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7 Best Plants for Iwagumi Aquascaping

30cm tank iwagumi aquascape

I love the simplicity and natural beauty of an Iwagumi aquascape. The harmony that can be achieved with careful selection of rocks and plants is truly breathtaking. 

However, selecting the right plants for an Iwagumi aquascape can be a challenge. 

In this article, I will share with you some of the best plants to use in an Iwagumi aquascape, as well as tips for maintaining their health.

Some popular plant choices for Iwagumi layouts include Glossostigma elatinoides, Hemianthus callitrichoides, Eleocharis parvula, and Staurogyne repens. 

Key Takeaways

  • Minimalist Approach: Use a limited number of plant types (three to five) to maintain a balanced, cohesive look.
  • Carpeting Plants: Essential for a lush foreground, with popular choices like Hemianthus callitrichoides and Glossostigma elatinoides.
  • Midground and Background Choices: Plants like Pogostemon helferi and Riccia fluitans are recommended, complementing the hardscape without overpowering it.
  • Nutrient-Rich Substrate: Crucial for healthy plant growth, enhancing root development, and long-term stability.
  • Maintenance: Proper lighting, water parameters, and regular fertilization are essential for plant health.

How Many Plants Should I Choose For Iwagumi Aquascape?

When it comes to the number of plants to use in an Iwagumi aquascape, the general rule of thumb is to keep it minimal. The focus of the Iwagumi style is on the arrangement of rocks and open space, with plants serving as accents to enhance the overall aesthetic.

I recommend using no more than three to five different types of plants in an Iwagumi aquascape. This allows for a cohesive and balanced look, without overwhelming the design with too many contrasting elements.

It’s important to choose plants that are low-growing and complement the rockscape, rather than competing with it.

Some popular plant choices for Iwagumi layouts include Glossostigma elatinoides, Hemianthus callitrichoides, Eleocharis parvula, and Staurogyne repens. 

These low-growing plants help create a lush carpet effect and enhance the overall aesthetics of the aquascape.

It’s important to note that the number of plants used in an Iwagumi aquascape may vary depending on the size of the tank and the arrangement of rocks. 

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For smaller tanks, fewer plants may be necessary to maintain a minimalist look, while larger tanks may require more plants to fill in empty spaces. 

Ultimately, the goal is to create a balanced and harmonious design that showcases the beauty of the rockscape.

iwagumi style fresh water aquarium aquascape

10 Best Plants for Iwagumi Aquascapes

When it comes to selecting plants for an Iwagumi aquascape, the aim is to create a harmonious balance between the hardscape and the plants. 

In this section, I will cover the best plants for Iwagumi aquascapes and how to use them effectively.

Carpeting Plants

Carpeting plants are essential in Iwagumi aquascapes as they provide a lush green foreground that complements the rocks. 

1. Hemianthus callitrichoides

Hemianthus callitrichoides also known as HC cuba
ParameterHemianthus callitrichoides (HC)
Light RequirementHigh
CO2 RequirementHigh
SubstrateNutrient-rich, fine-grained
Water Temperature20-24°C (68-75°F)
pH Range5.0-7.0
Growth RateModerate to Fast
Placement in TankForeground

Hemianthus callitrichoides, also known as dwarf baby tears, is a popular choice for carpeting. This plant is small and delicate, and it requires high light and CO2 levels to thrive. 

Here are the care requirements for each of the specified aquatic plants presented in separate tables:

Some of the most popular aquatic plants featured in Iwagumi aquascapes are hairgrass (Eleocharis Parvulus Mini) and Monte Carlo (Micranthemum ‘Monte Carlo’). These plants are ideal for creating the lush green carpets that are a hallmark of the Iwagumi style. (source)

2. Glossostigma elatinoides

Close up of Glossostigma elatinoides the most beautiful aquatic plants for foreground
ParameterGlossostigma elatinoides
Light RequirementHigh to Very High
CO2 RequirementHigh
SubstrateNutrient-rich, fine-grained
Water Temperature20-26°C (68-79°F)
pH Range5.0-7.5
Growth RateFast
Placement in TankForeground

Glossostigma elatinoides is another great option for carpeting. It is easy to grow and maintain, and it provides a bright green carpet that contrasts nicely with the rocks.

3. Eleocharis parvula (Dwarf Hairgrass)

Eleocharis parvula (Dwarf Hairgrass)
ParameterEleocharis parvula (Dwarf Hairgrass)
Light RequirementMedium to High
CO2 RequirementModerate to High
SubstrateNutrient-rich, preferably fine-grained
Water Temperature18-28°C (65-82°F)
pH Range6.0-7.5
Growth RateModerate
Placement in TankForeground to Midground

This grass-like plant is often used to create a lush carpet effect. It’s ideal for foreground placement and grows well under high lighting.

