Nitrates just should not be in the water of your fish tank. While it is not the number one most harmful substance to fish, it is still not a great thing to have in any tank. Thankfully, there are lots of nitrate consuming plants out there that can help filter your aquarium from this substance.
This substance can cause a number of problems that you don’t want to deal with, so it is crucial to nip the problem in the butt before it comes to full fruition. Nitrate removing plants are really important, so let’s go over some of the best aquarium plants to reduce nitrates right now (Moss balls are our top pick).
Here Are Our Top 6 Picks
6 Best Aquarium Plants To Reduce Nitrates
Without a doubt, duckweed is one of the best plants out there for using up and absorbing nitrates in the water (you can buy it here). This is a floating plant with hundreds of rounded floating leaves.
This thing almost looks like tons of miniature Lilly pads all connected together. It’s a good option for a tank that could use some floating plants and for fish that like getting some cover or shade.
In terms of using and absorbing nitrates, duckweed is definitely a good choice. It is really fast growing and it multiplies fast, and therefore it tends to eat up a whole lot of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates too.
What is convenient about duckweed is that it is really easy to grow. As long as the water is fairly clean, it contains some nutrients, and you provide it with some light, duckweed will grow like, well, like weeds. As far as we know, it is one of the best natural water filters out there, plus it looks nice too.
Keep in mind that this stuff does grow fairly fast, so one downside might be that you have to trim it often to keep it from overtaking the tank. However, other than that, there are no real problems that you will experience with duckweed, maybe except for the fact that fish tend to eat it sometimes.
However, this can be seen as both a bonus and a drawback. Most fish love this plant, and those who don’t, well at least they won’t eat it! You can also grow this stuff as feed which we have covered over at this article.
2. Moss Balls
When it comes to looking cool, these moss balls are definitely up there in the popularity charts. In terms of their look, these are little green moss balls that look like mini furry tennis balls.
These particular moss balls come with several benefits. First and foremost, they are well known for absorbing, processing, and using nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia in the water.
They act as really good natural filters. They are in fact one of the best natural filters for fish tanks out there. We do also like how these moss balls are very low maintenance. They don’t grow very fast, they don’t need all that much light, and they can survive in some pretty harsh conditions.
This means that they don’t need much maintenance and there is virtually no chance of them overtaking your fish tank either. They will grow, but not too quickly, which definitely helps make things a bit easier. To be clear, you get 4 of these moss balls in each pack.
One thing to keep in mind here is that while snails and shrimp might not eat this stuff, larger fish like koi will definitely eat them. This is a drawback that you need to be aware of. Another problem with them is that you might actually need to throw these moss balls out after a few months. They might suffer from the problem of absorbing too many nitrates to the point where they are maxed out.
However, we do like the particular Marimo moss balls because they are free of chemicals and pesticides, which is always nice when it comes to putting something in the same tank with your living pet fish.
3. Water Sprite
Yet another great plant for tank filtration, especially when it comes to removing ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates from a fish tank, water sprite is beautiful, it works well, and is easy to maintain too (you can buy Water Sprite here).
Water sprite grows pretty quickly, which is good when it comes to nitrites and nitrates. This is because the faster a plant grows, the more stuff like nitrates it absorbs from a tank.
While water sprite does require pruning and maintenance to be performed fairly often due to its fast growth, it definitely does a good job at filtering fish tank water. Other than that, water sprite does not require any overly special conditions.
It does like fairly well-filtered water, it likes fertilizer, and it does need a fair amount of light. However, these conditions should not be hard to meet as long as you have a decent aquarium setup to begin with.
What is also good about water sprite is that as long as there are enough nutrients present in the tank, it can be planted in pretty much any type of substrate. This plant is also referred to as the Indian Water Fern, probably because it originally comes from India and it looks like a cool little fern. It makes for a really nice foreground or mid-ground plant. Many fish and snails do like to eat this stuff, so that is something to watch out for.
4. Anacharis Elodea
This plant actually looks very similar to water sprite, which is not a bad thing at all. It features long green stems with tons of little elongated leaves. It makes for a really nice plant no matter where you plant it in the tank.
It does grow fairly tall, so we would recommend using it as a foreground or mid-ground plant, just like the water sprite. Anacharis do tend to grow pretty fast, which can be both good and bad.
