4 Signs That Aquarium Plants Are Healthy

When starting an aquarium, we want healthy plant life seen in these four signs.  Without this healthy plant life, we may begin having trouble with our pH levels as well as the overall health of your fish.  For the health of our fish and the overall appearance of our aquariums, healthy plants are a necessity.

How can you tell if aquarium plants are healthy? Four signs that aquarium plants are healthy include:

  • Overall rich and colorful foliage
  • Leaves with little to no holes
  • Little to no yellowing of leaves
  • No brown or black leaves

Determining if your plants are healthy is vital to your over-all aquarium health and beauty.  There are many factors to take into consideration the signs and treatment of unhealthy plants. The types of plants you choose and how you keep them healthy, affect the overall care and appearance of your aquarium.

4 Signs of Healthy Aquarium Plants

1.      Overall rich and colorful foliage

Just as with your outdoor plants and houseplants, a healthy aquarium plant will be green and lush and visibly thriving. It should grow evenly and regularly. (Not spindly.) It should look hardy and strong. (Not weak or brittle.)

2.      Leaves with little to no holes

If your plants are developing holes, it is very likely a sign of rot. This could be from poor water quality, excess waste or insufficient nutrients. If your plants don’t have holes – take this as a good sign of healthy water and thriving plants!

3.      Little to no yellowing of leaves

Most plant leaves are green. So, If the plants in your tank are beginning to yellow, this signifies there is a problem with the conditions in your tank. Most often, this can mean there is too little light. If it’s only the edges of your leaves are yellowing, it can mean there is a deficiency of some sort in the tank – very likely, too little potassium.

4.      No brown or black leaves

If your leaves are nice and green, lush and vibrant, you’ve got some healthy plants. But if you notice leaves are browning or blackening, you may have an imbalance of nutrients in your water. Your water quality may be poor due to excess nitrates, too.

Common Reasons for Unhealthy Aquarium Plants

There are numerous reasons an aquarium plant is unhealthy and knowing the causes and what to look for are important to preventing these and, if needed, treating these plants.  Keeping a healthy aquatic life is beneficial to the fish living inside the enclosure as well as pleasing to the eye. Here are the essential reasons for keeping your aquarium plants healthy:

  • To support the health and vitality of your fish
  • To ensure the water levels and values still are healthy for both your plants and fish

The nutrient level, temperatures, and light level are all crucial factors to consider in both your fish and your aquarium plants.

Initial Signs and Causes of Unhealthy Plants

  • Yellow leaves in plants that are not supposed to be yellow
  • Brown or black leaves are a sign of dead or dying plants
  • Dead plants corrupt your aquatic life
  • Holes from fish eating them or from rot
  • Stunted or slow growth
  • Overly dark-colored plants
  • Yellowing of leaves with green veins
  • Young plants turning yellow or white
  • Stems branching out instead of staying close to each other

These symptoms can be due to lighting, temperature, or nutrient supply. Some common nutrient deficiencies that are at the root of these troubles are below.

Some Causes of Unhealthy Plants

  • Low potassium can include brown and curling leaf tips or yellowing between the veins
  • Low nitrogen can show in an overall yellow plant more prominent in older leaves
  • Low magnesium, you may be tricked to believe these nutrients are good because the veins retain their green color, but the older leaves will lighten or turn yellow
  • Low phosphate can cause algae and turn darker in color or event violet
  • Low iron is easy to identify. The dark green color of the leaves begins to fade to yellow or white
  • Low calcium has tale-tell signs similar to that of as low phosphate in the aquarium.  Signs of Unhealthy Aquarium Plants

Knowing the signs of unhealthy aquarium plants is important to your aquarium success.  The health of your plants is closely related to the health of your fish.  You want healthy plants to promote life in your fish tank.

Choosing the Right Plants for a Healthy Aquarium:

A healthy aquarium has health benefits for the aquatic life living inside.  The plants also supply safety to the fish and beauty to your surroundings.  Being sure that the plant life supplies both aspects is often the main concern when deciding to include these into your aquatic set up. 

Below we will explore ideas that should be considered in choosing your plants for your aquarium and fish.  Taking the time to set up your aquarium in the easiest and healthiest way and is also an important aspect of choosing and planting your aquarium plants. The following are things to consider.

