Best Liquid and Root Tabs Fertilizers for Freshwater Aquarium Plants


It’s no secret, that a planted tank’s beauty can only be enhanced by bringing out that natural taste which only real, lush plants can afford.

Since real plants also need real food, you need to go out of your way to provide them with the best nutrients for growth, ideally provided by an all-in-one product acting as an aquarium plant fertilizer.

I say you need to go out of your way because a wrong or an inadequate choice of fertilizer has the potential to inhibit vegetative mass development and harm other aquatic inhabitants.

You are to a degree responsible to choose the aquarium fertilizer that’s also safe for the fish in your freshwater tank if only to prevent genocide in there.

On the other hand, when keeping tropical live aquatic plants in a shrimp tank, you need to make sure that the product you use has no copper in it and therefore would be safe for shrimp.

Having the answers to the above should not stop you from asking yourself further questions though.

For instance, should you go for root-feeding tablets or dose with a liquid product?

I have my fair share of experience in this subject and I get asked about it quite a lot.

For this reason, I went ahead and compiled a detailed guide on choosing the best plant food for thriving freshwater aquarium plants, for my readers’ convenience.

Let’s not waste more time and dive deep into the list of the best options to use as aquatic plant fertilizers, that I have assembled.

Before we start I’m guessing that some of you are out of time and all you want for now is a glimpse of the best plant food available, synthesized in a couple of rows.

I understand not everyone always has the luxury to read all through to the end (hint: bookmark this article to quickly come back later and read on when you’re free).

That being said, here’s a quick overview chart that contains the planted tank fertilizers that I’m reviewing:

Names of Fertilizers: Key Nutrients: Suggested Plant Setup: Price Bracket:
1. Seachem Enhancer NPK Only Macronutrients Small aquarium with fewer fish and live plants $$
2. All in One Thrive Aquarium Plant Fertilizer All Heavily planted tanks with fish and shrimp $$$
3. All in One Thrive+ Aquarium Plant Fertilizer All High-tech aquariums with demanding plants, fish and shrimp $$$
4. Seachem Flourish Root Tabs All, but lower levels of Nitrogen Low maintenance planted tanks with low to medium-demanding plants $
5. Thrive Caps Substrate Fertilizer All Heavily planted Aquariums with heavier substrates $$
6. Seachem Flourish Comprehensive Only Micronutrients Aquariums with plenty of easier live plants and a lot of fish $
7. Osmocote Plus All Heavily planted high-tech tanks $$

A Guide on Store-Bought Products for Feeding Live Plants in Aquariums

First things first, you need to be familiar with what to look for in these types of products.

I will try to explain everything in detail, and at the end of this section, you’ll likely be very confident in what suits you best.

So here is a guide on choosing the right fertilizer for a planted aquarium:

1. Headstart: Should You REALLY Fertilize Aquatic Plants In A Fish Tank?

In other words, why should you bother to feed the plants in your fish tank?

I have seen some enthusiastic beginners getting surprised when I tell them they should care for their fish tank plants as much as they care for the fish.

Here’s if aquarium plants really need to be fertilized:

Real plants anywhere need nutrients to grow and stay healthy.

However, in an aquarium, the more demanding plants cannot easily obtain the needed plant food as they do in their natural habitat.

Their access is limited by the confinement and supplements are required to make up for the lack of diverse nutrient sources.

Therefore aquarium plants need additional fertilizers to achieve their full growth potential.

Note that pants in an aquarium can still grow without fertilization methods being applied, however, it will happen at a very slow pace and at a reduced maximum size and vividness of the coloration.

2. Needed Nutrient Density For Aquarium Plants That Thrive

To appreciate the need for fertilizers, you need to understand the compositions of the nutrients that make plants thrive.

Now, these are the needed nutrients for aquarium plant growth:

There are two main types of nutrients for plants.

These are macronutrients and micronutrients.

The macronutrients are those that a plant needs to consume in large quantities.

These are mainly phosphorous (P), nitrogen (N), and potassium (K).

On the other hand, micronutrients are only needed in small amounts by the plants.

They include manganese (Mn), iron (Fe), boron (B), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), chloride (Cl), and molybdenum (Mo).

If any of these elements are missing from the plant’s diet for a period, it eventually shows symptoms as a warning.

Leaves may wilt, turn yellow, or develop holes depending on which particular nutrient is lacking.

Therefore, all-in-one aquarium fertilizers should contain both macro and micronutrients to provide sufficient food for aquatic plants.

