Tank plant problems and illnesses.
written by: Rob Charite
date: 05 September 2000
Plants can be ill as well and can affect water quality and fish so
here's some info on what to do about it.
Damage due to fish or other
Damages due to fish or other creatures are mostly non existent in our
It is possible that plant lice can affect our plants when the plants are
Fish and snails
They usually won't damage the plants but other fish (
other than discus) can nibble on fine leaves, young sprouts, leave tops
and rims, especially the fine leaved plants.
Snails have the ability to "drill" holes in plants with their
little "rasp" tongues.
Remedy: Good growing, healthy plants
can resist such minor damages.
Maintenance errors and what can
Lack of illumination.
Symptoms: plants are
thin and weak, leaves are pale green or yellowish (chlorotic) stems are
thin. Fewer leaves and very small leaves on plants.
Near the light source plants grow fast, plants like cambomba have nice
green tops but no leaves below the top leaves.
Why?: To few or weak bulbs, bulbs
without reflectors or too old bulbs.
Light duration is too short (less then 12 hours) or to many plants on the
Remedy: light corrections in general,
new bulbs, make the surface clear, or bulbs in other light frequencies.
Wrong water temperature.
With high temperatures the symptoms are the same as
With low temperatures plants will stop growing and die after a short
Why?: A to high or to low water
temperature, to much difference between warmth and illumination or to much
difference between warmth and nutrients.
When the temperature is high plants need more light and nutrients, when
they have not enough light and /or nutrients they will show signs of a
Needless to say, plants "breathe" more at higher temps and use
more oxygen (during "day" time) and provide more CO2 ( at
With really high temps the oxygen production (photosynthesis) is lower
than what they use.
In this case we will create a not enough oxygen situation and problems
Remedy: Check if temperature, light,
and fertilization (possible) are correct or within the parameters plants
or fish can stand. Otherwise replace the plant with another plant which
can stand higher temps.
Wrong light color
Symptoms and solutions.
Long plants with a lot of space between leaves, due to
much light in the red frequencies.
Small plants and wide growth, from light in the blue frequencies.
Insufficient growth and photosynthesis with light in the green or yellow
Remedy: Use proper bulbs and combine
Best, but expensive are the fluorescent or bulbs in the day light spectrum.
Symptoms: Rising gas bubbles when
stirring the substrate. Plants won't grow.
Crypto's will grow their roots above the substrate. Malaysian trumpet
snails wont dig in, they stay above the substrate (see, not all snails are
Why?: A cloughed or old bottom
Remedy: Loosen the substrate and
meanwhile suck the mulm away.
That way the gasses will leave the substrate while stirring the bottom.
About 2 days later you definitely have to clean your filter.
A week later you can fertilize again.
If plants aren't growing or aren't recovering you have to get rid of the
substrate and install a new one!!
Perfection: It is better to re install
new bottom substrate every 3 years.
Errors with the Fertilization regimen can result in considerable damage
to plants and disruptions to the aquarium environment !! We really want to
avoid that !!
Lack of oxygen ( O2 )
Symptoms: Fish are stressed or are
hanging near the water surface gasping for oxygen.
Without 02 for too long, plants and fish will decline.
Why ?: Insufficient light or
fertilization therefore plants can't assimilate and produce oxygen.
The nitrogen cycle decreases because bacteria (aerobic) work slowly or not
at all !!
That will result in too much C02 and water that is strongly polluted with
Remedy: Check the lights,
fertilization, filter system, fish population (overstocked tank) and
Insufficient carbon dioxide (
Symptoms: Plants tend to stay small
and are not growing fast.
Rough sediment on plant leaves and ornaments due to biogenic decarbonation.
The symptoms even can occur while dosing fertilizer properly and having a
good maintenance regimen.
Strong surface agitation due to strong currents (water outlet) and air stones.
Wet/ dry filters.
Remedy: Install CO2 equipment.
Decrease water agitation by not using air stones or drip tubes.
Note !! When using a wet/dry filter adding CO2 is
To much carbon dioxide (CO2)
Fish gasp at the water surface (danger due to suffication )
Insufficient oxygen levels due to adding too much CO2 ( above 30 mg/l),
filthy and very dirty filter media, insufficient illumination, overstocked
Check maintenance regimen.
Adjust CO2 equipment to the proper levels ( needle valve and bubble
Switch CO2 equipment off during night time.
Adjust fundamental maintenance to the environment and water parameters of
your tank !!
Leaves die due to forming iron phosphate which we can recognize as brown
or black discoloration on the leaves. Combine this with possible high
amounts of nitrate and it will result in explosive algae growth !!
Insufficient water changing.
Adjust water changing regimen.
Strong algae bloom, especially with high amounts of phosphate
To much feeding, filthy filter equipment and neglected water change
Adjust feeding regimen and change water regularly.
No trace elements
Yellowish glass like leaves which will rot !!
Insufficient fertilization regimen, phosphate overload and incorrectly
dosed tanks ( fertilized) alkaline water or to hard water can be the
Use PMDD or "manure" containing iron. See to it that the plants
will get their trace elements regularly.
Lower the carbonate hardness when possible.
No manganese or potassium
Leaves are yellowish but the leaves veins are still green.
Occurs in tanks who are only fertilized with iron.
Use good quality fertilization drops which contains all the needed trace
Leaf damage due to chemicals
Fish medicine, snail poison or anti algae chemicals can result in leaf
damage or bacterial (filtration) problems.
Every plant species reacts differently !
Sometimes immediately, sometimes after a few weeks. But the symptoms are
the same, like suddenly the leaves become yellow and brown and die !!
Increase water changing regimen ( fi. 30 % every day) and / or filter over
activated carbon for a week or so. A.C. will get rid of almost all the
chemicals but remove it when your water has the right freshness again.
Always act like the medicine/chemical manual describes. When you don't
trust it under dose never overdose or better don't use it !!!!!
Remember there are more roads that lead to Rome !!!!!!
If you intend grow the plants emers: Remember that insects and bugs can
become a problem as well !!
Rob Charite & Walter Soestbergen