Best Aquarium Plants That Can Grow On Driftwood And Rock

Aquarium Plants On Driftwood & Rocks

In this blog post, we’re going to delve into the world of aquarium plants on driftwood. You’ll find the best aquarium plants that can grow on driftwood and rock. All these plants listed below are beginner-friendly and easy to care for.

Here are a few that we like the most.

Aquarium Plants For Driftwood

  1. Java Fern
  2. Anubias
  3. Java Moss
  4. Dwarf baby tears
  5. African Water Fern
  6. Riccia Fluitans
  7. Christmas Moss


What Types Of Plants Can Grow On Driftwood And Rocks?

Growing aquarium plants on driftwood is a beautiful way to aquascape your tank, and give it a natural aesthetic appeal.

A wide variety of aquarium plants can be anchored to driftwood and rocks. But the three most common plant types/families of aquarium plants that grow on driftwood are:


Mosses, or more precisely, aquatic mosses, are flowerless plants that do not have vascular tissues. Vascular tissues are what allow many plants to efficiently transport water and nutrients through the length of the body of a plant. Since mosses don’t have them, their growth is usually stunted and carpet-like. They grow in the shape/form of mats, i.e., densely covering a surface but not very high.

On land, mosses grow in damp and shady locations. Aquatic mosses share that trait and can survive in low light as well. They are very hardy and forgiving plants. Unlike root-based plants, mosses absorb nutrients directly through their leaves that are openly splayed in the water column. Instead of roots, mosses send out “rhizoids” to attach or anchor themselves to driftwood or rocks.

Also, mosses don’t reproduce using seeds. Instead, they produce spores that are carried to a suitable area by water. Some of the most common mosses are Java Moss, willow moss, weeping moss, and Christmas moss.

Rhizome Plants

Even if you haven’t heard of rhizome plants, you would know about the two most common examples, i.e., Java Fern and Anubias. Rhizomes are also called creeping rootstalk or rootstalk, which indicate what kind of plants they are. Instead of directly sprouting roots to absorb nutrients, rhizome plants have a dense/powerful stem structure that spreads out underground (when they are on land or planted in the substrate) that absorb nutrients. Rhizome plants are vascular.

Unlike roots of many other plants that are fragile and mostly grow vertically, “Rhizomes” of a rhizome plant like a Fern or Anubias grow horizontally, and are strong and thick. Roots grow out of the Rhizomes. In many cases, the rhizome acts as the primary stem of the plant, since it can sprout adventitious roots in the water column (and underground on land) and plant shoots upwards.

For rhizome plants like Java Fern, the roots are more important in anchoring the plant to rocks or driftwood, and Rhizomes absorb the bulk of the nutrients for the plant. Some common species are live plants that depend upon rhizomes are Anubias Nana, Windelov and Broad Leaf Java Fern, Bucephalandra, and Pink Syngonium.

Top 7 Best Plants To Attach To Driftwood And Rocks

Java Fern

Java Fern

Java Fern is easily one of the most commonly used live aquarium plants on driftwood.

  • Difficulty: Beginner (Very easy to care for, a bit challenging to grow)
  • Growth Rate: Slow to moderate
  • Temperature: 20 to 27.7 °C (68-82°F)
  • PH:0 to 7.5
  • Binomial Name: Leptochilus Pteropus 

Java Fern is a beautiful plant with strong leaves that’s native to South East Asia. The plant has two major parts: Leaves and Rhizomes (that sprout roots). Java Fern is available in different leave shapes (Narrow, Needle, Windelove, and Tridents), some of which can grow up to a foot in length, while others remain under six inches. The best placement for them is mid or background.

Java Fern is an inexpensive plant that takes some time to properly “take root” in a tank. But once it starts growing, it’s straightforward to care for. Thanks to rhizomes, it doesn’t need to be buried, so the substrate‘s choice isn’t an issue. Like many other plants for aquariums, Java Fern doesn’t require a lot of Carbon dioxide or light, which will help you manage algae growth in your tank. At most, it requires 1.5 to 2 watts of light per gallon, using a full spectrum bulb (5000k to 7000K).

