How to Trim Aquarium Plants (All You Need to Know)

If you have live aquarium plants in your fish tank, you are probably already aware that they need to be trimmed and maintained in order to stay healthy.

It’s also necessary to hedge them in order to ensure your aquarium looks visually appealing and is a safe space for your fish to swim around and thrive in.

Every type of plant grows at a different pace. If you maintain a nourishing environment, they’re likely to grow even faster.

When you don’t keep a careful watch on how big your plants are getting, they can interfere with your tank’s lighting and obscure adequate light from reaching the rest of the tank.

In this article, we will cover how to trim common aquarium plants.

How to Trim Common Aquarium Plants

Here’s how to properly take care of the plants in your aquarium based on their growth patterns and shape and trim them when needed.

Stem Plants

How to trim Stem plants in Aqaurium

Often, aquatic plants have the special ability to regrow their stems and leaves soon after they have been trimmed.

In fact, the more you trim stem plants, the more you will see new shoots emerging and creating new branches.

The more often stem plants are trimmed, the thicker they become. This is how bushes are made.

The way you cut the stem plants determines the angle at which they’ll grow. If you want to grow them into a bush, you have to cut them more often.

When you trim them for the first time, you have to cut the stems short. Cut about 2 inches or half the stem off, at most.

In the next few trimmings, you can let the stems stay longer. This allows more branches and shoots to form and make the plant denser.

If you keep replanting the cut stems throughout the aquarium, they will take root and increase in number. This is why it is recommended to only buy a small number of stem plants because they are fast growers and their cut stems can be replanted.

When you initially plant a stem plant, its leaves are quite long and wide. This is why you

Stoloniferous Plants

These plants spread through stolons, also known as runners. From one stalk or rosette, a stolon is formed that starts to grow either above or under the soil or gravel.

From this stolon, more roots and leaves are formed and another plant comes into being.

When grooming stoloniferous plants such as Helanthium Tenellum, Vallisneria, and Eleocharis plants, you have to cut the leaves. After a while, more leaves will begin to grow from the stalk.

When your plant growth becomes too thick, you can reduce the density by removing entire chains of plants and cutting the stolons that are joining them together.

Once separated, you can place them back inside the soil.

If you have soil as your aquarium’s base, you can cut stolons right through the soil. Then, you can pull them out carefully using tweezers.

Rhizome Plants

These plants include ferns and Bucephalandra plants. They have prominent rootstock, which is also known as the rhizome.

All the baby leaves and roots emerge at the tip of the rhizome. When trimming, you have to be careful not to damage the rootstock.

To trim, you can cut the leaves with scissors when the plant becomes too dense or if the leaves are unhealthy.

More shoots will then emerge from the rhizome. Old leaves can be used to start new growth elsewhere in the aquarium when replanted properly.

Anubias and Java Ferns

Java Ferns

Java ferns and other Bolbitis heteroclita plants, as well as anubias can spread by diving the rhizome present at the base of the plants.

Because they are strong plants, trying to pull them out by their root can damage them.

Instead, use a blade or a sharp knife to split the rhizome into a few sections. Then, replant the sections in other parts of the aquarium.

With anubias, you have to clip their roots in order to redistribute or thin the plant growth.

When their leaves have gotten very large or are damaged, you can trim and clip the petiole from the rhizome using scissors to ensure no more leaf growth emerges from these stumps.

Rosette Plants

These plants include Crypts and Echinodorus plants. They have very prominent rootstocks, similar to rhizome plants.

Their rhizomes grow either just above the soil or gravel or slightly below it. This makes it harder to maintain because the rootstock is not as visible.

When trimming or moving the plant, it is important that you don’t damage the rhizome.

Using plant scissors, you can trim the leaves whenever they start dying off or become infected with algae. You also have to trim them if the plant grows too tall.

The stem where the leaves have been cut off won’t grow more leaves, but the intact rhizome will. This rhizome can be used to create more rosette plant growth elsewhere in your aquarium.

Use a pair of scissors to carefully make a clean cut to divide the rhizome into sections and replant it.

Potted Plants

These plants include hair grass, crinums, amazon swords, and tiger lilies.

They’re usually easy to maintain because they grow at a slow pace and can be trimmed conveniently.

When you notice that the leaves have grown too dense, are unhealthy, or have started to color, you can trim them from the base of the root.

Don’t cut across the leaves because it can affect the plant’s overall health.

When choosing potted plants, choose middle-ground ones that will eventually grow big enough to adjust to your aquarium’s size.

Tuberous and Bulbous Plants

These plants include the tiger lotus, also known as the Aponogeton. They have thick, rounded plant stems that are usually covered by a rough bark-like covering. Other bulbous plants like crinum plants have a thick leaf base.

You should not tamper with the bulbs and tubers of these plants because you can damage the organs responsible for their storage and inevitably kill the plant.

Instead, focus on carefully trimming the roots and leaves with scissors.

Once the leaves are cut off, new leaves will not form at the location, but they will grow from the shoot of a healthy tuber.


You can use scissors to trim moss in your aquarium. It grows at a slow pace when placed in appropriate environments, but much faster when there are too many nitrates in the water.

And kind of moss is easy to maintain because it is soft.

It can even be removed using scissors to pull swaths of fronds out of the aquarium.

Remember that if any remnants of moss are left floating around the tank, they will settle down somewhere and start growing again.

This is why you should be extra careful to clear the water of the remaining moss after a trim.

Ground Cover Plants

These plants usually grow flat at the base of your aquarium. They include Hemianthus callitrichoides and glossostigma elatinoides. They usually grow extremely close to one another to form the ground cover, like a carpet.

You can reduce their density by pulling the plant apart gently with your hands or using scissors to cut out and remove portions.

You need to trim ground cover plants to ensure that they don’t get too tall. Using scissors, trim the shoots by a few inches until the plant is only slightly above the soil or gravel.

Like the moss plant, you have to make sure you remove the remnants of these plants from the tank so they don’t settle somewhere and start growing.

What Kind of Tools Can You Use to Trim Aquarium Plants?

It is important to have sharp, effective scissors or blades to trim your plants so that you make a clean cut and avoid damaging the plant.

There are various tools you may need to use to properly maintain your plants, such as shears, tweezers, scissors, and blades.

What Else Should You Keep in Mind with Aquarium Plants?

One thing to remember is the hydra effect. As we’ve mentioned above, when you trim a plant underwater, it is most likely going to grow back thicker and denser than it was before.

Depending on how you want your aquarium to look, this can work for or against you.

That’s why you have to keep a careful watch over all your plants. They will quickly grow wider, larger, and denser—so you can either trim them or relocate them to a different part of the aquarium.

You also have to make sure your aquarium’s environment is appropriate for the plants you have. The fewer the plants, the fewer nutrients, and lesser carbon dioxide your aquarium needs.

This means that when you’ve trimmed your plants and reduced their density, you have to reduce the nutrients accordingly, or it will lead to algae growth and an overdose of nutrients that can harm your fish.

Final Words

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of how to trim your aquarium plants based on their growth patterns, structure, and location in your tank.

It’s also important to gauge the size and depth of your aquarium when deciding how many and how big your plants are to ensure that you don’t limit the swimming space for your fish.

When plants grow too big, they can create obstructions that make it harder for your fish to access their food as well.

But with careful maintenance, you can create an aesthetic and green tank environment that is pleasant and comfortable for your fish.

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