Here’s a very useful infographic to help you understand what nutrient deficiency can cause in aquarium plants:

Photo courtesy of: Aquathusiast.com

3. Other Sources of Nutrients for Aquatic Plants: Tap Water and Fish Waste

There is more in tap water than meets the eye. It usually contains traces of nitrates and other minerals.

Nitrates are essential nutrients for plants because they’re made of Nitrogen (N), but are not key for mass development.

Tap water in the US, for example, is supposed to have a 10-ppm nitrate level.

However, sometimes this number may go up to 50.

This is when you actually want to reduce them or consider a different water source.

Nitrates are used by the plants in your aquarium as food, however, in excess amounts, they will cause more harm than good.

An overabundance of nitrates in the aquarium water can cause fish health problems such as bacterial swim bladder disease or heavy hair algae infestations.

Another thing to consider is fish waste. An overstocked fish tank will probably only need certain microelements as a source of plant food.

Some people have loudly wondered to me why they should still use aquarium plant fertilizers, though there already is fish waste to manure the plants.

That’s a good point. But there is a problem.

Fish wastes will always eventually degrade to nitrates.

Again, nitrates and the nitrogen in them play a vital role in the making of proteins inside the plant’s system.

However, on their own, they cannot finish the job as they are only a fraction of the irreplaceable building blocks.

Therefore, nitrates alone cannot sustain the aquarium plants — and that’s where fertilizers come in.

For a plant to grow and develop, other elements like calcium, chloride, phosphates, and magnesium are needed.

4. Liquid Material Versus Solid Root Tablets

First, let’s appreciate the fact that plants are able to absorb nutrients through their leaves, stems, and roots.

But each plant has its more convenient route depending on the ecosystem and its environment.

There are only two aquarium plant fertilizer application methods, and these are:

  • Dosing liquid fertilizer into the water column.
  • Rootzone fertilization, which involves putting the solid root tabs in the substrate where the plants can absorb them via their roots.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with either.

I’ve used one or the other, depending on what I aim to achieve at any given period with particular plants.

That’s why whenever I get asked which of the two is more effective, I tend to give a neutral answer.

However, it’s easy to understand where to use which.

There are factors that should guide you as you decide which is best for every particular situation.

Let’s begin with the liquid fertilizers.

Once you have measured the recommended amount, you pour it directly into the aquarium.

The aquatic plants will absorb it mainly through their leaves.

In this case, the nutrients are being quickly utilized and you know the exact amounts because you control the dosage.

There is no long journey from the roots, to the stems and then to the leaves.

This is also a good method for rejuvenating aquatic live plants that have damaged roots and need food and energy quickly.

Here’s an anecdote from my personal experience with this:

A friend of mine who also keeps planted tanks gifted me with an aquatic live plant as a present.

Unfortunately, by the time I received it, the plant was quickly withering.

It had not been placed in the right conditions on the transit (not my friend’s fault).

The roots were already rotting.

Since I was aware of how plants take up nutrients through their leaves I decided to spray this one with a fertilizer.

It literally resurrected after a couple of days or so.

A huge advantage of fertilizer in a liquid form is that you can measure precisely how much of your fertilizer you dose per session, so you are in full control.

Furthermore, you can reset the whole process whenever you feel the fish need fresher water.

You achieve this by simply performing a water change.

The disadvantage of this is that you have to regularly and consistently repeat dosing to achieve better results.

This is because the content of the fertilizer is used up quickly in the aquarium water, but dosing more than the recommended dose can cause complications for both fish and plants.

This means you should be available to dose every two or so days, depending on the directions or your schedule.

Another drawback is that you have to be precise with the measurements.

This might be a challenge for a beginner unless the product of choice comes with defined pump-like dosing (which the best liquid ones usually have, fortunately).

If you mess with the balance and overdose by mistake, you could harm fish and other tank mates.

Now let’s take a look at the solid root tablets.

In this case, you insert a tablet fertilizer in the substrate where the plant roots can absorb it over some months as it slowly dissolves.

One advantage is that this long-term storage saves you from intense and regular labor that comes with water column dosing.

Root tabs are ideal for beginners that don’t like doing diligent maintenance.

With aquarium plant root fertilizers, it’s not as easy to overdose the plants as when dosing in the water column.

Root tab fertilizers are best combined with substrates that have a high CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity) values.

If you don’t know what that is you can visit my guide on planted tank substrates where I’ve discussed it in detail (I’ve linked to it a bit later in the article, but you can also use the search bar).

Essentially, it’s the ability of a substrate to “hold” readily available nutrients so that the plants can use them up later, without spoiling the water quality of the aquarium.

For all this to work better, you need to make an educated choice of a substrate (which is again explained in the link I mentioned).

