Red Aquarium Plants - Planted Tank Mates
rotala macrandra red mini butterfly plant

Red Aquarium Plants


Red aquarium plants provide a beautiful pop of color to any planted tank, but they can be tricky to grow.  You’ll need to juggle a combination of requirements such as lighting, CO2, iron and nitrates.  Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as bumping up all the requirements.  Too much lighting can lead to algae spikes.  Insufficient CO2 and Iron can cause yellowing of leaves.  Liquid fertilizers can lead to high levels of nitrates which can dull the redness in plants.  It’s a fine balance you’ll have to figure out and every plant will vary in requirements. 

Easy Red Plants

When it comes to red aquarium plants, take the word “easy” with a grain of salt.  Unlike some plants where you can neglect it and it’ll continue to grow, red aquarium plants need attention.  The plants noted below are easy because they require less CO2 and lighting, but they still need care.  This is especially true if you want them to produce the best red colors in your planted tank.

Ludwigia Repens

Luldwiga Repens is a red and green midground plant that’s relatively easy to grow.  They’ll do fine with low to medium lighting and CO2 is not required.  Of course, if you increase the lighting and provide CO2, both the leaves and stems turn red which is a great indication of health.  Regardless, plant this in a good substrate and use root tabs to help sustain nutrients.

ludwigia repens red aquarium plant profile
Ludwigia Repens Red Aquarium Plant – available on Amazon
Alternanthera Reineckii

Alternanthera Reineckii is one of the easiest to grow.  Colors will be more dull without CO2, but it can still add a color pop in comparison to green plants.  You’ll notice the underside is generally more red, but with CO2 and high lighting the top will balance out.  The leaves on this plant are susceptible to algae growth, so monitor and trim as needed.  A good substrate is also recommended for this root plant, so supplement with root tabs when the soil has depleted.  Two common types of Alternanther Reineckii are the Rosenervig and Mini.  The Rosanervig grows a lot slower and is taller, while the Mini is lower to the ground and requires more iron dosing.

alternanthera reineckii mini aquarium plant
Alternanthera Reineckii Mini – available on Amazon

Intermediate Red Plants

Medium level plants need higher lighting, CO2 and Iron dosing to show their red colors.  Fortunately, it’s a little more forgiving and the plant will not die if you don’t get this right.  The colors will just be more subdued without the right balance.

Proserpinaca palustris (Mermaid Weed)

Mermaid weed is a greenish to orange-red plant has a wide canopy and distinguished saw-tooth edges.  It’s a relatively hardy plant, but with strong lighting and CO2 it can start to show more red colors.  Combine it with the right nutrients and the entire stem and leaves can be bright red in color.

Proserpinaca palustris
Proserpinaca palustris
Rotala rotundifolia

Rotala Rotundifolia is a fast growing and tall orange-red stem plant.  Due to their height, consider placing them in the background.  Without high lighting or CO2, this plant can continue to grow but will be more yellow and green in color.  Bump up lighting and CO2 and watch the top portion of this plant turn red.  Balance that out with lowered nitrates and the entire stem and leaves will have a reddish color often seen in many Dutch style aquariums.

rotala rotundifolia planted tank
Rotala Rotundifolia – available on Amazon

Expert Red Plants

Advanced level plants must have all 4 categories balanced.  If your lighting is too intense, algae will grow.  Fighting algae and overloading CO2 can cause livestock to suffer.  If your Iron and trace dosing is too high, nitrates will increase.  High levels of nitrates and red plants will lose it’s color.  The topic of nitrates is a bit controversial and counter-intuitive.  By all means, do not bring your nitrates level down to zero, green plants need it too. 

Rotala Macrandra

Rotala Macrandra provides outstanding red colors, but it is very demanding when it comes to nutrients.  The conditions must be perfect which includes a good substrate, iron and trace dosing, high lighting and CO2.  The PH for this plant should not exceed 7.0 as it prefers softer and acidic waters.  Trim it regularly to stimulate growth and fortunately, you can replant the stems.

rotala macrandra mini butterfly planted tank
Rotala Macranda – Mini Butterfly
Rotala Wallichii Mini Butterfly

Rotala Wallichii is a fragile plant that has pink reddish stems with bristle-like leaves.  It requires high lighting, good substrate, CO2 and Iron dosing.  Without it, you’ll have a greenish-yellow background plant.  Propagating is easy as you can cut and replant the trimmings.  Grow in clusters and let it grow tall towards the light.

Rotala Wallichii
Rotala Wallichii – available on Amazon

All Things Considered

There’s really no universal formula when it comes to red aquarium plants.  Every red plant will have slightly different requirements.  It’s definitely a trial and error process, one which you’ll need to monitor closely.   Observe the red coloration, plant density and tank mates.  Most importantly, do not overdose on iron thinking it’ll lead to more red pigmentation.  Start small and fine-tune incrementally.   Check out forums and see how Dutch Style aquariums balance out their red plants along with all other green plants and livestock.

Red Aquarium Plants
Red Aquarium Plants – Dutch Style

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