Why Do My Aquarium Plants Keep Dying?

Having aquarium plants in your tank has significant benefits, such as enhancing the quality of your water, preventing the growth of algae, and producing oxygen for your fish. However, keeping aquarium plants alive and healthy is difficult as they are extremely sensitive, and in some cases, no matter how hard you try, they just keep dying.  

There are many reasons your aquarium plants keep dying, some more obvious than others. However, we will focus on the top 6 reasons and discuss them in more detail to understand why it causes your aquarium plants to die, as well as provide solutions to prevent this from happening again.   

Why Do My Aquarium Plants Keep Dying – The Top 6 Reasons With Solutions

Plants are integral to the health of your tank, and can help create a self-sustaining environment for your fish. If you’ve noticed that your plants are turning yellow, brown, or wilting, it could mean that they are dying. Let’s look at the top 6 reasons why your aquarium plants are dying and the solutions to each, to help you keep them healthy, vibrant, and strong. 

1. Improper Water Chemistry

Improper water chemistry is one of the most common causes of aquarium plants dying. If the PH levels are too high or there are excess amounts of ammonia and nitrates in the water, your aquarium plants will start to deteriorate and eventually die. 

The table below presents a detailed representation of what the water chemistry in your tank should be. 

Water Requirements For Aquarium Plants
PH Level6.5 – 7.8
General Hardness50 ppm – 100 ppm
Alkalinity3° and 8°
NitratesBelow 10 ppm
PhosphatesBelow 0.5 ppm
Temperature74°F – 80°F

Solution to Improper Water Chemistry

To prevent your aquarium plants from dying due to improper chemistry, you must regularly monitor the water in your tank and take action immediately when the levels are not what they are meant to be. 

If you encounter any problems with your tank’s water chemistry, the table below provides solutions to some that you might encounter. 

High PH levelAdd wood to your tank. Add peat to the filter
Low PH levelPut Limestone chips in the filter. Use a crushed coral substrate
The General Hardness level is lowPlace Limestone chips in a filter bag and put them in your tank. Place small bags of coral in the tank and filter
The General Hardness level is highDilute the water of your tank with reverse osmosis water
High Nitrate levelDo a water change
High Alkalinity levelDo an immediate water changePurchase a reverse osmosis filter
Low Alkalinity levelFor every 10 gallons of aquarium water, dissolve a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water and pour it into your tank 
High Phosphate levelVacuum the substrate
Low Phosphate levelOverfeed your fish Use Activated CharcoalUse Phosphate powder
The temperature is too highLet a bag of ice float in the tank
The temperature is too lowInsulate your tank. Purchase an electric heater for your tank that has a thermostat. Do a water change with warmer water

2. Your Aquarium Plants Are Not Getting Enough Light

Why Do My Aquarium Plants Keep Dying? Lack of light is another common cause for your aquarium plants dying. Aquarium plants need light to photosynthesize and produce the nutrients they need to grow and survive. 

Solution To Lack of Light

To ensure that your aquarium plants are receiving enough light, know which species of plants you have in your tank, as some plant species need more light than others. To solve this problem, you can install a fluorescent light that will be able to emit a full spectrum of light to ensure that the entire tank receives light instead of only certain areas. 

Why Do My Aquarium Plants Keep Dying

3. Your Substrate Is Not Providing Enough Stability

Using the right substrate is crucial for your aquarium plants’ survival and growth. The substrate holds the plants’ roots in place, giving them the stability they need to thrive in their environment instead of de-rooting and floating in the water, which can cause them to start dying.  

If your aquarium plants are de-rooting and dying, the substrate or gravel you have used might be too large and have too many spaces between each grain or small stone. Therefore, the roots of your aquarium plants will not have much to hold onto. 

Solution to Inadequate Substrate:

To prevent your plants from de-rooting and ultimately dying, make sure you use a super-fine substrate such as laterite or peat. The table below lists the best laterite and peat products available for you to purchase. 

Laterite ProductsPeat Products
Brightwell Aquatics FlorinBase Laterite PowderFluval Aquatic Peat Granules
API First Layer Pure Laterite Aquarium PlantingSera Super Peat

4. Your Aquarium Plants Are Absorbing Food And Animal Waste

The food you give your fish will also directly affect your aquarium plants. Each time you feed your fish, it is a guaranteed fact that there will be leftover food. The leftover food breaks down and becomes small enough for your aquarium plants to absorb it. 

Furthermore, your fish also produce waste which your aquarium plants absorb. Although your aquarium plants absorb leftover food and fish waste to keep your tank’s ecosystem in balance, this could potentially be why they keep dying. 

If leftover food and fish waste have been left inside your tank for a long time, they release a compound known as sulfur which is extremely harmful to your aquarium plants. Sulfur will hinder your plants’ ability to grow and be healthy and even causes their roots to decay, which results in them dying.  

Solution To Excess Absorption:  

To minimize the chances of your aquarium plants dying from absorbing decaying food and fish waste, you should clean your aquarium tank once every 1-2 weeks. All you need to do is vacuum the gravel as most uneaten food, fish waste, and other debris will sink to the bottom of your tank.  

5. Your Filter Is Filtering Out Too Much Carbon Dioxide

Aquarium plants require Carbon Dioxide to grow and remain healthy. Sufficient Carbon Dioxide also enhances the color and vibrancy of your aquarium plants. 

There Is no doubt that having a filtration system for your aquarium tank is extremely important as it cycles and cleans the water to keep it in a healthy state of equilibrium. However, some filters tend to filter out too much Carbon Dioxide, which could result in your aquarium plants dying. 

Solution To Lack of Carbon Dioxide:

If the filtration system in your tank is filtering out too much Carbon Dioxide, you can install a Carbon Dioxide diffuser. A Carbon Dioxide diffuser sprays small amounts of this gas into your tank and ensures that your aquarium plants get enough to grow and survive. 

There are many different types of Carbon Dioxide diffusers you can purchase for your tank, such as:

  • The Ceramic Glass CO2 diffuser
  • The Ladder CO2 diffuser
  • The In-Line CO2 diffuser
  • The CO2 reactor

6. You Are Not Using Enough Fertilizer Or The Right One

Fertilizers are essential as they create a healthy substrate for your aquarium plants to grow and stay healthy. 

Fertilizers contain the necessary macronutrients your plants need to survive, which they cannot get from the water. If you do not add enough fertilizer to your tank or use the wrong fertilizer, your aquarium plants will not receive these macronutrients, and eventually, they will die.

Below we discuss the three most important macronutrients your aquarium plants need to survive and what happens when they do not receive these macronutrients. 

  • Nitrogen. Nitrogen deficiency causes the leaves to turn yellow. 
  • Phosphorus. If your aquarium plants do not get enough phosphorus, their leaves will start to fall out. 
  • Potassium. A lack of potassium may result in holes developing on the leaves of your aquarium plants. 

Solution To Lack of Fertilizer: 

If your aquarium plants are dying because you are either not using enough fertilizer or the right one, purchasing an iron-based fertilizer such as Easy Iron is the best way to solve this problem. Add one pump of the solution to every 10 gallons of water. Repeat this process 1-3 times a week. 


Although it may seem like keeping aquarium plants alive and healthy is a daunting task, following these simple tips will help you create an action plan to ensure your plants flourish in your tank. By understanding the reasons why they die, you can take preventative measures to make sure they thrive. So, what are you waiting for? Get started on creating a beautiful aquarium today!

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