Anyway, with solid tablets and substrates also come some disadvantages.

One is a lack of precision.

You cannot calculate precisely how long a root tab is going to last. You will have to assume some things.

Secondly, only plants close to the substrate may be able to absorb the nutrients fully.

Now here is why I recommend using both methods: a fertilizer is composed of different elements, each of which has its peculiar properties.

Some are easily taken in through the leaves, so they are most effective when dosed in the water column. One such element is potassium (K).

On the other hand, elements that are more chemically active and tend to form bonds easily are generally better stored in the substrate, especially if it has a good CEC value.

There, an exchange between positively charged ions happens, which allows aquarium plants to feed off a more “easily digestible” plant food.

So the better option is having these particular nutrients in the substrate.

Ammonia is another element (no, a compound, actually) that works better when infused in the substrate.

Plants tend to prefer ammonia over nitrates for their food.

If you apply ammonia into the water column it can be the end of your fish as it is highly toxic to aquatic animals.

Another thing is that the nitrifying bacteria also oxidize it in the aquarium’s nitrogen cycle, and in the end, the plants hardly benefit much from it.

But ammonia in the soil or substrate is unavailable to algae and all those oxidation processes, which is a good thing for aquatic live plants.

Having said that, here are the major factors that impact the choice of root tabs versus liquid fertilizer in an aquarium:

If you keep more demanding aquarium plants or don’t want the responsibility of consistently dosing the water column with fertilizers then use solid root-feeding tablets.

If used correctly, root tabs do not require a high level of maintenance.

When using liquid fertilizing products for your freshwater plants you have more control over dosage (highly recommended for heavily planted tanks).

As some elements are better acquired through the stems and leaves and others can be trapped in the substrate for longer release periods it is recommended to use both types of fertilizer for “high-tech” planted aquariums with more difficult plants to grow.

Here’s how a fertilized planted aquarium looks like:

Photo by: thread7

5. Wait, so These Products could Be Dangerous To Freshwater Fish?

If the answer to this question were a firm YES, then I’d have to fold up my tent and exit.

Luckily for us planted tank enthusiasts, it happens that the answer is not that.

Now, here is to what degree an aquarium plant fertilizer is safe for fish:

Most manufacturers of fertilizers that are to be used for aquatic plants are aware that the aquariums are sometimes intended to have live fish in it.

All products are carefully designed and if there’s a possibility for them to hurt other live aquatic inhabitants it will be clearly stated as a disclaimer on the bottle or package.

In the wild fish, invertebrates, and thriving plants coexist in the same bodies of water.

It makes sense from an evolutionary point of view that whatever is beneficial for plant life would be safe for aquarium fish and won’t harm them.

There is nothing radically new to fish when being introduced to fertilizers.

To begin with, there are traces of all of these elements in the natural water, be it a sea, river, lake, or swamp.

If it will make you feel even more confident – the herbivorous fish eat plants that are naturally nurtured by the same nutrients used to make fertilizers.

However, too much of anything is dangerous, as banal as that may sound. You should ensure you are not overdosing the aquarium.

That is, the quantity of the product you apply per session should depend on the number and types of plants you have and also the number of fish.

The manufacturers of the best fertilizers don’t really like playing with fire and a recommended, carefully calculated dose is always stated on the label.

By the way, excess amounts of fertilization are not healthy even for the plants themselves.

It’s like stuffing your tummy with too much food. It doesn’t feel right and you may even get nauseous.

To clarify: follow the label indications so you do not pollute the tank to the extent you threaten the lives of your pets.

6. On Copper Contents And Shrimp

I’m obligated to address the issue of shrimps and copper, otherwise, this article will not be worth its salt.

It’s really one of those controversies that seem to generate more heat than light.

The common knowledge is that aquarium plants need copper as a trace element to grow, but copper is said to kill shrimps.

How do you overcome this dilemma if you want a thriving heavily-planted shrimp tank?

Years back horrified, a friend of mine contacted me, saying all her shrimp had been killed by copper.

Back then I was not really involved in planted tanks.

“My condolences. Why do you attribute their death to copper?” I asked.

Frankly, that was the first time I was hearing “copper” and “shrimp” in the same sentence.

My friend was more advanced in the whole fish keeping thing.

“Shrimp are sensitive to copper contents” she explained.

I immediately looked it up online and indeed several websites were preaching that.

I read thread after thread claiming (without irrefutable mentions of dosage) that copper is highly dangerous for not only shrimp but also snails.

There were also websites stating the opposite, as expected, but that was no consolation for me at the moment.

As is my habit, I went the extra mile and did extensive offline research in books and in my aquariums.