Best Plants for Beginners:

Mosses for Your Tank:

  • Different aquarium mosses such as Java Moss, Willow Moss, and Water Wisteria spread over the bottom of the aquarium.  They grow quickly and are minimal maintenance plants.  Other benefits of these types of aquarium plants are the speed in which they grow and their strength against other factors in the fish tank.  They are difficult to kill off.
  • These mosses have a fuzzy look to them and tolerate a range of temperatures between 72-90 degrees.  They do grow faster in 73-degree temperatures, but this does not mean they will not thrive in other temperature ranges.
  • Mosses are much less finicky about the lighting of the aquarium than other plants.  They do well in any lighting.  They do better in medium to extreme conditions of lighting but will thrive in any lighting situation.
  • They are very decorative.  Covering a large area of the aquarium will give it a fluffy and natural look that is stable and protective for your fish, especially during breeding.  It will appear as a carpet layer on the bottom of your tank, adding that extra green natural look to your aquarium.

Hair Grass for Your Tank:

  • This is another easy to grow plant for your aquarium.  These are plants that look much like it sounds, a grassy strand look.  This also layers or carpets the bottom of your aquarium.
  • Grasses tolerate most environments but do best in 72-78-degree temperatures for the best results in rapid and healthy growth.
  • The lighting for these plants is better in high light aquariums and is used as a decoration that highlights any stone or wood carvings you may include in your aquarium.

Marsilea Minuta:

  • Another easy to grow aquarium plant that adds beauty to your atmosphere.  These have more of a three-leaf clover appearance.  It also carpets the tank and is best grown in 72-78-degree aquariums
  • These plants thrive in most lighting conditions but do best in medium lighting, allowing it to grow to the fullest potential and size.
  • These plants, in combination with statues, rocks, wood pieces, and even sand or gravel, gives it an amazing appearance.

Amazon Sword:

  • The sword-like leaves are easy to support, and a beautiful addition to your tank while it grows quickly
  • These plants thrive in 72-82-degree temperatures, and medium light promotes the speed of growth.
  • Aesthetically speaking, they supply a beautiful background decoration that can hide the hardware required to run a fish tank.

Java Fern:

  • This aquarium addition has thick, striped leaves that are bunched together.  They look attractive no matter where in the aquarium they are planted without taking away from other decorations.
  • The maintenance of these plants is exceptionally low, and the best temperature to ensure survival and best growth is between 72-78 degrees.
  • The lighting is important in all fish tanks for both the plants and the aquatic life within.  This plant performs best in low-medium lighting.
  • This is another plant good for supplying protection to your fish.

Anubias Nana:

  • This aquatic plant is easy to care for and grows to a mid-level height.  It can survive in most water qualities and environments.
  • The curved steps with medium semi-rounded leaves are a wonderful addition to other decorations in an aquarium.
  • 72-78-degree water helps to promote growth, and medium lighting ensures its health and appearance.
  • The decorative aspects of this plant are obvious when you see it, but the protective element is wonderful due to its height.

Pygmy Chain Sword:

  • This may not be a commonly used plant due to its appearance, but it has a high survival rate in aquariums.  It is identical in appearance to our everyday grass outside.
  • The best temperatures to grow this aquatic plant is between 72-78 degrees
  • Though it can grow in most lighting, the best lighting to keep it healthy and strong is a medium to light environment.
  • You can place these around hardscapes to improve the appearance, and it gives protection to your fish.

Pogostemon helferi:

  • The blooming these plants offer is a unique look for aquariums.  The appearance is like romaine lettuce with its blooming features and zig-zag shaped leaves.
  • The best temperature for these plants to grow is between 72-78 degrees, and the best lighting for these plants to survive in is medium lighting.
  • To decorate your aquarium with this choice, it is pleasing to the eyes and provides protection to your plants with ease of placement in almost any area of your tank.

6 Best Plants for Saltwater Tanks

The upkeep of saltwater aquariums sounds scary.  You will always hear horror stories revolving around the time and energy needed to keep up the plants and fish inside.

This does not have to be true – there are ways to reduce the work and increase the enjoyment a saltwater tank brings to you and your environment.  While most freshwater tanks are full of green plants that I admit look amazing, the plant choices available for a saltwater tank offer so many more color options to bring added life to the appearance of your tank.

The combination of the types of fish you desire in your plant and the care you dedicate to your aquarium will have a huge bearing on what plants you want to include in your fish tank.  The needs and characteristics of each plant play a role too.  If you have a plant that lowers one nutrient in your tank, and then you add a plant that requires more of the same nutrient, then one of the plants will not thrive.

