The Best Plants for Glowlight Tetras

Written By Lewis German  |  Tropical Fish  |  0 Comments

Glowlight Tetras are one of the most commonly kept Tetra species by beginner aquarists, largely due to their hardy nature, easy accessibility and bright orange colours.

However, you may look at your Glowlight tank and wonder if you can improve it by adding live plants.

You may be stuck on where to start, or where to look for live plants, and may be confused as to what plants you should or shouldn’t add to your Tetra tank.

In this article, we aim to help you better understand which plants are best for Glowlight Tetras and why.

Do Glowlight Tetras like real plants in their tank?

Like many other Tetras, their natural habitat is full of live plants, from trees and reeds growing along river banks, to tall flowing water weeds amongst currents, Glowlights live their lives taking shelter within this plant life to avoid predators and seek out food.

Due to this reliance on live plants in their ancestral habitat, Tetras have grown to be more comfortable when surrounded with plants as they provide a sense of security.

Although Tetras may shelter behind other objects such as stones or driftwood, or even fake plants, they can tell the difference and will always have a preference for a real living plant over anything else.

How do you know which plants are suitable for Glowlight Tetras?

Glowlight Tetras come from soft, tannic waters in South America where the average annual temperatures are around 24C / 75F. This means that the plants you choose must be able to survive around these parameters.

Luckily, most aquarium plants are found in environments like this and enjoy the same water parameters that Glowlights do, which makes choosing aquarium plants fairly easy, as most of what is available at your local fish store is likely to work in your Glowlight Tetra tank.

Just be sure that the plants you choose are suitable for your setup in particular. Things that can influence the species of plant you pick are things like tank size, level of light, whether or not you want to dose fertiliser or Co2. 

If you haven’t kept plants before, it is best to start with the more hardy species that are easier to keep.

What plants do Glowlight Tetras eat?

Glowlight Tetras are completely plant safe, and there is no danger of them eating or destroying your plants. They are not strong enough or large enough to tear apart and digest healthy plant leaves.

What they will do however, is peck at the surfaces of leaves for algae and infusoria, clean bits of debris that land on the leaves and may occasionally swallow dead or decaying plant matter.

These behaviours are actually highly beneficial to the plant as they keep the surfaces of the leaves clean, and break down any rotting matter into fertiliser for the plant to use again.

How to choose plants for a Glowlight Tetra tank

Selecting plants which are ideal for Glowlight Tetras is fairly easy, as most aquarium plants will work just fine. Glowlights are plant safe fish and like to live in water parameters that most plants very much thrive in.

However, when it comes to picking specific plants to choose from, there are a few things to look out for to make sure that you come home with a healthy, strong plant that is going to grow and do well in your tank.

Unfortunately, many fish stores do not see plants so much as living things and don’t usually give them the same level of attentiveness and care that they give to the fish. 

Because of this, live plants in a fish store are often referred to as “stock to die” – this means that the plants come in and are expected to die, so the fish store’s aim is to sell them quickly before this happens.

Not all stores are like this however, and some provide ideal lighting, Co2 and fertiliser to keep them going for a little longer before they end up in your tank.

For this reason when selecting plants, you should look for signs that a plant may be too far gone. Look at the root system. It should be: 

  • Opaque
  • Bright white;
  • or on some plants like Java fern, a dull brown colour.

The roots should be sprawling and established, if they are not and appear to be melting, the plant has likely died and will probably not survive in your tank.

Melting or yellowing leaves are okay to some degree, but look for new growth, bright green leaves and thick stems for the healthiest plants with the best chances to survive.

The best plants for Glowlight Tetras

Tetras are pelagic fish, meaning they swim in the upper level of the water column. Tetras are small fish and sit at the lower end of the food chain in their natural habitat; for this reason, much of their time is spent hiding amongst reeds and tall plants, as being out in the open is dangerous.

With this, Tetras have a preference for those taller plants that can either wall off areas of the tank or create a tall maze to conceal themselves within.

Corkscrew Vallisneria

A smaller cousin of Jungle Val, Corkscrew Val grows like grass, often creating a forest for fish to swim through. It is easy to grow and spreads under the substrate quickly in chains, allowing you to easily create a backdrop for your Tetras to hide behind.

This plant does however, need to be fed regularly with fertiliser. Planting root tabs under the substrate to feed the roots is the best way to ensure it gets the right nutrients it needs to grow.

Madagascar Laceleaf

Image by Yasuaki Kobayashi

A species of tropical Aponogeton, this plant grows from a bulb which is to be planted into the substrate. From it, it will quickly grow beautifully patterned leaves which grow tall and broad.

The plant has a unique look and grows quickly, providing cover for your Tetras and helping to create a natural ecosystem in your tank.

The plant does however, get rather large, so may not be ideal for smaller setups, but is definitely worth a try in your larger tanks.

Water Wisteria

Another fairly fast growing plant that roots itself into the substrate, Water Wisteria produces soft dense bushy foliage that fills the tank with shade and cover.

The plant is easy to grow and to propagate and is great for small fish like Glowlights to get in and hide under.

Water Wisteria also does a good job of clearing out nitrates as its fast growth means it needs to eat quickly.

What plants should you avoid putting in a Glowlight Tetra tank?

Avoid adding plants which are better suited to ponds or cold water environments to your Tetra tank, as just like your fish, plants have preferences for temperature and can become stressed or even die.

Coldwater plants don’t always do well in tropical tanks, so things like temperate reeds and lily pads can often melt in the warm waters that glowlight Tetras prefer.

It is better to stick with tropical plants, much like how you would keep tropical fish separate from coldwater, plants are usually the same.

Do Glowlight Tetras need live plants?

Glowlight Tetras do not need plants to be kept healthy and well; they can survive just fine in a well maintained aquarium without them. They will still use decor like driftwood, rocks and fake plastic plants as hides too.

However, Tetras will always prefer a live planted tank and can tell the difference from fake and real. 

Plants also bring other benefits than just creating areas to hide as they absorb nitrates, something that is usually only removed with a water change, therefore lessening the amount of maintenance needed and making your aquarium more self-sustaining.

While you don’t need to add live plants to your Glowlight Tetra tank, doing so will make for a more balanced ecosystem, and happier fish.