I did find some interesting information:

First of all, there are copper traces of fish food.

Some of the foods that we feed our herbivorous fish like spirulina, kale, and spinach contain copper even if to a lesser degree.

In some cities, copper pipes are still being used which results in some very small amounts of the trace element being released in tap water.

If you use the same water in your aquarium, you have to consider the possibility that some of it may leach into the water and end up on your shrimps’ table.

I’ll gladly take the risk of becoming annoying in the name of shrimp safety and throw it in one more time – too much of anything is dangerous.

That being said, here is why an aquarium fertilizer that contains copper would be shrimp safe:

Shrimp, like most living things, actually need copper to survive.

Without copper in their blood system, the shrimp would eventually die.

Copper makes up much of the shrimp’s hemocyanin, which is its oxygen-carrying pigment resembling hemoglobin in humans.

Here’s a shot of a low-tech planted shrimp tank that uses plant fertilizers:

Photo by: pinto-17

Excessive amounts of copper can be potentially toxic to all invertebrates.

Most manufacturers of fertilization products meant for aquarium use, take this under consideration and calculate the recommended dosage accordingly.

The added copper in aquarium fertilizers is safe for shrimp when delivered in the right amount.

Tap water that’s used for aquarium water changes sometimes also contains traces of copper.

If an incident occurs it’s likely due to the accumulation of the element when combined with a fertilizer.

Caution: If you use tap water for the aquarium’s water changes you should definitely measure its copper content or call your local authorities and ask them about it.

Make sure everything is in the norm before buying a fertilization product with copper for your shrimp aquarium.

It’s very often that when someone complains the copper in their plant fertilizer killed their aquarium shrimp they did not take into account their tap water in the equation.

7. Seachem’s Flourish Excel Is NOT a Fertilizer

Let’s take another stop because I have to clarify this one.

There is Seachem’s Flourish, and then there is Flourish Excel.
The former is the fertilizer while the latter is an organic carbon supplement.

Aquarium plants would usually get their essential carbon from the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the water column.

However, naturally dissolved CO2 in aquarium water is often not sufficient to stimulate that lush coloration and vigorous plant growth.

This is where Flourish Excel comes.

You know, some well-meaning fish-keepers use both of Seachem’s products interchangeably on the assumption that either is a fertilizer.

This can be somewhat understandable if you’re a novice.

After all, at a glance, one would naturally take it for granted that Flourish Excel is an improved version of Flourish.

Flourish Excel is just an organic carbon supplement you can use in place of gaseous CO2 injection.

It should be noted that carbon dioxide injections are more potent for plant growth from the two and are often used in high-tech planted tanks with more demanding aquatic live plants.

Furthermore, Excel contains no trace of macro or micronutrients that make up the minerals in a fertilizer.

What Flourish Excel does is to help these nutrients dissolve better in your aquarium, converting them to more readily available forms so that your plants could benefit from them in a more efficient way.

It is what a lab technician would call a catalyst and it consequently results in lush green coloration and improved growth rate of the plants in the fish tank.

8. Concentration Of Contents in relation to market value

Should your fertilizer of choice be concentrated or somewhat dilute? Well, the answer depends.

Evidently, a more concentrated bottle will comparatively run out slower.

You only need a few drops per dose.

However, you have to be extra careful with concentrated content because of the possibility of overdosing.

Those few drops could turn out to be “one too many”.

While a minor overdose could be overcome, a massive overdose has the potential to harm more sensitive plants or fish.

Just strike the right balance.

I would advise you to follow the guide on the label to help you measure the right doses.

Most of the best fertilizing products listed here are designed in a way that makes it almost impossible to overdose.

This is a huge part of the whole fertilizing thing when it comes to an aquarium, so it’s a big sale point in my book.

With this guide, you should be able to confidently pick the product that would work for you best.

So let’s move to the products themselves.

The 7 Best Liquid and Tablet Fertilizers for Feeding Freshwater Aquarium Plants

The best aquarium plant fertilizer should contain the so-needed macro and micronutrients for vegetative growth while coming with clear dosage instructions.

I put my reputation on the line with every recommendation I make.

That’s why I always go out of my way to test and thoroughly research every product I suggest.

Each of the reviewed products has been successfully used by either me or someone I know in real life, where I had the chance to observe their results in person.

Here are the 7 best liquid and root tab fertilizers that you can feed to your freshwater aquarium plants:

1. Seachem Enhancer NPK – Best for lightly stocked small aquariums with live plants


Click here to see the current price + more photos on Amazon.

