How To Care For Aquarium Plants (& Maximize Growth)

Last Updated on 2023-08-08

Plants that can thrive in a freshwater environment are a must for any aquarium. Some owners of freshwater aquariums prefer plastic plants, yet real aquatic plants have benefits for the ecosystem that artificial plants can’t match. Aquatic plants are beneficial because they can be used to produce oxygen, remove carbon dioxide from the air, reduce the amount of algae in the water, enhance the quality of the water, and provide a sustainable supply of nutrition.

Keeping an aquatic plant will become an integral part of your normal routine, whether you have real or fake plants in your aquarium. Remember that healthy plants in a freshwater aquarium will most likely lead to healthy fish. If you want healthy aquatic plants, keep reading.

Are Live Aquarium Plants Hard To Take Care Of?

Aquatic plants require little maintenance and make beautiful additions to aquariums. It depends on what kinds of plants you have in your tank. You should begin with some tough and simple aquarium plants if you are just getting started. These plants require little attention and are simple to care for.

However, you must supply them with the appropriate environment, which includes maintaining the ideal water parameters. In addition, you need to make sure they have access to plenty of water and fertilizer and that the right lighting conditions are always being provided. Providing such conditions, aquarium plants will flourish in your tank.

How Many Hours Of Light Do Aquarium Plants Need?

The purpose of aquarium lighting goes far beyond providing a pleasant viewing environment for aquatic inhabitants. As well as promoting the growth of photosynthetic plants and organisms, lighting contributes to the health and well-being of your pets. Lighting is one of the most important aspects of an aquarium, as it allows the fish and plants to thrive.

It takes 10 to 12 hours of lighting per day to meet the needs of plants and animals in your aquarium. Lighting can be made easy by installing a timer or selecting a unit with integrated timing. Don’t forget that algae is also drawn to bright environments. If you see algae development beginning, you should reduce the time. You could also turn off the lights when you go to work and turn them on when you get home.

two Corydoras Trinilleatus Catfish swimming in a planted tropical aquarium

What Is The Best Light For Aquarium Plants?

How much light you need over your aquarium depends on the plants you want to grow, how fast you want them to grow, whether you’re injecting CO2, and how much time you’re willing to maintain your plants. The amount of light required by a plant can vary greatly. Plants that need a lot of sunlight tend to be more difficult to maintain. The faster your plants develop in brighter conditions, the more frequently you’ll need to prune, fertilize, add carbon dioxide (CO2), and replace the water in your pots.

Using too much light might be a common mistake. Algae blooms can become a major problem if much light is provided. For many enthusiasts, this is the cause of years of frustration and even the decision to give up their pastime completely. Choose a low-light aquarium if you’re just getting started. Although plant growth may be slower, healthy plant growth will be much simpler to achieve.

Thankfully, the majority of plants can thrive with less light, so we only highlight the ones that require more. When the amount of light is decreased, so is the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) needed for fertilization. Lessens the potential for an algal bloom, too!

How Long Should Aquarium Lights Be On For Plants?

Fish tanks should be designed to simulate aquatic environments as closely as possible. As part of this, you should determine a lighting routine that promotes wellness. Fish and plants in aquariums require 8-12 hours of light every day. The best time of day to turn on the lights will vary from species to species.

The target is a healthy ecosystem where fish are thriving, vegetation is flourishing, and algae levels are low. It’s not good to leave the lights on in a fish tank all day or to not provide any supplementary lighting at all. If you want to keep your fish healthy and happy, it’s best to create an environment that mimics their natural habitat as closely as possible.

What Do Aquarium Plants Need?

A tank can be transformed into a beautiful aquatic environment by paying attention to a few essentials and having a basic awareness of the demands of aquatic plants.Plants in an aquarium require water, light, nutrients, and carbon dioxide to survive. Learn more about these elements and how to utilize them in your planted aquarium.


Water is essential for the survival of all plants, but it is especially crucial for aquatic plants. It’s true that some aquatic plants can thrive on land as long as their roots remain underwater, but this is by no means the rule.


Through photosynthesis, which relies on light for its energy, plants are able to grow and collect nutrients. Aquatic plants require full-spectrum lighting that is similar to sunshine in order to flourish. There are a few plants that can survive with less light, but in general, most plants need between 10 and 14 hours of light every day.


