How To Plant Aquarium Plants In Gravel (Know the Right Way)

Live aquarium plants are an excellent addition to your underwater kingdom. They enhance the aesthetic beauty of this magnificent space and, at the same time, keep all water conditions pristine for you! Live plants have many benefits, indeed!

Plants absorb toxic matters like CO2, ammonia, and nitrates making sure your other aquatic friends stay healthy while adding oxygen which is essential to ensure a happy fish life in their natural habitat.

Planting plants is not always easy. But when you have the right type of substrate, it can be easier for even beginners to plant live aquarium plants with little trouble!

Is gravel a suitable substrate to grow plants? Gravel is the most popular and most accessible substrate to have, but not the most plant-friendly one!

Have you ever wondered how to plant aquarium plants in gravel? Yes, just to let you know, it is possible with the right light, CO2, and nutrients. 

However, there are some things you need to consider before starting your aquarium setup. I will go over everything you need to know about this topic today! Let’s get started!

Is It Possible To Grow Aquarium Plants in Gravel?

Aquarium plants need nutrients to grow and survive – rooted plants soak up their nutrient needs from the substrate through roots, while non-rooted aquatic vegetation takes them directly out of the water via leaves and stems. The primary means for this is leaf absorption.

Many aquarium plants have roots and rhizoids to secure themselves in the substrate but not absorb nutrients from it. So whether you use gravel or rock as a substrate does not bother them at all; they can grow just fine with either one – this is the main concept to grow aquarium plants in gravel.

But plant selection plays a vital role if you want to grow them in gravel and flourish – not all plants will be suitable. 

How To Plant Aquarium Plants In Gravel (04 Simple Steps)

Beginning your aquarium plants can be a little challenging, especially if you don’t know the best way to do it. But, as long as you follow these steps for planting aquarium plants in gravel, nothing is stopping you from growing some of this remarkable life that may have never existed before!

1) Select The Right Gravel Size

Ideal grain size to plant aquarium plants in gravel

Whether you are a beginner with aquarium plants or an expert, it’s always good to know the different types of gravel that can be used. 

You may want to use small-sized gravel with a grain size of 0.1 to 0.2 inches (3 to 5 millimeters) for most live aquatic plants because these grow best in this size. Coarse sand is another type of substrate and should range between 0.12 inches (2 millimeters) – 2 inches (5 centimeters).

2) Prepare The Gravel Substrate For Planting

prepare substrate to plant aquarium plants in gravel

You will need to prepare your gravel substrate before planting aquarium plants in it. Start by laying down a bottom layer that is no more than 1.5 – 2 inches higher from the tank floor; otherwise, cleaning will be difficult.

Then add some aquarium plant fertilizer on top of the gravel layer. In the beginning, root tabs for aquariums are also pretty handy to provide nutrients because gravel contains no nutrients for plants to thrive. Finally, fill up the tank about halfway with water, but make sure not to overfill it!

Be careful not to use anything with sharp edges like a crushed rock because it could damage plants’ roots. 

3) Planting The Plants

attach plants to plant aquarium plants in gravel

The planting process is straightforward. To plant, attach your plants to the gravel with a rubber band, string, or rope just above their roots. This will help weigh down the plant once you place it in water and keep them steady under gravel while they grow correctly. 

Covering up their roots will also ensure the proper growth of these beautiful aquatic plants! A small amount of substrate cover around the plant roots helps to provide extra support!

4) Fill Up The Tank With Water And Fertilize It


The next task is to fill the rest of the tank with water and fertilize it to make it nutrient-rich for plants. Liquid fertilizer can be perfect for aquarium plant growth, as they will take most of their food through leaves from the water.

Essential Tips For Growing Aquarium Plants In Gravel

There’s no need for any special tricks, and many species of live plants can flourish in gravel substrate. All you have to do is make sure you’re fulfilling their basic needs – light and nutrition. 

Identify Plants’ Lighting Requirements

A plant needs light to perform photosynthesis, and they require different light intensity levels depending on their type. 

If your current lighting is not enough for the plants in your aquarium, you need to invest in more intense lighting so that everything grows as planned!

Consider CO2 Supplementation 

Plants do more than just create a stunning display inside your fish tank. But to thrive, they need light and CO2 for photosynthesis. The process provides oxygen and sugar that the green inhabitants of your aquarium rely on for survival and contribute to their lively appearance! 

So give them what they need by supplementing with CO2 if required. The aquarium is a miniature ecosystem, and resources are limited. So sometimes supplementation is very much essential. Because, without good CO2, there would be less sugar produced in plants which means you wouldn’t get healthy plants.

Ensure Liquid Fertilizer In the Right Frequency

Aquarium plants grow best in gravel when provided with nutrients like a plant-based liquid fertilizer. This is vital for their growth as they take most of the food from the water through leaves. 

Plants need the proper nutrients to thrive in aquariums. If you use an iron-rich fertilizer, this will help your plants grow and flourish for years. 

However, it would help if you were mindful of each plant’s need to get all its essential micronutrients from either water or fertilizers.

Best Aquarium Plants For Gravel Substrate

I have picked my top choice of aquarium plants that will do well in gravel substrates. However, this picking process is crucial as plants are not really suitable to grow in gravel – we need some hardy, versatile ones.

Java Moss

Java Moss

Cut up Java Moss plants into small pieces before planting them inside the water by securing these down somewhere on the bottom of your tank, preferably with gravel. You’ll notice colonies starting to form within at most seven days afterward!

