If you are an aquarium enthusiast, you know that a great deal of science goes into keeping it brimming with life.
You are constantly faced with an uphill task of ensuring an optimum supply of vital feeds and nutrients while keeping the aquatic environment fresh and clean. We can’t emphasize enough the need to handle your aquarium like a growing baby.
Despite your efforts, problems with your aquarium are bound to occur. Therefore, you must be quick to fix them to keep your aquarium habitable.
This article sheds light on a common problem in aquariums— plants turning transparent.
The primary cause of aquarium plants turning transparent is the lack or imbalance of nutrients. However, inappropriate lighting or inadequate dissolved CO2 levels in the water could also be at play.
Let us study these reasons in detail and how to address them.
Table of Contents
- 1 Aquarium Plants Turning Transparent
- 1.1 1. An Iron, Zinc, or Manganese Deficiency
- 1.2 Solution
- 1.3 2. The pH Level Of Your Aquarium
- 1.4 Solution
- 1.5 3. Insufficient CO2 Levels In Your Aquarium
- 1.6 Solution
- 1.7 4. Incompatibility Between The Plants And The Aquatic Environment
- 1.8 Solution
- 1.9 5. The Lighting Levels In your Aquarium
- 1.10 Solution
- 1.11 6. Your Specific Plant’s Nutritional Requirements
- 1.12 Solution
- 1.13 7. Above Water Plants Being Fully Submerged
- 1.14 Solution
- 2 Conclusion
Aquarium Plants Turning Transparent
Your aquarium’s overall health and functioning are determined by various factors (or parameters) that are at play. Some of these are:
- Nitrate levels
- Ammonia levels
- Plant type
- The pH
- Hours of light per day
- Light levels
- The overall tank temperatures
- Tank dimensions
- How long your tank has been in operation
- The type of fish you have in the aquarium
- Nutrient levels in the tank (Phosphate, Iron, Potassium)
Keeping these factors in mind, it’s vital that you properly diagnose your aquarium to find out what could be causing the anomaly.
1. An Iron, Zinc, or Manganese Deficiency
Aquatic plants thrive on both macro and micro-nutrients, with the most common ones being Iron, Zinc, and Manganese.
Your aquatic plants need to manufacture their food not only for survival but to thrive. This typically happens through a scientific process called photosynthesis.
Photosynthesis is made possible because of chlorophyll.
The lack of iron causes chlorophyll deficiency, making the plants turn transparent. Zinc and Manganese deficiency can also lead to discoloration in plants.
How should you differentiate the deficiency between the various elements? Here is the borderline; an iron deficiency makes the inner and terminal leaves transparent, while a zinc and manganese deficiency will affect the older leaves.
With proper diagnosis, fixing a specific nutritional requirement is fairly easy. For example, if your plants suffer from an iron deficiency, you will need to look for a fertilizer with high amounts of iron.
The same goes for Zinc and Manganese.
Other options at your disposal would be to augment your regular fertilizer with iron before adding it to the aquarium soil. You could also shop around for iron-enriched liquid fertilizer to add to your aquarium.
After adding the fertilizer, monitor your aquarium plants for 2-3 weeks to check for improvement.
2. The pH Level Of Your Aquarium
The pH refers to a liquid or matter’s alkaline or acidity levels. In your case, your aquatic water could be acidic (pH scale 0-6.9), neutral (pH scale at 7), or alkaline (pH scale 7.1 -14).
Generally, plants dislike alkaline water, and if this is the case, your plants will start exhibiting discoloration symptoms.
Individual aquatic tanks vary in pH references. Therefore, before fixing the problem, study the pH requirements of your aquatic plants and fish to know if it requires some adjustment.
Some measures to keep your aquarium pH balanced and favorable include:
- Not using tap water. Tap water has the potential to make your tank unbalanced because of its chemical composition.
- Monitor your aquarium pH levels at the end of a nitrogen or fertilization cycle and adjust accordingly. The water in the aquarium is highly likely to be acidic around this particular time.
- Some plants like driftwood release tannic acid, which is most likely to alter the acidic value in your reading. Keep this in mind.
The table below helps shed some light on healthy pH levels for different aquatic environments
Water Type Recommended pH levels (Depending on fish type)
Freshwater 5.0 – 7.5
Marine water 7.5 – 8.5
Tropical water 6.0 – 7.0
Reef tank 8.0 – 8.5
3. Insufficient CO2 Levels In Your Aquarium
Aquatic plants use dissolved CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) in water to photosynthesize and make food. Inadequate CO2 can interfere with proper photosynthesis and cause discoloration and transparency in leaves.
Ensure that your tank’s air filter is clean and the pump is functioning well. Use Co2 release tablets if required.
These tablets also release some other valuable substances that help and facilitate the growth of aquatic plants.
4. Incompatibility Between The Plants And The Aquatic Environment
Having a freshwater plant in a marine water aquarium is a recipe for disaster. This could very well be the reason your plants are turning transparent.
Before establishing your aquarium, you want to research what plants are suitable for your aquarium water habitat.
5. The Lighting Levels In your Aquarium
Two problems could arise as far as the lighting in your aquarium is concerned; one is low light, and the other is overbright lighting.
If your plants are accustomed to low light, exposing them to bright lights will be unfavorable, making them turn transparent.
Similarly, sun-loving plants won’t thrive in a low-light environment.
You may need to experiment on this to know what light levels will be most favorable to your aquarium plants.
Once you determine that, embark on adjusting the brightness and intensity to match their needs.
There are valuable resources that could help you with this.
6. Your Specific Plant’s Nutritional Requirements
Different plants have individual and specific nutritional requirements. For example, Hygrophillia plants need more nutrients than an Anubias plant under the same lighting conditions.
Anubias is highly prone to turning transparent if conditions are not favorable.
Again, you will need to conduct specific research depending on your aquarium plants as there is no one size fits all approach to it.
Ensure there is a sufficient and optimum supply of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium in your aquarium.
- Provide Nitrogen to your plants daily at a measurement of 5-20 ppm
- Keep Potassium levels at 10-20 ppm daily.
- Maintain phosphates at low levels (Not above 1.5 ppm)
7. Above Water Plants Being Fully Submerged
Some plants thrive underwater but will turn transparent once submerged fully.
They may also develop smaller leaves than other aquatic plants.
Always be well informed on which plants grow underwater and above water to keep the life in your aquatic environment vibrant.
Owning and running an aquarium can be highly fulfilling, but only if you are ready to put up with the science and the technicalities involved.
Unfortunately, plants turning transparent is one major problem you will have to deal with. Luckily, we have listed all the possible reasons and the fixes.
Job Kiniale is a certified crop scientist and gardening enthusiast with a passion to help beginning gardeners navigate their newfound hobby. Let’s talk about plants, backyard ideas, and general gardening advice. Outside work, Job loves spending time with family.