Plants that live in water require a special diet in addition to the light they receive. In addition to nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, plants also need specific trace elements. The three primary nutrients (macronutrients) that plants need can be found in decomposing fish feces in your tank water. Micronutrients, or trace elements, are abundant in tap water; however, you should replace the water in your plant containers once a week to ensure that your plants never run out.

Carbon Dioxide

Photosynthesis is the process through which living plants use carbon dioxide to produce oxygen. Because respiration and gas exchange occur at the aquarium’s surface, carbon dioxide is already present in the water. Your tank’s CO2 levels can be increased by utilizing a CO2 injector and lowering the aeration from the tank filter.

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How To Make Aquarium Plants Grow Faster

There are times when it’s tough to get aquarium plants to thrive. Consider a wide range of possibilities. We’ll go through various techniques you may use to encourage rapid plant growth in your aquarium.

The Substrate Quality

Even though a good substrate might not help a plant like Anubias directly, it is still important. It’s the bedrock of successful hydroponic cultivation of aquatic plants. Make sure the substrate you chose already contains some of the nutrients your plant needs to grow.


You should make sure your plants are getting enough light because it is necessary for the majority of them to flourish. Now, we would argue that a stronger light that includes all spectrums of light and sends off some UV rays is preferable, but not for all plants. Some plants thrive in low-light settings and can tolerate lower levels of ultraviolet radiation. It depends a lot on the plants you have. A good full-spectrum LED light that also emits some UV rays will, however, greatly accelerate the growth of the plants in your aquarium.


Keep an eye out for fertilizer as well. Now, this can go in two different ways. If your plant develops a substantial root system in the substrate it lives in, Your aquarium plants will flourish more quickly if you provide them with fertilizer and a nutrient-rich substrate. Add some fertilizer and nutrients to the water, and your plants will continue to develop healthily even if the substrate is old.

Flow of Water

Making sure there is adequate water flow in the aquarium is yet another way to hasten plant growth. Although a river is not required, the water should not be completely still. Plants take up a lot of water-borne nutrients through their roots and leaves. Some good water flow will aid in nutrient absorption by your plants because it will continually supply fresh water and nutrients to them.

Carbon Dioxide Injection

Now, you can skip this part if you just want to keep a simple aquarium. But if you’re serious about getting the most out of your plant growth, this part is where the rubber meets the road. Carbon dioxide (CO2) can be added to the aquarium in three different methods. Liquid carbon dioxide is the least effective and the most costly option. Alternatively, you might utilize a do-it-yourself kit, which is a more economical choice overall due to its lower base price. A pressurized system with a timer and drop checker is the optimal setup.


If you want your aquarium plants to flourish more quickly, a good water heater is something to consider purchasing. Some plants can survive in cooler water, but most cannot. Plants generally prefer warm conditions, though the ideal temperature will vary depending on the species. Your plant growth can benefit from the same increased metabolism that fish experience in warmer water.


Last but not least, a high-quality filtration system is essential for the rapid and healthy development of your plants. Toxins and other impurities in the water are harmful to aquatic life, including plants. Filters assist in getting rid of these substances. Your plant life will flourish with the addition of a quality three-stage aquarium filter to your aquarium.

To sum up, cultivating aquarium plants is not particularly challenging, however, there are instances in which they may not develop quickly enough. Following the aforementioned advice will guarantee you unprecedented plant growth in your aquarium.

How To Propagate Aquarium Plants

Normal aquarium conditions will allow many common plant species to reproduce on their own. The opposite is true, however: it might be challenging to create an aquarium environment where all species of aquatic plants can easily reproduce. Not all aquarium plants need to be artificially propagated, though; some can multiply just well on their own.

Most aquatic plants prefer to reproduce in an asexual manner, either through vegetative means or through cultivation in a controlled environment. Few people still primarily use seeds to spread plants. Asexual reproduction is typically far more successful than seed-based methods when it comes to propagating aquarium plants. Growing new plants from existing ones, often known as “runners,” “offsets,” or “plantlets,” is how it’s done.

