Why are my plants melting!? A checklist for the Aquarist

Why are my plants melting!? A checklist for the Aquarist

A planted tank is more than just a set up the people construct. It isn't something that is done just for the heck of it and often times, a lot of care, time, and money go into making these planted tanks and aquascapes magnificent. However, there are several points to take note of in order to provide a healthy environment for the plants and fish in your planted aquarium. Even small mistakes can turn into disastrously great problems.

Whether you have purchased the wrong plants or did not provide them with proper care, there are many reasons which can result in the melting of your tank plants. In order to avoid this issue in the future, make sure you properly investigate and research suitable plants for your aquarium that can be maintained and kept up with, without any hassle. To assist our readers in this matter, we have highlighted a few reasons and solutions as to why certain aspects can result in the of melting plants and provide an easy brush up on besting this problem. So, if you are excited to learn some of the best methods and techniques to make your tank plants look natural and beautiful, this article is sure to provide you with basic working knowledge of plant melting.

What is the root cause of plants melting in an aquarium?

Of course, there are some natural causes which weaken the health of fish, plants, and other life in your planted tank. Small mistakes and oversights can also proceed toward plant melting. But what the heck is plant melting and where does it come from? Plant melting is not frequently heard, but it is a common issue in the planted tank community and is usually the result of freshly moved plants or wonky water conditions.

At the start, make sure you are aware of the growing habits of your new plants to plan your tank environment accordingly. Ask the shop owner or another source about best aquatic plants suitable for your planted tank so that you can make an educated decision without any issue, addressing concerns before bringing any new tank members home.

Some aquatic plants can only survive in large aquariums with plenty of CO2. Knowing your tank's output and understanding its details can help you prepare your newly acquired plants before they are introduced to your tank. Under normal conditions, plants usually do not melt, but in the instance they do, you will need to know how to respond when it does happen. Furthermore, most plants have a slower growth rate in comparison to their out of water counterparts, and you will need to have some patience and follow a few guidelines to ensure their proper growth. If your CO2 levels are fluctuating or if you're the type to try to tweak the levels constantly, this could be why your plants suffer. Set it and forget it! Instability = melting plants.

Possible reasons for your plants melting

Some of us may not focus on maintaining and caring for the upkeep of our fish tanks, but for aquarist and aquatic hobbyist, it is not considered a chore, but more of stress release and enjoyable activity. There are several natural factors that can kill plants aside from plant melting. One major cause of plants melting can be caused by to an algae attack, as it starts attacking plant structures from the roots. The health and nutritional process are some of the first functionalities to experience damage, which can cripple or kill your plants within days. Hair algae and diatoms are known to destroy new tanks rapidly. If your plants are melting due to hair algae, grab a Siamese Algae Eater and an army of Amano shrimp quickly. Also increase flow in the tank, up the CO2 a bit and reduce lighting. Then wait for things to stabilize.

Moreover, high levels of salinity and dirty water are also well-known causes or the weakening plant health that can lead to melting. If tank water is not changed routinely, then contaminants can build up, making survival conditions for plants worse. Some plants require correct nutrients and a CO2 supply that is properly setup, adding supplements and chemicals can absolutely kill your plants within no time.

One of the most common reasons new plants melt is mainly due to the way in which they were cultivated. Huh? Yep, that's right, believe it or not, a good chunk of aquatic plants are farmed in above water greenhouses, which explains a growing common occurrence in plant melting, as plants will need to produce new leaves that are suitable for underwater uptaking. This is why using carbon filter media, and heavy amounts of water changes are so important in the first couple months of setting up a tank. There will be so many organics in the water due to melting plants that water quality will go downhill fast. We want our plants to have best survival rate possible. Plant heavily and make sure you start with some carbon. You can remove carbon media after the first three months.

How to avoid plants melting

Now that we are aware of a couple of factors and aspects that can cause your planted tank's environment to go south, it is time to look into what to do to avoid it through routine maintenance and care that will provide them a better health and beauty environment to thrive in.

Firstly, let's focus on routine cleaning and dosing of your planted tank. As fish waste, deposits, biomatter, and other bio-loads produced by your tank will tend to cover the ground surface, leading to difficulty in the survival of plants and can harm more than just growth. Performing water changes routinely will ensure that the water remains clean, clear, and free of potential contaminants or mineral/element build up that the hobby does not have adequate testing for. Perhaps the planted tank hobby will be lucky enough to one day have access to something like the Triton Method for reef tanks where every aspect of our water will be able to be tested for impurities. Adding any chemicals or detergents to clean your fish tank will worsen effects on the health of both plants, fish, and other aquatic life. Additional cleaning chemicals and detergents are harmful and leave residue behind in water, which can prove to be hard to recover from as it is very toxic. Also, make sure that there are no metal hose clamps or small parts anywhere in your tank or filter. Metal will erode over time, and heavy metals can cause your plant health to deteriorate.

