How To Anchor Aquarium Plants Properly

by Aquarium Scoop | Last Updated: February 7, 2021

Anchoring plants in your aquarium will prevent them from floating around and ruining your tank’s aesthetic.

In this guide you’ll learn:

  • What’s the best way to anchor aquarium plants?
  • Do anchors need to be cleaned first?
  • What types of anchors work well?
  • Which plants are great for anchoring?
Featured image for anchoring aquarium plants

What’s The Best Way To Anchor Most Aquarium Plants?

There are many ways to anchor aquarium plants especially if you want to get creative. It usually depends on the type of plant (stem plants and/or rhizomatous plants) you have and the set up of your aquarium.

Keep them in their pots

Some aquarium plants come in small plastic or clay pots that are already rooted in place. The easiest way to anchor them would be to leave them as is. These pots even add a nice aesthetic to your tank. You can weigh them down with some pebbles as needed. Over time, your plants will root out of their pots and naturally integrate with your tank’s substrate.

Use plant anchors

Aquarium plant anchors can be purchased online or at pet stores. These are bendable lead strips you can wrap around the base of your plant to weigh it down. These are safe to use in tanks and are tested to make sure the lead does not leach out. They also come in rolls you can cut yourself. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after handling these.

Add a thick layer of sand

For mature plants with longer roots, a thick layer of sand can serve as a good anchor. It’s light enough not to crush the roots and will help it develop a root system underneath to further anchor down the plant. Apply a thick layer of sand to make sure the base is sturdy for any diggers or tuggers you may have in your tank.

Use pebbles, gravel, or rocks as weights

If your plant is already rooted in some sand, you can use some pebbles, gravel, rocks, or any heavy object to weigh down the base of the plant. Use only enough to weigh down the sand but not too much that it crushes the roots of your plant. Bury your plant in the sand a little bit above its base so that your pebble weights will act upon your sand instead of putting too much pressure on the roots. Over time, your plant will expand its root onto your substrate.

Tie the roots onto rocks 

Use a nylon fishing line to tie your plant on small to medium rocks (depending on the size of your aquarium). These may be available in home improvement stores or certain pet stores but you can also use river rocks. Just make sure these are granite ones so that they do not slowly dissolve in your aquarium. Remember to always sterilize anything you add into your tank. As the plant grows and roots onto your substrate, you can take out the nylon line.

Wrap it around driftwood

Similar to using rocks, you can also tie your plant around a piece of driftwood using either nylon or cotton string. Use driftwood that has a bit of texture so it’ll be easier for your plants to take root in them. Remember to wash and brush down your driftwood thoroughly then “cure” it before adding into your tank. Curing driftwood takes care of excess tannic acid that can discolor your tank. After scrubbing, soak it in dechlorinated water for 2 weeks and perform water changes every 2-3 days. After the water becomes clear for at least 2 days, your driftwood should be ready to add to your tank.

Use a net (nylon or plastic mesh) 

You can use a nylon net or a plastic embroidery mesh placed at the bottom of your tank (underneath the substrate) to anchor your plants down. Nets provide good anchorage especially if you want to place a lot of plants in your tank. Alternatively you can place smaller pieces of net at the bottom or a makeshift plate with holes to use as an anchor (e.g. a flat plastic lid with holes for your string). Lay your net at the bottom of your tank, tie the roots of your plant using cotton or nylon string, fill your tank up with a few gallons of water then add your substrate slowly on top of your net. 


Why Is It Important To Anchor Your Aquarium Plants?

Anchoring your live plants will provide both aesthetics for your tank and safety for your fishes (and other tank inhabitants). Not to mention, it will also allow your plants to thrive since most aquatic plants will need to be fully submerged to live. 

Keeping your plants anchored will keep them from drifting all over the place, leading to a cluttered tank. It will also keep your fish (especially smaller ones) from getting entangled in the plants, leading to injuries. It will also keep your plant’s leaves from breaking the water surface and drying out. 

On the other hand, anchoring your plants well will also make them safe from being uprooted by your fishes or any diggers you may have in your tank. It will keep them in place even if your tank inhabitants try to nip or pull at them occasionally. 

Do Anchors Need To Be Cleaned First?

Yes. Anchors or anything you want to add into your tank should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected first to make sure there aren’t any toxins or chemicals on them that may be bad for your fish.

This is particularly important for any anchors you pick up from nature such as river rocks or driftwood. Driftwood should be brushed and cleaned well and soaked for at least 2 weeks in dechlorinated water. Rocks can be boiled to sterilize them. 

Expert Tip

New plants should also be thoroughly cleaned first to make sure there are no parasites, bacteria, or small snails on them that can affect your tank. Wash plants in dechlorinated water and spot check them for snails. You can also soak them in a separate bucket with an aerator for a few days with frequent water changes to make sure any toxins leach out first.