Here’s a rundown of the various choices available to you:

1. Asexual Reproduction

Most aquarium plants propagate asexually, thus their young are genetically indistinguishable from their parents. Plants can reproduce by sending out new shoots. Aquarium plants can spread genetically in one of three ways:

  • Runners –  They can develop runners from the parent plant’s base, which end in “slips.” These slips may anchor and thrive on their own.
  • Offsets –  Offsets likewise grow from the mother plant, however they do not wander like runners and grow quite near to the mother plant.
  • Adventitious plantlets – The last type of asexual reproduction is when small plants grow from the parent plant. These are called adventitious plantlets. These can develop in any available space on the plant, be it a node, a root, a leaf, or a stem.

2. Artificial Propagation

Many aquarium plants can be artificially propagated by cutting a piece off and replanting it (stem plants are best) or by dividing the rhizome in two and replanting the two sections (ferns and mosses can be propagated this way).

  • Cuttings – The top stems are the strongest, but you can also take cuttings from side shoots and center stems.
  • Splitting a rhizome – Plants with rhizomes can also be made to grow more by cutting the rhizome in half. You can do this by lifting the plant from its substrate and slicing its rhizome in half, making sure that both halves have at least one healthy shoot.

3. Growing Seeds

It can be challenging to successfully grow plants from seed, but it can be done. If you want to propagate sexually reproducing plants, you’ll need at least two of them, and they must be able to develop blossoms above the water’s surface for fertilization.

How To Prune Aquarium Plants

One of the most time-consuming aspects of maintaining a planted aquarium is making sure the plants are under control. Pruning and trimming plants properly requires familiarity with the plant species and its growth habits to avoid causing damage. Here’s how to prune the aquarium plants so that they maintain their ideal shape and development rate.

Rhizomic Plants

They produce new branches and roots from a broad, meaty rhizome that spreads laterally across the surface. Because of their very moderate growth, they require gentle cutting back. If you want to replant the rhizome you just removed, it should have roots and leaves.

Runner Plants

Runner plants can be pruned by removing all of the young shoots or by trimming the older leaves down to the base to prevent them from rotting. A few of the smaller foreground plants (such as Eleocharis, or hair grass) can be maintained in the same way as a carpeting plant. New leaves will immediately appear in place of the old ones, but the cut ones won’t come back.

Carpeting Plants

These popular aquascaping plants will quickly grow a dense carpet on the substrate, given the right care and attention. Once these plants have established themselves, they will spread out in all directions to produce a thick carpet along the ground. As a result, the older plants beneath are shaded to death, and the mat eventually floats to the surface. The finest instrument for pruning carpeting plants is an angled set of aquascaping scissors.

Stem Plants

 A stem plant’s new growth begins at its very tip. To prune a stem plant is to cut off the brand-new growth. Pruning the new growth and replanting can be beneficial in some cases, allowing you to maintain the most recent growth in the tank. Once the plant has been clipped, it will start sending out new roots and continue to expand.

Rosette Plants

Older leaves on rosette plants should be pruned off as close to the plant’s base as feasible. This prevents rot from tracking back to the stem (rhizome) (rhizome). Slower growing than many other types of plants, older leaves are prone to browning/algae formation and, therefore should then be removed.

How To Keep Aquarium Plants Healthy

Aquarium plant care will become an integral part of your normal routine for maintaining your aquatic life, even if artificial plants take less attention than live plants. Keep in mind that a healthy plant population in a freshwater aquarium usually means healthy fish populations as well.

Here are some tips to help you get healthy aquatic plants.

Pick the Right Aquarium Plant

The term “aquatic plant” refers to any plant that can continue to function even when entirely submerged in water, although this generalization ignores the fact that different aquatic plants have varying needs. It’s important to remember that not all plants will thrive in your aquarium’s water temperature and pH. All the plants can be dug up or even eaten by some fish.

There are fewer factors to think about when selecting plastic plants for your aquarium as opposed to selecting the correct live aquatic plants for your fish’s habitat, such as the size and appearance of the plants and how they will fit into your aquarium.

Determine Aquarium Plant Substrate

Plants can grow on any aquatic substrate, but 2 to 3 inches of laterite—a soil and rock combination rich in iron and aluminum—covered with an inch of gravel is ideal. If you don’t use laterite, use fish-safe food additives, iron supplements, and fertilizers.

