The midground must be created based on the layout composition that can provide a link between the foreground and background and at the same time conceal the unsightly bottom portion of stem plants in the background. The way you create the midground greatly influences the long term maintenance of the layout.

The most suitable plants for the midground are slow-growing stem plants that are easy to maintain in medium heights and epiphytic plants (ferns, Anubias) and moss that are usually attached to driftwood and stones to form the framework of the layout.

Following are some popular options for the midground.

Anubias species

Anubias barteri var. nanaAnubias barteri var. nana

  • Type: epiphytic plant
  • Usage: attach to driftwood/stones in the midground
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Growth: slow
  • Lighting: low
  • CO2: low

Anubias can be attached to rocks or driftwood and placed in the midground of planted aquariums. Most Anubias species do well under the shade of nearby stem plants in the mid- and background. Their large attractive leaves are great for providing shelter and shady areas in the tank too.

Anubias, along with other epiphytic plants, play important roles in the midground location of the layout where composition materials such as stones and driftwood are placed. They helps conceal the unsightly bottom part of stem plants in the background and also helps improve the appearance of the layout after the trimming of stem plants.

Fern species

Narrow Leaf Java fernNarrow Leaf Java fern

Trident Java fernTrident Java fern

Windelov Java fernWindelov Java fern

  • Type: epiphytic plant
  • Usage: attach to driftwood/stones in the midground
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Growth: slow
  • Lighting: low
  • CO2: low

There is a variety of aquarium ferns including needle leaf, trident, windelov and narrow leaf. All of these are very attractive in their own right and equally easy to maintain in low-light conditions. They are totally undemanding in most respects. Living well on rocks and driftwood makes them very useful in the midground of planted aquariums.

Cryptocoryne species

Cryptocoryne wendtii 'Green'Cryptocoryne wendtii 'Green'

Cryptocoryne wendtii 'Brown'Cryptocoryne wendtii 'Brown'

Cryptocoryne wendtii 'Red'Cryptocoryne wendtii 'Red'

  • Usage: midground
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 4 – 12+ inches (10 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: low
  • CO2: low

There are many Cryptocoryne species ranging from the tiny C. parva for the foreground to the massive C. aponogetifolia for the background. They are very happy in low-light tanks and, once established, can put on quite an impressive display. The majority of Cryptocoryne species are fairly fast growing too.

More details about Cryptocoryne species here: https://lovefishtank.com/cryptocoryne/

Alternanthera reineckii

alternanthera-reineckii

  • Usage: carpet, midground, background
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 8 inches (20 cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

The red coloration of Alternanthera reineckii stands out when planted in spots among fine green plants. Its growth rate is slower than other stem plants, so this plant should be made slightly taller than other plants during trimming. Be aware that Amano shrimps may eat and damage this plant.

Alternanthera reineckii ‘Mini’

Alternanthera reineckii MiniAlternanthera reineckii Mini

  • Usage: carpet, foreground, midground
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 2 – 4+ inches (5 – 10+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

Alternanthera species are well-known with their red to violet leaves and this is a miniature version of this family that you can use for the foreground. The plant needs high light and medium CO2 supply to flourish and develop vigorous red leaves. It is most beautiful when placed this plant in small groups of several bushes in the fore- to midground. If you want a red-violet carpet with Alternanthera reineckii ‘Mini’, careful trimming is required to maintain the plant in 2 – 4 inch height.

Staurogyne repens

Staurogyne repensStaurogyne repens

  • Usage: carpet, foreground, midground
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 1.2 – 4+ inches (3 – 10+ cm)
  • Lighting: low
  • CO2: low

Staurogyne repens belongs to the family Acanthaceae and is closely related to Hygrophila. This plant has a hard stem and the leaves resembling those of Hygrophila but in a more compact size. Because of its vigorous creeping habit, this medium growing plant can be easily maintained at a short height. With these features, this plant is suited for planting at the side of driftwood and stones in spots.

Red dwarf Hygrophila – Hygrophila ‘Araguaia’

hygrophila-araguaia

  • Usage: carpet, foreground
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 4 – 8+ inches (10 – 20+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

This is one of the few available red aquarium plants for the foreground. Soon after they are submerged in the aquarium, needle-shaped leaves with the colors from reddish brown to purple. It is slow growing and needs well fertilized substrate to promote growth.

Blyxa short leaf – Blyxa novoguineensis

blyxa-novoguineensis

  • Usage: midground
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 12+ inches (30+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

Having soft and delicate leaves, this attractive aquatic plant is excellent for use as a midground plant in a layout. Blyxa short leaf planted in clumps besides the driftwood or stones adds a natural ambience to the aquascape. Its leaves turn reddish purple and show another beautiful side of it in environment when it is supplied with abundant light and nutrients. Since this plant does not reproduce by runners, its propagation should be done by dividing the large, mature plant.