I consider Seachem Enhancer NPK one of the best because it contains all the essential macro ingredients any aquarium plant could ever require from a fertilizer.

These are the three macronutrients that plants use up a lot of in their growth process, namely Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus(P) and Potassium (K).

If you are new in the game, this one suits you well because it is easy to use.

I definitely recommend this fertilizer for when you want to see your aquarium plants grow fast on short notice, but your planted tank is lightly stocked on fish.

It will make up for the insufficient nitrogen from fish waste.

You should have some time to do trimming if the growth gets out of hand, however.

This product can show significant results very quickly so monitor your tank after you start dosing.

Make sure to follow the instructions and control the dosing well.

If you have a browning aquarium plant or aquarium grass you want to see turn green, thick and beautiful like a well-manicured lawn, grab this food.

 Advantages: 
  • It contains all the macronutrients in one box.
  • It is highly concentrated, so a single bottle is ‘one too many’ for a small tank.
  • It is friendly to shrimp.
 Disadvantages: 
  • It is rather pricey so if you have a large tank (10 gallons or so) with high nutrient requirements, you may have to dig deeper into your pockets to keep up with it. It favors small, less-demanding planted tanks low on fish stocking.
  • It makes the plants grow so fast, so you have to create the time for pruning once in a while. (I don’t know about you but with me, that’s part of the fun of keeping an aquarium with live plants.)

2. All in One Thrive Aquarium Plant Fertilizer – Best Liquid Fertilizer for Beginners


Click here to see the current price + more photos on Amazon.

I would probably say that the Thrive Aquarium Fertilizer is the best one overall.

It is especially ideal for the newcomers in the hobby because it takes minimal effort to use.

Combine that with proven results (at least for everyone I’ve seen using it) and that’s enough of a selling point on its own.

Again, you won’t have to purchase 3 or 4 different bottles of different contents because as a single product works wonders as an all-in-one fertilizer for well-planted freshwater tanks.

I said that when copper is correctly applied it will never harm your shrimp or any other pet for that matter. Still, if you are adamant it may, well, buy this product for your aquarium.

The copper content is so low it amounts to nothing, which is good if you have copper-rich tap water. I am somewhat trying to meet you on your own ground here.

I have used the Thrive in my shrimp tank without any incidents.

A bottle of this liquid aquarium plant food is also highly concentrated enough to equal about 6 standard bottles of other fertilizers.

In other words, you only need a 500 ml Thrive pump bottle for a 2,500-gallon freshwater tank. Talk of convenience.

I also like the way it is designed in that I do not have to measure every dosage I administer.

The design makes each pressing enough for a 10-gallon tank.

That’s convenient guidance if you don’t feel like measuring drops each time you add it to your aquarium.

If your tank is 20 gallons, you press twice and that’s it.

You will see a pretty significant change in your plants within 2 weeks of use.

In less than a month they will most likely double or triple in size and leaf diameters.

I recommend getting the All in One Thrive if you’re a beginner to feeding aquarium plants and aim for either a moderately or a heavily planted tank.

 Advantages: 
  • It is ideal for either high or low-tech setups.
  • No complicated procedures to make it ready.
  • It prevents algae from springing up in your tank.
  • A full refund of your money in case you are not 100% satisfied with the product.
  • Clear instructions on the bottle that’s easy to understand.
  • Up-close customer service by the owners. In case of anything, you can always reach out to them and get your feedback as fast as possible.
  • It is very affordable, considering what you get in return.
 Disadvantages: 
  • Like any other product with nitrogen, it increases nitrates in the water column so you have to schedule water changes.

    I’ve realized some people use this product the wrong way, end up with excessive nitrates in their tanks and then rush to post negative reviews in pet fish forums.
    It doesn’t raise the nitrate levels at all as long as you perform all your aquarium duties like water changes.

  • Some users have complained that the pump top is somewhat difficult to operate for a tank less than 10 gallons (I don’t find that to be true, but I’m obligated to mention it anyway).

3. All in One Thrive+ Aquarium Plant Fertilizer – Top Choice for High-Tech Aquariums


Click here to see the current price + more photos on Amazon.

Unlike its predecessor, All in One Thrive+ Aquarium Plant Fertilizer has increased iron and the second form of nitrogen.

On the other hand, it has all the essential micro and macronutrients except magnesium and calcium, which are usually found plenty in an aquarium with a couple of fish.

If you have fish I advise you ensure that your substrate is inert and contain neither micro nor macronutrients when you use this fertilizer.

Your ph should be 7 or lower otherwise part of the organic nitrogen in it would convert into ammonia.

At lower pH, the ammonia transforms into ammonium which is not harmful to aquatic inhabitants.

