Clean aquarium plants like a pro the guide to foliage purificationLearning the basics of how to clean aquarium plants is a must for all aquarists with heavily planted tanks. Whether natural or artificial, plants can go a long way in adding to your fish tank’s aesthetics, but what happens when mucking sets in? That’s where our foliage cleaning guide can help.

Keep reading this article as it will highlight several ways to keep your tank’s greenery looking spick and span.

How To Clean Aquarium Plants

Believe it or not, there’s more than one way of cleaning aquarium plants. The purification method you select will depend on the plant type and the kind of grime you want to eliminate. For instance, algae on aquarium plants is a pretty common problem for fish keepers.

That’s why this section (and the ones following it) will highlight cleaning methods based on different kinds of cleaning agents. All you need to do is scroll down and select the technique that suits you best.

This portion will highlight the steps aquarists will need to take when using vinegar to clean fish tank plants.

– Step 1

Vinegar can be a great cleaning agent and disinfectant. If you’re looking to clean live aquarium plants, vinegar is undoubtedly a safer option than bleach. Additionally, vinegar works well when it comes to removing built-up muck or algae from plants.

– Step 2

To prepare a vinegar dip for live plants, add one cup of white vinegar to a gallon of clean water. Ensure you’re using a clean container to create the soak, and it’s always best to avoid buckets used for household chores due to fear of trace chemicals from cleaning agents.

– Step 3

It’s best to opt for regular white vinegar for this purpose with about five to nine percent acetic acid. Once you’ve added the water and vinegar to the container, stir the mixture to blend the ingredients well.

– Step 4

Next, place the live aquarium plant of choice into the vinegar soak and set the timer for five minutes. Allow the plant to submerge fully into the soak.

– Step 5

Once the timer runs out, gently remove the plant from the soaking solution and place it in a container with clean water. Observe the plant’s leaves carefully for any remnants of algae or grime. If you notice algae remaining on the leaves, gently rub the slime away using your finger and thumb.

– Step 6

If the live plant you’re cleaning is of a sensitive variety, you might want to reduce the soaking time to two or three minutes to avoid damaging the plant. Additionally, never use anything abrasive to clear away the remaining algae on live plants after a vinegar soak. Doing so can injure the plant and cause concerns.

Finally, always avoid mixing any type of household cleaning agent with vinegar to achieve disinfection. Vinegar has ample sanitizing properties, and combining it with another cleaning agent can release harmful vapors.

Cleaning With Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide works similar to bleach when removing detritus or grime from plants, but it’s easier on the plants than the former. However, aquarists should note that hydrogen peroxide is not recommended as a cleaning solution for delicate live plants, such as carpet plants.

The more delicate live plants can become irreparably damaged if their roots soak up a lot of hydrogen peroxide, so it’s best to keep the roots from being submerged in the soaking solution if possible. Here’s how you can go about cleaning your fish tank foliage with peroxide.

– Step 1

Start by adding one teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide (three percent) to one gallon of water in an adequately-sized container and stir the mixture to combine the liquids.

Gently detach the live plant from your fish tank and dip it in the solution for 30 seconds only if you want to sanitize the plant. If you’re going to deep clean the plant, let it soak in the hydrogen peroxide solution for approximately five minutes.

– Step 2

If you’re looking to clean a delicate live plant with peroxide to eliminate algae, it’s best not to let the plant’s roots dip in the solution and keep the plant submerged for two to three minutes only.

– Step 3

Once the required time is up, scoop the plant from the soaking solution and place it in another container with clean water. Rinse the plant thoroughly to eliminate all traces of dirt, grime, and hydrogen peroxide. Change the water in the container and clean the plant again.

– Step 4

Aquarists using the hydrogen peroxide dip to clean plastic aquarium plants can safely leave the plant soaking in the solution for five minutes. However, if your artificial plant is brightly colored, it might be best to limit soaking time to three minutes to ensure the color doesn’t fade. Once the soak is over, follow instructions from step three to rinse out the plant.

Cleaning With Bleach

Bleach dips may sound a little overboard, but the truth is, aquarists dealing with heavy algae concerns have little option but to rely on bleach for cleaning aquarium plants.

While this method can be utilized for live and artificial plants, it’s best to leave bleach dips as a last resort when dealing with live foliage. Unfortunately, there’s not much choice when it comes to sanitizing aquatic plants in a disease-ridden tank, the latter is because soaking plants in diluted bleach can still end up damaging them to a degree.

