15 Best Aquarium Plants to Reduce Nitrates - 2020 Update

best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates

There are many benefits to have live plants in an aquarium. Apart from your aesthetic pleasure, live plants promote a healthy environment in an aquarium. 

Aquarium wastes produce ammonia and nitrate, and those are toxic gases, while live plants can utilize ammonia and nitrate to reduce harmful gas concentration.

Live plants also absorb carbon dioxide and add oxygen by the photosynthesis process. Many aquarists grasping the usefulness of live plants in an aquarium, search for suitable ones. 

In this article, we’ll talk about the best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates. We hope your exploring is going to be more manageable with this.  

Types of Aquarium Plants to Reduce Nitrates

There are many types of aquatic plants to use in aquariums. All plants with green leaves can utilize bad gas like ammonia, nitrate, and carbon dioxide to add oxygen through the photosynthesis process. Here we listed some popular kinds of plants that you can consider the best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates.  

Moss Balls

Moss balls are round in shape and look impressive. They are very straightforward to maintain and perfect for beginners. 

Moss balls grow very slow, but usually, they grow healthy. Moss balls can establish a healthy aquarium environment as they are capable of absorbing nitrate and producing oxygen. 


Frogbits are floating aquatic plants, and they have Lily pad shaped leaves. These plants are also perfect nitrate remover and can establish a healthy aquatic environment. But these plants grow very fast and require trimming. Like all other floating plants, they have a unique aesthetic appeal. 

Water Lettuce

Water Lettuce are larger floating plants with long square leaves. These plants are visually beautiful and nicely decorate an aquarium. You can keep them in your aquarium to reduce nitrates as well. 


Duckweeds are floating plants with round leaves. These plants grow very fast, and your aquarium will be full of an innumerable number of leaves in a quick time. Therefore they are excellent in nitrate absorbing but at the same time require frequent trimming. 

Water Sprite

Water Sprites are a kind of fern with attractive leaves. Meanwhile, submerged plants are better for nitrate reduction than floating plants, and Water sprites are excellent for this purpose as they grow very fast. But they require trimming; otherwise, they might take over your aquarium to make a jungle.  

Benefits of having live plants in the aquarium

In nature, plants play a vital role as a part of the ecosystem; similarly, live aquatic plants can establish a biological cycle that keeps the aquarium environment healthy and stable in a fish tank. 

Establish a natural cycle

Fish and other aquarium inhabitants take dissolved oxygen (DO) from water and produce biological wastes. Ammonia, nitrates, and carbon dioxide are the ultimate forms of organic wastes. 

In contrast, aquatic plants can absorb ammonia, nitrates, and carbon dioxide as their nutrients and produce oxygen through photosynthesis. 

Reduce cleaning frequency

Live plants through their leaves can absorb dissolved pollutants, and at the same time, they take biological nutrients through roots from the substrate. Thus live plants are capable of purifying the aquarium water and eliminating harmful matters from the substrate.  

Live plants can establish a healthy natural cycle in aquariums to perform biological filtration, reducing the requirement of cleaning and maintenance.  

A natural home for inhabitants

Live plants create a natural environment in aquariums that makes fish and other inhabitants feel better. A natural home can give them feelings of security and comfort as they get places to take shelter and rest. 

Enhance beauty

Last but not least, live aquatic plants can make your aquarium visually appealing. They can enhance your aesthetic pleasure in such a way that no other decors can do. 

Pick the Best Aquarium Plants to Reduce Nitrates

Aquatic Arts Nano Marimo Moss Balls

Item no 1 in our list of the ‘best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates’ 

Marimo balls are something special! In Japanese tales, they are a symbol of good luck and family bonding. As family heirlooms, they pass down from generation to generation from children to grandchildren. Marimo balls become larger and larger and continue to grow with each generation.

 Marimo balls represent the ‘everlasting love’ and appropriate to serve as mementos of newly wed’s special day. 

Marimo balls are very straightforward to maintain, and only they require occasional water change. Marimo balls can be excellent gifts for children to teach them how to grow their pets. 

Marimo balls are super easy to take care of, and they do not require any special lighting, and perfect for keeping in freshwater aquarium. 

These plants create an ideal home for fish in an aquarium, ensuring a healthy biological cycle. These plants usually grow very slow.

Aquatic Arts Giant Marimo Moss Balls

Item no 2 in our list of the ‘best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates’ 

Now we’ll talk about Giant Marimo Balls! These are also Marimo balls from the same provider, but not nano rather giant.  The Aquatic Arts sell Marimo balls of 2 to 2.5 inches, and they are bigger-sized than other provider’s products.  

