Are you planning to set up a planted aquarium? Is it your first one, and are you a little nervous? Many people do get anxious because they hear they need to use fertilizers to keep plants happy and healthy.
If you are using an aquarium that isn’t low-light or low-tech, it can be quite intimidating. You aren’t sure where to start. To make it easier, we are going to talk extensively about fertilizers.
You can learn if you need them and how to make your own. We also talk about 10 products and tell you which one we think is the best aquarium plant fertilizer.
Table of Contents
Do Planted Aquariums Need Fertilizers?
We aren’t going to fib and tell you that every planted aquarium always needs fertilizer. Many aquatic plants are undemanding. This means that they only need natural fertilizer that the fish and other inhabitants create.
However, the truth is that if you don’t use any fertilizer in the planted tank, the plants might not be the same. If you want to grow aquatic plants successfully, you need to know why fertilizers are used.
There are three factors that influence how your plants grow. These include CO2, light, and fertilizer.
Plants require light to grow and photosynthesize. It’s true that some aquarium plants do not need a lot of light. However, others are going to need special light systems to thrive well.
Don’t rush out and buy expensive LED lights just yet. You do need appropriate lighting, but you also need CO2. This is an essential nutrient.
The plants can’t do much of anything with all that light and no CO2. Algae within the tank are likely to take over, instead. This can result in a massive bloom.
CO2 that is naturally released isn’t going to be enough for many advanced plants. Therefore, you have to have a system set up to supplement it. A combination of good lighting and a CO2 source results in better plant growth.
Still, you aren’t going to see that if you don’t use fertilizer. Plants need many things to grow like they should. This can be found in the plant food that you give them.
Without this fertilizer, your plants are not going to grow properly. They are likely to produce spindly, thin stems with brittle and pale leaves. Eventually, they are probably going to die if you only give them light and CO2.
The 10 Best Fertilizers for Your Aquarium Plants
If you’re in a rush and want to get the information you need quickly, this table can help. You can also use it to navigate to a particular product you might like to see.
|Seachem Flourish Freshwater Plant Supplement
|Growth of roots and shoots in aquatic plants
|Seachem Flourish Tabs Growth Supplement
|Growth stimulating for plant roots
|Seachem Flourish Excel Bioavailable Carbon
|Supply organic carbon for plants
|API Leaf Zone Plant Treatment
|Promotes strong, hardy and colorful leaves, prevents yellow, decaying leaves
|API ROOT TABS Freshwater Aquarium Plant Fertilizer
|Promotes strong root development for lush plants
|LuffyMarimo Fertilizer – Marimo Food Boosts Growth
|Help Marimos greener and healthier
|NilocG Aquatics Aquarium Fertilizer Shrimp Specific
|Keep your shrimp safe and plants healthy
|ThriveCaps Aquarium Root Tab/Caps
|Promotes strong root development
|NilocG Aquatics Aquarium Liquid Fertilizer
|Promotes plants grow strong and healthy
|Aqueon Aquarium Plant Food
|Provides plants with micro & macro nutrients
Aquarium Plant Fertilizer Reviews
1. Seachem Flourish Freshwater Plant Supplement
Choosing a fertilizer for your aquarium plants can be a challenge. However, the Seachem brand includes everything you need.
Its advanced formula contains many things your plant requires. These include minerals, nutrients, and phytohormones.
The roots and shoots are going to be stimulated to grow strong. Phytohormones are essential to regulate plant growth in many ways.
It works for cell division, leaf senescence, and formation of the shoot meristems. Plus, it can help to improve stress response, root growth, and seed germination.
You should use this product regularly. When you do so, it can improve your plant’s ability to resist various diseases.
It can also enhance the absorption of appropriate minerals. This makes your plant grow stronger.
The first application takes two weeks to work. During this time, it can help stimulate the growth of roots beneath the surface. Then, you are going to notice that the stems and leaves of your plants are going to grow better, as well.
