The Beauty of Aquatic Plant Terrariums: A Fresh Perspective

Did you know that our beloved aquarium plants can thrive in environments beyond the confines of our fish tanks? Many of the plants you’ll find at Aquarium Co-Op are actually grown emersed, or above the water’s surface, at the farms they come from. While we typically convert them to their submerged form for use in fish tanks, there’s a growing trend among hobbyists to explore the possibilities of emersed-grown aquarium plants. These plants are perfect for enclosed glass container ecosystems, planted terrariums for amphibians, or paludariums that combine land and water environments. Discover a world of aquatic plants that can be grown outside of water to add a touch of greenery to your humid terrarium or paludarium.

Bacopa Species

Moneywort (Bacopa monnieri) and Bacopa caroliniana are excellent choices for paludarium-type setups. While these plants can grow underwater, their stems have a tendency to reach well above the water’s surface. They also thrive in terrestrial settings as long as they receive regular watering and are kept from drying out. Bacopa species are remarkably easy to grow, requiring neither high humidity nor intense lighting. This gives you the perfect opportunity to observe the delicate beauty of their little flowers.

Java Moss and Other Mosses

Similar to the moss-covered trees and rocks in the woods, Java moss can thrive outside the boundaries of our aquariums. With high humidity and constant moisture, Java moss can transform a moist, terrestrial environment. It spreads and covers any surface it attaches to, creating a soft and lush carpet. It also loves to grow partially submerged, which can create a visually stunning effect.

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Brazilian Pennywort

Brazilian pennywort, or Hydrocotyle leucocephala, is simply a joy to grow. When planted underwater, this plant produces umbrella-like leaves that create shaded areas within the aquarium. However, when grown outside of water, this effect becomes even more mesmerizing. The leaves grow more densely and the stems become more rigid, creating a little bush of umbrella-like greenery that provides shelter for small critters. Brazilian pennywort can even surprise you with small, white flowers when grown emersed. Just be prepared for regular trimming if you have it in a small container, as it tends to grow quickly and spread across a wide area.


In its natural habitat, anubias can be found in semi-aquatic environments, with many individuals growing in terrestrial soil near the banks of rivers or streams. While they don’t tolerate overly dry conditions, species in the Anubias genus happily grow outside of fish tanks in terrestrial settings. They prefer high humidity and ample water, but they are otherwise incredibly easy to cultivate. Anubias and mosses make a charming pair, as the moss helps keep the anubias roots moist while they grow together. It’s a beautiful combination!

Scarlet Temple

For a vibrant burst of color, consider planting scarlet temple, also known as Alternanthera reineckii, outside of an aquarium. Although it should be planted in a terrarium or similar humid environment, scarlet temple thrives when provided with accessible water and high humidity. Its stunning pinkish-red leaves remain vibrant even outside of water, making it an excellent centerpiece or accent plant to brighten up a green backdrop. In fact, it’s not uncommon for scarlet temple plants to be grown out of water at plant farm facilities before reaching end users.

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The possibilities are endless when it comes to growing aquatic plants outside of your aquarium. Experimenting with these plants can yield surprising results and a unique visual experience. And this list is only the beginning—many more aquatic plants can thrive outside of fish tanks. If you’re interested in learning more about aquarium plants, visit our collection of planted tank articles. Expand your horizons and create stunning terrariums or paludariums that showcase the beauty of aquatic plants.

To purchase aquatic plants for your next project, visit the Ames Farm Center.