You must also consider the temperature and lighting required for the plants, in combination with the lighting needs of the fish you add to your tank.  This is where research and planning come into play.  Below are only a few of the saltwater plants you can add to an aquarium successfully and are easy to root and sustain.

·         Red Magrove Propagule

There are two ways that the Red Mangrove grow.  They are either forming seeds or producing propagules.  The seeds may not do well in tanks, but the propagule is stronger and more resilient.  They grow to be as high as 8 inches and look much like a tall candle. 

They should be planted in the sand or between rocks to ensure rooting holds quickly.  This plant also lowers nitrate, which may require added care in your iron supplements.

·         Hamileda

These aquatic plants often referred to as the money plants, can be seen in almost any ocean worldwide and thrive in most environments.  Their leaves look like oval coins that have been attached to each other by tape or glue. 

With enough light and calcium, they do well but do not tolerate high nitrate environments very well.  The fish will not nibble on these plants, and they are non-evasive making them perfect for an environment that supports other aquatic plants   

·         Dragons Tongue Algae

These plants offer one of those bright colors to the backdrop of your aquarium.  They are bright orange and different texture to them with the benefits of improving the oxygen quality throughout the aquarium.  Planting them next to or between rocks ensures the best results for their growth.  Often the Dragon Tongue Algae are paired up with seahorses.

·         Green Finger Algae

This type of algae is a lush and dense plant that is easy to care for.  Herbivore fish are not interested in nibbling on these plants and are fish friendly to most aquatic life.  This also helps supply oxygen to keep the tank clean and healthy.

·         Red Gracilaria Algae

This is a prime example of the beautiful colored plants available to saltwater fish tanks.  While the color alone may be an attractive reason to include this plant, the benefits are amazing, as well.  The Red Gracilaria Algae promotes healthy nutrient levels and rid the environment of invasive algae. 

These algae may also be harvested to be fed to fish as a food supply.  To plant these Algae, its best to anchor them to a rock or other firm surface to promote stability.

·         Turtle Grass Shoot

As an amazing plant capable of hypnotizing you because of the way it glides with movement within the tank, it is strong and offers new growth sprouting from the ends.  The roots spread further than many aquarium plants a need a sand bottom at least six inches deep to grow. 

Once it has established itself in the aquarium, fish such as seahorses, small fish, and invertebrates love to enjoy this plant.

6 Best Plants for Freshwater Aquariums

In addition to the appearance of a full eco-system, the beauty and sustainability supplied by plants are pleasing.   Plantlife in an aquarium bring so many benefits to the fish within.  Safety, comfort, and even food are amazing reasons to add plant life to your aquariums.

·         Java Moss:

Though Java Moss is known for floating around a tank, this can be fixed by using an elastic band or something similar to attach it to driftwood or stone items in your aquarium until it is rooted.  They are better suited for low light aquariums and thrive better in these conditions.  The temperature endurance is between 70-90 degrees.

·         Amazon Sword

This is one of the easiest maintainable plants for a freshwater aquarium.  These large growing plants can of up to 20 inches survive in most conditions, but with the addition of nutrient supplements and high lighting, they can grow extremely fast.  These are easy to care for and a cheap plant choice for beginners caring for or starting an aquarium.

·         Java Fern

Like the Java Moss, this is the number one pick for shrimp.  These require attachment to decorations or rocks to secure them, but this can be done in the same way the Java Moss does it with bands or tying them to secure them.  They survive well in 68-82-degree temperatures in low to moderate lighting. 

Even though it is a beautiful background decoration for your aquarium, it is also a nice hiding spot for your fish.  The Java Fern is a simple to grow plant and discharges spores to attach to other areas in your tank and grow.  These also do not require liquid fertilizer, which can be a relief for someone just learning.

·         Anubias Nana

These are often sold already attached to driftwood or rocks, making securing them no worry.  Because it is already attached to an object, you do not want to cover the bottom of the roots.  This would be an ideal plant to be close to larger and taller plants because it requires more shade to prevent algae growth on its leaves.  It does not require a lot of nutrients, so fluid fertilizer is not needed.  

This plant is better suited for smaller aquariums.  This is a larger expense when it comes to plants for your aquarium but an excellent choice for tanks that house fish who require hiding places.

·         Crypt wendtii

In picking these plants, you must take into consideration they are less resistant to changes.  Extreme changes can cause them to liquefy.  They require a little more care in how much light they receive and are better suited for a little more experienced aquarium enthusiast. 