Flourish Advance is designed to be safe for all plants within the aquarium. Plus, it isn’t going to harm aquatic organisms, such as fish. It’s completely non-toxic to the water, as well.
2. Seachem Flourish Tabs Growth Supplement
If you like the idea of Flourish from Seachem, it might be best to consider the tablet variety. It has everything you need to protect your live plants. Things like vitamins, amino acids, and trace elements are all included.
Vitamins in Flourish Tabs can include manganese, iron, and calcium. You can also find magnesium, inositol, and potassium. If that weren’t enough, biotin, choline B12, and others have been added to the formula to protect your plant’s roots.
You insert the tablets into the gravel. This provides time-released and direct fertilizer to your plant’s roots. The nutrients can be slowly given to the plant’s roots through enzymatic actions.
To use this product, insert a tablet into the gravel every 4 to 6 inches. Start about 4 inches from the edges or sides of the aquarium. A 10-gallon tank is going to need six tablets.
Make sure the tablets are distributed evenly into the gravel bed. Consider pushing them midway so that they get buried and stay in the gravel.
It is ideal to add new tablets to your aquarium every three to four weeks. The product isn’t going to alter the pH balance. However, it can be acidic in unbuffered or soft water.
3. Seachem Flourish Excel Bioavailable Carbon
The Flourish brand is quite popular, and there are multiple products with the name. The Excel Bioavailable Carbon version provides all carbon your plants need. Plus, it is organic carbon.
You are also going to find that the Excel option includes iron-reducing properties. Therefore, the iron is ferrous instead of ferric. Your plants can easily use ferrous iron better.
Plants need to produce longer carbon chain compounds, which are called photosynthetic intermediates. When you use Flourish Excel, it bypasses the need for those chain carbons. It introduces compounds that are structurally similar and already complete.
For the first time using it and any time you change 40 percent or more of the water, you should use one capful of the product for every 10 gallons of water. Afterward (and anytime you’re not doing a significant change to the water, you should use one capful for every 50 gallons every day or every other day. The cap threads are each approximately one mL.
This product is safe for your fish, too. However, if your aquarium houses Anacharis, you should probably use the product every other day instead of each day.
4. API Leaf Zone Plant Treatment
Keep your aquatic plants looking vibrant and lush with the API Leaf Zone treatment. Just like plants that live on land, your aquatic greenery needs a little boost so that they stay healthy and grow. This fertilizer contains potassium and chelated iron, both of which are essential to creating healthy plants.
The iron is essential to prevent decaying and yellow leaves while stimulating plant growth. The potassium is necessary to help with cell pressure maintenance and photosynthesis. This gives the plant leaves more color and keeps them hardy and strong.
It’s also designed to be absorbed quickly through the leaves. This ensures that your plants get everything that they need quickly.
You can use this treatment in freshwater aquariums. It is safe to use around fish and other aquatic animals.
Primarily, you are going to use the cap as the dose measurement. Fill the lid to add 5 mL to 10 gallons of water. If you have a 50-gallon tank, you are going to need to do that five times.
Make sure that you use this product once a week. Consider writing it on a calendar so that you don’t forget.
5. API ROOT TABS Freshwater Aquarium Plant Fertilizer
Did you know that your aquarium plants might turn yellow, drop their leaves, and eventually die without the right fertilizer? They need appropriate essential nutrients so that they can grow more vibrant and strong. API ROOT Tabs are one of the best products available.
It contains the nutrients your plants need, such as potassium and iron. This can help your new aquatic plants get a good start and keep your established plants growing and flourishing. Of course, the nutrients are consumed with time, so you need to replenish them periodically.
This product is safe to use with tropical and other fish. It comes in a tablet form, which makes it easier to use. Just insert the tablets into the gravel at appropriate intervals.
While you can use it around tropical fish and plants, it is designed for use in freshwater aquariums. On the back of the package, you can find the guide to dose correctly.
