Low Light Aquarium Plants: Several Things You Should Know

Low Light Aquarium Plants Several Things You Should Know

If you’ve recently purchased an aquarium, you’ve come to the right place. You may wish to consider incorporating low light aquarium plants, which don’t necessitate expensive high-tech lighting systems. So, what are low light aquarium plants? To clarify, low light aquarium plants mean that the plants survive with minimal light and don’t require additional CO2. In the following section, we will offer you essential information regarding low light aquarium plants.

What can low light plants do in an aquarium?

What can low light plants do in an aquarium

Do you go for low light aquarium plants solely because they require less maintenance? No, they have other important functions in your aquarium.

Enhancing Aesthetics

Aquariums lacking plants are like fixer-uppers for pet fish. Remember, aquarium aesthetics matters. Lush, vibrant plants serve as a captivating decoration in your tank. Low light aquarium plants are budget-friendly, allowing you to add personality without breaking the bank.

Reducing Algae

Aquarium plants help prevent algae blooms. Both plants and algae require similar compounds, such as iron and potassium, for survival. However, plants absorb more nutrients, leaving less for algae. This reduces the risk of algae blooms, minimizing clean-up efforts and ensuring essential nutrients for your fish. Fast-growing plants are preferable as slow growers cannot consume nutrients quickly.

Purifying the Water

Unlike regular plants that rely on light and CO2 for photosynthesis, low light plants have adapted to survive in low-light, CO2-deficient conditions. They absorb compounds like ammonia (a byproduct of fish waste) and nitrate through their leaves and roots, thereby improving water quality. In fact, you should think about adding an ammonia-absorbing low light plant even if you’re content with ordinary aquarium plants. This is due to the fact that high ammonia levels do tremendous harm to your aquatic life. However, plants cannot replace the filtration system.

Water Oxygenation

Aquarium plants intake carbon dioxide and release oxygen through photosynthesis, promoting higher oxygen levels in the water. This process improves water quality and benefits fish and other aquatic creatures.

Creating a Comfortable Habitat

In natural ecosystems, aquatic creatures prefer habitats with plants. Vegetation not only provides a nutrition source but also a resting place. Therefore, fish find comfort in such environments. If the surroundings are unnatural, aquatic animals may feel stressed.

Shades and Hiding Places

Plants offer hiding places for fish, allowing them to escape aggressive fish and feel secure. Additionally, during breeding and egg-laying, fish can hide their eggs under or behind the plants.

Can low light aquarium plants survive under natural sunlight?

Can low light aquarium plants survive under natural sunlight

The primary purpose of aquarium lights is for decoration and viewing fish. However, fluorescent lighting used in aquariums does not assist vital photosynthetic processes. In theory, low light aquarium plants can survive with natural sunlight, even during cloudy or rainy days. However, natural sunlight is usually too intense for the small ecosystem within an aquarium. Fluctuations in light cannot self-correct since natural light either provides excessive or insufficient illumination for the plants. Excessive light can lead to issues like algae overgrowth, depleting nutrients for other plants and causing problems with pH, oxygen, and carbon dioxide levels for the fish. On the other hand, insufficient light can result in erratic or stunted plant growth and increased tank temperature, leading to plant wilting and potential harm to aquatic creatures.

Therefore, using small, adjustable artificial lights is generally more suitable for low light aquarium plants. It is crucial to conduct research before investing in any plants to determine the appropriate type and amount of light required.

How much light low light aquarium plants require?

To ensure the flourishing of your aquarium plants, proper aquarium lighting is essential. Light serves as the catalyst for photosynthesis- a vital process for plant-like organisms’ self-feeding. So it cannot be denied that light is important, but don’t give your plant the wrong amount of light, as both excessive and insufficient light can have negative repercussions. Overexposure to light can cause wilting and plant death, while insufficient light hinders optimal growth.

Considering this, how much light low light aquarium plants need? Typically, a daily light duration of 8 to 10 hours is considered suitable. Beginners often manually turn on the lights when they wake up and leave them on throughout the day, switching them off at bedtime. However, this practice will create favorable conditions for algae growth in any aquarium.

Is CO2 beneficial for low light aquarium plants?