Midground and Background Choices

When selecting midground and background plants for Iwagumi aquascapes, it is important to choose species that do not overpower the hardscape. 

1.  Pogostemon helferi

freshwater iwagumi aquascape plant detail, blyxa grow in gravel bottom, Amano style planted aquadesign, vivid colors in bright LED light, professional aquarium care, blurred rhodostomus fish shallow dof
LightMedium to High
pH5.5 – 7.0
Temperature22 – 28°C (72 – 82°F)
Growth RateModerate

Pogostemon helferi, also known as Downoi, is a great choice for the midground. It is a low-growing plant that provides a nice contrast to the taller rocks. 

2. Riccia fluitans

Riccia fluitans
LightingMedium to high light. 50-100 PAR recommended. Grows well floating or attached to hardscape/substrate.
CO2Not required but may promote denser growth.
HardnessdGH 5-15 preferred.
Temperature72-82°F (22-28°C) ideal.
SubstrateFloats naturally but can be attached to hardscape/substrate with thread or glue.

Riccia fluitans is another great option for the midground. It can be attached to rocks or driftwood to create a lush green carpet.

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The Iwagumi style is characterized by its use of rock formations and carpeting plants to create an open, elegant aesthetic. Common plants paired with the stone structures include hairgrass, dwarf baby tears, pygmy chain sword (Echinodorus tenellus), and riccia moss (Riccia fluitans). (source)

3. Rotala Rotundifolia

Rotala Rotundifolia
LightingHigh light. 75 PAR or greater needed for red coloration.
CO2Recommended for healthy growth and color.
HardnessdGH 4-15 preferred.
Temperature72-82°F (22-28°C) ideal.
SubstrateAny aquatic substrate will work. Root tabs recommended. Tolerant of a wide range of water parameters.

Rotala rotundifolia has thin stems and small leaves that provide a nice contrast to the larger rocks. 

4. Blyxa japonica

LightingMedium light preferred. 50-80 PAR.
HardnessdGH 5-15 preferred.
Temperature72-82°F (22-28°C) ideal.
SubstrateAny aquatic substrate will work. Root tabs recommended for optimal growth. Slower growing than other stem plants.

A grass-like plant with a slightly taller growth, suitable for mid-ground placement. It’s easy to maintain and adds a nice texture to the aquascape.

5. Staurogyne repens

Staurogyne repens
LightingHigh light. 80 PAR or greater preferred.
CO2Recommended for healthy growth and color.
HardnessdGH 5-15 preferred.
Temperature72-82°F (22-28°C) ideal.
SubstrateAny aquatic substrate will work. Root tabs recommended. Forms dense mats as a foreground plant.

A small plant with lush green leaves, ideal for the foreground or mid-ground. It grows compactly and can be easily trimmed to maintain shape.

6. Cryptocoryne parva

LightingLow to medium light. 30-50 PAR.
CO2Not required.
HardnessdGH 5-15 preferred.
Temperature72-82°F (22-28°C) ideal.
SubstrateAny aquatic substrate will work. Root tabs recommended for optimal growth. Slow growing.

One of the smallest Cryptocoryne species, it’s great for the foreground. It grows slowly and is tolerant of various water conditions.

7. Vallisneria nana

Vallisneria nana
LightingLow to medium light. 30-60 PAR.
CO2Not required.
HardnessdGH 5-15 preferred.
Temperature72-82°F (22-28°C) ideal.

Vallisneria nana is a hardy plant that can grow tall and provides a nice background to the aquascape.

simple iwagumi aquascape with stones and hairgrass

Choosing Nutrient Rich Substrate Is A Must For Iwagumi

Choosing a nutrient-rich substrate is of paramount importance in an Iwagumi aquascape for several key reasons:

Promotes Healthy Plant Growth:

In an Iwagumi layout, the focus is often on carpeting plants and other flora that require a rich supply of nutrients for optimal growth.

A nutrient-rich substrate provides essential minerals and compounds that plants need for photosynthesis, root development, and overall health.

This is especially critical for plants like Hemianthus callitrichoides and Glossostigma elatinoides, which are commonly used in these aquascapes and have high nutrient demands.

Enhances Root Development:

Carpeting plants in Iwagumi aquascapes spread through their root systems. A nutrient-rich substrate allows these roots to spread easily and anchor the plants firmly. This is crucial for maintaining the aquascape’s design, as these plants often form the primary ground cover.

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Ensures Long-term Stability:

While liquid fertilizers can supplement plant nutrition, they are not a complete substitute for a nutrient-rich substrate.