You need to add one tablet for every 30 square inches on the gravel surface. Push them into the gravel bed about midway. Therefore, a 10-gallon aquarium is going to need six tablets.
It’s ideal to add new tablets to the aquarium each month. This is to ensure that your plants continue to grow abundantly.
6. LuffyMarimo Fertilizer – Marimo Food Boosts Growth
Those who are looking for a fertilizer that can boost the health of their plants are going to like the LuffyMarimo brand. It’s a liquid plant food designed specifically for marimos. Therefore, it has the right ratio of nitrates, calcium, and phosphate.
Plus, it also contains the right amount of salts. Calcium is needed to give color so that the moss ball is healthier and greener. Nitrates and phosphate help them grow faster.
The Marimo plant is algae that’s friendly to aquariums. Most plant fertilizers are designed to kill algae, so it isn’t going to help the Marimo grow and could cause damage to the plant. This product is designed particularly for Marimos to help the moss balls get fluffier and bigger.
Marimo balls consume a lot of phosphates and nitrates. They feed on them to grow, so it is essential that these nutrients are replaced. This product ensures that they get what they need.
Plus, the ball food is also good for other aquatic plants. It’s safe for everything because calcium, nitrates, and phosphate are necessary for all living things.
7. NilocG Aquatics Aquarium Fertilizer Shrimp Specific
If you have a lot of shrimp in your aquarium, then you may want to use the NilocG brand of fertilizer. It’s designed to keep your plants healthy, but it is ideal for shrimp tanks. That way, everything in the tank gets what they need to survive and thrive.
You can make the planted shrimp tank look amazing. However, you also give the plants the macronutrients and micronutrients that they need.
This product is formulated specifically for shrimp tanks. Plus, one bottle can treat up to 2500 gallons. It also comes with a pump-action top, which can make it easier to dispense into the aquarium.
While it can take a few days for you to see results, it is worth the wait. If you have Anubias Nana, Java Ferns, Water Wisteria, or Java Moss, they are going to look stronger and healthier soon.
When you have established a root system, you should use three pumps of the product each week. After that, you need two pumps a week for 10 gallons of water. It isn’t necessary to use the fertilizer on each water change.
8. ThriveCaps Aquarium Root Tab/Caps
Those who have aquariums and want an easy way to provide food for the plants are going to like ThriveCaps. These nutrient-rich tablets are put in the substrate of your already-planted freshwater aquarium. They offer long-lasting nutrients so that your plants grow and stay healthy.
This product is the only one that’s commercially available and specific to the roots of your plants. It contains all of the necessary macro- and micronutrients that plants need to thrive.
The capsules don’t need additives to stick together. You are going to see that they’re smaller, which means they are more concentrated. Still, they provide the same nutrients.
You may have heard of the brand before, but the product has been improved recently. In the past, the capsules sometimes clouded the tanks, but the formula has been changed to reduce this problem.
ThriveCaps uses a blend of the patented Thrive mixture with mineralized soil and iron-rich clay. Of course, it is easy to use them, as well.
Just place one capsule toward the root system of each plant in the aquarium. Alternatively, you can space the capsules out every 5 to 6 inches using a grid pattern. Make sure that you push them down to the bottom of the tank and replace them every three to four months.
9. NilocG Aquatics Aquarium Liquid Fertilizer
Sometimes, it takes a system of products to provide the right nutrients for your aquarium plants. This is what you get with the NilocG macros and micros fertilizers.
The macros version features potassium, phosphate, nitrogen, and much more. It is best to use one pump in every 10 gallons of water. To get the best results, use high light three times a week with low or medium-light once or twice.
You should dose the macro product on alternating days than the micros one. Plus, it is a good idea to do a weekly water change, replacing about 50 percent of the water. Then, add the macros.
You are going to find that the micros product feature iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and vitamin B, as well as others. This product uses the same instructions as the other. Therefore, you just have to remember to use them on alternative days.
