Friday, December 16, 2016

A guide to Aquarium Plants Nutrient Deficiency

aquarium plant deficiencies

All kinds of plants need nutrients to thrive. Aquarium plants need enough nutrients in the water column to survive. If there are not sufficient nutrients in the water column, the aquarium plants will show nutrient deficiency. It’s hard to diagnose nutrient deficiency in aquarium plants because they show almost same symptoms. This article will discuss some of the basic aquarium plant deficiencies in aquatic plants, symptoms of them and the way to resolve it.

What are mobile and immobile nutrients?

If there is any lack of nutrient, plants tend to transfer that nutrient from older leaves to new leaves in order to ensure growth. The transfer rate is not same for all nutrients. It varies according to the nutrient. According to the speed these nutrients get transferred, we can divide nutrients into two groups, they are mobile nutrients and immobile nutrients.

Immobile nutrients are nothing but the nutrients with slow transfer speed. These nutrients don’t get to the new leaves in time. As a result, the new leaves show deficiency symptoms of those nutrients. Some of the immobile nutrients are Boron (B), Sulfur (S), Calcium (Ca) and Iron (Fe).

The mobile nutrients are fast enough to get to the new leaves in time. As a result, the older leaves show deficiency symptoms of these nutrients. Some of the mobile nutrients are Magnesium (Mg), Molybdenum (Mo), Potassium (K), Nitrogen (N) and Phosphorus (P).

An Infograph On Aquarium Plant Deficiencies

aquarium plant deficiencies

Chart On Aquarium Plant Deficiencies

Likely Cause
Probable Solutions
Leaves getting yellowish or reddish color
Nitrogen Deficiency
Use a nitrogen supplement like Seachem Flourish Nitrogen
Leaves getting a brown/black tone
Excess Phosphate
Use PhosGuard to remove excess phosphate
Old leaves getting yellow spots, new leaves having yellow edges
Potassium Deficiency
Use a potassium supplement like Seachem Flourish Potassium
Old leaves developing yellow spots yet veins remain green
Magnesium Deficiency
Use a general fertilizer such as Seachem Flourish
Yellow spots appearing on veins, tips of the leaves and on edges
Zinc Deficiency
Use a general fertilizer such as Seachem Flourish
Slow Growth rate, White deposits on new growth
Carbon Dioxide Deficiency
Leaves getting yellow from the tip and gradually becoming transparent
Iron Deficiency
Use an Iron Supplement like Seachem Flourish Iron

Nitrogen Deficiency of Aquarium Plants

aquarium plant deficiencies

Source: Ammonia (NH4), Nitrate (NO3) and Urea.

Optimum Level: 10 to 40 ppm Nitrate

Deficiency Symptoms:

=>Plants, especially the older leaves become yellow

=>The new leaves turn out to be crippled and small.

=>Growth rate gets stunned.

Solution: Dose Potassium Nitrate (KNO3) in your aquarium. It will provide Nitrogen to the plants.


Phosphorus Deficiency of Aquarium Plants

aquarium plant deficiency

Source: Phosphate (PO4)

Optimum Level: 0.2 to 3 ppm

Deficiency Symptoms:

=>Plants stop growing

=>Leaves become lighter. Coloration gets damaged.

=>Green Spot Algae increases in an alarming rate.

Solution:  Dose Monopotassium Phosphate (KH2PO4) to your aquarium. It will provide the plants Phosphorus.


Potassium Deficiency of Aquarium Plants

aquarium plant deficiencies

Optimum Level: 5 to 40 ppm

Deficiency symptoms:

=>Tiny brown dots on older leaves are seen. These dots will have a yellowish border.

=>The dots eventually get bigger.

=>New leaves become smaller.

=>Growth rate of the plants slows down

Solution:  you can dose Potassium Nitrate in your tank. In case there is enough nitrate in the water column, you can dose Potassium Sulfate (K2SO4)  too.

Iron Deficiency of Aquarium Plants

aquarium plant deficiency

Optimum Level: 0.2 to 1 ppm

Deficiency Symptoms:

=>The newer leaves show deficiency symptoms. They become pale for lack of Chlorophyll.

=> The leaf tissue becomes pale more quickly than the veins

Solution:  You can dose Tenso Cocktail or CSM+B. It will enrich micro nutrients in the water column. You can also dose Seachem Flourish Iron to provide Fe in your tank. Click here to check out the product at the best deals !

Magnesium Deficiency of Aquarium Plants

aquarium plant deficiencies

Optimum Level: 5 to 10 ppm

Deficiency Symptoms:

=>The symptoms are generally similar to the iron deficiencies. It is because lack of Magnesium 
prevents the plants to absorb Iron.

=> New and old both leaves turn pale. Chlorosis is seen on the leaves. Unlike Potassium deficiency, the veins of the leaves remain same.

Solution:  Dose Magnesium Sulfate Heptahydrate (MgSO4x7H2O) to your tank.

Aquarium Plant Deficiency of Trace Elements

aquarium plant deficiencies

Deficiency symptoms:

=>New leaves become pale.

=>Leaf tissue become reduced, though the veins remain fine.

Solution: Dose Tenso Cocktail or CSM +B to provide micronutrients in your aquarium.


It's really hard to check your aquarium water parameter for each nutrient and see if it lacks than the proper amount. Supplementing for each and individual nutrient is also a pretty tiresome work. So, we recommend you to not go this route.

Instead of supplementing of each and individual nutrient, we suggest you go for a good aquarium plant fertilizer. A good aquarium plant fertilizer will provide you with all the basic macronutrients, micronutrients as well as trace elements for your planted aquarium. So, you don't need to worry about getting your hands on Potassium Nitrate or Tenso Cocktail. So, get your hands on to a good aquarium plant fertilizer, and you are good to go!

These are some of the most common aquarium plant deficiencies in freshwater aquatic plants. Do you want to get rid of all kinds of nutrient deficiencies once and for all? All you need to do is try Estimative Index Fertilizing Method. Click Here to know about it in details.

Comment below if you have any question and I’ll try to answer as soon as I can!