This product is ideal for heavily planted tanks with slightly acidic water. I should also point out that it favors high-tech setups.

Due to its super-concentration, it is best for a densely planted tank with demanding live aquatic plants.

One pump dispenses 2 ml, which is enough for a 10-gallon tank with high-requirement plants competing for food.

Like Thrive, a 500ml of Thrive+ will comfortably treat 2,500 gallons of water.

If you want to see your plants go green and look healthy, it’s probably a no-brainer to grab this liquid fertilizer for your freshwater aquarium.

For those of you who may be concerned about their delicate shrimp, you should know Thrive+ is safe for them.

It will increase your nitrate, not nitrite. I need to clarify that so take note and stay on top of water changes.

Definitely get this if you plant to look after a high-tech heavily planted tank.

 Advantages: 
  • Serves high-tech tanks with difficult aquarium plants
  • It is easy to use with the pump
  • It’s convenient and hassle-free, being all in one and ready for use.
  • Refund in case you are not satisfied. Such a guarantee is actually a surety that the product won’t disappoint if you use it correctly.
  • It’s pocket-friendly in the long run.
  • Instructions are simple enough.
 Disadvantages: 
  • It should be used in a tank with a ph of 7 or under if there are fish inside (it’s safe for tropical tanks with acidic water and low-pH shrimp tanks though).

4. Seachem Flourish Root Tabs – Low maintenance for Low-demand setups


Click here to see the current price + more photos on Amazon.

For me, Seachem’s plant feeding tablets are the best aquarium root tabs because they contain all the essential micronutrients, vitamins, and amino acids for vegetative growth.

These include calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, inositol, manganese, B12, among others.

The elements are especially of benefit to the aquatic plant roots.

All you have to do is insert one Flourish tablet into your aquarium substrate so that it can directly and slowly release nutrients to the roots, aided by the root enzymes.

If you have a low-tech moderately planted tank then your substrate should be inert.

Only use in combination with aqua soil if your tank has very demanding plants.

I’ve found that this product is for those of you who do not want to be as diligent with dosing.

It’s a rather set-and-forget-it solution.

The tabs should be changed once every couple of months.

Speaking of substrates, Seachem’s Flourish Tabs Growth is, in my opinion, the best fertilizer for aquarium plants in a tank with an inert substrate.

The tabs do not interfere with your water chemistry. Indeed, the water will always remain crystal clear for your fish to swim around and for you to have a clear view of their shoaling.

Meanwhile, your plants will finally take off within two weeks, putting on a healthy bright green color.

I probably should point out that although these root tablets do not alter the pH, they nevertheless have slightly acidic properties in highly soft waters.

Again, the amount of copper is too little to harm your invertebrates, if it ever does.

Seachem Flourish Root Tabs are also beneficial for controlling the growth of aquarium algae.

A standard-sized 5-gallon aquarium with a bottom of 16” x 8” requires 3 tabs.

Use that as the standard measure to determine how many tabs you need, depending on the size of your tank. The tabs are concentrated enough to last 3-4 months.

My recommendation here is to purchase this root tab fertilizer as the sole source of nutrients for low-demand plants in an aquarium with an inert substrate or as a supplement in a high-tech planted tank.

 Advantages: 
  • They are easy to use; it’s all about pushing them down the substrate as per the directions.
  • One tab lasts long so you do not have to apply it time and again.
  • A good catalyst for promoting the making of Ferrous Oxide, which is vital for the plants’ performance.
  • It helps for maintaining stable water parameters, which in turn help with keeping algae in check.
 Disadvantages: 
  • They lack enough macronutrients to be a sole source of food for demanding aquarium plants.

5. Thrive Caps Substrate Fertilizer – Works best in Tanks with Heavier Substrates


Click here to see the current price + more photos on Amazon.

First, these are not tablets but rather capsules. Let that sink in.

I believe they are currently the best capsule fertilizers for a freshwater aquarium but take that with a grain of salt.

The use of this product is somewhat troublesome as the capsules are eager to float.

If your substrate is not dense or somewhat heavy, I recommend looking elsewhere, because each capsule starts degrading as soon as it is in contact with the water.

I don’t find that very convenient, however, the plant growth really is amazing with these.

One bottle of Thrive Caps Substrate Fertilizer has 60 caps, each of which weighs 1 gram and is a combination of mineralized topsoil and clay soil rich in iron.

Now, they are very low in copper content (0.0001%) so don’t hesitate to purchase for fear they could harm your invertebrates.

ThriveCaps is not just safe for your shrimp and snails, but the fish as well.

