Why Do Aquarium Plants Melt? (5 Ways To Avoid Plant Melt)

Image of plants in an aquarium

Live aquatic plants make an aquarium a pleasant dwelling place for aquatic creatures. However, maintaining a planted tank takes a lot of time and effort. Aquatic plants need a lot of care. One of the common problems in many planted tanks is the melting of aquarium plants. So, why do aquarium plants melt?

Aquarium plants melt due to fluctuations in water parameters or carbon dioxide levels. Melting can also be the result of algae attacks, unhygienic water conditions, or insufficient nutrients. Aquatic plants that were previously grown above the water level may also melt when transplanted underwater.

Before we look at each of these factors in closer detail, let us first understand what melting means in aquarium plants.

What Does “Melting” Mean In Aquarium Plants?

You may wonder how the term “melting” possibly applies to aquatic plants. It refers to a condition where aquatic plants lose their leaves.

Melting usually starts with the older leaves, and subsequently, new leaves also begin to die.

Without timely intervention, the plant may lose all its leaves and ultimately die.

What Does Plant Melt Look Like?

Plant melting is not the same thing as aquatic plants simply losing their old leaves.

When a plant melts, the oldest leaves are first affected. They lose color, become transparent, rot, and fall off. Soon, the younger leaves also become affected.

In a short while, the plant can lose all its leaves and be damaged beyond the point of rescue.

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What Causes The Melting Of Aquatic Plants?

Given below are the various factors that cause aquatic plants to melt.

1. Adaptation changes.

The main reason for melting is the inability of a new plant to adapt to the environment.

When you transplant a plant to your fish tank, it faces a whole new set of variables. In some cases, aquatic plants are cultivated with their roots submerged but leaves above the ground. If this plant is suddenly submerged in water, it cannot adjust immediately.

The roots must adjust to the increase in moisture before they can absorb nutrients. Additionally, it will suddenly have reduced access to oxygen and carbon dioxide. As it slowly adjusts to these new changes, the plant ends up sacrificing a few leaves.

Once the plant adjusts to the new environment, growth will pick up. However, if it struggles with a poor gaseous exchange for too long, it can suffer tremendously and even die.

Other parameters like the difference in salinity and hardness of water from the original tank may also cause stress and make a plant melt.

2. Poor growth conditions.

Older plants may melt when the environmental parameters are not optimal for their growth. If the surrounding water lacks nutrients, the leaves may wither.

The quality of water is another factor that affects the growth and well-being of a plant. The quality of water in fish tanks deteriorates over time. Even the best filters cannot eliminate dirt and debris from the water completely. If you do not cycle the water frequently, the problem worsens.

Stagnant and dirty water can adversely affect the health and well-being of aquatic plants. Continuous exposure to unhygienic water can stress the plant and make it melt.

3. Aquatic plant diseases.

Plant diseases like Anubias rot can also cause plant melting. When you plant the rhizome of the Anubias plant too deep in the aquarium substrate, it tends to rot. As a result, the plant may lose a few leaves.

Apart from Anubias rot, other plant diseases also trigger the loss of leaves. Delicate plants are easily affected by water-borne infections. To channel new growth, they sacrifice old tissues. Their leaves get damaged during the process.

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How To Avoid Plant Melt?

Plant melt is unavoidable in many situations. However, you can contain the damage and help the plant cope with the problem by taking appropriate steps. When you support the plant during this phase of distress, it tends to bounce back to health. A melting plant will compensate for the loss of old tissue by displaying new growth.

Here are some of the ways to tackle plant melting in aquariums.

1. Choose healthy plants.

Healthy plants adapt well to new environments. They have more stored energy and resources to cope with transitions. Hence, you can reduce the chances of plant melting when you choose healthy plants for the aquarium.

Another way to reduce melting is to transplant the aquatic plants quickly. The longer you take to move it to the new space, it becomes more vulnerable to melting.

2. Ensure availability of O2 and CO2 in the aquarium.

Insufficient oxygen and carbon dioxide can induce stress and make plants melt. Additionally, plants that grow underwater find it more difficult to perform gaseous exchanges than those that grow above the ground. Fortunately, you can help new and existing plants cope with this challenge.

Inject O2 and CO2 into the water using a diffuser. By aerating the water, you can increase the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the aquarium and make it a better environment for plants. For heavily planted tanks, you should compulsorily inject gases, or the plant growth will be adversely affected.

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3. Use good quality soil and maintain a clean substrate.

New plants will find it easier to adapt to an aquarium setting when they are planted in good quality, mature soil. However, if the ammonia content of the soil is very high, the plants will be unable to adjust.

Make sure that the soil in your aquarium is of good quality. It should be free from infection-causing substances. Clear away any dead or decaying matter from the substrate. Such organic matter can adversely affect the water parameters.

4. Place new plants properly.

New plants should have adequate access to resources. Avoid planting them in bunches as it will suffocate the roots and cause overcrowding. When you space the plants properly, there will be better water flow around the roots. The plants will also have better access to light.

You should also take care to plant them at the right depth. Since new plants have delicate roots, it will be difficult for them to establish and obtain nutrients if they are planted too deep.

5. Use liquid fertilizers for supplementary nutrition.

Aquatic plants will consume nutrients from the substrate. However, new plants have delicate root systems. Till the roots acclimatize to the new setting and obtain sufficient nutrients from the substrate, they are prone to melting.

You can support the transition by offering liquid fertilizer to the plants. Directly feed the fertilizers into the water column, and the plants can easily draw nutrients through the leaves as well. Liquid fertilizer will also be useful for established plants that display signs of distress by shedding leaves.

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What To Do When Your Plants Are Already Melting?

Plant melting is not always reversible. If an aquatic plant has deteriorated to a significant extent, you may not be able to rescue it.

Nonetheless, if you spot signs of plant melting, try the following suggestions to arrest the problem.

  • Remove dead leaves and decaying plant matter promptly from the water to prevent the ammonia levels from rising.
  • Cycle the water in the tank and adjust the water parameters so that it is optimal.
  • Add liquid fertilizer to supplement the nutrition from the substrate.
  • Improve the Oxygen and Carbon dioxide levels in the tank to help the plant cope better.