It’s important to note that you may need a GH booster. If you have hard water and aren’t sure of the magnesium and calcium concentrations, you should use the GH booster, which can be purchased separately.
10. Aqueon Aquarium Plant Food
Those who have freshwater plants need to ensure that they get the nutrients they need. You can effectively do this by using the Aqueon brand of plant food.
It contains kelp extract. This is important to encourage better root development. The roots of your plants are where it all starts, so it is important that they are strong.
This means that your plant’s leaves and stems are going to be stronger and more vibrant, as well. Of course, you have to make sure that the plants get the right amount of light, too.
You are going to find that this product contains a variety of ingredients. Things like calcium, potassium, magnesium, and sulfur are all essential for your aquatic plants. It also contains iron, manganese, boron, zinc, and molybdenum.
Of course, this is plant food, so it is designed to help your plants. Still, it isn’t going to hurt any fish that might also be in the aquarium.
There is a 4-, 8-, and 16-ounce version of this plant food. It’s designed to be used once a week. Just fill the cap and add it to the water.
What Is the Best Aquarium Plant Fertilizer?
We know that you’re searching for the best fertilizer for your aquarium plants. This means that you need to have the right elements. There’s no one perfect mineral that can give plants everything that they need to grow.
You need quite a few of them. Some of these ingredients are required in large amounts, and they are called macronutrients. Others aren’t as necessary, so they are called micronutrients.
Macronutrients include phosphate, potassium, and nitrogen. Often, it’s called NPK. They are the essential components of your fertilizer because you need more of them.
Still, there are other macronutrients, including sulfur, magnesium, and calcium. However, calcium and sulfur are often already found in tap water and aren’t needed as much.
Micronutrients include copper, chloride, iron, zinc, nickel, cobalt, molybdenum, manganese, and Boron. You don’t need a lot of these ingredients for your plants to survive, but you do need some.
Often, these elements are found in regular tap water. Still, your plants are going to deplete them quickly and get hungry. Therefore, you need to give them a manual dose of the micronutrients periodically.
How to Fertilize Aquarium Plants Naturally?
If you’re looking for a natural way to fertilize your aquarium plants, you may want to consider the dirt you use. You can find a special dirt ideal for aquarium plants. However, you can use regular potting soil with high NPK amounts or use a pond plant compost.
Dirt is an excellent way to give the plants a boost of nutrients. They get everything they need, and it’s already inside.
Still, dirt has gone out of fashion a bit. Many aquarists believe it is messy if it gets disturbed. Plus, it makes unnecessary work when you have ready-to-use products available for purchase.
It is also possible to create a natural fertilizer by using the ecology already in the aquarium. A filter that is biologically active is at the heart of any planted aquarium. If the filter is well-designed, it should contain colonies of good bacteria and activated charcoal.
These things work together with fish and plants to help purify the water. If you do have biologically active filtration systems, the fertilizer develops itself naturally. Plus, the live invertebrates and fish are going to fertilize the plants through their waste and respiration.
Is the Aquarium Plant Fertilizer Safe for Fish?
Many people worry, rightfully so, if plant fertilizers are safe for the fish in the aquarium. Naturally, most planted aquariums have fish inhabitants. Therefore, it is essential that you choose a fertilizer that isn’t going to harm the other living creatures.
Luckily, most fertilizers are designed for a vast array of fish and invertebrates. Therefore, you shouldn’t have to worry about your fish.
However, you should read the container because manufacturers have to indicate if the fertilizer isn’t safe for fish and what types. Still, it isn’t common to find commercially available fertilizers that are unsafe.
We believe that these 10 products are all suitable for your planted aquarium. Still, some of them were designed for specific things, such as Marimo or shrimp. It’s ideal to read the description of the product before making a final decision.
When it comes to the best aquatic plant fertilizer, we feel that the Seachem brand is suitable. Because we liked both the Flourish and the Flourish Tabs, we are going to have a tie winner. These products are essentially the same, though one is in liquid form, and the other is a tablet.