Even though they live underwater, it does not mean aquatic plant care is different from that of regular plants. Obviously, you do not need to water them, but they still require proper caring just like other plants. In other words, you have to give them plenty of light and use the best aquarium plant fertilizer.
When do you need to use aquarium plant fertilizers? In some cases, you no longer need to use fertilizers. This is usually when the tank has a large biological load, meaning the fish creates a lot of waste.
On the other hand, if you have a small planted tank and you are caring for small fish, the biological load may not be enough for the plants. In this case, you will need a good aquarium plant fertilizer.
This article will teach you how to spot a good deal on aquarium fertilizers. That way, you can keep your live plants healthy and vibrant.
Best Aquarium Plant Fertilizer Reviews
1. NilocG Thrive C Liquid Aquarium Plant Fertilizer
If you are looking for convenience, then the Thrive C liquid fertilizer is perfect for you. I don’t have that much free time to take care of my planted aquarium, so I am glad that this product exists. I can continue feeding aquarium plants with all the nutrients they need. I do not have to mix and prepare other fertilizers just to get the same results.
This best all-in-one aquarium fertilizer is also quite easy to use, thanks to its pump dispenser. One pump is enough for 5 gallons of water. It is the same size as my smallest tank.
I don’t need syringes and measuring cups to treat my aquarium. I just need to point the dispenser into the tank and press on it. This takes out all the hassle of keeping live plants.
This aquarium plant food is also quite concentrated, so one bottle can last more than a year. An entire bottle is enough for 2,500 gallons of tap water (dechlorinated and conditioned). This means if you have a small 10-gallon tank, a bottle can last for more than five years if you will be doing complete water changes weekly.
This product is safe to use on planted tanks. It does not also contain any copper, so your snails will be safe if you have any of them. If you are keeping shrimp and other invertebrates, you can rest assured that they will be perfectly safe.
However, this aquarium plant fertilizer does contain nitrates, so you should use this sparingly if you do not have that many plants in your tank. You may accidentally cause a nitrate spike if you use too much of this product too quickly. It is better to test the water after using this fertilizer.
2. Aquatic Arts Marimo Food Freshwater Plant Fertilizer
Marimo moss balls have their own charm and beauty. However, if you want them to remain that way, you need to supplement their water with enough nutrients. The Aquatic Arts Marimo aquarium plants food does just that. It contains all the minerals and nutrients that Marimo needs that are not present in regular tap water.
Marimo moss balls are known to be slow growers, but when you use this liquid fertilizer, they will start growing twice as fast as usual. I have only been using this fertilizer for a couple of weeks and I already noticed several significant improvements. They are fluffier now than they were before.
If you are like me and you keep your Marimo moss balls in a small glass jar, then you will only need to use a couple of drops to dose the water. As I said earlier, I have been using this for a couple of weeks and I haven’t even used a quarter of the contents of the bottle.
The nice thing about these moss balls is that they do not need that much in terms of nutrients. If you keep them in a tank with a couple of fish, the waste from the fish will provide more than enough nutrients for them to grow. However, if you just want to keep the balls in a small jar, then you will need this product.
The only problem that I have with this product is that it creates a thin and oily film on top of the water. This would be a problem if I kept a betta in the same container as my Marimo moss balls but since I don’t, then this is just a minor inconvenience for me.
3. Aqueon Aquarium Plant Food
This product promotes the healthy growth of your water plants’ roots. With that, expect it to be of help in letting them hold onto the substrate firmly. This contains all the nutrients that all aquatic plants need but are unfortunately missing from regular tap water.
Municipal tap water has already been filtered of minerals and chlorinated to make them safe for human consumption. However, because the water has been stripped of the vital minerals that plants need, you will need to supplement them using this aquarium plant food.
Aside from minerals, your aquarium plants also require vital micro and macronutrients. This is especially true if you are running a low-tech aquarium. This means you are taking care of hardy plants that do not need CO2 infusion. It can ensure that your plants will thrive.
If you are keeping shrimp and/or snails in your tank, this fertilizer does not contain any substances that might cause them harm. I have a bunch of apple snails in my planted aquarium and all of them are perfectly fine even after a couple of weeks of regular use of this product.