There is a common belief that injected CO2 is only necessary for high-light tanks or that it requires high light to be effective. However, both strong and low lighting setups benefit greatly from CO2 supplementation, as demonstrated in controlled experiments that assessed plant growth under different CO2 and light combinations. Read more here.

In fact, the combination of low lighting and CO2 is considered one of the most stable options for aquarium enthusiasts. For those seeking slower yet healthy plant growth, slightly lower light levels coupled with appropriate CO2 levels create an ideal combination. Moreover, managing algae issues is much easier in a tank with lower lighting levels.

Why are my plants melting?

Why are my plants melting

“Melt” refers to the process of plants losing some or all of their leaves. Typically, older leaves are the first to be affected, losing color and becoming transparent before decomposing. Let’s explore some common reasons for melting.

Change of Environment

The main cause of plant melting is the inability of plants to quickly adapt to a new environment. Plants are typically grown on land surfaces in plant farms, but when we acquire them, we need to transition them from an emerged to a submerged state. During this process, the leaves that grew above the water surface may start to decay because they cannot adjust to the underwater conditions.

Aquarium Conditions

Insufficient nutrients can cause plants to wither and melt. It is important to provide appropriate fertilization for your plants. Additionally, maintaining optimal water parameters is crucial. Over time, water quality can deteriorate, so regular water cycling and changes are necessary. Regularly testing the water quality is also important for plant health.

Plant Diseases

Diseases can also lead to the melting of low light aquarium plants, such as Anubias rot. If the rhizome of an Anubias plant is buried too deeply in the substrate, it may rot and result in leaf loss. Additionally, plants can be damaged and start to rot during transportation or planting, leading to melting.

How to take care of low light aquarium plants?

How to take care of low light aquarium plants

While light is an important aspect of plant care, there are several other considerations to keep in mind, especially if you’re new to planted tanks. Bear in mind that not all plants can be taken care of in the same way. Maintenance varies based on the plant, so it’s crucial to research and provide the best possible environment for your plants.

Fortunately, low light plants are generally easier to care for, but it’s still essential to ensure the right climate, pH level, substrate, and fertilizers for their specific needs apart from providing the optimum amount of light.

Also, regularly inspecting your plant foliage is recommended, as it can indicate any issues such as rot. If the leaves are in poor condition, it may signal problems with water quality or insufficient nutrition. Removing decaying plant matter is crucial to prevent water pollution, and regular pruning and water changes can help maintain plant health.

In addition to the aforementioned care tips, it’s important to consider substrates and fertilizers for your low light aquarium plants. A solid substrate is essential for giving plant roots a stable base. While some low light aquarium plants can be floated or attached to objects without the need for substrate, others may require burial in gravel or soil to establish proper root systems. Fertilizer is another key element to consider. While not every plant requires fertilizer for basic growth, it is necessary if you want your plants to thrive. When choosing substrates and fertilizers, it’s advisable to research the specific requirements of your plant species. Different plants have varying nutrient needs, and selecting the right substrate and fertilizer will help ensure optimal conditions for your low light aquarium plants to flourish.

Additionally, low light aquarium plants require a three-stage filtration system to thrive even though they are natural purifiers. This is due to the fact that they do not completely remove the tank’s waste. Choosing a filter that circulates water and nutrients more effectively is recommended.


You now know more about low light aquarium plants, right? Low light aquarium plants offer more than just aesthetic appeal—they contribute to creating a natural ecosystem within your tank. They are beginner-friendly and easy to maintain. To find the most suitable low light aquarium plants for your tank, consider reading our previous blog- What Are the Best Low Light Aquarium Plants? Thank you for reading, and we truly hope the information above will be useful!

Written by ——
Scott Hughes
Scott Hughes
Double Bachelor's degrees in Architecture and Electrical Engineering, 5+ years of experience with LED lighting, intelligent moving lights, and conventional fixtures. Reach Me Now>>
Scott Hughes
Scott Hughes
Double Bachelor's degrees in Architecture and Electrical Engineering, 5+ years of experience with LED lighting, intelligent moving lights, and conventional fixtures. Reach Me Now>>
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