On one hand, the fast growth means that the Anacharis does a great job at filtering out ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates out of the tank, which is of course what we are going for here. On the other hand, this plant will require a fair bit of maintenance in terms of trimming.
If you don’t trim it fairly often, it will overtake your tank, at least if you have a small tank. It grows fairly tall, so it will reach the top of your tank pretty fast. That being said, it’s really all a matter of preference and needs.
We do like Anacharis because it is really low maintenance, which is always nice. It doesn’t need too many nutrients, it only needs a bit of light, and it does well when planted in various substrates. It’s a nice little aquarium plant that adds some life to the mix, is not hard to care for, and does a darn good job at water filtration.
Frogbit looks a lot like the duckweed, which was the first plant for nitrate reduction that we looked at. Frogbit also looks like little Lilly pads, but they are a lot bigger than duckweed leaves.
These are floating aquarium plants just like duckweed or Lilly pads. They feature rounded green leaves that float on top of the water. This makes frogbit a really good plant for any aquarium that could use some shade and cover for the fish.
Frogbit does grow fairly fast, which once again can be both good and bad. On one hand, you will need to trim it fairly often in order to stop it from overtaking the tank. Letting this stuff grow too much can result in way too much cover that blocks a lot of light from getting into the tank.
However, the fast growth of it does help make it a good aquarium filtration plant. It absorbs a heck of a lot of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates from the tank, which is of course what we are going for here.
Other than that, frogbit is very low maintenance. It is not a rooted plant, so as long as there are some nutrients in the water, it should grow just fine, plus you don’t even have to worry about substrate.
It does like to have a fair amount of sunlight and it likes fairly clean water too. However, it is a pretty hardy and resilient plant, so you should have no problem keeping it alive for a prolonged time.
6. Water Lettuce
Ok, so just imagine a large head of lettuce or a cabbage that is blooming and opening up like a flower. This is exactly what water lettuce looks like, like mix between a head of lettuce and a large, green, blooming flower.
It features long and green square leaves that are slightly rounded at the front. If there is one thing to be said about water lettuce, it is that it looks really neat.
This is another floating plant, the largest one on this list today. Being big is both good and bad. On one hand, its large size does make it a good filter for nitrates. It uses a lot of nutrients and absorbs a lot of substances in the water, which is a good thing no doubt.
On the other hand, this plant is large, so you need to have an aquarium size to match its spatial needs. If your tank is not big enough, water lettuce will end up blocking out a lot of light.
That being said, this stuff is also fairly low maintenance. It just needs a bit of nutrients in the water, it needs some good light, and some pretty clean water too. It doesn’t take much maintenance and it doesn’t grow all that fast either. Fish usually really like this stuff because it can provide them with some good cover and shade.
Why Are Nitrates Harmful To My Tank?
The good news is that nitrates are not quite as harmful to your fish as some other substances are. You see, fish waste, decaying plants, and decaying food all produce ammonia in the water.
Even minimal amounts of ammonia can be deadly to fish. However, good bacteria, usually the result of a good biological filter, have the power to break ammonia down into nitrites.
Nitrites are less harmful to fish than ammonia, but still very deadly. Luckily, those same bacteria also break down nitrites into nitrates, which are much less harmful to fish. Yes, a large nitrate volume in the tank is still bad for fish, but not nearly as bad as ammonia or nitrites.
A large amount of nitrates can still cause fatal ramifications, but it takes a lot more than ammonia or nitrites. The worst part about nitrates is that they often cause algae blooms, which comes with its own set of problems. This is why it is a good idea to have some aquarium plants that can help reduce nitrates in the water.
What Type Of Plants Are The Best?
To be totally honest, it really doesn’t matter too much. You can get floating plants, submersed plants, and rooted plants too. The main point here is that the plants need to feed off of the water column for the most part.
This is how they work to remove nitrates from the water. As long as the plant grows fairly quickly and feeds on the nutrients water a great deal, it will make for a perfect nitrate reducing plant.
So, just to repeat, nitrates are bad for your fish tank, but not as bad as some other things like ammonia or nitrites. Luckily, the above aquarium plants we looked at are all great options for reducing this pesky substance. Now it is up to you to choose which is the best aquarium plant to reduce nitrates for your specific fish tank. High nitrate absorbing plants are definitely very useful!