Invest in Good Lighting

Obviously, light is necessary for plants to photosynthesize, but the sort of aquarium light you use will depend on the plants you have. The majority of plants thrive under full-spectrum lighting and require 10-12 hours of light per day. However, the requirements of other plants are more specific.

Do Aquascaping and Fertilize Your Plants

You may boost your plant’s growth and vitality with an iron-based fertilizer that is safe for fish. But make sure to keep an eye on how much everything is growing! As their overgrowth might obstruct light from reaching the rest of your aquatic life, maintaining a regular pruning schedule for plants like these is crucial. Remove dead and decaying leaf plant particles, as they impair water quality.

Be Sure the Water Quality in Your Aquarium Is High and Clean

Like your fish, freshwater aquarium plants also require a clean atmosphere for the best growth. You can help keep algae development to a minimum by using a fish tank cleaning on a regular basis, but it’s still important to keep on top of it. Algae competes with aquarium plants for light and nutrients.

With the appropriate care and attention, freshwater aquatic plants may be a great way to add natural features to your aquarium.

How To Quarantine Aquarium Plants

If you care about keeping your tank clean and healthy, adding additional plants could introduce bacteria that could harm your fish. It is crucial to quarantine plants to prevent the spread of toxic pesticides, fertilizers, parasites, and pathogens in the tank water. Find out how to put aquarium plants in quarantine to protect your fish and other plants from disease.

  1. Do not leave the plant sitting in the rockwool or any other sponge-like substance that came with it. Be careful and thorough when you remove them. To avoid pesticide and other pollution absorption, it is important to go as close to the roots as possible.
  2. Snip the plant’s lengthy, straggly roots to a length of 1 to 2 centimeters with a pair of scissors. It’s not a big deal; the plant will regrow them eventually.
  3. New plants should be sterilized or disinfected.
  4. Soak the plants in a pail of clean water for a few days to get rid of any remaining rock wool (at least 5 days).
  5. To the pail of water, add some water conditioner. It can trap residues of chemicals like insecticides. To remove harmful levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates from water, use a water conditioner. In addition to neutralizing chlorine and chloramine, it filters out heavy metals that may be present in some municipal water supplies.
  6. Complete water changes should be performed daily until the process is complete.
  7. The plants should be washed in running water after a 5-day quarantine period.
  8. At this point, you can begin putting the plants into the tank.

Getting your aquarium plants quarantined is not a choice, but a must. It’s important to know how to quarantine aquarium plants to prevent the spread of disease to fish and other plants. Additionally, it contributes to a sanitary and healthy environment in your aquarium.

How To Fix Nitrogen Deficiency In Aquarium Plants

Plants lose their bright color and become drab due to a lack of nitrogen in the water. Lack of nitrogen in a tank’s water can lead to rapid algae growth, and this is especially frequent in brand-new aquariums. This causes the water supply to become depleted of a vital nutrient over time.


  • If you’ve recently set up your aquarium or haven’t been checking the water regularly, and you’ve seen these signs, you should do a water test to ensure there are sufficient nitrates in the tank.
  • Add an ammonia source like ammonium chloride if the nitrogen level is low.
  • If it fails, consider switching to a high-nitrogen fertilizer that doesn’t include any ammonia.
  • You may need to make another round of partial or even complete water changes if your plants still seem unwell after you’ve adjusted the water chemistry and selected the appropriate fertilizer supplement.

How To Fix Aquarium Plant Potassium Deficiency

A potassium-deficient aquatic plant wilts and loses color. As the leaves begin to fall, you could find dark leaf tissue and dull blades. When potassium levels drop too low, plants may lose their leaves and eventually die.


  • You may get a simple testing kit at any pet store to determine the status of this essential nutrient.
  • Make sure that you are applying the correct fertilizer, you should check the labels. To ensure your plants get all they need to flourish, it’s ideal to use a balanced fertilizer.
  • Change the water and add a potassium supplement if that doesn’t work. It’s preferable to use anything made specifically for aquariums because this nutrient is crucial for plant growth but only needed in trace levels.

