How to Take Care of Freshwater Plants for an Aquarium


Real freshwater plants look a lot better than cheap plastic ones, but maintaining them can be confusing to novice aquarium enthusiasts. When freshwater plants die in aquariums, they pollute the water. Proper plant care is not challenging but does require a time commitment and cleaning. Well-tended plants make fish happier, which brightens their colors and reduces their stress levels. Freshwater plants are a natural part of the aquarium ecosystem, and learning how to care for them will reward both you and your fish.

Step 1

Place a base fertilizer that's designed for aquatic plants at the bottom of the aquarium tank, then cover this over with fine gravel or sand. Follow label directions. The fertilizer will provide nutrients for the freshwater plants to keep them healthy and growing.

Step 2

Plant freshwater plants in the sand so their roots are covered.

Step 3

Provide adequate lighting to keep the plants happy and growing. Monga Bay recommends two to three watts of fluorescent light per aquarium gallon and suggests replacing the light bulb every six months. Leave the light on for 12 hours a day.

Step 4

Monitor the pH and hardness levels of your water. According to Monga Bay, plants do best in a pH of 6.5 to 7.2, or fairly close to neutral, and with a water hardness of 4 to 12 dH. Amend your water by filtering it or using distilled water.

Step 5

Keep your fish tank free of algae by cleaning it with an algae scraper. Change the filter regularly, following the manufacturer's recommendations for your type of filter. This ensures the water is clean enough for your plants.

Step 6

Clip back plants whenever they grow too long, using scissors.

Tips and Warnings

  • Many plants sold in pet stores as aquatic plants are not such and will die. Monga Bay warns against planting Aglaonema, Brazilian sword, cherry hedge, Draceana (Princess Pine), green hedge or mondo grass.

Things You'll Need

  • Base fertilizer Gravel (optional) Sand (optional) Freshwater plants Aquarium lights Water pH test kit Water hardness test kit Algae scraper Scissors


  • Americna Aquarium Products: Aquarium Plants
  • Monga Bay: Plant Care

Who Can Help

  • Aquatic Gardeners Association
Keywords: aquarium plant care, freshwater aquarium plants, freshwater plant care

About this Author

Based in Northern California, Elton Dunn is a freelance writer and nonprofit consultant with 14 years' experience. Dunn specializes in travel, food, business, gardening, education and the legal fields. His work has appeared in various print and online publications. Dunn holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English.