Common aquarium plant issues

Plants are some of the most essential components to your aquarium setup. They help transform what looks like a clear box into a vibrant, underwater environment that can turn any aquarium into the focal point of the room it resides in.

The trouble with these plants however, is that they’re not a ‘set it and forget it’ proposition. These are living plants, after all. And just like the fish who live in your tank, these plants will also need some love and care. And that’s something people struggle with because unlike fish, maintaining a balance inside your tank’s chemical composition can be a challenge and different plants will all react differently depending on the setup. What we’re saying is – there’s a lot of mixing and matching to do and what you think looks sharp – might not fit with your tank and the composition it needs in order for the fish that you have living inside it to thrive. 

If you’re having trouble with your aquarium plans, then today’s blog is for you. Here is a handy list of some of the common problems that tank owners will encounter and what you can do about them so that your plants look as radiant as your fish do. Let’s jump right in!

Yellow leaves

Most plants are green in color and when they turn yellow, well – that’s not good. That means there’s usually a problem. One possible cause is that there isn’t enough light. Make sure that if you decide to grow live plants in your aquarium that you use 3 to 5 watts of light per gallon of water. Light is the remedy, here. That being said, if only the outer edges of the plant are yellowing, then it’s likely a potassium deficiency. Fertilization is the best way to remedy the issue; so make sure you have some fish tank fertilizer on hand as part of your tank supplies. 

Black and brown leaves

Like we said above – aquarium plants need the right nutritional composition in your tank in order to thrive. When they don’t have those nutrients, they begin to show the signs and the blackening and browning of these leaves is just how that shows itself. The best thing you can do is to make sure that you’re changing your water regularly and rebalancing the chemicals in your water. This will prevent things like excess phosphate levels in your tank or excessive algae buildup. Too many tank owners think they can leave water in a tank forever and that’s simply not the case. Water needs to be changed – not only to keep your fish healthy, but the plants that live alongside them as well. 

Low growth

If you’re noticing that your plants are not growing, it’s probably because the water temperature in your fish tank is too low. The only way to fix this is to replace your heater or to add one if you don’t already have enough heat in your tank. That being said – be careful here as it should be your fish who come first with temperature priority. If it’s warmer water you need, then only plant warmer weather plants. Your tank should always maintain a consistently warm temperature in order for the plants inside it to be healthy. 


Holes in leaves are almost always due to cryptocoryne rot. No one knows what precisely causes this disease, but excess nitrates are frequently a factor. And when certain chemicals spike and others dip, it’s usually due to poor water quality. So just like black and brown leaves – the best way to combat holes in aquarium plants is to consistently and frequently change your water. Also be sure to vacuum your gravel or sand as fish waste can also be a contributor to this issue. 

Using the tips above, you should be able to get a good handle on what’s going on with your fish tank’s plants. In most cases, a thorough water change can do a lot of good, but in other cases you might need to play around with things like fertilizer and the like. The best thing you can do, however – is your homework. Figure out what your actual options are before you experiment and find the best possible fit. Problems with plants arise when people aren’t prepared and are simply going for the aesthetic sizzle of the actual steak. As with anything in life – be prepared!

Cultivating a tank of thriving pants can be a challenge – but it’s most definitely worth it. Good luck!

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