How to Clean Aquarium Plants: Safe & Effective Methods

Published February 5, 2021
Teenage girl cleaning a home aquarium

Plants enhance the tank's natural look, and fish keepers need to know how to clean aquarium plants and accessories. Some elbow grease may be necessary to remove algae from living, silk, and artificial plants. Hobbyists also need a cleaning schedule so plants do not accumulate algae.

How to Clean Aquarium Plants

Plastic plants are easier to care for than live plants. Artificial plants are available in beautiful colors and a variety of sizes for many aquarium layouts. Newbie fish keepers may want to keep the tank simple, and plastic is easier to clean! On the flip side, artificial plants are costly, and the fish want to nibble on live plants, so knowing how to clean both types is an essential skill.

How to Clean Plastic Aquarium Plants

If you have algae problems or foul water, fish keepers may easily clean plastic plants by running water over each one and gently wiping the decorations with a moist cloth. A small little sprayer attachment on the sink works well.

How to Clean Live Aquarium Plants

Fish keepers enjoy live plants, and a few are appropriate for newbie hobbyists. Clean water is the key to healthy plants. You may keep plants and plant leaves spotless by gently brushing each with a soft toothbrush held for plant aquarium use only. Water changes and vacuuming the water also helps keep plants healthy.

  • Never pinch off dead plant leaves with your fingers.
  • Watch for leaves with a yellow tint or decay as there may be a lack of iron in the tank.
  • Brown or black leaves may need less iron.
Man hand pumping out water to clean up the substrate in his aquarium

How to Clean Silk Aquarium Plants

Silk plants provide natural movement in the tank. Bleach will dull the color, and fish keepers need to clean silk plants the same way the artificial plants are maintained. Carefully apply a moist cloth to the plants. A stubborn silk plant may need a soft toothbrush.

A woman's hand is decorating the aquarium in a fishbowl

How to Clean Plants From the Wild

Carefully clean any plants you take from the wild or a local stream and run each in clear, cool water. Scrub them gently with a toothbrush to avoid introducing any disease and pests like snails.

Schedule to Clean Aquarium Plants

There is a method to the madness when it comes to cleaning aquarium plants. Yet, how often do plants need to be cleaned? Whether the plants are edible or easy to care for, the accessories must be kept pristine so fish stay healthy. Algae is typically the problem, so the goal is to keep it off the plants. A cleaning schedule is an excellent idea to stay on task.


Reposition any substrate plants that became uprooted and floated to the surface. Observe the color and overall health of the live plants.


To keep plants healthy during the weekly partial water change, clean all the live, artificial, and silk plants in the tank. Remove all the plants and scrub or soak each one to eliminate algae and pests.


Trim the dead stalks and leaves from live plants.

Fish in a home freshwater aquarium with plants

What Cleaners Are Safe

There are many appropriate DIY formulas to clean artificial and live plants. Hobbyists need to be careful, and soap or cleaner is not safe for the inside of your aquarium.


To create the solution for live plants, mix half a cup of vinegar with half a gallon of distilled water in a large bowl. For artificial plants, you mix half a cup of vinegar with half a gallon of water.

  • Soak the live plants with algae overgrowth for five minutes.
  • Soak the plastic plants with stubborn algae for 15 minutes.
  • Rinse plants thoroughly with tap water or distilled water before putting them back in your aquarium.

Hydrogen Peroxide

When preparing a hydrogen peroxide dip for live plants, be sure to use 3% hydrogen peroxide. This formula is effective against algae, parasites, fungus, and bacteria.

  • Mix two to three ml of 3% hydrogen peroxide to one gallon of water.
  • Dip your plant in the plant dip solution for no longer than five minutes.
  • Using gloves, remove the plant from the solution and gently rinse your dipped plant in a neutralizing rinse solution prepared with a concentrated dechlorinator at 3x times the recommended aquarium strength.

Different Aquarium Plants Need a Variety of Methods

Hobbyists may enjoy fish as long as the fish tank environment is clean and the aquarium accessories are spotless. Fish keepers need to keep a tight schedule, so this weekly cleaning task is top of mind. Healthy plants are just as important as clean water.

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How to Clean Aquarium Plants: Safe & Effective Methods