Non Aquatic Plant Species To Avoid


The Big Fish
The Big Fish
Oct 22, 2002
Sunny Southern California
written by member: Leopardess

Contrary to the belief of many beginning aquarists, not every plant sold as an aquatic plant actually is; some of them are terrestrial or marginal plants which grow around water, or partially in the water. When kept underwater, they will being to die. It may not occur immediately, but they are nonetheless out of place in a submersed situation. These plants are not an acceptable long-term option for the serious aquatic plant enthusiast. If one of these plants is labeled as a true aquatic at the store, it is suggested to inform the owner that the label is mistaken and to ask for your money back if you bought it under an erroneous label. That said, knowing what one is buying is the responsibility of the aquarist - it is a case of buyer beware. Knowing what not to buy can be equally beneficial. Of course, those who falsely sell these plants to make a profit are should be held liable. Then there are those who could benefit from the truth because they simply did not know.

Some of the more common plants to avoid are:

Aluminum Plant
Scientific name: Pilea cadierel

This perennial land plant has beautiful variegated green leaves, marked by silver and white between the veins. It is native to Vietnam and other Asian locales. If left underwater, it will disintegrate and foul the water. Provides for a lovely houseplant if planted in a pot and tended. Propagates by cuttings. On land, it will form a lush ground cover that reaches approximately one foot in height.

Scientific name: Syngonium podophyllum

This marginal plant has distinct arrow-shaped leaves from which its name is derived. They are a light green, or white, in color.

Borneo Fern
Scientific name: trichomanes javanicum

This plant bears much resemblence to a land fern. It is a terrarium plant that will decompose if left submersed. It prefers to be planted in most soil with high humidity. Java fern “windelov” or “African Bolbitis” are true aquatic alternatives.

Brazilian Sword, Peace Lily
Scientific name: Spathiphyllum tasson

This plant does bear resemblance to some true aquatic sword species, but it is not a true aquatic plant. It is capable of surviving submersed for months, and will perhaps grow slightly. In time, however, it will die off and foul the water. Can be grown with roots in water, if the top portion of the plant remains above water.

Hedge Plant
Scientific name: Alternanthera ficoidea

This plant should be planted in moist soil in partial sun/shade. Can be planted from cuttings or seeds. Color can range from green to pink to red and will often be sold as “Green Hedge”, “Red Hedge” , etc. based upon color.

Lucky Bamboo
Scientific name: Dracaena sanderiana

This plant has long, lanceolate leaves that are edged with a white-cream border on each side, though some are purely green. It is not a true bamboo plant, but rather it is related to the corn plant. Growth is very slow. The bases of this plant are to be planted in clean water, held in place by stones or marbles, but submerging the entire plant is not recommended. These are commonly used in vases, where they can be quite decorative…but spare the betta and find him a proper tank.

Mondo Grass
Scientific name: Ophiopogon japonica

This Asian plant is a terrarium plant that is sometimes sold under the synonyms “Kyoto Dwarf” or “Fountain Plant”. It is a grass-like plant with medium to dark green leaves that can be somewhat stiff or brittle. There are also cultivars such as “variegata” and “silver mist”.

Pineapple Plant
Scientific name: Dracena compacta

A Sri Lankan plant with fairly large lanceolate leaves similar in shape to a young Amazon sword plant. The leaves grow on top of each other and adult specimens resemble the foliage atop a pineapple, hence the common name “Pineapple Plant.”

Purple Waffle, Purple Temple
Scientific name: Hemigraphis exotica or Hemigraphis colorata

Two plants species within the same genus are commonly sold interchangeably. Neither of them are aquatic species, however they can survive emersed for a few weeks or perhaps months. They are characterized by a purple or marron hue and have serrated edges on the leaves. May be planted via cuttings for use as a house or terrarium plant.

Dec 1, 2013
Good read! Unfortunately, PetSmart is very guilty of selling these types of plants as submerged plants. For all the newbies starting out with plants, it's best to research as much as you can and talk to your LFS. Plus, plants are much cheaper at small businesses instead of stores like PetSmart, Petco and so on.