How to avoid plants melting
How to avoid plants melting

For plants that are treated routinely through dosing, do not forget to perform a water test to ensure your dosing supplements do not greatly change or alter the chemistry of the water. Dosing is a way to provide additional nutrients to compensate and stimulate plants that usually in high-tech CO2 setups, where the plant load requires more than the substrate can provide. Using a poorly planned treatment regimen can cause more damage to both of the plants and fish than you may realize.

In order to grow in environments where CO2 being amply supplied, additional ferts are usually used. Not only cannot monitoring these dosing levels causing shock leading to melting, but it can also spark algae outbreaks, and if you have experienced an algae attack or know someone who has gone to war with algae, then you know that it is a war for the long run.

Special care and maintenance

Melting is usually caused by insufficient lighting, poor CO2 supply, and in most cases introducing a new plant into a fresh environment. Never compromise planted tank by skimping on your tank accessories and most certainly do your homework before just jumping in. Poor water conditions can damage plant growth and weaken fish health and activity.

Hopefully, now you are aware of a couple reasons that cause plant melting, experts advise using a generous dose of Excel along with introducing a proper CO2 supply mechanism. Weak lighting can result in malnutrition in plants, so ensuring they have the right amount of light is another tally to mark on your setup checklist. Furthermore, keep checking your CO2 supply to make sure it is performing and introducing CO2 into your tank at the correct rate. This is usually done with the help of a bubble counter.

The requirements of lighting depend a lot on the size and density of plants and fish in any aquarium, whether it be a breeding tank, aquascape, or a planted tank bio-community. We have briefly discussed some of the major factors which result in plant melting that can also be looked at as segmented plant death. Introduced relevant care and maintenance steps that can be followed to avoid any future loss from plant melting. So, if you are worried about the weakening health of your plants, take note and find the root cause before reacting. Wiping down any plants and rinsing them very thoroughly before adding them to your tank is highly recommend. Big name brand stores often have their plants sprayed with pesticides and other products. You may find that by introducing these plants into the tank will cause all sorts of die off and problems. You can use a solution of H2O2 to soak your plants and wipe them down before adding to the tank.

Environmental factors

Have a scented candle in the room? How about aromatherapy or maybe you recently dusted near the tank with a can of Lysol. Believe it or not, these things easily get into the tank and can completely wipe out even the most established tank in a matter of hours. Make sure there are no fumes or bad air in the room you will put the aquarium. All it takes is one smelly candle or spray to ruin everything.

Each plant requires different environmental conditions in order to sufficiently survive, planted tank and fish tank owners are advised to research relevant information on their particular situations as not all tanks have the same maintenance requirements. Most plants will, however, adapt to fit your tank conditions. You can also seek help from their nearest aquatic plant store in order to find out more about suitable plant species. Moreover, protective measures to avoid algae and infectious bacteria attack are needed as they can kill your planted tank within weeks, even days if left unchecked. Early care can save your plants from deadly infections which will keep the growth rate intact and increasing during your efforts to produce a stunningly beautiful planted tank.

Summarizing the Melt

Keeping your planted tank safe from water contamination and stagnant water. can provide long-term benefits for both fish and plants in your underwater community. If you're having plant melting issues make sure you've covered the following checklist:

  1. Water changes. Large water changes 80%+ are okay if spaced a couple days apart. This is the number one thing you should do if you have issues.
  2. Increase flow in your tank. Even if you have good surface movement in your tank (which EVERY planted tank should have nice ripple throughout the entire surface area). Some areas of your tank can become dead spots, especially as plants grow in. Did your tank used to be perfect but now all of a sudden things are melting? It's probably because your flow is off. Do some trimming and crank up the powerhead.
  3. Increase CO2. If you have high flow/high oxygen in your tank, try upping or CO2. CO2 is often the issue for tanks. The higher, the better. Stop chasing CO2 ppm or trying to hit 30. Go as high as you possibly can without stressing the fish and then let it stabilize there without messing with it.
  4. Keep your hands clean before working in the tank. Even the slightest amount of oils or bacteria on our hands can ruin a tank. Wash your hands thoroughly before sticking your hand in.
  5. Lower the light. Yes, if plants are melting and you've increased CO2, lowering the light is the next step. It is very possible that your lighting was too high and your CO2 too low. We can tackle both issues.
  6. Utilize the EI method of dosing. It is proven, cheaper than any bottle formula, and easier than ever.
  7. If you're not running CO2, make sure your light source is capable. Some species of plants will not grow without CO2. You can use Flourish Excel in your tank to help plants uptake carbon and increase growth. If you have an inert substrate and a rooted plant is melting, make sure you have a root fertilizer such as Osmocote in your substrate to aid growth.

Some of the discussed factors can result in the death or melting of plants, special care and efforts are required to make sure your plants do not fall victim to this disorder by following the few tips and methods explained above.

Just keep your planted tank clean and use filtered water in order to make the water is perfect for both fish and plants. If you are really worried about the melting of your plants in your aquascape and have not found any of this useful, then it is time to be proactive and hit the forums to find the ultimate support.