Aquarium plants are quite delicate compared to their terrestrial counterparts and require way more care. As such, it is pretty common for them to become mushy.
Some plant species are more prone to this than others, especially when stress factors are involved. Some of them include Hygros, Cryptocoryne species, and Telanthera.
In this article, we will cover all reasons why your plants are melting, as well as tips to solve and prevent it from happening.
Reasons Why Aquarium Plants Are Turning Mushy
This process often starts with older leaves which lose color and become translucent. A mushy or melting plant will feel sticky or slimy when you touch it.
It will most likely float around in the tank (often looking healthy), and the stem will be completely exposed.
The reasons why your plants are turning to mush include:
1. Lack Of Nutrients
A deficiency in the nutrients needed for growth is one of the reasons why plants turn to mush. The plants need sulfur, potassium, carbon, and magnesium to be healthy.
They usually get these nutrients from the substrate, fish food, waste byproducts, and water.
Additionally, micronutrients obtained from liquid fertilizers are also needed for aquatic plants to thrive.
A lack of them means that plants cannot grow and turn to mush.
2. Infection And Rot
Infections can cause the leaves of plants to turn brown and eventually turn mush after they’ve died.
The rhizome of plants like Anubias can turn to mush and then begin to rot. This is usually caused when the Anubias is planted in such a way that the rhizome is wholly covered, causing it to rot.
3. Cell Damage
Contrary to popular belief, aquatic plants can get harmed in several ways because of how delicate they are.
If you’re not careful while planting them, you can damage the parts responsible for absorbing nutrients, such as the roots, and cause them to die.
The fish in the tank can also nibble on vital plant parts needed for survival.
4. New Tanks/ Environment
Aquatic plants may turn mushy when placed in a new environment. This usually happens due to the below-mentioned scenario panning out.
Many times, aquatic plants are grown above the surface of the water, known as emergent plants, because it has a lot of advantages.
When we get them for aquariums, they have to get used to being submerged in water. This is when they begin to turn to mush and decay.
It is important not to panic as it could be completely natural. When an aquatic plant changes its surroundings, the plant cells also change to adapt.
Older leaves will begin to mush to give way for new growth suitable for the new environment.
5. Lack Of Carbon Dioxide/ Oxygen
One of the reasons why emergent aquatic plants find it challenging to adapt to a submerged environment is because of less access to carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen (O2). The lack of gaseous exchange in water causes the plants to get stressed and respond by turning mushy.
How To Prevent Aquarium Plants from Turning Mushy?
Aquarium plants turning to mush doesn’t necessarily mean they are dying. Look out for the parts that are melting.
If it’s the stem or roots of the plants that are most affected, there could be little to no redemption. On the other hand, if it’s just a few leaves melting, remedial steps can be taken to revive the plant and stop the process.
1. Have High Oxygen And Carbon Dioxide Levels
Emergent plants can survive in submerged water. For this, they may need higher concentrations of dissolved Carbon Dioxide in the aquarium water.
However, it also boils down to the plants in question. Some plants are more CO2 hungry than others.
A tank that runs on injected CO2 will suit these kinds of plants (and other types in general). This helps the plant grow faster and adapt quicker.
On the other hand, some plants are less demanding and may not require you to invest in an injector to make them grow.
To ensure your plants get more oxygen, there are aquarium bubblers that can easily release a stream of oxygen (bubbles) into the tank.
2. Get Healthy Plants
A rotting or diseased plant cannot survive no matter how ideal your tank is.
Make sure the plants you’re buying aren’t fragile or picky about their surroundings. They can easily turn to mush if they keep rejecting the tank environment.
Along with this, keep in mind that different plants require different tank parameters, substrates, and nutrients.
So before you decide to add one to your tank, make sure you have proper knowledge about it and what it needs to survive.
3. Space Plants Properly
When growing aquarium plants, make sure there’s enough space between them for optimal water and nutrient flow.
Don’t grow individual plants amongst bigger ones as they can easily outcompete the former for resources.
4. Choose an Appropriate Substrate And Fertilizer
A typical mistake people make is using aqua soils rich in ammonia to grow their plants which are very harmful to them.
Remember to pay attention to your plants’ micronutrients and fertilizer needs. Choose the planting medium and fertilizer accordingly.
5. Maintain Optimal Temperature And Other Tank Parameters
The temperature of your tank should be around 22-23°C (71°F). Metabolism is affected by temperature— moderate temperatures increase it and lead to faster growth.
Keeping your tank free from dirt, debris, and organic waste helps maintain the ideal PH, facilitating plant growth.
6. Prune The Melting Plants Or Discard Them
In some severe cases, you might have no other option than to remove the mushy plants. This can prevent them from affecting your fish and other healthy plants.
In other cases, you will need to trim or prune the affected leaves. Other leaves better suited for the tank environment will eventually grow.
Healthy plants in your aquarium do a far greater job than adding beauty. They absorb ammonia and nitrate, which can be harmful to the fish if left to build up.
They also stop the growth of algae and produce oxygen needed for aquatic life.
However, when your aquatic plants turn mushy, you may have a lot of reasons to worry. Thankfully this guide lists all possible reasons and workable solutions for this.
I have found gardening to be my calling since being restricted to my apartment. I love studying rare species of plants and giving them a mention on my blog. I also love growing organic vegetables in my backyard.