Why Aren't My Aquarium Plants Growing

Plants are great additions to an aquarium. Not only do they help add oxygen to your aquarium water, but they also help reduce carbon dioxide and ammonia. Best of all, they also greatly reduce algae in your aquarium. With all these great benefits, you might become a little worried if your aquarium plants aren’t growing. Today’s article will cover all of the main reasons why your aquarium plants aren’t growing.

At the end, I will also give my list of the best aquarium plants for beginners.

Why aren’t my aquarium plants growing?

The main reasons why your aquarium plants aren’t growing is because you don’t have the proper substrate, not enough iron, or the lighting settings.

If you plan on putting plants in your aquarium, you should watch my video below.


It is important that you have a substrate that is full of nutrients. The most important nutrients for a aquarium plant substrate are nitrogen, phosphorous and iron. There are many types of soils and fertilizers that you can buy on amazon that are designed for aquarium plants. My favorite is this Fluval aquarium soil.

One of the biggest mistakes I see with people growing aquarium plants is that they use a non-nutritional substrate such as sand or rocks. While you can grow some plants in sand, it sometimes doesn’t provide enough nutrients for the plant’s roots. Rocks are too spread out and don’t provide the proper space for roots.

If you want to have sand or rocks as your substrate, you will need to mix in some kind of soil. You can see how to add sand to your tank in my YouTube video below.

It’s also important that you do some research on your plant to ensure you are providing the proper substrate. Also, some aquarium plants do better without substrate at all.

Iron deficiency

Another common reason why aquarium plants don’t grow is because the plants don’t get enough iron. Aside from stunted growth, other signs of iron deficiencies include leaves becoming yellow or white. The leaves will eventually fall off. This is very common in land plants that you put in your aquarium.

Luckily it is very easy to test the iron level in your aquarium. You can buy a tester on amazon. The ideal amount of iron in the water for aquarium plants is 10-20mg/l.

If you notice your levels are too low, there are many types of iron fertilizers you can buy. It can either be added to your soil, or you can get a liquid kind that you just put into the water.

If you want a plant that is easier to grow, you can try java moss or Monte Carlo. Watch my video below to see how I used these plants to make an underwater bonsai tree.

Light settings

Lastly, many people don’t have the proper lighting setup. You should know that the amount of lighting you need will depend on the type of plant you have. You should look online to find the amount of light your plant needs.

Generally speaking, you should provide around 8 hours of light for your aquarium plants. Light plays an integral in photosynthesis, which is how plants consume food and grow. Most of the time, your plant isn’t growing because you either didn’t have a light pointed at the plants for long enough, or you don’t even have a light. A general room light in the ceiling will not be strong enough. Light is especially important for colorful plants, such as pink aquarium plants.

You should, however, never let the light on all day. In fact, you can really mess up the chemistry of your water if your plant gets too much light. It can lead to algae growth and can also create bacterial booms. This can make your aquarium very cloudy.

If you notice a growth of algae, or your aquarium water starts to get cloudy, you should start reducing the amount of light on your aquarium.

Also, it is important to consider the direction of the light. You will want it to reach all parts of the aquarium. If there is a potion of the plant that does not get direct light, it will likely die.

Too many water changes

While water changes are important, they should become less frequent when you get aquarium plants. This is because your plants need plenty of nutrients that are not found in tap water. Therefore, if you frequently add 30% of tap water, your water will not have enough plant nutrients.

Your plants might also not be growing if you just moved your tank. If you need some tips, you should check out my guide on how to move a planted aquarium.

Other ways to help aquarium plants grow

Now that you know why your aquarium plants aren’t growing, you are probably interested in how to help your aquarium plants grow. For starters, I recommend you buy official aquarium soil and fertilizer. They are full of nutrients and help plants thrive underwater.

Secondly, plants usually thrive in groups. Therefore, you can try to get more plants to help promote growth.

Lastly, you should know that some plants are easier to grow than others. Some plants are able to grow through tough conditions, which make them great for beginners.

Best aquarium plants for beginners

The best aquarium plants for beginners are ones that don’t require as much light or nutrients. Some of the best aquarium plants that are easy to grow are java moss, java fern, el nino fern, and Anubias barteri.

If you have a turtle tank, you should check out the best plants for a turtle tank.

Java moss

If you are looking for a plant to cover parts of the ground, java mass is perfect. While it does require clean water, it will grow on top of just about any substrate. It also grows and spreads very quickly.

You will want your water temperature to be between 74 and 82 degrees fahrenheight, and the pH should be between 6.5 and 7.5. They also only require moderate lighting.

Java fern

If you are looking for an actual plant that will stand up in your aquarium, you should look into Java ferns. They are very hardy and can withstand a range of water conditions. Additionally, it can grow on a wide range of substrates and surfaces, including even rocks or sand.

Additionally, most fish and turtles don’t like the taste of Java fern so you don’t have to worry about your aquarium pets nibbling on it.

If you buy a replanted one, it usually comes with a height of around 4 inches, but it can easily grow up to 10 inches.

Anubias barteri

Another great aquarium plant that doesn’t require a lot of work is Anubias barteri. These plants are also very hardy and can thrive in a wide range of conditions. They are a bit taller than java ferns, so they work great for larger aquariums.

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