater kitchen garden to make it less complicated.

  • Tank size: The capacity of the tanks will depend on the type of plants of your choice. Taller plants will require deeper tanks and bushier ones need wider tanks.
  • Primary Substrate:Aquasoil (commercially available) acts as the main soil component. They can support the plants.
  • Secondary Substrates: Crushed lava rocks help to prevent anaerobic conditions at the bottom of tanks. A base substrate such as slow release fertilizer (commercially available) for nutrients supply.
  • Aquascaping: Once the primary and secondary substrates are added, use a scraper to create a slope from the front towards the back. This creates a sense of depth in the soil.
  • Additional Elements: One can use bigger lava rocks, bonsai decors (commercially available), and driftwood for more complex aquascaping.
  • Essential Equipment: Replanting tweezers (commercially available) for planting, Scissors (curved or straight) for trimming.
  • Essential Devices: CO2 pump, LED lighting.
  • Supplements: Liquid fertilizers, iron, and magnesium supplements.

How to Decide the Position of Red Aquarium Plants in Tanks

A few simple tips can be taken into consideration for the position of plants in your tanks.

  • Height of the plant: Generally, taller plants are kept in the background to avoid them blocking the tank from view. Smaller and shorter plants are kept in the foreground.
  • Color: Brighter colors are used as focal point plant/centerpiece plants due to their visibility and beauty.
  • Growth level: Some plants can grow very fast and can spread over the tanks quickly. These plants are more suitable for backgroundpositioning.
  • Type of tanks: Floating plants require open-topped tanks. Submerged types of red plants can do well in both types of tanks.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Light Do Red Plants Need?

Red plants need light that is polychromatic (having all the spectrum of visible light, VIBGYOR). White LED light is the best source as it contains all the spectrum of light.

Why Are My Red Aquarium Plants Turning Green?

In most cases, red aquarium plants become green when there is an inadequate amount of light. However, other elements like CO2 and nutrients should also be considered.

Are Red Aquarium Plants Hard to Keep?

No, the majority of the red aquarium plants are easy to keep, but maintaining their red colorations can be a headache without proper management.

Do Red Aquarium Plants Need More Light?

Yes, light is a basic factor responsible for their color. The higher amount of light will correspond to the level of their coloration

Finally, Should You Get Them in Your Aquarium?

Red Aquarium Plants have the property of giving the finishing touch to any plant aquarium. Not limited to it, they are also compatible with almost all other fishes and crustaceans.

Colorful aquatic animals are specially going to be attracted to them as they can provide camouflage.

The propagation capacity of these plants can give them an edge, in their survivability in an artificial home like an aquarium.

Despite providing an exotic look, most red aquarium plants are budget-friendly.

About the Author

Victoria Lamb

Victoria is a freshwater aquatics specialist, fish keeper, and amphibian enthusiast. She has had more than 6 years of experience caring for aquariums and keeping several fish species, and her home boasts of 3 aquariums and a garden pond. Her goal is to educate fish owners on raising healthy and happy aquatic pets.

Career Highlights:

  • Has worked with several aquarium manufacturers as a consultant
  • Organized and hosted workshops on freshwater fish keeping at retail stores, educational facilities, and libraries
  • Released content for the amphibian community through her writings

Educational Highlights:

Bachelor of Science in Animal Behavior and Welfare

  • University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK (2014-2018)

Writing Experience

Victoria has done ghostwriting for many aquarium and pet websites in the past. She has also worked for Canada's largest natural health magazine- ALIVE, with 300,000 monthly circulations as a freelancer. She had six published articles on animal behavior and welfare during her graduation for her thesis.

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