Chain Sword – Echinodorus quadricostatus

echinodorus-quadricostatus

CC 3.0, Tommy Kronkvist

  • Usages: high carpet, foreground, midground
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Growth: fast
  • Height: 4 – 6+ inches (10 – 15+ cm)
  • Lighting: low
  • CO2: low

This is a very easy to care plant for the foreground. You can grow it as small bushes in the foreground or a dense carpet in a large aquarium. It propagates very fast by runners which will soon spread over the substrate in convenient conditions. Because of its bright green leaves, Chain Sword stands out from other darker aquarium plants making it an accent in the foreground.

Dwarf Cardinal plant – Lobelia cardinalis

Cardinal plantCardinal plant

  • Usage: carpet, foreground, midground
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 8 – 12+ inches (20 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: low
  • CO2: low

Lobelia cardinalis is one the most popular plants for planted aquariums as it is easy to keep, can be trimmed indefinitely and will last forever. Moreover, this plant will form a lovely, smooth and leafy surface if maintained properly and is thus an ideal plant for planted aquariums.

Downoi – Pogostemon helferi

Pogostemon helferiPogostemon helferi

  • Usage: high carpet, foreground, midground
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 1.2 – 4+ inches (3 – 10+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

Downoi (Pogostemon helferi) is a very suitable midground plant in small planted tanks. By virtue of its crinkled leaves, it forms a lovely contrast to other foreground species. Planted aquariums are inconceivable without Pogostemon helferi. It is a fast growing plant that spreads easily by forming offshoots that can be planted to become independent plants. It is sometimes planted 1.2 – 2 inches apart to form a thick carpet. Pogostemon helferi is attractive to some plant eating fish so choose your fish carefully if you want this plant to flourish.

Lagenandra meeboldii

Lagenandra meeboldiiLagenandra meeboldii

  • Usage: midground
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Appearance: rosette
  • Growth: slow
  • Height: 4 – 8+ inches (10 – 20+ cm)
  • Lighting: low
  • CO2: low

Lagenandra meeboldii is very attractive to grow as a single plant in the midground of planted aquariums. The plant needs a wide space to spread its beautiful large leaves. Although it isn’t requiring so much light to flourish, sufficient light is recommended to stimulate the violet coloration.

Orchid lily – Barclaya longifolia

barclaya-longifolia

  • Usage: midground, background
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 10 – 15 inches (25 – 38 cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: low

Barclaya longifolia is a spectacular long leaved plant with a stunning reddish brown color that will set off the center of your aquarium beautifully. Barclaya longifolia has dormant periods when the leaves will die off but the plant will grow back vigorously after several weeks. When purchasing this plant, select the one with firm and stout bulb.

To plant this water lily, just place its bulb on the substrate and refrain from pushing it deep inside the soil. It will generate small plantlets that will grow from the main plant and they will thrive when removed. Fertilization of the substrate using supplements is required to maintain the healthy bulb.

River Buttercup – Ranunculus inundatus

River ButtercupRiver Buttercup

  • Usage: foreground, midground
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Type: none
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 2+ inches (5+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

River Buttercup is a beautiful plant with deeply forked leaves for the foreground-aquarium. Under ample light and plenty of CO2, this plant will stay nice and low. River Buttercup propagates by sending many vertical runners with new plants over the substrate.

Pearlweed – Hemianthus micranthemoides

PearlweedPearlweed

  • Synonym: Micranthemum micranthemoides
  • Common names: pearlweed, pearl grass, baby tears
  • Usage: high carpet, foreground, midground
  • Difficulty: advanced
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 2 – 6+ inches (5 – 15+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

This very useful plant is usually used to form lovely cushions in the midground. Pearlweed is very adaptable and flourishes in the right conditions. It may decay immediately after planting but once it has taken roots, it is very manageable since it has a good tolerance to trimming and the shape of its clump can be arranged easily by trimming.

In the midground, Pearlweed provides superb contrast with fine-leaved plants but also harmonizes beautifully with darker Cryptocoryne species. Pearlweed will quickly fill out its niche and can be easily trimmed with a a pair of scissors. Pearlweed is also easy to prune and shape into soft looking mounds making it great for using in terraced plant groupings.

Basil Leaf – Limnophila rugosa

limnophila-rugosa

  • Usage: foreground, midground
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 4 – 8 inches (10 – 20 cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

A new, wonderful plant which is doing very well in the foreground of any planted aquarium. Plant as a group in the fore- to midground of your planted tank. This aquarium plant will attract attention in any aquarium due to its fresh and bright green color and conspicuously ribbed leaves.

Rotala indica ‘Bonsai’

rotala-indica-bonsai

  • Synonym: Ammania ‘Bonsai’, Rotala ‘Bonsai’
  • Usage: midground, background, nano tank
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Growth: slow
  • Height: 2 – 8+ inches (5 – 20+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

This is a wonderful, slow growing Rotala species. It features an abundance of densely spaced, almost circular leaves along a thick stem. This plant is not very demanding and will grow under medium to high light. With the slow growth rate, the plant requires less trimming and is very easy to maintain. It is a very handsome, architectural species for striking accent groups in any aquarium type.