The substrate acts as a long-term, consistent source of nutrients, which is vital for the sustained health of the aquascape.

Aids in Beneficial Bacterial Growth:

A good substrate can house beneficial bacteria that play a crucial role in the nitrogen cycle of the aquarium. These bacteria help in breaking down waste products, thus contributing to a healthy and balanced ecosystem.

Improves Aesthetics:

The right substrate can significantly enhance the visual appeal of an Iwagumi aquascape. It can provide a natural and contrasting backdrop for the rocks (Sui-seki) and plants, which are central to the Iwagumi style.

Supports Water Quality Maintenance:

A quality substrate can help buffer the water pH and maintain water quality, which is vital for both the plants and any fish or invertebrates in the aquascape.

iwagumi aquascape with frodo stone

Maintaining Plant Health In An Iwagumi Aquascape

As with any aquascape, maintaining plant health is crucial to the success of an Iwagumi setup. Here are a few tips to help you keep your plants healthy and thriving:

1. Choose the Right Plants

When selecting plants for your Iwagumi aquascape, it’s important to choose species that are compatible with the conditions in your tank.

Iwagumi aquascapes typically feature low-growing carpet plants, such as Glossostigma elatinoides, Hemianthus callitrichoides, or Eleocharis acicularis.

These plants require high light levels and a nutrient-rich substrate to thrive, so be sure to provide them with the appropriate conditions.

2. Provide Adequate Lighting

As mentioned above, Iwagumi plants require high light levels to grow and spread properly. Be sure to provide your plants with adequate lighting by using high-quality LED lights or fluorescent bulbs.

It’s also important to monitor the duration of your lighting cycle to ensure that your plants are not being overexposed to light, which can lead to algae growth.

3. Maintain Proper Water Parameters

Maintaining proper water parameters is key to keeping your Iwagumi plants healthy. Be sure to test your water regularly for pH, hardness, and nutrient levels, and make adjustments as necessary.

In particular, it’s important to keep nitrate and phosphate levels in check, as these nutrients can fuel algae growth and harm your plants.

4. Fertilize Regularly

In addition to maintaining proper water parameters, it’s important to fertilize your Iwagumi plants regularly to provide them with the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.

There are many different types of fertilizers available, including liquid fertilizers, root tabs, and CO2 injection systems.

Experiment with different fertilization methods to find the one that works best for your setup.

By following these tips, you can help ensure that your Iwagumi plants remain healthy and vibrant, adding to the beauty and tranquility of your aquascape.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the top foreground plants suitable for an Iwagumi aquascape?

When it comes to foreground plants for Iwagumi aquascapes, there are several great options to choose from.

Some of the top choices include Glossostigma elatinoides, Eleocharis acicularis, and Hemianthus callitrichoides.

These plants are low-growing, which makes them perfect for creating a lush carpet effect in your aquarium.

How do I choose the right background plants for an Iwagumi layout?

When selecting background plants for an Iwagumi layout, it’s important to choose species that complement the overall aesthetic of the aquascape.

Some good options include Rotala rotundifolia, Ludwigia repens, and Hygrophila corymbosa. These plants have a beautiful appearance and can add a touch of color to the background of your aquarium.

Which carpeting plants thrive in Iwagumi aquariums?

Carpeting plants are an essential part of any Iwagumi aquascape.

Some of the best carpeting plants for this type of setup include Hemianthus callitrichoides (also known as HC), Eleocharis acicularis (also known as Dwarf Hairgrass), and Glossostigma elatinoides. These plants grow low and spread quickly, creating a beautiful carpet effect in your aquarium.

What are the ideal conditions for maintaining plants in an Iwagumi tank?

To keep your plants healthy and thriving in an Iwagumi tank, it’s important to maintain the right conditions. This includes keeping the water temperature between 72-78°F, maintaining a pH level between 6.5-7.5, and ensuring adequate lighting.

Additionally, it’s important to provide your plants with the right nutrients, which can be achieved through the use of fertilizers and CO2 injection.

What type of substrate is optimal for plant growth in an Iwagumi setup?

The substrate is an essential component of any Iwagumi setup, as it provides the foundation for your plants to grow.

Some of the best substrates for plant growth in this type of setup include ADA Aqua Soil, Fluval Stratum, and CaribSea Eco-Complete. These substrates are rich in nutrients and provide a stable environment for your plants to thrive.

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Muntaseer Rahman

About Author

Hello, I’m Muntaseer Rahman, the owner of AcuarioPets.com. I’m passionate about aquarium pets like shrimps, snails, crabs, and crayfish. I’ve created this website to share my expertise and help you provide better care for these amazing pets.


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