If your tank is cycled correctly, you may not need to augment the growth of this live aquarium plant with fertilizers. Though if you want, you can use liquid fertilizer, as it takes most of its nutrients from the water. It doesn’t require special treatment, and it’s very hardy in nature.

It’s easier to anchor down with super glue (especially on a rock). With driftwood, fishing lines or strings work when the driftwood is thin.

Anubias (Nana)


Plant Anubias is another rhizome based driftwood plant. It has various types, but for this part, we will stick with the plant Anubias Nana, the most commonly found species.

As one of the most prominent aquarium plants for driftwood, Anubias is available in a wide variety of species. Anubis Afzelii, Gigantea, Gracilis, and Barteri. The Anubias Nana technically belongs to the Barteri species. If you aren’t anchoring it to driftwood or rocks, you can simply place it on the substrate.

It’s preferred mostly due to its small size and slow growth (which means it doesn’t leach away most of the nutrients in the water). It has dark green leaves and sturdy stems, and only grows to about 8 inches in size, making it ideal for both foreground and background placement.

Many aquarists love Anubis for covering the substrate and providing hiding places for shy bottom-dwelling fish. Moderate lighting is enough for this plant. Anubias will look and grow fine in low lighting as well, but the growth will be slower. It doesn’t need additional carbon dioxide or fertilizer.

The plant is very hardy and easy to care for. To make sure that it’s healthy and growing, you should keep an eye color, which is one of the critical indicators of the Anubias plant’s health. If they are fading or have brown or yellow patches, the plant may be dying.

Anubias can be successfully anchored to rocks or driftwood. You can use cotton strings, fishing line, or super glue.

Java Moss

Java Moss

Java Moss is a sturdy plant from southeast Asia.

  • Difficulty: Beginner (It’s perfect for first-timers)
  • Growth Rate: Slow to medium
  • Temperature: Can tolerate 21 to 32 °C (70-90°F), grows best in 21 to 24 °C (70-75°F)
  • PH:0 to 8.0
  • Binomial Name: Taxiphyllum Barbieri

Java Moss is one stunning aquarium plant on driftwood. It has a mat-like, dense spread that typically reaches up to four inches (usual spread is three and ten inches). While its aesthetic appeal is obvious, it’s one of the driftwood plants that’s loved by aquarists for providing cover for eggs and fry.

This plant differs from Java fern and other rhizome plants because, unlike thick stem structures, it depends on rhizoids to support it and bring in nutrition. These are sticky little delicate filaments that help mosses anchor on to surfaces (rocks or driftwood). The moss absorbs nutrients directly from the water through its stem and leaves.

It’s one of the hardiest aquarium plants. It doesn’t demand much for growth, and also in terms of care. One good thing about this plant is that you can control its appearance based on how much light you provide. If your tank is darker, moss will grow longer but relatively patchy. For dense (and compact) growth, a well-lit tank will be needed.

It’s a decent carpeting plant so it can be placed on either mid or foreground. The best way to anchor it in its place (rock or driftwood) is to lay it on the surface and secure with cotton thread or fishing line. After a month or two, it will secure its place using rhizoids.

Dwarf baby tears

Dwarf baby tears

Dwarf Baby tears is another carpeting plant that can be used to cover the substrate of your tank either partially or fully.

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Temperature: 18 to 28 °C (64-82°F)
  • PH:0 to 7.5
  • Binomial Name: Hemianthus Callitrichoides

Dwarf baby tears are one of the more challenging to care for live plants. It’s a substrate-dependent plant and grows best in a nutrient-rich substrate. It also requires a generous supply of Carbon dioxide, as well as substrate fertilizers. It’s also one of the driftwood aquarium plants, but for proper growth, you need low lying driftwood that’s not too far from the substrate, so the tendrils of the plant can reach there. It’s also a good idea to get some sand (nutrient-rich) in the cracks and holes of the driftwood.