The only issue that I have with this aquatic plant fertilizer is that it always turns the water cloudy for a day or two. I personally don’t mind that my aquarium is a bit cloudy (it’s not that bad anyway), especially if it will benefit my live plants in the first place. Just don’t panic when it happens.
4. Fluval Plant Micro Nutrient
Unless you have a natural stream or river running through your property, you have no other choice but to use tap water for your planted aquarium. I have been using tap water all these years that I have been keeping aquariums, and this all-in-one fertilizer aquarium contains the most nutrients out of all the fertilizers I have used so far.
If you have a small tank, like 20-gallons and under, then you will be using one bottle for a very long time. This is highly concentrated, so you will only need a couple of drops to treat an entire tank. I have been using mine regularly for weekly partial water changes for a couple of months and I have not even gone through a quarter of the bottle yet.
Even though this freshwater aquarium plant food is quite strong, it does not harm the fish and shrimp. I have used other fertilizers before that do a good job at keeping my plants healthy, but they did a number on my shrimps. With this product, none of my fish or shrimps experienced any adverse effects.
This is the ideal product to use if you have just started your planted tank. This fertilizer contains lots of nutrients that encourage the plants to take root. In other words, your new plants will have a higher chance of not just taking root but will also thrive and proliferate in their new environment.
This comes in a highly concentrated formula, so you need to be extra careful when dosing your tank. The smallest measurement on the cap is enough for 60-gallons of water, so for anything less than that, you will need to use a syringe and do the math right.
5. Brightwell Aquatics FlorinMulti
Unlike natural stream or river water, tap water is devoid of the minerals and nutrients that aquatic plants need to grow. The Brightwell aquarium plant fertilizer contains all the essential nutrients and minerals that you will need to have a thriving and flourishing planted aquarium setup.
Another thing I liked about this product is that it contains trace amounts of iodine to help shrimp molt and grow properly. Not only is this fertilizer safe for shrimp but it is quite beneficial as well. With the help of the iodine, my shrimp are now growing and multiplying like crazy.
As mentioned earlier, this product is safe for fish because it does not contain any nitrates. Other fertilizers I have used in the past caused significant spikes in nitrate levels, so much that I have lost a lot of fish. However, since I started using this item, nitrate and ammonia levels remained at zero.
This liquid fertilizer for aquarium plants is also quite concentrated. A capful of this stuff is enough to treat a 50-gallon tank. So, if you have a smaller tank, you will need to use a syringe or dropper to dose it accurately. I have a small 15-gallon tank and I suspect that this 2-liter bottle will last a couple of years.
However, as good as this fertilizer is, if you are keeping snails in your tank, I suggest that you do not use this product as it contains copper. It is a good thing that I read the ingredients list before using this stuff as one of my tanks contains apple snails, which would have been eradicated completely if I used it on them.
6. API LEAF ZONE Plant Treament
I started using this product because the leaves of my aquatic plants started to yellow and rot at a rapid rate. A friend recommended that I use this product and it saved my plants. API Leaf Zone is ideal for fast absorption, which is why it was able to work so fast.
Another thing that I liked is that this small 8-ounce bottle can dose more than 470 gallons of water. This means you will only need 2ml of this liquid fertilizer to treat one gallon of water. This one bottle can last a couple of years if you are only keeping one small freshwater tank.
The best thing about this liquid fertilizer is that it contains all the recommended nutrients and minerals to keep plants healthy and vibrant, even if you are not introducing CO2 into the tank. I have a low-tech planted aquarium, but the plants look very healthy and they are thriving well despite not having a CO2 system.
The biggest problem that aquascapers need to face is how to make their plants take root in the tank’s substrate. This is no longer a problem if you start dosing your new aquarium with this liquid fertilizer. It contains all the recommended nutrients to make newly transferred plants grow and thrive.
The only issue that I have with this product is that it contains copper, which is deadly for freshwater snails. I made the mistake of not reading the ingredients list before, and I lost a dozen or so apple snails because of it.
