These saltwater plants will breathe life into your aquarium

Your saltwater fish come from the ocean, and you can create a marine environment in your tank that will make them feel at home. Alongside a wide array of tropical fish, saltwater aquarium plants will spice up your aquatic display with vivid colors and trippy shapes. Saltwater plants give your fish safe surroundings to interact with and can even help keep your aquarium clean! Drop a few of these plants into your fish home for an exciting tank setup.

Saltwater aquarium with coral and fish
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Green finger algae

So named for its spindly, tentacle-like appearance, this plant adds a bright, geometric presence to your aquarium. Like many macroalgae, it can help clean the tank and add oxygen, vital to your saltwater aquarium. One word of caution here: Green finger algae likes slightly cooler temperatures, so research companion fish and plants carefully before purchasing.

Spaghetti algae

Aquarium plants are well named, and spaghetti algae is no exception (it’s also sometimes known as green hair algae). This long, streaming plant forms floating clumps but also attaches to rock. A perfect hiding and breeding spot for your inhabitants, this algae also helps maintain your ecosystem by removing phosphates and nitrates from the water.

Plants and fish in an aquarium
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Like any grass, seagrass needs to put down roots, so plan on having enough sand in your tank. In the right environment, your seagrass will thrive in bunches, but it can be a bit tricky to get started. As a major benefit, seagrasses give your fish some welcome shelter.

Mermaid’s fan

This saltwater plant will bring a unique shape to your aquarium. The leaves resemble a green fan and grow on the floor of the tank. Because they require a lot of calcium, you’ll need to measure and adjust your water frequently to maintain the correct balance. Their unique look will make the extra work well worth the effort.


Another attractive addition, halimeda grows in small ovals that look a bit like coins. These small disks form long chains attached to the bottom or to rocks. Like the mermaid’s fan, your halimeda will want calcium nutrients. Halimeda is a must-have for many a marine enthusiast, but you probably will have best results by beginning with one of its varieties if you’re just diving into saltwater plants. Let them mostly alone, too — halimeda plants don’t like to be overpruned.

Water primrose

Unlike many other aquarium plants, water primrose can grow in the water or above it. It can also display a distinct reddish-brown color that will liven up your otherwise green aquarium. This versatile plant makes a great addition to your aquarium but needs iron fertilizers to grow best. You’ll want to maintain an ideal environment for your water primrose to ensure you get the vibrant color on the leaves.

Red mangrove

To round out your aquascaping, consider this interesting plant that grows more like a tree. You’ll start with a tuber to root in your tank, but the leaves grow out above the waterline, creating a forest-like aesthetic. This plant requires a bit more maintenance — you’ll need to trim frequently so it doesn’t get too tall and remove leaves as they fall. However, you’ll be pleased with such a distinctive addition to the plant life in your tank.

No matter how long you’ve had your aquarium, adding a few new and interesting plants will help liven the place up and ensure you’re taking the best care of your fish. Mix and match these plants for the best-looking aquarium, but keep in mind that not all plants and fish can live together. Some plants prefer specific temperatures, lighting, and nutrients, and not all environments will be conducive to all plant species. Begin with a few basics that work well together and add on as your hobby grows. Don’t forget to account for plant growth when thinking about space. You can always set up another aquarium with a slightly different ecosystem to incorporate new plant and animal species.

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