However, the good news is, that hardy plants will almost always recover from the soaking with careful post-soak care, such as rinsing and fertilization. Here’s what cleaning your aquarium plant with bleach entails.

– Step 1

To prepare a bleach dip for aquarium plants, combine one cup of bleach with twenty cups of water in a clean container. Stir the dip mixture to incorporate the liquids well. For this technique, it’s best to stick to the standard, unscented bleach. Avoid using products like gel bleach.

– Step 2

Once the soaking solution is prepared, remove your live plant (or artificial plant) from the bleach solution and allow it to soak in the solution. If you’re dealing with a bad case of algae, set the timer for five minutes for hardy plants and three minutes for the delicate ones.

If you’re trying to clean plastic plants, carefully observe the plant after the three-minute mark and if you feel its colors fading, remove it from the solution.

– Step 3

Once the soaking time is up, remove the plant from the bleach solution and place it in a separate container with clean water. Use your hand to gently clean the plant’s leaves to avoid damaging the plant. Change the water and repeat this process one more time.

– Step 4

Next, fill the container with clean water again and allow the plant to soak in it for at least fifteen minutes before taking it out and placing it inside your fish tank.

FAQ Section

Since the internet is teeming with methods to clean fish tank plants, it can lead to a bit of confusion. If you still have some lingering queries in your head about cleaning live or artificial plants, take a moment to go through our FAQ section for some guidance.

1. How to Safely Clean Aquarium Plants?

Fish keepers who aren’t too comfortable with the idea of using cleaning agents (natural or otherwise) to clean aquarium plants can rely on two alternatives: aquarium salt or potassium permanganate.

Aquarium salt consists of sodium chloride and can work wonders if you’re dealing with a snail infestation on your plants.

On the other hand, potassium permanganate is a type of oxidizing agent and is highly recommended for fish keepers battling off parasite infestations. Here’s how to safely use both alternatives to clean your aquarium plants:

– Aquarium Salt

  • Mix one cup of aquarium salt into a gallon of water in a clean container and mix well.
  • Next, dip your live plant in the salt solution for no longer than 30 seconds and avoid submerging the plant’s roots.
  • Remove any snails you see trying to make an escape by hand and rinse the plant with clean water.

– Potassium Permanganate

  • Take an adequately-sized container with clean water and mix enough potassium permanganate to turn the water pink.
  • Dip the live plant into the solution and allow it to soak for at least 15 minutes.
  • Next, remove the plant when the timer is up and soak the plant in a separate container with clean water for an additional 15 minutes.

2. How Often Should You Clean Aquarium Plants?

While there’s no set answer to how often you should clean your aquarium plants, the truth is, setting up a weekly maintenance schedule can help keep algae and other related concerns away.

Additionally, if your tank setup is new, it’s essential to keep checking on and cleaning plants to ward off algae outbreaks. The risk of such problems will reduce as your aquarium matures, but vigilance will pay off in the early days.

Besides looking over details like fertilizers, removing any dead or decaying leaves is also vital. Decaying organic matter does not only promote algae growth but can also be responsible for pushing up ammonia levels, which is something you want to avoid at all costs.

Another critical aspect of live plant maintenance is carefully monitoring water parameters and ensuring all the equipment (like heaters, filters, CO2 kits) is working correctly. Even the slightest imbalance can give way to bigger concerns in a new aquarium, and that’s why monitoring your plants two to three times a week is essential.


Clean aquarium plants like a proCleaning aquarium plants can be a little for first-time fish keepers, but once you get the hang of things, it becomes easier. Here’s a quick rundown of the important pointers covered throughout this article:

  • Fish keepers can clean aquarium plants by several means, but the method you select should depend on plant type and the immediate problem (i.e., algae, parasites).
  • The more sensitive live plants with an algae problem can be cleaned via a white vinegar soaking technique. This cleaning method is also advisable for silk plants because vinegar isn’t too harsh on colors.
  • Aquarists dealing with a more robust algae outbreak can rely on hydrogen peroxide to clean live and artificial plants. However, it’s best not to submerge the roots of live plants in a hydrogen peroxide solution to avoid damage.
  • Another option fish keepers can utilize to combat algae and parasites and to sanitize plants in a disease-ridden tank is bleach.
  • Fish keepers hoping to avoid using cleaning solutions to clean aquarium plants can make use of aquarium salt or potassium permanganate to clean fish tank foliage.

Now that you’re aware of all the ways to clean aquarium plants, it’s time to collect your cleaning gear together and get to work on those greens!

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