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. Taller plants at the back and shorter ones up front make tanks look more balanced. The dramatic height differences between the two are not always visually appealing. Aquascapers use medium-sized plants in the middleground to visually transition from the tallest plants at the back to the shortest plants in front. This creates a more natural-looking and visually balanced aquascape as the plants appear layered or stacked.

You can see the difference in the photos below. The photo to the left shows a small carpeting species in front and a tall stem in 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 right features similar plants: one in front is a shorter carpeting species and the other in the background are tall stemmed plants. In addition, this tank includes plants of medium height in the middle. It gives off a more balanced appearance because the eye is gently drawn from the front to middle, and the back to the tallest plants. This also appears natural, as plants can be found mixed together in nature.

Planted aquariums with no middleground plants (left), versus those with midground plant (right).

To help you get started, let us introduce you to our top 5 categories of midground plants that will enhance the beauty of your planted aquarium:

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. The plant prefers to be attached with wood or rock. These plants are typically placed in the middle area of any aquarium. Anubias Nana grows from a horizontal stem, called a Rhizome. It will send its leaves upwards. A full, bushy growth pattern is possible even under low light. 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. Anubias golden and Anubias silver coin are all similar-sized Anubias species.

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). In terms of tank placement, java fern is well suited as a midground plant due to its medium-sized leaves and the fact that it loves to be attached to wood and rocks just like Anubias species. The bright green leaves will add visual impact to the aquarium, but it won’t shade out any plants at the back.

The lace-like tips of the leaves give Java Fern ‘Windelov” a more varied look. It tends to remain even more compact than standard java fern, so it can be used as a midground plant in smaller aquascapes as well.

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. They add visual flair to any aquarium with their wavy, crinkled texture and a variety of color options.

Crypt lucens

Cryptocoryne Luciens is a lovely, narrow-leafed cryptocoryne that grows to a height of just a few inches once fully grown. Overall, this plant seems underused, but it makes an ideal midground plant in aquascaping. It’s not as big as many other crypts species. The delicate transition between the tank’s front and back is made by its thin leaves. This plant looks like thick grass or reeds when it is grown in.

4. Baby Tears

Micranthemum umbrosum

The baby tears plant is a good midground plant. However, it needs to be trimmed frequently to keep it tidy. The delicate stems are complemented by the round, green leaves. This plant will look bushy and short if the tips are removed and replanted. Baby tears will grow to the surface if it is left alone. If kept trimmed, the delicate, round leaves can provide a lovely midground texture.

5. Dwarf Chain Sword

Helanthium tenellum

A pygmy-chain sword or Dwarf Chain Sword is a great choice. It is one of the fastest growing grassy plants and can grow quickly to give it a lawn-like appearance. It is able to fill in any gaps in the aquarium, and it can grow to several inches in height without needing trimming. This makes it an excellent choice for the middle of 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.

Aquarium Co-Op’s goal is to offer a well-curated selection of aquatic plants that can grow well for hobbyists. Browse our entire selection of midground plants to get more inspiration for your next planted tank.