6 Causes of Aquarium Plant Leaves Curling [Solution]

Plants being a part and parcel of the aquarium decoration, you cannot help but care about them. Apart from making your fish tank beautiful, aqua plants are also handy in terms of providing the fish a wild environment to swim through. They also contribute to the fish tank environment by releasing oxygen.

However, though aquarium (aquatic) plants are well known for their low maintenance, one of the basic problems is the leaves curling. Therefore, you need to have a clear vision regarding that. 

The most likely reasons for aquarium plants’ leaves curling include the inappropriate intensity of light, lack of nutrient level, especially calcium condesity, low CO2 levels in the tank water, and water flow rate. Therefore, taking care of these factors will also help you prevent unwanted scenarios.

Read this post to get a thorough idea about aquatic plant leaves curling. Know the specific measurement of different responsible elements and apply them to keep your aquarium decoration intact. 

What to Do to Cure Aquatic Plant Leaves Curling

Curling of aquarium plants

There are a few plants that have this leaf curling thing as natural stuff. In those cases, the leaf edge curls from time to time, and the scenario is supposed to be mitigated automatically. In such a case, you don’t need to bother at all.

Again, while changing the water, if you keep your plants out of water for 30 mins or more, they tend to curl leaves. In an actual alarming scenario, you’d find the curling along with a shriveled appearance on the plant itself. Then, you must identify the reason for such and take care of it.

Find the probable reason and measures to take for both treatment and prevention as follows:

1. Inaccurate Light Intensity

Aquatic plants are robust in nature and more adaptable to different situations. They tend to react to events only if there is a notable imbalance. If your lighting unit is not providing the expected or required light amount to the tank or maybe exceeding the required amount, then it becomes an issue for the plants.

You might choose the wrong lighting unit for your tank. The cheaper units are responsible for carrying inaccurate lighting intensity dials on them. Which will prevent you from providing the very required light even though you keep trying to adjust the light intensity. It’s because they are incapable of serving the exact amount of light fixed on the dial. 

Measures for Cure and Prevention

Adjust the lighting according to necessity. You must keep the lights on for at least 08 hours a day. But ensure that the lighting time mustn’t exceed 12 hrs a day.

For low-light consuming plants, maintain 10 – 20 lumen (0.25 to 0.5 watts) per liter. In the case of medium light-required plants, the intensity should be 20 – 40 lumens (0.5 to 1 watt) and more than 40 lumens (1 watt) per liter for high light needed plants.

Put your plant closer or far from the light source according to their responses. But don’t do this too often or too randomly. Whatever you need to do, do it gradually. Let the plant adapt.

Use this lighting unit to ensure the exact light for the plants. This will help you ensure the intensity level of your plants. (Our Pick: hygger Auto On Off LED Aquarium Light)

2. Nutrient Levels

You must know the necessary nutrients for plants. They are divided into two groups, micro, and macronutrients. These are the basic nutrients that are required for plant growth. Any deficiency might result in notable changes in the plant. 

Calcium is one of the macronutrients for plants. If your fish tank environment doesn’t contain enough calcium for your aquatic plants, they’ll react to that and the leaves will start curling. Or there might be an issue with other nutrients like excess Mg, K, or Nitrogen in the tank environment. This will eventually hinder the growth of your plants and they will start curling. 

Some other responsible factors might be a low density of NO3, PO4, etc. But excess of them might kill the plant.

Measures for Cure and Prevention

You need a kit for measuring your nutrients. Apply the proper amount of each nutrient on a regular basis. Closely observe the reaction of your plants and adjust the nutrient level accordingly. (Our Pick: API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT)

Ensure calcium is up to 40 – 50 ppm in your tank. This level should be enough to serve your purpose. In terms of a worse scenario, you may add slightly more than mentioned earlier.

You may try adding aqua soil and powder sand to your tank to maintain nutrient levels. Try to change your water up to 50 – 60% twice a week for cure. 

Adding Equilibrium and MGSO4 will also help you fight this. Maintain your tank nutrients with a proper measurement unit and prevent your plants from suffering from nutrient deficiency.

3. Low CO2 Levels

A low amount of CO2 in your fish tank might be a headache for both the plants and you. As you know, plants make their own food with the help of light, CO2, and chlorophyll, any deficiency would harm them on a large scale.

Deficiencies in CO2 would definitely hinder the growth of the plants. And the very early symptom is the leaves curling on their edges.