Its business is simply to feed macro- and micronutrients to your freshwater aquarium plants.

If you manage to fit the capsules in the substrate all the nutrients stay there, preventing algae growth or ammonia spikes.

Your plants will have a healthy look to them and their growth rate will be more than satisfying.

These capsules are suitable for both low and high-tech aquariums with plants.

Get them if your substrate is on the dense side (Black Diamond blasting sand, for example).

 Advantages: 
  • Each capsule contains all the essential micro and macronutrients.
  • Suitable for both high and low demanding aquarium plants
  • A very budget-friendly option, considering how long it will last you.
 Disadvantages: 
  • It can be annoying to use as the capsule floats effortlessly unless you find a way to keep them grounded into the substrate. (you’ll do it every 3 to 4 months so it should probably not stop you from getting these for your plants)

6. Seachem Flourish Comprehensive – Ideal for Highly Stocked Planted Tanks


Click here to see the current price + more photos on Amazon.

Firstly, I’d advise you to carefully read the directions before using this product.

This is where some people have unknowingly messed up.

With everything else in place, you should use a capful for every 20 gallons (that is 75 liters out of the US) of water.

I have heard of some people adding the entire cap, ending up with an overdosed aquarium.

Just stating the unfortunate incidents that happen occasionally.

Anyway, if you follow the instructions, the results are amazing.

Your plants will start greening fast while sprouting new healthier leaves.

You’ll also be surprised to notice new plants spring up from the substrate.

It is an excellent micronutrient fertilizer with an adequate iron supplement.

It’s best used in an aquatic system that has low to medium plant density but still requires some fertilizers.

Nevertheless, you might say, “oh, but it’s only micro, not macro”.

Well, you don’t always have to add macronutrients into your aquarium.

If you have a heavy bioload, the fish wastes (let’s hope they poop much often) will supply part of the macros, namely, Nitrogen and Phosphorus.

You will have to provide only a Potassium supplement to your plants.

And, mind you, Seachem Flourish Comprehensive has traces of the macronutrients.

It’s just that they are too small to sustain your plants.

The level of the dreaded copper is only 0.0001 %. Of course, this amount of copper won’t harm your shrimp and other tank inhabitants provided you dose accordingly as per the recommendations.

You have nothing to fear if you use the product as directed

Buy this micronutrient fertilizer if your aquarium has lots of fish in the aquarium and if you know your tap water is phosphorus-rich.

Ideal for use in moderately planted tanks.

 Advantages: 
  • It does not interfere with the water parameters.
  • A splendid addition to a low-tech aquarium with fish but it’s also a must-have for a high-tech setup
 Disadvantages: 
  • You have to use it in conjunction with macronutrient (N, P, K) supplements if your aquarium is not near its stocking potential.

7. Osmocote Plus – The Budget-Friendly DIY Option


Click here to see the current price + more photos on Amazon.

If you clicked the link to inspect the product on Amazon you probably think that it is somewhat expensive.

Just the opposite – this should be a lifetime purchase for your planted tank as the bag will literally last you for years.

I have three or four of those economical fellows who never let any DIY opportunity pass them by.

Osmocote Plus offers them one of those DIY opportunities.

I must admit some DIYs out there are tedious, complicated, and outright time-wasting for me.

I don’t know about you, but this is one of those I find satisfying and easy.

You buy some cheap empty gelatine capsules (just make sure they are a 00 Size, such as these here), order a bag of Osmocote Plus and make a pile of your own root capsules in minutes, which eventually last in your aquarium for half a year each.

Osmocote Plus contains all the macronutrients, i.e., nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N, P, K) plus the micronutrients.

The original Osmocote’s NPK ratio is 19-6-12 while Osmocote Plus puts it at 15-9-12.

Another difference is that while each of the original Osmocote lasts only four months, Osmocote Plus granules remain active for six months, dutifully providing each aquarium plant with its food.

As far as I’m concerned, what makes the Osmocote Plus fertilizer stand out is its slow-release capability.

Each of its granules controls the timing of fertilizer release. How fast this is, depends on the temperature and how deep it is buried.

The warmer the substrate, the faster the process.

Each granule is covered by a resin coating, and it’s this that controls the nutrients release.

All you have to do is push a capsule of Osmocote Plus deep into the substrate. If you have a carpeting aquarium grass of some sort, bury a capsule between the patches of grass blades to promote a faster spread.

What I’d not recommend is that you crush the granules to dose your water column.

These granules are not designed to work that way.

Unfortunately, some people looking for a quick fix go that direction.

The result would be green water as the water column will be overly nutrified which causes microalgae to multiply explosively.