They do add a nice overall look to the aquarium.  They will appear to be dissolving when first being planted but this is their reaction to their adjustment to an unfamiliar environment.  As its roots, it will return to full health. 

·         Cryptocoryne

These aquarium plants offer many sizes, shapes, and colors to choose from.  They are a wonderful plant choice when shrimp live in your aquarium.  The lighting is still dim being the best choice, but the root care is a little more complex.  Covering the roots in a minimum of 2 inches of rock is needed while keeping the leaves above the rock.  

Within the low lighting it should be set at moderate lighting in temperatures of 72-82 degrees.  Like the Crypt Wedtii plants, they will appear to be dying when first planted.  They will usually lose most of their leaves.  This is not uncommon or lethal to the plants themselves.

Benefits to Your Fish in Having Aquarium Plants

The idea of making your aquarium look beautiful, and the sustainability of your aquarium often include the consideration of adding plants instead of just driftwood or stone decorations.  The overall benefits outweigh any concerns, especially when you put in a little time to research the best options for your specific aquarium needs.  You will have satisfying and beautiful results in doing so.

Reasons to Have Aquarium Plants

  • The chemical filtration components of aquatic plants are useful for care needed to keep your tank healthy and in the survival rate of all life within your aquarium
  • Limiting the annoying and hard to deal with algae that can overrun your aquarium is incredible
  • Giving your fish a natural habitat will help ensure their livelihood and health
  • Plants give your fish a sanctuary of protection from other fish in the tank giving a relaxing part to the fix and less stress in the tank

Health Benefits of Having Aquarium Plants

  • Some plants supply an added food source for your fish in your tank
  • The added oxygen supplied by these plants is beneficial to all your tank’s inhabitants
  • The reduction of carbon dioxide is beneficial to any and all living beings
  • Ammonia reduction is beneficial to your life within the tank and helps to keep your levels where they need to be

The Need to Have Your Plants Healthy

  • In choosing live plants over plastic plants, you are creating a natural ecosystem for your aquarium life.
  • This is the best way to ensure your fish begin and stay healthy
  • The plants supply shelter and security to your fish
  • They reduce unwanted algae and add nutritional value

Overall Appearance of Your Aquarium

When you decide you want an aquarium in your home or office, often the appearance of such a decoration is the main motivation.  With an aquarium filled with beautiful fish accompanied with lush plant life the overall appearance is pleasing. 

With simple statues and driftwood, one can get bored watching an aquarium because if the fish are hiding, you have little to look at.  In aquariums that also have plant life, besides the physical benefits, it leaves a lot to look at and examine whether the fish are out in the open or not.

One of the Most Pleasing Aquarium Plants to Look At

The Tiger Lotus is a beautiful addition to an aquarium.  When your goal is to supply the most attractive looking aquarium, the Red Tiger Lotus is among one of the favorites.  Colors and shapes of aquarium plants are the main consideration in trying to make your aquarium look its best.  The Red Tiger Lotus has broad red leaves, adding a pop of color to your aquarium.

They offer two types of structures.  Some of the leaves are submerged looking like lilies while others float to the top of the surface.  This brings attention to the entire aquarium rather than keeping the focus on the bottom of the tank only.

This Red Lotus requires little maintenance to keep healthy.  If the plant grows to high or the floating leaves interfere with the lighting within the environment, it is easy to cut back the leaves without damaging the plants.

Final Thoughts and Advice on Aquarium Plants

Having healthy aquarium plants is vital to the health of your aquarium and learning the signs of whether or not a plant is healthy within an aquarium is vital to promoting health and stability in your tank. 

  • Learning the signs and how to care for unhealthy plants will promote a successful tank set up with continued enjoyment by both you and the inhabitants.
  • Choosing the right plants for your ability in aquarium and fish care is important. 
  • Learning which plants are easiest to care for and what they require will help you decide which ones you should consider in your personalized aquarium.
  • You need to consider what types of fish you have and choose plants that complement the needs of your fish

Research and planning are key to building the most beautiful and sustainable aquarium with the level of care you are looking to invest in.  Many considerations and options are important in planning your fish tank contents, and the time it takes to do the research and pairing up of what you want and what will be the best way to achieve it will be well worth it.

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Author Profile

Adam Edwards
Hi, my name is Adam and I'm an aquarium enthusiast! I didn't discover the joys of being an 'aquarium fanatic' (as some of my friends call me!) until I was in my 20's. When I first started out I found it difficult to find all the information I needed so I started this website to compile all the useful information I can think of. Enjoy!