You can grow new Marimo balls from a larger one! Simply pinch off some and roll it into a round shape. It will grow as a new Marimo ball. 

Marimo balls usually grow healthy, and they are hassle-free to maintain. Sometimes dead leaves of live plants cause the source of toxicity, while it is less probable with Marimo. 

G&Z 24 Water Spangles (Salvinia Minima)

Item no 3 in our list of the ‘best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates’ 

Water spangles are aesthetically pleasing, floating plants. They will make your aquarium looking awesome and establish a natural biological process. 

G&Z will provide 24 water spangles, and each spangle contains 4 to 6 leaves in a package. As they are floating plants, no substrate is necessary. 

But there is a limitation with floating plants; you cannot use them in aquariums where the water current is strong. For Betta fish tanks, these plants are perfect, because people don’t use high flow pumps in Betta tanks.

Water spangles are not suitable for ambient temperatures of less than 35 and more than 85 degrees Fahrenheit. 

G&Z 12 Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum)

Item no 4 in our list of the ‘best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates’ 

Frogbits are excellent for nitrate reduction as well as they are visually appealing. G&Z will provide 12 plants with three leaves for each in a lot. 

They grow very fast, and your aquarium will be full of leaves in a short period. They can absorb unwanted and unhealthy byproducts as nutrients and establish a healthy home for fish. 

As they are floating plants, the substrate is not a concern for them, and this specific type does not require any CO2 supplementation. 

After putting in aquariums, initial die-off is usual for any plants, but once they are stabilized, they will be lush and vigorous. 

Frogbits require trimming as they are fast-growing, and too high water flow is not suitable for them. 

AquaLeaf Aquatics Potted Tall Hairgrass

Item no 5 in our list of the ‘best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates’ 

Hairgrass can make your aquarium look natural and beautiful while also providing the benefit of biological filtration. If you buy this product, you will get one potted plant with leaves that are 15″ to 18″ tall.

In the US condition, these plants grow naturally without any addition of pesticides or any other chemicals. If needed, you can add fertilizer tabs a couple of inches from the roots. 

For taller aquariums, these grass plants are perfect for making a naturally healthy home for fish.

These giant Hairgrasses do well in medium light to high light and grow very fast. They may require regular trimming to stay in good shape.  

Greenpro Dwarf Hairgrass Live Aquarium Plants

Item no 6 in our list of the ‘best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates’ 

This product is dwarf Hairgrass. Dwarf Hirgrasses are excellent carpet plants that can give your aquarium a vibrant look, and at the same time, absorb nitrates and carbon dioxide. 

As they are dwarf in size, thus suitable for any aquarium sizes and comfortable to maintain. 

The manufacturer ensures that Greenpro Dwarf Hairgrass will not bring any algae, disease, pest, and snail in your aquarium.

 These are tissue culture plants and grown in the sterile process. Tissue Culture plants can quickly adapt to a new environment and develop healthily. 

You can plant them in any type of substrates, driftwood, or rocks. These dwarf Hairgrass usually do better in high light aquariums. 

SubstrateSource Live Aquarium Plant

Item no 7 in our list of the ‘best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates’ 

‘Echinodorus bleheri’ are South American plants and can be 8 inches to 20 inches tall. 

These plants are bright green in appearance and can add a beautiful natural look in aquariums and perfect to have in freshwater community tanks. 

These plants remain fully submerged in water, and while growing, they absorb nitrate nutrients to purify the water.  Another benefit of these plans is, they can grow in a low light environment. 

It is better to plant them towards the back of the aquarium to take advantage of the deeper substrate and grow as background plants. The suppliers will supply you as potted plants, grown in a soil-free Rockwool media. 

Follow the instruction of the plant guide (provided with the box) while you are going to plant them in the aquarium.  

AquaLeaf Aquatics Java Fern Bare Root

Item no 8 in our list of the ‘best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates’ 

AquaLeaf Aquatics provides a young Java Fern of 4 to 6 inches in size. 

Java Fern grows very slow but capable of excellent support in absorbing unwanted aquarium byproducts. They can root easily in driftwood, rocks, or any types of substrates. 

The aesthetic appeal of Ferns in an aquarium is unarguable; they can create a unique natural waterscape.  They make an ideal home for little fish and invertebrates, providing places to hide and rest.   

As they are slow-growing plants, frequent trimming is not required, thus hassle-free to maintain. 

You do not need to plant it, just put them in the water and the rest they will do by themselves naturally. These Ferns are useable for Cichlids and larger South American fish, but not suitable for extreme weather conditions.

 As they are slow-growing plants and come small in size, if you are looking for large plants, they might disappoint you.  