Long story short, just put the granules in gel capsules before putting them in your fish tank.

Whenever I bring Osmocote Plus up in a discussion about aquariums with live plants there is always someone to point out that it has a higher copper content.

The 0.05% contents of copper, however, are not nearly enough to be dangerous for shrimp.

As I cited some sources above, copper only becomes toxic to any invertebrate if overdosed.

By the way, Osmocote Plus contains 0.05% copper by weight, and not by PPM (parts per million).

From where I sit, Osmocote Plus is the best fertilizer option for people who do not mind a bit of super simple DIY in return of a never-ending, low-maintenance supply of quality food for their aquarium plants.

If you’re one of those people and aim for healthy plant growth in both low or high tech aquariums then I 100% recommend this product for you.

 Advantages: 
  • The slow-release mode enables the nutrients to last 6 months on average.
  • You cannot easily overdose your aquarium since the slow-release technology controls the dosage. There is no room for excess dosage that could burn your plants, provided you use as per the directions.
  • You do not have to dose your plants now and then.
  • Probably the cheapest option in the long run.
  • All of the common aquarium plants react positively to Osmocote Plus, be it high demand or low demand ones.
 Disadvantages: 
  • You need to make sure to deeply bury the Osmocote Plus capsules to avoid them floating or a turbid aquarium water
  • Higher initial cost (but it still destroys other competing products in the long run, so it’s definitely worth it)

When’s The Best Time of the Day to Feed Aquatic Plants?

Could you be feeding your aquatic plants at the wrong time when they better be napping?

Here is what is considered the best time to fertilize aquarium plants:

The best time to fertilize aquarium plants is in the morning.

This is due to the fact that plants photosynthesize throughout the day, and that’s when they most need or utilize the nutrients.

An ideal time to feed aquatic plants is within an hour interval after the lights are turned on.

However, the most essential part of it may not be the time of day, but the consistency.

You should strive to feed your plants at appointed times daily or every three, four, or so days.

It usually takes 15-24 hours after fertilizer application for a plant like the grass to absorb nitrogen into its leaves.

That is a plant grown in favorable conditions.

In short, such a plant should be fed every 24 hours or so, although this depends on other factors as well.

Now let’s also bear in mind that aquariums are not like the natural settings where lights are on during the day and off at night.

Here, you set the schedule for everything depending on your availability.

In such circumstances, your morning may not be the planted tank’s morning.

What Else Should You Do To Improve Plant Growth Best?

Well, you have used the right fertilizer as prescribed, you have done all the necessary, but somehow things do not add up.

Some leaves still wilt.

What more could you do for your little aquatic farm?

There is more than one factor when it comes to healthy and fast aquarium plant growth.

Remember that photosynthesis can only effectively take place in the presence of light.

And that’s also the right kind of light.

In the absence of the sun, an LED light fixture is the best bet for stimulating this process and giving your plants that beautiful color.

Quality LED aquarium lighting will have the best spectrum, intensity and a long lifetime.

To save you a week or so of research I’ve created this guide that considers the best planted tank LED lighting.

Another factor that will have a positive impact on the growth of your aquatic plants is the substrate.

Remember the aquarium substrate is the only earth your plants know and rely on for support.

There are some that provide a huge amount of nutrients by depleting over time and also others that remain inert while being convenient for planting and storing nutrients for further use.

Which one should fit your particular aquarium setup? I’ve created a very detailed post on the best substrates for planted tanks , which you can visit by clicking the link.

It’s a rundown on what substrate is best for what occasion and what to look for in an aqua soil.

Over to You

I can now rest satisfied that I have fully equipped you with the necessary information you need to make an educated decision when it comes to aquarium plants and the best choice of fertilizer.

At the end of the day, it is you with the ultimate power to decide what is best for you.

When I was starting my fish-keeping journey, much of these pieces of information I have freely shared here were not available.

So you can imagine how difficult it was to figure out what may work and what may not.

I had to learn through trial and error, which is a cruel way to learn some lessons, especially when there is a price to pay for every wrong move.

At times ignorance involved substantial costs.

I’d not wish to see someone else go through that — not when I can help.

The little I could ask from you is that you bank on my words to avoid the pitfalls that come with fish-keeping.

I tend to base much of my advice on personal experience, not some widespread propaganda I have picked elsewhere.

I like to review mainly the products I have personally used or at least those that my most trusted and knowledgeable friends have recommended to me.

Something else: do not for a moment suppose that running an aquarium is a cumbersome undertaking.

Once you have mastered these seemingly complicated requirements, everything else would fall into place.

Keep doing your research.

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