Its lighting requirement is also a bit stringent. Intense lighting, at least two watts per gallon, should be provided to augment the “carpeted” growth. Otherwise, the plant will sprout from the surface, destroying the aesthetics and confusing the fish.

Most aquarists prefer to place it in the foreground. It might require more care, but one plus point is that it can fit well with nippy fish that you might not want to place in an otherwise planted tank.

African Water Fern

It’s a hardy plant for low-light aquarium setups.

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Growth Rate: Very slow
  • Temperature: 23 to 29 °C (74-84°F)
  • PH:0 to 8.5
  • Binomial Name: Bolbitis Heudelotii

African water fern is another plant that requires plenty of substrate fertilizer for proper growth (not if your bioload is sufficient to offer natural fertilizer). It has rhizomes that shouldn’t be buried in the substrate. You should attach it to driftwood or get a porous rock. Most people place it on the foreground.

It has strong lighting requirements, at least three watts per gallon. Under intense light, the aquarium plant’s leaves grow an exciting shade of green. Depending on the condition, it reaches as high as 22 inches (a first for this list). The African water fern is not a very demanding plant, and once it establishes itself in a tank, it can be very sturdy.

Though it might seek nutrients from the substrate, it thrives more when it’s attached to driftwood or porous rock. It won’t do well with aggressive fish that likes to attack plants.

Riccia Fluitans

Riccia Fluitans

It’s commonly called Floating Crystalwort, and it’s one of the good choices for plants on driftwood aquarium.

  • Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Temperature: 15 to 30 °C (59-86°F)
  • PH:0 to 8.0
  • Binomial Name: Riccia Fluitans

Floating Crystalfood is one of the best live plants when it comes to keeping your algae in check. It requires moderate to strong lighting, depending on how fast you want it to spread, anywhere from three watts per gallon to five. It introduces a lot of oxygen in the tank, reducing the need for items like a powerful bubbler.

If you prefer the look, you can simply place it in the tank, and it will float. But tying it to driftwood is usually better. In either case, it offers good, dense cover to shy fish, and it’s also suitable to use it for breeding tanks. It can survive in a wide range of tank conditions, as it’s a forgiving plant.

As a carpet or floating plant, it might look best if you place it on the foreground. It’s very readily available, and you can get if from nearly anywhere.

Christmas Moss

Christmas Moss

Christmas Moss has a wide natural distribution in Asia and Australia.

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Growth Rate: Slow to moderate
  • Temperature: 18 to 25°C (65-77°F)
  • PH:0 to 7.5 (can tolerate a broader range)
  • Binomial Name: Vesicularia Montagnei

It’s a beautiful carpet moss that typically only gets as high as four inches when fully grown. Shrimp owners and breeders love it. It grows significantly faster if you use powerful lighting fixtures, but it’s not very demanding, It would propagate better in a carbon dioxide-rich environment. Like other carpeting plants, it looks exceptionally well in the foreground.

If you just let it be, it will absorb nutrients from the water column, and act as a floating plant. But you can tie it to driftwood or rock. To help it look its best, it’s good to prune it and occasionally prevent it from being too dense.

How Do You Prepare Driftwood For Plants?

In its natural state, driftwood is home to many things you don’t want anywhere near your aquarium, fish and live plants, mainly parasites. But it’s also typically loaded with tannins that can change the water coloration, and it will get brownish and murky. It’s not a bad thing, especially for many of the freshwater fish that hail from similar natural habitats. But it won’t portray the look you want it to.

If you want to prepare driftwood for an aquairum with plants, there are a few steps you need to take.

