Aquarium plants are a great addition to your freshwater aquarium. They help create a thriving ecosystem for your fish and other water animals and add natural beauty, too!
In fact, aquarium plants help to break down waste generated by fish and even prevent algae from forming.
But just like fish, they need intense care to survive, too.
Aquarium plants have certain needs that have to be taken care of, like nutrition, thriving conditions, and more to ensure that they grow healthily – after all, wilting plants are never a good sign.
Not only do they lower the water quality, but they also harm your fish and create an unhealthy living environment.
So why do aquarium plants die? Why does a healthy plant begin to lose luster? And how can you prevent this?
Reasons Why Aquarium Plants Die
While there could be many reasons for your aquarium plants to die, if you take care of a few basic stuff, it will ensure the chances of them surviving a lot more.
Below are the factors that are most responsible for ruining the plants in your beautiful aquarium.
The Lighting Matters (A Lot!)
Just like non-aquatic plants, your aquarium plants also need a source of light in order to photosynthesize and create nutrients for themselves.
One common reason aquarium plants die is because of the lack of lighting.
If you plan on introducing plants into your aquarium, you have to consider installing a fluorescent light that emits the full spectrum of light that keeps these plants alive.
Any other bulb, tube lights, or even other light bulbs won’t do – they do not have the full brightness and lack the properties that your aquatic plants need to survive.
Light wattage also matters and depending on how large your tank is, you need to adjust that.
Usually, one watt per gallon of water should suffice if your plants are low maintenance, but ideally, two to three watts per gallon ensure that your plants get the right amount of light.
The color temperature of your light also matters. If you’ve observed otherwise, aquarium lights give off a blue or purple hue – that’s because the ideal color temperature for aquarium plants is blue!
It penetrates straight through the water and to the bottom of the tank, where the plants are rooted, and is intense enough to be submerged, giving your aquarium plants the much-needed light that they need.
Food and Animal Waste Is Harmful
Whatever you feed your aquatic fish will directly affect the quality of plant life in the tank.
When fish and aquatic animals are done feeding, the leftover food breaks down and is absorbed by the plants.
Even animal waste is consumed by aquarium plants to keep the ecosystem of the tank in balance.
However, at times, the feed and waste may have certain chemical compounds that may harm your plants.
The water chemistry is affected when food and waste particles break down and sometimes, the adverse effects of this chemical reaction are borne by the plants.
For example, aquarium plants require carbon dioxide through the water in order to survive.
But when fish waste and decaying feed are left for too long, they can release compounds like sulfur and other chemicals that can hinder the growth and sustenance of aquarium plants and affect the health of your fish, too.
In fact, if waste and leftover food are not cleaned up in a timely manner, it can cause root decay, which leads to plants dying, and affect the water quality to the point where some fish types develop the bloating disease and suffer from the inability to swim.
Excess Filtration Is Bad For Plants
All fish tanks and indoor aquariums have filtration systems.
They’re extremely important to cycle the water and clean it in order to maintain a healthy equilibrium within the tank.
However, as useful as filters are, they can actually filter out a lot of carbon dioxide, which isn’t great for plants.
Like non-aquatic plants, the tank’s greenery also needs carbon dioxide.
Due to filters, most of it is removed and the dearth of it can deteriorate plant health and as a result, your aquarium plants can die off.
After all, that’s the job of the filter, to clean the water from impurities for fish life to survive.
Usually, carbon dioxide diffusers can be installed in aquariums to counteract such issues.
These supplement the loss of carbon dioxide and help plants to get their dose of much-needed CO2 in order to survive.
CO2 diffusers spray a small amount of CO2 into the tank— just enough for plants to utilize and the fish to not be affected.
You’re Not Using Fertilizer (Or The Right One)
Yes! Even aquarium plants need fertilizer in order to grow strong and healthy and bring their essence to your fish tank!
Enriching your plants from the root-up is the way to go if you want your tank to be a thriving ecosystem of aquatic life.
Iron-based fertilizer is one of the best things you can use to give your plants the nutrients they need.
It helps to enhance plant growth and creates a healthy substrate for your plants to thrive on.
Besides, fertilizer contains macronutrients that plants won’t find in the water like nitrogen, phosphorus, and even potassium.
A lack of fertilizer – or using the wrong one – can cause your aquatic plant to wilt, turn brown or yellow and eventually die out after a long bout of looking very unhealthy.
Potassium deficiency, for example, can create pinholes; nitrogen deficiency can make the leaves yellow; phosphate deficiency can cause leaves to fall out, and the lack of other nutrients can also cause stunted or twisted growth.
The Stability Of The Substrate Is Important
The substrate is the bottom of your tank which contains gravel, pebbles, and other stones.
It is here that the roots of your aquarium plants will grow and they need a sturdy substrate in order to grow well and healthily.
In layman’s terms, the substrate is a means of sustenance, survival, and growth for the plants.
Gravel that is too large is a bad idea.
It has too many spaces in between, which means the roots won’t have much to hold onto and there’s always the danger of plants de-rooting and floating in the water instead.
A super-fine layer, on the other hand, like laterite or peat, is great for the substrate because it can hold the roots in place without applying excess pressure on them.
It also helps nutrients to funnel through and be absorbed instead of remaining at the bottom in the form of heavy particles.
The substrate is one of the most important ways to ensure that your aquarium plants are rooted strongly, growing properly, and looking well.
Besides, the better your plant is, the less likely it’ll be damaged by aggressive fish types, too.
The Tank Mates Can Also Be Culprits
Aquatic life is super interesting. The way fish and other animals maneuver through the water, eat, feed, and reproduce – it’s all pretty cool.
However, your fish and other tank animals could also be the reason why your aquarium plants may be prematurely dying off.
Some fish like to nibble on plants every now and then, while others take it as a challenge and try to pull the plants right from the root as a way of playing, leaving them floating on the top.
Other animals like snails and bottom feeders alike can actually eat away at the roots, which completely obliterates the plant.
In fact, certain fish are pretty bad tank mates for water plants.
For example, Tetras, Silver Dollar, and Monos are pretty aggressive plant-eaters, which means your plants aren’t going to survive for long with these tank mates!
So it’s best to avoid aggressive fish if you really want your aquarium plants to survive.
The Water Chemistry and pH Levels
And of course, the chief cause of aquarium plants dying is improper water chemistry.
The ideal pH level for aquatic plants to survive should range between 6.5 and 7.8, considering the type of plant you have.
It’s also essential to be careful about excess ammonia and nitrates; these can be caused by fish waste that can ultimately compromise plant health and also cause fish to die.
In fact, water chemistry also determines whether or not rot, algae, or other harmful substance will affect your water plants.
If water chemistry is not monitored, these things can become silent killers in your tank, deteriorating plant life and affecting fish life, too.
How to Keep Your Aquarium Plants from Dying
It’s pretty simple to keep your aquarium plants from dying if you think about it.
Just like ordinary plants, aquarium plants need nutrients, light, and healthy water chemistry to survive. You also need to maintain the plants and trim them from time to time.
Even introducing the correct tank mates is a great way to ensure that your aquarium plants will do just fine.
Water is also the chief way to maintain plant health.
In a tank, the water is the whole ecosystem that sustains life and also goes through several changes because of the gases, waste, and processes that happen within it.
Supplementing water quality with external compounds can help ensure plant life.
So if you want to introduce more aquarium plants or improve the health of your already existing ones, keep these pointers in mind – you’ll be surprised to know how important they are!
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