This is an issue that will affect the whole environment of the tank. You will find your plant leaves curling almost on all of the plants at the same time. This is not a serious matter but you can’t let it keep going. Otherwise, your plants might be affected for good.

Measures for Cure and Prevention

You need to keep your eyes open for the CO2 checker. Use a CO2 level checker for better accuracy. (Our Pick: Fluval CO2 Indicator Kit)

You need to make adjustments according to the reading on your CO2 checker. Aquatic plants require the standard CO2 checkers to turn a light green for their optimal CO2 levels.

In some cases, they may live fine in tanks where the CO2 level turns dark green. Get the gas infuser kit to add CO2 to your fish tank. Add CO2 roughly one hour before the lights are turned on. (Our Pick: MR. Aqua Co2 Turbo Diffuser)

Some Minor Reasons for Aquatic Plant Leaves Curling

aquatic plant leaves curling

Some random cases of aquatic plants leave curling when you don’t need to worry

There are some cases where the aquatic plant leaves curl on their own and that’s very natural. You need to keep aware of them. Otherwise, you might end up trying to adjust your other parameters and damaging the fine plants for real. 

1. The Latest Addition of Plants to the Aquarium

If you add plants to your aquarium lately, the plant that has been planted might find difficulties adjusting to the environment. And this slight incompetency for a while might curl the leaves. But as soon as the plant adjusts itself to the environment, it will be absolutely fine in no time. The time period can be more or less up to 2 weeks. 

2. Water Flow Rate

In some of the fish tanks where the water flow rate is slight, the plants in the aquarium might start to curl their leaves. It’s one of the random things and depends on your specific plant.

But on the other hand, the plants will remain absolutely fine where there are slightly higher water flow rates. 

You need to keep your water flow rate a bit higher for this case. Use your water flow rate filter for that. 

If you have considerably adequate filtration but appear to be slightly lower, you can add a simple air stone with an air pump in your fish tank. The bubbles out of the air stone will move water as they rise while popping. (Our Pick: Tetra Whisper Corded Electric Easy to Use Air Pump for Aquariums)

3. Some Specific Aquatic Plant Types and Their Leaves Curling

There are various types of aquatic plants like cryptocoryne, Anubis, aponogeton ulvaceus, etc. Whatever the scenario you name for their leaves curling, they tend to act in a similar way. 

The reasons behind aponogeton ulvaceus flower, Anubias plants, and cryptocoryne leaves curling are similar to the previously stated reasons. 

Take proper care of the lighting while maintaining accuracy, ensure the required nutrient level, and adjust the CO2 level accordingly to get rid of these plant leaves curling.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why Are My Aquarium Plants Shriveling Up?

Having a fish tank without aquatic plants is the rarest case. However, while having aquatic plants, you might be bothered by the slow growth rate or if you find the leaves are smaller than they are supposed to be. The most likely reasons are – inadequate lighting, deficiency in the nutrients level, or lack of required CO2. Take care of them and get your desired result.

How Do You Tell If Your Aquarium Plants Are Dying?

The basic signs that your aquatic plant is dying are the usual signs of nitrogen deficiency including older leaves turning yellow and translucent. Another notable sign is that these symptoms start at the leaf tips since the plant takes in nutrients from the older leaves which are at the bottom of the plant, to have new leaves on top of it.

How Do I Keep My Aquarium Plants Healthy?

To ensure the health of your aquatic plants, you must provide them with sufficient light. Aquarium plants need 8-12 hrs light a day. Don’t use any cheap lighting unit. Full-spectrum and fluorescent lighting is a must for them. Ensure the regular water change, keep the nutrient level intact, and maintain the CO2 level, and there you are!

Does Anubias Need Lots Of Light?

If you are thinking of the required lighting for Anubias Nana, you need to know that they are favorable to low lighting. The very exact amount should be less than 3 WPG (watts per gallon). However, they can survive up to moderate lighting of 3 – 5 WPG. You need to focus on providing this plant with sufficient lighting for 8 – 9 hrs a day. But the duration must not exceed 12 hrs a day. Otherwise, there will be impacts of such long lighting on the plant like leaves curling.


Aquariums remain incomplete without aquatic plants. Moreover, these plants add an elegant appearance to the fish tank. They also provide the living habitats of the tank with a wild environment to roam around. 

Therefore, at the preliminary stage, beginners might stumble in the case of taking proper care of the plants as a first-hand experience. You must not worry about stuff like aquarium plant leaves curling. All you need is the proper knowledge and apply the earlier mentioned measure for better and consistent results. 

Howard Parker

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