  1. For small driftwood that can fit in pots, boil it for an hour. This will ensure that there are no parasites or harmful bacteria present in the driftwood because that’s not something you want to introduce in your tank as it will harm your fish and contaminate the tank.
  2. For large pieces of driftwood, there are two ways. You can either place it in a drum or a bucket with a five percent bleach solution for about ten to fifteen minutes. Be sure to rinse it down before to wash away any dirt lodged in the crevices. Another way is to pour boiling water on the driftwood at least two to three times to kill any parasite.
  3. To get rid of the tannins, you have to soak the driftwood in water and keep changing it daily. Once it stops turning brown or tanned, your driftwood will become ready to be introduced in the water.

How Do You Attach Live Plants To Driftwood And Rocks?

For plants in driftwood, the two most common items used are superglue and fishing line. Some people also use cotton thread, but it rots away in a few days. And if the plant isn’t tied till then, the anchoring may not be perfect.

Use Superglue

If your driftwood is already in the tank and you don’t want to take it out, you can easily attach live plants on by placing superglue on the plant (wet it in the aquarium water first), placing the plant on the driftwood branch, and hold it there for a few seconds. Make sure the superglue is gel type, not liquid.

For plants with rhizomes, that’s where you should put the superglue. If you want to attach something like Java moss, make sure you chop it off in small pieces, place the super glue on the driftwood (ideally, it should be out of the water), and then past the chopped moss pieces on it and hold them there for a while.

The process is similar for attaching live plants with rocks.

Tie It Down With Fishing line

If you are not comfortable with superglue in your tank, fishing line (or cotton thread) might provide a decent alternative. With a line, you don’t need to chop your moss into tiny little pieces. You can use a relatively large portion of the moss, put it on the driftwood’s desired spot, and tie it with the fishing line. For mosses like to attach to sponges, you can use a sponge between the moss and the driftwood. The same method would work on the stone. Even if a piece of fishing line is visible, it will soon be swallowed by the plant’s growth.

If you are using a fishing line to tie down a rhizome plant, make sure you wrap the line over the rhizome (not the leaves) and rock or driftwood. It takes a lot of time for some rhizomes to take hold of the anchoring item, so its best to leave it there until the plant takes hold. Then you can cut it out.

Plants On Driftwood And Rocks?

You can’t grow plants on driftwood or rocks, but plants can wrap their “tendrils” around these anchors and grow on their own. Driftwood is usually more suitable because it usually has crevices and thin branches that help certain live plants anchor more firmly. Smooth rocks might be harder for plants to wrap around, but porous or jagged rocks (unless they harm the fins of your fish) and can offer better “growth” to plants.

How do you fertilize plants growing on driftwood

Most plants that anchor on driftwood or rocks take nutrition from the water. So liquid fertilizers will be best for such plants. For substrate-dependent plants, use conventional substrate fertilizer and nutrition-rich substrate.

Can I Put Driftwood In My Freshwater Tank?

Yes. Freshwater driftwood that’s collected from the adequate sources is readily available, and you can use it in your freshwater tank. It would be better to check to make sure that the driftwood is suitable for freshwater instead of saltwater tanks or reptile enclosures.

Will Driftwood Rot In An Aquarium?

Yes, but so slow that you won’t even notice. Properly sourced driftwood that’s collected from aquatic places rots very slowly and doesn’t disrupt the parameters in the tank.

How To Anchor Driftwood In An Aquarium So It Won’t Float?

If the driftwood is large enough, soaking it in clean water first, then putting it in usually manages to keep it down. If you have some rocks in the tank, you may put them on the driftwood (from sides) to keep it from floating. If the driftwood’s shape doesn’t allow it, you can tie it down to the rocks using some fishing line. If there aren’t any crevices in the driftwood for that, drill some holes.

If you don’t have rocks, you can drill it to a thin piece of slate rock (using brass bolts or glue not to contaminate the water). You can cover the rock up with the substrate. Suction cups are another, rather costly alternative. Aquarium driftwood with plants shouldn’t be floating away in the tank.

Best Aquarium Plants That Can Grow On Driftwood And Rock

Jack Dempsey
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