They are super hardy and almost impossible to kill! It doesn’t matter what type or size tank you have because these plants can grow in any environment. They collect nutrients from the water, which keeps them healthy easy as long as your waters are balanced out.



Anubias plants are great for beginners. They’re easy to plant and maintain but still look really pretty in the aquarium. 

Plant them two inches apart with their roots slightly buried under gravel -do not bury too deep, or they will suffocate! Within a short time (within days), these slow-growing beauties become strong enough to stay rooted where you place them. 

Amazon Sword

Amazon Sword

Amazon Sword plants are well suited for gravel substrate. They can be planted by making a hole in the bottom bed and burying their roots 2-3 inches deep, keeping the crown of their root exposed to air at all times, which optimizes growth. 

Amazon Swords need ample space to grow, making sure there is enough room around them before planting!

Nutrient-riched water and 12 hours of adequate lighting are the keys to their excellent health, whereas CO2 supplementation is optional.

Java Fern

Java Fern

Java Fern is an excellent option for new plant owners. These plants grow well in gravel and require little to no fertilizer, making them perfect if you’re looking for something low-maintenance. You can even put multiple ferns together without worrying about them taking up too much space!

Java Fern likes temperatures ranging from 65°F – 82°F (18 °C – 28 °C), so they’ll adapt nicely to your water temperature range. They also like lower levels of light than other types of plants, which makes these an attractive choice.



Anacharis is a beautiful plant that provides lush green leaves to the aquarium. Planting them are very easy – all you need is a nutrient-rich gravel substrate where you insert their stems at 2 inches deep and 1 inch apart.

Be mindful that planting the plant too shallow will result in floating stems while placing them too close will limit room for growth.

Ludwigia repens

Ludwigia Repens

Ludwigia Repens is a beautiful-looking coloring aquarium plant that can grow on gravel substrate. However, their green leaves turn red when exposed to intense lighting.

Planting this Ludwigia Repens is easy. Just cut the stem and place it in gravel, and within a few days, you’ll see roots grow out of the ends! 

Iron-rich fertilizers are ideal for getting their red coloration. CO2 addition will make your plant thrive, too, so don’t forget to use that if you can!

Monosolenium Tenerum

Monosolenium Tenerum

For those looking to live a little more on the wild side, the Monosolenium tenerum is an excellent choice. This plant has been around for 470 million years and can grow anywhere you put it! 

Start your planting process – just cut off pieces from the mother plant and place them in the substrate (make sure they’re secured). Within a few days of planting, these spores-filled plants will begin spreading themselves all over their new home with a vigor that could only come from such ancient roots.



Crypts are one of the hardiest aquarium plants that thrive in gravel with low-light conditions. They also come in various colors, which makes them excellent for aquascaping because they provide many different options to choose from. 

They can grow in a wide range of water hardness. However, these little plantings do not like unstable conditions and will die if you disturb or move their roots too often!

Dwarf Hairgrass

Dwarf Hairgrass

Dwarf Hairgrass is a plant that prefers sandy or gravel-like substrate where it can grow without fear of being uprooted. The grass provides shelter and oxygen for bottom dwellers in the tank while creating a luscious green carpet over all surfaces below the water level.

Dwarf Hairgrass is a small aquarium plant that grows in any size tank. This hair grass loves light and will not grow to photosynthesize in shaded areas, so ensure your fish tanks are well-lit!

Red Tiger Lotus

Red Tiger Lotus

Red Tiger Lotus is a beautiful plant that thrives in gravel-filled aquariums. When planting, you have to bury their roots in the gravel but not cover the bulb with it. They won’t grow well if your plantation technique is not correct.

Furthermore, always make sure your tank has plenty of nutrients available so that these plants can thrive at their best potential. After all, they’re used to being surrounded by so many foods in water-like conditions when growing around natural bodies like ponds and lakes.



Vallisneria is an easy-to-grow plant that can be placed anywhere in the tank as long as it’s not kept in soft or acidic water. 

In an aquarium, Vallisneria can grow in gravel. But don’t worry too much about the quantity of it as a small layer will suffice!

The roots should go under the substrate and its crown above the gravel around where fish swim.

Dwarf Sagittaria

Dwarf Sagittaria

Dwarf Sagittaria has been a popular plant among beginner and experienced aquarists alike for years. These hardy aquatic plants are perfect if you’re looking to cultivate an underwater garden with minimal effort!

Dwarf Sagittaria is a tough plant that can survive in just about any environment. They are one of the few plants able to tolerate high ph and hard water, so they’re perfect for people who keep fish tanks with difficult living conditions!

When planting them in gravel, you need to fertilize your water column frequently, as they are highly iron-demanding plants. 

Planting In Pots – An Alternative Method

Planting in pots is a convenient way to decorate your aquarium. You can move them around and use any substrate type for this method, but it will limit plant growth as small pot sizes restrict roots. You can watch this video below.

Final Words

I believe now you have a better understanding of how to plant aquarium plants in gravel and how to do that correctly.

Many people enjoy the beauty and intrigue that comes with owning an aquarium. It’s important to use plants in aquariums because they provide a visually pleasing addition, help make your tank cleaner by removing harmful chemicals like nitrates, and add oxygen into the water, making it more healthy and pleasant for everyone involved.

As you can see, there are many ways to keep your aquarium plants healthy and happy in gravel substrate. The most important thing is that you follow the steps I’ve outlined here in this blog post, and I hope it will help!

Let me know your thoughts and put your comments below! 

Sujit Modak

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