7. Aquarium Plant Root Fertilizer Tabs
I have used quite a lot of different fertilizer tabs over the years, and this one is among the best. It is easily in my top 5. The thing I liked the most about this product is that it is cube-shaped, which makes it easier to embed into the substrate. It is not like the other rounded aquarium plant fertilizer tabs that cannot get a good hold.
Another neat feature of this product is that it does not float. These tablets may look like they are porous but they are quite dense and will sink to the bottom. These are much better than the gel-based capsules that tend to float, countering what they were made for, which is to make the roots of the plants grow.
These fertilizer tablets for aquarium plants also do not easily dissolve, which prevents them from clouding the water. These tablets are slow-releasing, giving the plants more than enough time to grow their roots deep into the substrate. You can also use this in an all-gravel substrate setup or one that has aqua soil.
This fertilizer also does not contain any copper and nitrates. This means that this product is safe for use in tanks that have snails. It will not also cause hazardous nitrate spikes that can kill everything in the tank. I have a dozen or so apple snails in my tank and they do not seem bothered by the fertilizer at all.
Now, the issue with this product, and with tablet fertilizers in general, is that you will need to plant this deep in the substrate. If you plant these tablets right next to the plants, the chemicals will burn the roots and kill the plants. This means you need to have a relatively deep substrate if you plan to use it and other brands of tablet fertilizers.
8. Seachem Flourish Freshwater Plant Supplement
If you own a large tank, like anything above 50-gallons, you will love how cost-effective and economical this product is. You will only need a capful of this liquid fertilizer to treat roughly 60 gallons of water. If you have a 50-gallon tank, you can bet that this bottle of fertilizer will last at least a year of weekly partial water changes.
This fish tank plant fertilizer, although quite effective, does not contain any substances that can potentially harm your pet fish. I especially like this because it does not harm my rather delicate shrimp tank. However, I do halve the recommended dosage just in case. The plants may not be growing at a faster rate but at least, my shrimps are safe.
If you have low-tech plants, meaning those that do not necessarily need CO2 in the water, you will need to use this liquid fertilizer since they typically absorb nutrients through their leaves. If you don’t have root-feeding aquarium plants, then this is the fertilizer you need.
Another reason why I like this liquid fertilizer quite a lot is that it does not contain that many nitrates. Yes, it still has nitrates, but not enough that it can cause a significant nitrate spike in the water. Plants still need nitrates. If the biological load in the aquarium is not that high, you will need to supplement it a bit.
This fertilizer contains copper, and even a small amount of it is enough to kill all snails in an aquarium. I used it in a tank with snails before, but once I noticed that they were dying one by one, I scooped out the survivors and replaced all the water in the tank. If I continued using it, all my snails would have been dead by the end of that week.
9. NilocG Aquatics Aquarium Dry Fertilizer
This product is an advanced fertilizing kit. You will be getting five bags containing different kinds of planted aquarium fertilizers. Each type of fertilizer targets different nutrient deficiencies in plants. I only used three of the five bags I got since I don’t think my plants needed the other two.
Unlike most of the other products in this list, this set of fertilizers is dry, which means you need to dissolve them in some water before application. These fertilizers readily dissolve in water. They are almost completely gone even without stirring.
The nice thing about this set of fertilizers is that you can choose the type that will work well with your tank. For instance, if you have shrimp or snails in your tank, you can choose the fertilizers that do not contain copper.
Another nice feature of this kit is that you get two convenient dosing bottles. These plastic bottles have convenient measuring bottles. I like these bottles because they allow you to measure small doses up to 5ml without using a separate measuring device.
Now, even though this product has a lot of benefits, this fertilizer kit is meant for more experienced aquascapers. You need to know what exactly is wrong with your plants so you can prescribe the right fertilizers and beginners typically don’t know this yet.
10. Brightwell Aquatics Shrimp Florin Multi
If you are starting a new aquarium, and you don’t like waiting for weeks before the aquarium establishes itself, this product can help speed up the process by adding all of the necessary nutrients into dechlorinated tap water. I use it every time I do partial water changes to my aquariums and it has not failed me yet.