Other Types Of Anchors & How To Use Them


River rocks and other medium sized rocks are also good anchors to use in your aquarium. Choose rocks that have more texture and are uneven so you can easily tie down your plant’s roots. Make sure you use hard granite rocks instead of limestone so that it will not easily dissolve in your aquarium.

Clean and disinfect your rock and brush it free from dirt. Tie your plant just above the stem using a nylon fishing line or a cotton string onto your rock and allow your plant to take root in it.


Driftwood is also a good anchor for plants that adds a great look to your fish tank. As with anything you add into your tank, make sure that you clean them well. Driftwood may discolor the water in your tank due to the release of tannins. Soak these in water for about two weeks to lessen the discoloration.

Choose more textured driftwood with lots of crevices for your plant’s root to hold onto. Use a nylon or cotton string to secure the plant’s roots onto the driftwood. You can either loop the string around the roots or secure the plant just at the base of its stem. 

Plant Anchors

Plant anchors are pliable lead strips you can wrap around the base of your plant to weigh them down. These are easy to use and are considered safe for aquariums contrary to popular belief since they are lead weights.

Other Ways to Anchor your plant

Which Plants Are Best For Anchoring?

In general, plants that have strong or dense roots are best for anchoring into your tank. This will allow them to root well and attach to your anchor, especially if you choose to utilize rocks, driftwood, or nylon nets. Small carpeting plants and mosses are also great since they will root well on your substrate.

Anubias (Anubias barteri)

Anubias growing in aquarium

Anubias barteri is a great choice for anchoring into an aquarium because of its thick rhizome (root stalk) and strong root structure. It is also quite resilient and has strong, durable, green leaves.

Glosso (Glossostigma elatinoides)

Glosso growing in aquarium

Glossostigma is a small, carpeting, aquarium plant that usually comes in pots. They have a fine but dense root system that is well suited for anchoring onto substrate or nets. It does, however, require a lot of light and should be placed in the foreground in intervals of small bunches.

HC Cuba (Hemianthus callitrichoides)

Hemianthus callitrichoides growing in aqauarium

Hemianthus is another small, carpeting aquarium plant that creeps along the bottom of the tank. It has small round leaves and is a good foreground plant for small aquariums. It has a good root system perfect for anchoring onto substrates or nets. The carpet should be trimmed regularly to make sure the root system grows well and to prevent it from covering the entire tank floor.

Java fern

Java fern anchored in aquarium

Java fern or Microsorum pteropus is a popular, slow growing, easy to care for aquarium plant. It has delicate looking ferns and can be housed with a variety of fishes in the tank. It is perfect for anchoring since it naturally grows on rocks or driftwood. It even comes attached on driftwood in some stores making it a quick addition to your tank. 


How do I stop my aquarium plants from floating?

Anchoring your aquarium plants on rocks, driftwood, or your substrate will keep them from floating. Alternatively, you can tie the roots onto a net and place it under your substrate. Plant anchors and ties are also available for purchase online and in most pet stores. 

How do you keep aquarium plants in gravel?

The best way to keep aquarium plants in bigger particle substrates such as gravel will be to secure their roots onto a plastic mesh underneath the gravel. Since gravel tends to be more loose, it can easily be dislodged from weighing down plants. You also cannot add too much gravel to weigh down your plants as it may crush the roots. Tying down your plant’s roots onto a mesh or maybe a bigger piece of rock underneath your gravel is the best way to hold them down. 

How do you weigh down plastic aquarium plants?

Plastic aquarium plants can be weighed down using plant anchors or tied down onto rocks or driftwood. They can also be secured onto a nylon mesh or net underneath your substrate. Plastic plants can also be hot glued onto rocks or simply covered well with substrate such as sand or gravel. 

Should I remove aquarium plants from pots?

Yes and no. You can remove them but you don’t have to since these pots can also be used to anchor them into your tank. Just add a weight on the pot if it floats. 


Anchoring aquarium plants will help keep them from drifting or floating in your tank, help them grow better, keep them and your fishes safe, and prevent a cluttered tank. There are a lot of techniques to anchor aquarium plants depending on the type of plant you have, your tank set up, and preference. Most are relatively easy to do and will allow you to make the most out of your aquarium.

Further Reading

Comprehensive list of common freshwater aquarium plants:
List of freshwater aquarium plant species

Informative discussions on aquarium plant anchors:
Anchoring Plants; which part should be under?
Elastics as anchors
Anchoring Epiphytic Plants
Invention: Anchor for Aquarium Plants

DIY plant anchor:
Plastic Plant Anchor Base – a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Project for Aquariums with 1/4 inch of Gravel.