Mainam Anubias Barteri Coin Leaves

Item no 9 in our list of the ‘best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates’ 

Anubias barteri plants are from West Africa. 

They are visually very appealing with round leaves and can thrive in aquariums. They are low light hardy plants, and straightforward to maintain.

 They grow very slowly and will not require frequent trimming.

Bright green leaves and white roots make them look beautiful, and they are capable of absorbing nitrates to build an aquarium healthy. 

It is better to anchor the roots with the substrate, instead of burying them. These plants will create a safe, natural home for your fish.

These plants usually thrive in any kind of aquarium, but in a high light environment, algae growth on the leaves is possible, so better to remain careful about it. 

Mainam Hygrophila Salicifolia Sp. Narrow Leaf

Item no 10 in our list of the ‘best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates’ 

Salicifolia Narrow Leaf plants originated from Southeast Asia. They are gorgeous looking aquatic plants and perfect for the aquarium background. 

The narrow green leaves will flow like a willow when grown enough, and they grow very fast. So to keep these leaves in good shape, regular trimming is necessary. 

Besides creating a natural perspective, they are quite capable of reducing nitrates. Fast-growing plants naturally require more foods than others, and they can absorb a significant amount of nitrates and other unwanted byproducts as nutrients. 

For fast-growing plants, it is not unusual to find dead leaves or stems sometimes, and fallen leaves or stems can affect adversely for the aquarium environment, so you have to take care of this. 

Aquarium Plants Factory Anubias Nana Petite

Item no 11 in our list of the ‘best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates’ 

Anubias nana is a family member of Anubias barteri and originated from West Africa.  Anubias nanas are visually lovely plants with a compact body and large dark green leaves. 

The provider Aquarium Plants Factory will give you one Anubias Nana ‘Petite’ on driftwood, in this package. With the driftwood base, it is easy to place the plant anywhere in the aquarium without disturbing fish or the substrate. 

These plants are hardy and suitable for a variety of conditions. You can keep them fully submerged or partially.  These are small plants and can cover the substrate entirely, making an ideal home for bottom-dwelling fish. Whereas the deep green leaves can beautify an aquarium perfectly. 

Anubias nana plants can remove pollutants and add oxygen to make a healthier environment in the aquarium. 

Greenpro Live Aquarium Plants for Beginner

Item no 12 in our list of the ‘best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates’ 

‘Greenpro’ provides different types of aquatic plants suitable for beginners, tied on driftwoods, so get it and just drop it in your aquarium, done! These plants can beautify an aquarium perfectly and quite popular among users.

Besides creating a natural look, they are also capable of establishing a natural filtration system. Green plants absorb pollutants like nitrate, ammonia, and carbon dioxide and add oxygen to the water. 

The base driftwoods are natural, and they can add nutrients like cellulose and tannins for your fish making them healthier. Like their natural home, fish will feel safe. 

The size of these plants is a maximum of 10 inches, thus suitable for small aquariums also. It is better to rinse live plants thoroughly before you put them in the aquarium.  

Planterest Live Aquarium Plant

Item no 13 in our list of the ‘best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates’ 

Echinodorus amazonicus, these plants are native to the Central Americ and South America, known as ‘Amazon Sword.’

This product package includes one bundle of ‘amazon sword’ with six inches long. Users are quite happy and provided positive feedback about this product. 

Beautiful and green amazon swords can beautify your aquarium perfectly. They are usually fast-growing plants and can absorb a significant amount of nitrates. These plants can create a comfortable natural home for your fish. 

You can plant them in any type of substrate, including gravel, but preferable to plant them in loosely packed plant substrate. 

Aqua L'amour Live Aquarium Floating Plant

Item no 14 in our list of the ‘best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates’ 

These plants are Frogbids provided by Aqua L’amour, and they will supply six plants with three leaves for each plant in a lot. Frogbids are very fast-growing plants and excellent at ammonia and nitrate removal from an aquarium. 

These are floating plants, and they can cover your whole aquarium with small round leaves in a short period.

They are easy to grow but might require regular grooming. No CO2 supplementation is necessary, but frequent nutrient dosing will promote their growth. 

Extreme ambient temperature is not suitable for Frogbits, so the supplier does not go for any shipment if the day time temperature of the delivery area is below 35 or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. 

As these plants thrive in favorable conditions with so many leaves, you have to be careful of rotten leaves as they can pollute the aquarium water. 

Greenpro Microsorum Pteropus Live Aquarium Plant

Item no 15 in our list of the ‘best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates’ 

Microsorum Pteropus plants are java fern originated from Asia. 