One of my tanks contains a dozen or so apple snails. There would have been more if I hadn’t accidentally dosed my tank with fertilizer that contained copper. From then on, I became more mindful of what I put in my aquarium. This product ticked all the boxes for being safe and beneficial. Most importantly, it does not contain any traces of copper.
What I liked the most about this product is that it is specially formulated so that the plants can absorb the nutrients quickly. I used it a couple of times to save some of my ailing plants. Because of the fast-absorbing nutrients, my success rate has always been very much above average.
You also do not need to worry about this fertilizer causing dangerous nitrous spikes in the water. This fertilizer does not contain nitrates and phosphates. Although those minerals are beneficial to aquatic plants, they can be harmful to the fish.
It relies on other nutrients and minerals to provide the same benefits without having to risk the lives of your fish.
The unfortunate thing about this product is that there are lots of counterfeits floating around the market. If you get a bottle that looks like water and has no color or smell, then you might have gotten a fake product. Keep in mind that the authentic Brightwell Aquatics fertilizer has a light yellowish-green tint and has a slight smell.
What to Look For When Buying a Aquarium Plant Fertilizer
If this is your first time taking care of live plants in your aquarium, and you haven’t got a clue on what fertilizer you need to use, this quick guide might help. Here’s what you should look for:
Ease of Use
You can tell if an aquarium plant fertilizer is easy to use just by looking at the instructions. For instance, if you need to mix two components, and each part should be precisely measured, then you might not want to use that for now, especially if you are just a beginner at aqua-scaping.
If you don’t want to deal with a lot of hassles, nothing beats all-in-one fertilizers when it comes to ease of use. You typically just need to measure a specific amount for the volume of water in your tank and pour it in.
The reason why you would want to use a concentrated fertilizer is mainly for cost-effectiveness. For instance, if two bottles of liquid fertilizer contain the same amount of product, but one is highly concentrated, one capful is enough to treat up to 50-gallons of water.
The other needs 5ml for 20 gallons. The former is better than the latter since you will be able to treat more water using the same volume of product.
Safe for fish and others
This is the most important thing that you need to keep an eye out for. If you are keeping fish along with the live plants, make sure that the fertilizer you will be using does not contain substances that can harm your fish.
For instance, if you are keeping snails in your fish tank, you must avoid fertilizers that contain copper. Even trace amounts of copper are enough to kill an entire tank full of snails.
Clouds the water
Some aquarium plant fertilizers might cloud the water anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days. If you are a stickler when it comes to keeping your aquarium water crystal clear, then you should get a fertilizer that, ideally, does not cloud the water one bit.
This will be purely subjective as different people have different spending abilities. However, you should still spend within your means when it comes to fertilizer for your aquarium plants.
Remember that using the most expensive fertilizer will guarantee that your aquarium plants will be healthy. You will still need to use the correct dose and know when to fertilize.
On the other hand, this also does not mean you should just get the cheapest fertilizer that you can find, as you will be getting what you paid for. Find the happy medium. Get the most beneficial aquarium plant fertilizer that you can afford and use it properly.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Often Should you Fertilize Aquarium Plants?
This will usually depend on the kind of fertilizer you will be using and on the number of plants that you have in your aquarium. If you will be using the top planted tank fertilizer but you do not have that many plants, you can fertilize your aquarium maybe once a week.
On the other hand, if you will be using slow-release aquarium substrate fertilizer, they can last up to a month before you need to replace them.
How to Fertilize Aquarium Plants Naturally?
If you do not want to use artificial fertilizers for your aquarium plants, you just need to make sure that there is a big enough biological load. If you keep goldfish and other fish that make a lot of waste, the bacteria in the water will be able to convert the said waste products into nitrites, which plants need to thrive.
Just like the plants that you have in your garden, the plants in your aquarium also need proper TLC. You can provide just that by using the best aquarium plant fertilizer that you can find.
Just remember that when buying fertilizers, you will also need to consider the health and well-being of the other denizens of your aquarium. Make sure to buy an aquarium plant fertilizer safe for fish, so that the entire aquarium is healthy overall.