5 Best Live Plants for Angelfish

Angelfish are one of the most beautiful fish around. Their narrow, slender bodies look amazing darting in and out of long thin plants such as the Amazon Sword and Jungle Vallisneria plants.

In the wild, angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare) are usually found in flooded forests and slow-flowing streams in South America. Their body shape and patterns have evolved to allow them to blend in and camouflage themselves among the plants in their natural environment, which is the main reason they pair so well with live grass-like plants.

It’s important to make them feel comfortable and give them the necessary plants for hiding in an aquarium setting. You can do this by replicating their natural environment and including a selection of live plants for them to swim in and out of.

Any of the below plants can be kept with freshwater angelfish. To create the ideal setup, choose a selection of larger and smaller plants, and plant them so that the fish have plenty of open swimming space towards the middle and front section of the aquarium. Also be sure to surround the back and side sections of the tank with tall plants.

Amazon Sword

Amazon Sword (Echinodorus amazonicus)

The Amazon Sword plant makes an excellent background plant, or if planted alone it can make a great eye-catching central plant. This plant is easy to care for, and usually grows to around 12 inches in height. They have been known to grow up to 20 inches in the right conditions though, so depending on the size of your tank and the strength of your lighting, you may need to trim it regularly. In a low light tank, this plant will grow slowly, whereas in a medium to high light tank, it will grow rapidly.
If you’re planning on breeding angelfish, this is a perfect choice of plant for them because they like to lay their eggs on blades of long leaf plants. If breeding is your main objective, plant an Amazon Sword just behind the middle of the tank, and then plant a taller species behind it to keep the eggs protected and under cover. To plant an Amazon Sword, make sure the roots are anchored well, but leave the crown of the plant above the substrate. The roots of this plant will grow wide and large, so make sure the substrate is 2-3 inches deep. The optimal temperature range for Amazon sword plants is 68-75°F.

Java Fern

Microsorum pteropus

Considering angelfish feel at home in waters where there is plenty of cover from driftwood and leaves, Java Fern is an ideal plant to pair with both driftwood and angelfish. This slow growing plant can be attached to pieces of driftwood around the sides and towards the front of the tank. They can grow in a wide range of lighting and typically the brighter the lighting is, the darker green the leaves will turn.

The leaves are hardy and have a leathery appearance to them. They grow to around 13 inches tall and come in a few different varieties, such as narrow leaf and needle leaf. Both of these variants are ideal for keeping with angelfish due to their thin leaves, which this species of fish loves to swim in between. This plant shouldn’t be buried into the substrate; you’ll need to attach it to something else such as an ornament, decoration, or piece of driftwood. Secure the roots using black cotton thread, and after a few weeks the roots should have attached themselves to the object.


Aquarium plants - Vallisneria gigantea and Vallisneria spiralis

This is one of the most natural plants to place in an aquarium containing angelfish. It’s low maintenance and very cheap to buy. You simply need to plant a small bunch in one corner and it will quickly create a luscious jungle look in the aquarium. This classic aquarium plant will do well in wide and long tanks, which are also perfect for angelfish. Vallisneria prefers an intense light, however it will still grow even under low light, just at a slower rate.

There are a few different species of this plant available. Vallisneria spiralis, also known as straight vallisneria or tape grass, is the most ideal live plant for angelfish due to its luscious green straight leaves, which look just like tall blades of grass. Other popular species are Vallisneria americana, also known as jungle val and Vallisneria asiatica, twisted jungle val, which has spiral twisted leaves. They grow quickly, and leaves can reach 7-15 inches long.

Anubias Nana

Anubias nana plant in an aquarium

Anubias nana is slightly different from the other plants listed here. Its leaves are shaped differently, more like leaves of a terrestrial plant, and it grows lower in the tank compared to other plants. While this specimen can be planted directly into the substrate, it can also float in the aquarium. This will complement the other taller varieties of plants well. The other species will grow tall and grass-like, providing plenty of cover for angelfish to swim through, while this one makes a great covering for the front of your aquarium.

This species grows quickly, and each specimen should be planted at least two inches apart. Be sure they are not planted in a shaded area as they need light. If you plant any of the other suggested plants, keep those towards the back, and this one towards the front of the aquarium.


A popular aquarium plant - Ceratophyllum demersum

Hornwort can be planted as a background plant, and due to how tall it grows it would make an ideal plant to pair with the Amazon Sword. If you’re planning on breeding angelfish, they’ll need a plant such as the Amazon Sword to lay their eggs on, and you’ll need another taller plant to provide shelter and cover for the eggs. Hornwort is perfect for this. Due to the rapid speed at which this plant grows, you will need to regularly trim it to make sure it doesn’t take over the tank. Plant it in the back and along the sides of the aquarium to make a great background for the other plants.

Written by Robert Woods

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