Aquarium Plant Problems Chart

Last Updated on January 18, 2022 by Fabiola L.

How to know if you have a problem with a lack of micro and macronutrients? Read more about the aquarium plant problems chart.

Do you have the perfect planted aquarium setup, but notice that your plants are suffering or worse, dying? You may have a problem with a lack of nutrients. You may even be dosing fertilizers regularly and correctly, but your plants may still be missing some key building blocks.

Keep reading to learn more about the aquarium plant problems chart, how to identify them, and take appropriate action before they take a toll.

What Do Dying Aquarium Plants Look Like?

Your plants will show clear symptoms that they are currently suffering and are likely to die. Although there are many different signs, these are the most common:

  • The leaves turn brown or white
  • Disintegrating or melting occurs
  • Pinholes appear on the leaves
  • The leaves are falling off.

If you notice any of this, it may mean that your aquarium plant is suffering from a lack of nutrients in your aquarium.

Why Are My Aquarium Plants Not Doing Well?

This is one of the most common questions asked by aquarium hobbyists. Continue reading to learn how to distinguish and understand the aquarium plant problems chart.


This should be the first thing you should check before dealing with other nutritional factors. You will recognize that CO2 deficiency has occurred due to damage such as yellow leaves or mutilated growth.

CO2 is essential for healthy plant growth, and its content should be at a level of about 20 to 30 mg / l. Therefore, try to test and monitor your water regularly. After all, only if you can rule out CO2 deficiency can you move on to further research.

Why are my aquarium plants not doing well


Macronutrients are nutrients that plants need in larger quantities. They include the elements potassium, phosphorus, nitrogen, as well as magnesium.

Nitrogen (N)

Aquatic plants can absorb nitrogen in the form of ammonium, urea, and nitrates. Unfortunately, usually, only those tests are available that can show nitrogen in the form of nitrate (NO3). Its optimal concentrations are about 10 to 25 mg / l NO3.

Typical symptoms of nitrogen deficiency are yellowing overall, increased smaller leaves, crippled growth, and reddish hues. In addition, green filamentous algae, fuzz algae, or hair algae may occur. To remedy the situation, you can intentionally push the nitrogen content with liquid fertilizers.

Phosphorus (PO4)

The concentration of this element in water can be measured by standard commercially available water tests. Its deficiency can easily be seen in fast-growing stem plants.

Some of the symptoms are extremely slow growth and reduction in the size of the tops of the shoots as well as darkening or even the appearance of purple. Its deficiency can even cause an increase in spot algae.

As for the concentration of phosphorus in planted aquariums, it should be about 0.1 to 1 mg / l of PO4. It is quite reactive and can interact with other nutrients such as iron, and some plants may even store it. Therefore, fertilization with phosphate fertilizer once a week is recommended.

Potassium (K)

Potassium deficiency is very similar to nitrogen deficiency. A typical symptom is the appearance of perforated leaves or dying leaf tissue (necroses). Initially, you will notice the appearance of small black dots, which then become visible holes, partially outlined in yellow or black.

Optimal concentrations of potassium are around 5 to 10 mg/l. If they are below that level, you can push potassium with a potassium-only fertilizer or with a combined macronutrient fertilizer if you have phosphorus and nitrogen deficiency.

Magnesium (Mg)

Magnesium is very important for the process of photosynthesis, as it helps to form the green pigment of the plant (chlorophyll). You will recognize the deficiency by the pale or yellow discoloration of the older leaves, while the leaf veins usually remain green.


Micronutrients are elements that the plants only need in smaller amounts. Some of them are iron, which is also the most important, as well as other metals such as copper, boron, or manganese.


In case you are wondering what does iron deficiency looks like in aquarium plants you will recognize it by the fact that the rich green leaves fade and the young parts of the plant take on a yellow to white color (chlorosis). In severe cases, stunted growth, blackness, and necrosis may also occur.

Ideal iron concentrations for planted aquariums are 0.05 to 0.1 mg / l Fe. To overcome iron deficiencies try to supplement your aquarium with iron-rich fertilizers. However, keep in mind that after a few hours the nutrient will no longer be able to be detected because aquatic plants absorb it very quickly. You do not need to increase fertilization with complete iron fertilizer until symptoms appear.

Other Micronutrients

Best of all, complete iron fertilizers cover the needs of your plants for all other vital trace elements. Therefore, no additional or special attention is paid to other micronutrients and their deficiency.


Lack of light is also one of the causes of poor plant growth. Stronger lighting ensures a more compact growth. However, keep in mind that certain optical factors may influence the result.

So, for example some pure white LEDs can make bright green colors look very pale and whitish and point you to chlorosis. On the other hand, LED lamps with increased RGB content can amplify red hues.

Also, the angle of incidence at which the submerged plant is examined is very important. So, for example, light green tones also tend to look much paler and can point you to chlorosis, which is not actually present.

In Conclusion

In order to properly treat your plants, you need to determine exactly what nutrient deficiency has occurred. As a rule, it takes at least two to three weeks to spot the difference and determine if your actions have helped or worsened the situation. It would be best to conduct regular water tests, as well as inspections of plants in the aquarium. Only this will allow you to create a beautiful, thriving planted aquarium.

We hope you found this article on the aquarium plant problems charts useful. Let us know in the section below.

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