How To Fix Java Fern Potassium Deficiency

Sheets with holes or withering leaf tissue are common symptoms of potassium (K) deficiency (necrosis). Small black dots are the initial sign of a potassium shortfall, but as the deficiency worsens, they transform into holes with a yellow or black outline, not unlike those caused by a nitrogen shortage. Java ferns and anubias are two examples of plants that benefit from greater potassium levels.


  • To remedy this, you can get a potassium supplement. As a result, treatment may be as easy as applying a higher dosage of the appropriate all-purpose fertilizer.

How To Fix Aquarium Plant Co2 Deficiency

Low levels of carbon dioxide are the most common cause of a carbon deficit in an aquarium. When plants absorb light through photosynthesis, they produce energy, but only if they have a steady supply of carbon dioxide. They can’t grow if the water doesn’t have enough of it to sustain them. This condition manifests itself in droopy, yellow leaves and brown blotches at the plant’s tips and edges if it goes untreated for too long. As the plant fights to remain erect, its stems grow frail and flimsy.


  • Use drop checkers or test kits available at aquarium stores to measure CO2.
  • If you don’t see enough carbon dioxide in the tank, add an air stone to promote oxygenation.
  • Utilizing a liquid fertilizer that contains carbon could be another option. There are aquarium-specific options, as well as those that may be used in combination with chemical fertilizers.
  • If you are still having problems after making all the right changes, it might help to change the water more often. This raises the CO2 concentration in the tank, which gives plants a head start in case further adjustments are required.

How To Fix Aquarium Plant Magnesium Deficiency

Similar to iron deficiency, magnesium shortage causes older leaves to turn lighter in color with dark veins, however, this time, it’s the older leaves that are affected. The margins of the leaves may droop at times as well.

  • Increasing your magnesium dosing as part of your regular fertilization process is a good idea because magnesium is often contained in most all-purpose fertilizers.
  • Consider using magnesium supplements or Epsom salts to get this nutrient.

How To Fix Aquarium Plant Light Deficiency

Even though light is not a nutrient, a lack of it can still cause serious problems if you don’t fix it right away. Light is needed for photosynthesis, which is how plants make energy from sunshine. If your plants lack light, their leaves may shrink to preserve energy, making them spindly or thin.

  • If your tank is getting too much shade, try repositioning it.
  • There is a good chance that your tank’s floating plants are to blame; if so, you might want to move them.
  • If you don’t notice any shadows or other culprits, your lights may not be bright enough. If this is the case with your aquarium, you may want to upgrade to brighter bulbs.
  • Your lighting system may be faulty. Perhaps an upgrade is necessary if they aren’t producing enough light.


What Is The Best Aquarium Substrate For Plants?

The best substrate for most planted aquariums is CaribSea Eco-Complete Planted Aquarium Substrate. It’s easy to use and includes a decent balance of macronutrients. It comprises small and large grains that will settle into two levels, with a finer bottom for your plant’s roots.

Do Aquarium Plants Need Sunlight?

Of course, photosynthesis, the mechanism by which all plants in water create their own food, requires exposure to light. Plants that spend most of their time in the shade can get by with much less light than their sun-loving counterparts. All aquatic plants, though, are totally reliant on light for their own survival and will quickly die if their light requirements aren’t supplied.

How Do I Keep My Aquarium Plants Alive?

Make sure your aquarium plants are getting everything they need to stay alive. Water, light, nutrients, and carbon dioxide are the four primary requirements for aquarium plant life. Your plants will last a long time if you give them a little extra care.

What Color Light Is Best For Aquarium Plants?

Plants in aquariums benefit from blue light since it is the most vital component of the light spectrum for promoting photosynthesis. When plants are cultivated with an abundance of blue light, the leaves and stems become robust and healthy. Additionally, blue light brings out the best in the colors of aquatic plants, making for a more colorful and enticing aquarium setting.


If you’re looking for an easy and affordable way to add a touch of nature to your home, aquarium plants are a great option. They make your tank look more natural. They also provide a habitat for fish and other aquatic creatures. And contrary to popular belief, they’re not hard to take care of! All you need is a little bit of knowledge about what they need and how to care for them in order to thrive.

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