Water Hyssop – Bacopa caroliniana

Bacopa carolinianaBacopa caroliniana

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Growth: slow
  • Height: 4 – 12+ inches (10 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: low
  • CO2: low

Bacopa caroliniana grows thick leaves that are usually bright green in color but they will turn slightly reddish in good lighting conditions. It is a suitable plant for the midground region due to its moderate growth rate and all together more delicate habit. Another benefit that comes with slow growth of course is the lower maintenance.

Creeping Jenny – Lysimachia nummularia

Lysimachia nummulariaLysimachia nummularia

  • Usage: midground
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 4 – 8 inches (10 – 20 cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: low

Creeping Jenny with small rounded leaves is a very beautiful addition to the planted aquarium. It develops branches and roots from the leaf nodes that helps it to spread easily across the substrate. Its tender leaves are treated as a source of food by some fish. It will grow well in medium or strong lighting conditions. It tends to have a ‘creeping’ habit growing a couple of inches tall but spreading, hence the name.

Large Pearl grass – Micranthemum umbrosum

Micranthemum umbrosumMicranthemum umbrosum

  • Usage: foreground, midground
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Growth: fast
  • Height: 4 – 6+ inches (10 – 15+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

Large Pearl grass is a beautiful, light green, bushy midground plant. This species does not belong to Pearl grass family although its common name contains “Pearl grass”. It does not creep like Pearl grass and grows straight upwards.

Large Pearl grass is fast growing and the condition of the lower stem deteriorates very quickly. Because of this character, it is hard to maintain this species for a long time just by trimming. It is essential to snip off the stems and replant them to maintain this plant over a long period of time.

Tonina fluviatilis

tonina-fluviatilis

  • Usage: midground
  • Difficulty: advanced
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 8 – 12 inches (20 – 30 cm)
  • Lighting: high
  • CO2: medium

Clusters of Tonina fluviatilis standing upright in the aquarium create a very striking appearance. However, it is a choice for specialists only because of its very demanding. Ample light and and clear, nutrient-rich water in the lower pH range (4.5 to 6) is necessary to keep and grow this plant. Experienced aquarists will enjoy this species tremendously. Not for beginners but definitely not a problematic plant at all.

Tonina ‘Belem’

tonina-belem

  • Usage: midground, background
  • Difficulty: advanced
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 4 – 8 inches (10 – 20 cm)
  • Lighting: high
  • CO2: medium

This plant has a uniquely appealing appearance, with its leaves curling down. This species, however, may not be well maintained by trimming and this makes the effective arrangement of this plant difficult in a layout where various species of aquatic plants are planted. Tonina Belem is demanding in terms of light and CO2. It also requires low KH (carbonate hardness) level. A fertile planted aquarium substrate is recommended for this plant.

Gratiola viscidula

Gratiola viscidulaGratiola viscidula

  • Usage: foreground, midground
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Growth: slow
  • Height: 1.2 – 4+ inches (3 – 10+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

The special leaf shape of Gratiola viscidula gives a “thorny” appearance making it very distinct and recognizable. Under favorable conditions, the plant looks very appealing making it an accent to the aquascape. The plant is easily kept low and in shape by trimming. Having several cushions of this plant in the fore/mid-ground is very attractive.

Didiplis diandra

didiplis-diandra

  • Usage: midground
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Growth: fast
  • Height: 4 – 6+ inches (10 – 15+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: low

With linear, fine leaves that grow on opposite sides of the stem in a cross form, Didiplis diandra forms a lush cluster thanks to its short internode length. The leaves near the terminal bud will turn red with sufficient nutrient supplementation. This plant is slightly difficult to grow. Its lower stem may often turn black and wilt due to the problems such as deteriorated water quality and rise in water temperature. Slightly lower water temperature and supply of adequate light and CO2 makes the growth of this plant easier.

Proserpinaca palustris

proserpinaca-palustris

  • Usage: midground, background
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 4 – 12+ inches (10 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

This plant is not new but was re-introduced after a longer disappearance. Submerged plants have finely serrated leaves and growth is relatively slow. Due to its tendency to lose the lower leaves, replanting becomes necessary every few weeks, making this an ideal candidate for mid-ground groups.

Nesaea pedicellata

nesaea-pedicellata

  • Usage: midground
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 8 – 12+ inches (20 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

Nesaea pedicellata is a beautiful plant featuring the contrast colors of red stem and yellow leaves. Sufficient light and CO2 are essential for its growth. Although Nesaea pedicellata can reach the height of above 12 inches, it does not grow very fast making it a great yellow addition to the midground.

Nesaea crassicaulis

nesaea-crassicaulis

  • Usage: midground
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 8 – 12+ inches (20 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

Contrast to Nesaea pedicellata with yellow colors, N. crassicaulis is in bright red in color. To maintain the red color, a high light intensity is required. In view of this, it is advisable to plant Nesaea crassicaulis  in the center of the layout, rather than the sides as the sides are often subjected to low light conditions. It is very easy to propagate by side shoots or cuttings.

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