These aquatic plants are versatile to use in different types of aquariums. These plants can be grown up to 15 inches, and they are excellent nitrate absorber. In this product package, you will get one potted plant of 4 to 6 inches long. 

Java ferns are easy to maintain, so if you are just a beginner, it is suitable for you too. They grow on sands, gravels, driftwoods, or whatever the substrate you use. 

Healthy java ferns can establish a healthy biological cycle in aquariums, not only nitrates they absorb Carbon dioxide and oxygenate the water through photosynthesis. On the other hand, they create a natural home for your fish giving shelter and security. 

The visual appeal of these plants is exciting; shiny green leaves can take the beauty of your aquarium to a new level. The vendor brand achieved an excellent reputation for managed shipment and quality products.  

Essential consideration while selecting the best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates

Absorption capability:

While selecting live aquarium plants to reduce nitrates, the first criteria should be their nitrate absorption capacity.

Submerged plants are better nitrate absorber than floating plants, as submerged plants can take dissolved nitrates through leaves as well as through their roots. In contrast, floating plants are capable of absorbing nitrates through their roots only.

Fast-growing plants are excellent nitrate absorber, so if you can select fast-growing plants and submerging plants, they will be sound nitrate absorbers. Water sprites or Java fern can be an excellent choice considering this point.

Maintenance requirements:

As living beings, aquarium plants require maintenance like all other aquatic pets. If you cannot keep them healthy, dead leaves or stems can pollute the aquarium environment. So it is better to select plants that are easy to maintain.
If plants are fast-growing, regular trimming will be essential, or they will build a jungle quickly. Usually, floating plants like frogbits are fast-growing and cover the whole aquarium in a short time.

Visual appeal:

Live aquarium plants can enhance your aquarium’s beauty in a way that no other decors can do.
They can add an attractive natural look to your aquarium. So, the aesthetic is another important consideration while choosing the best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates.

Lighting requirement: 

All live plants require light to flourish. Proper lighting can make them healthy, promoting photosynthesis. Plants add oxygen to the water through the photosynthesis process.
Some aquatic plants need a high light environment to grow properly, while many plants need only medium and low light situations.
So light available in your aquarium is an essential consideration while you are picking live plants.


Does adding plants help lower the aquarium nitrate level? 

Live aquatic plants in an aquarium naturally absorb nitrate as a nutrient. Submerged plants can absorb dissolved nitrates by their leaves as well as by their roots. In a favorable condition, live aquatic plants can help a lot to reduce the nitrate level in aquariums.
You have to make sure live plants are healthy, otherwise dead leaves and stems can be contributing factors to add more nitrate, which will do evil instead of doing good.

What is the desired nitrate level in a planted tank?

It depends actually! In fast-growing plants, the nitrate absorption rate is higher compared to others. In the best cases, aquarium plants can absorb five ppm nitrate per day.
If you take reasonable measures to control nitrate formation sources and nitrate formation is rate is not that high, hopefully, you will be able to keep the nitrate concentration from 10 to 25 ppm, and that is acceptable.

Can high nitrate kill plants?

Nitrates are nutrients to plants. But if the nitrate concentration is too high and above 150 ppm, that can be harmful to plants. ‘Nutrient burn’ is the effect, and plant roots suffer from it, and become unhealthy.
On the other hand, excess nitrate can cause algae growth, and too high algae in the water can cause asphyxiation for plants, and they might demise.

Final Words

Having live plants in the aquarium is an excellent idea. Plants can create a natural aquascape and can establish a natural ecosystem. Plants enhance the visual appeal of an aquarium and make a natural habitat for aquatic pets.
We hope this article will be helpful in your venture of searching for the best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates.
Healthy aquatic plants are capable of lowering unwanted gas like nitrate, carbon dioxide, and ammonia at the same time, and they add oxygen to your aquarium.
An oxygen-rich aquarium is a healthy home for fish and other species, and that is your ultimate desire as an aquarist.

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Sujit Modak Aquarium Tales Owner
Sujit Modak

Hello, everyone! Welcome to my aquarium blog. Fishkeeping is my passion, and I started this fascinating hobby back in 2006. Besides my engineering profession, I deeply studied many fishkeeping topics since I started building my home aquarium. I researched effective aquarium filtration and lighting of planted aquariums. I am keeping 20+ species of freshwater and saltwater fish as my aquatic pet collection. I successfully experimented with a complex ecosystem inside the aquarium, biotope aquariums, aquaponics, etc. I would love to share some learnings from my hands-on experience of the last 14 years. Hopefully, my sharing will be somewhat helpful to make your aquarium journey awesome! 

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