List of marine aquarium plant species

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A planted reef aquarium filled with blade caulerpa (Caulerpa prolifera)
A seagrass aquarium housing several seagrass meadow inhabitants

Aquatic plants are used to give the aquarium a natural appearance, oxygenate the water, and provide habitat for fish, especially fry (babies) and for invertebrates. Some aquarium fish and invertebrates also eat live plants. Hobby aquarists use aquatic plants for aquascaping.

Marine algae are also included in this list for convenience, despite the fact that many species are technically classified as protists, not plants.

Brown macroalgae[edit]

Brown macroalgae are sometimes seasonally available in the aquarium trade. A few are desirable yet many are pests, often making their way into aquariums on live rock.[1]

Common name Image Taxonomy Care Level Growth rate Lighting Waterflow Palatable Description Max size
Deep-toothed gulfweed
Svenska vetenskapsakademien handlingar (1888) (14592833079).jpg
Sargassum platycarpum Expert[2] Slow[2] High[2] Moderate-High[2] Not really[2] This species commonly has pneumatocysts to keep it upright. Individuals may also have a holdfast which are the most suitable for aquariums. It should frequently be pruned.[2] 30 in (76.2 cm)[2]
Encrusting fan-leaf algae Lobophora sp. Moderate[3] Moderate[3] Low-Moderate[3] Low-Moderate[3] Somewhat[3] It is very similar to Scroll algae although it is not a calcified algae. It is rubbery to the touch and because it comes from deep waters, it doesn't require much lighting.[3] 10 in (25.4 cm)[3]
False sargassum
Chainbladder kelp (Cystoseira osmundacea).jpg
Cystoseira sp. Moderate[4] Slow[4] Moderate-High[4] Moderate-High[4] No[4] Commonly confused with Sargassum which has flat blades while False Sargassum has tight toothlike appendages. It also has lower nutrient requirements.[4] 18 in (45.7 cm)[4]
Iridescent algae
Doto coronata (Gmelin, 1791).jpg
Dictyota sp. Moderate[5] Moderate[5] Moderate-High[5] Moderate-High[5] Somewhat[5] The appearance of species within this genus vary greatly. Some display blue iridescence while others are a dull olive color. Larger bladed species are desirable as smaller ones can become invasive. They are all quite delicate however and have been known to clog pumps.[5] 12 in (30.5 cm)[5]
Pyramid seaweed
Turbinaria ornata (Cnidaria).jpg
Turbinaria sp. Expert[6] Slow[6] High[6] Moderate-High[6] To some fish[6] This tough macroalgae is rubbery to the touch and anchors itself to substrate using a holdfast. Some individuals grow in tight clusters while others bear a tall branch. It can be quite hardy if provided with strong flow and lighting so it should be placed near the top of an aquarium.[6] 2 in (5.1 cm)[6]
Scroll algae
Padina pavonica (Linnaeus) Thivy, 1960 1.jpg
Padina sp. Expert[7] Slow[7] Moderate-High[7] Moderate-High[7] No[7] Also known as Potato algae, it is quite desirable given its beauty. It requires calcium supplementation as it is the only calcified brown macroalgae.[7] 6 in (15.2 cm)[7]
White-vein sargassum
Sargassum hystrix (White-vein Sargassum Algae).jpg
Sargassum hystrix Expert[8] Slow[8] High[8] Moderate-High[8] Not really[8] This species is tolerable of cooler temperatures that most other macroalgae and attaches itself to hard surfaces using a holdfast. A variety known as Sargassum hystrix buxifolium exists and lacks a white colored mid rib.[8] 24 in (61.0 cm)[8]

Green macroalgae[edit]

Green macroalgae are extremely diverse and abundant, coming in a wide variety of shapes. They can reproduce via fragmentation or the releasing of spores. The second option, which is used by Caulerpa, can be quite problematic in an aquarium.[9]

Common name Image Taxonomy Care Level Growth rate Lighting Waterflow Palatable Description Max size
Basket weave
Anadyomene wrightii.JPG
Anadyomene sp. Moderate[10] Slow[10] Moderate[10] Moderate[10] To some fish[10] Most specimens make their way into aquariums through live rock and calcareous algae collected from the wild. It possesses irregularly shaped blades and is quite variable.[10] 10 in (25.4 cm)[10]
Bladed sand moss
Caulerpa Prolifera.jpg
Caulerpa prolifera Easy[11] Fast[11] Moderate[11] Low-Moderate[11] Somewhat[11] Out of all the Caulerpa species that are commercially available, this one is the most popular and widespread. It desires sandy substrates and will grow wide leaves in areas with stronger flow and taller, thinner leaves in calmer environments.[11] 6 in (15.2 cm)[11]
Bubble algae
Valonia macrophysa 40400808.jpg
Valonia sp. Expert[12] Moderate[12] High[12] Moderate-High[12] No[12] This algae is usually viewed by aquarists as pests, often entering aquariums on live rock. It has the ability to choke out corals if it grows too large and unfortunately, very few animals consume it (one of which is the Emerald crab (Mithraculus sculptus)). They may be desirable in marine planted aquariums however.[12][13] 8 in (20.3 cm)[12]
Dead man's fingers
Codium sp.jpg
Codium sp. Easy[14] Slow[14] Moderate-High[14] High[14] No[14] Some forms of this algae feature a single holdfast with multiple braches and others encrust surfaces taking on a blob-like shape. They should be placed on hard surfaces and kept in water temperatures under 80 °F (26.7 °C).[14][15] 12 in (30.5 cm)[14]
Fern algae
Alger, Caulerpa crassifolia, Nordisk familjebok.png
Caulerpa mexicana Easy[16] Moderate[16] Moderate[16] Low-Moderate[16] Somewhat to fish[16] This species of Caulerpa can grow on hard surfaces as well as sandy and muddy substrates. In turbulent surroundings, it grows somewhat compact and in calmer surroundings, it may grow taller. Its adaptability to the amount of light it requires is evident in the fact that it can grow without direct lighting amongst other algae.[16] 8 in (20.3 cm)[16]
Finger algae
Haeckel Neomeris annulata.JPG
Neomeris annulata Moderate[17] Slow[17] Moderate[17] Low[17] Somewhat[17] This species of algae way grow in small clusters or individually. It is lightly calcified and should be provided with calcium supplementation.[17] 4 in (10.2 cm)[17]
Giant feather algae Caulerpa asmeadii Easy[18] Moderate[18] Moderate[18] Low-Moderate[18] Somewhat[18] This is a large species of Caulerpa although unlike its relatives, it won't outgrow its environment. Younger individuals may be confused with Caulerpa sertularioides.[18] 14 in (35.6 cm)[18]
Green feather algae
Feather algae, Caulerpa sertularioides at 11 meters depth on ridge.jpg
Caulerpa sertularioides Easy[19] Fast[19] Moderate[19] Low-Moderate[19] Yes[19] This Caulerpa species is very popular among hobbyists although it is a very fast grower, taking over aquariums. However, it is a great choice for refugiums considering how many fish and invertebrates enjoy eating it. It prefers to grow on hard surfaces, yet its adaptability allows it to also grow on the sand bed as well.[19] 8 in (20.3 cm)[19]
Killer algae
CaulerpaTaxifolia.jpg
Caulerpa taxifolia Easy[20] Fast[20] Moderate[20] Low-Moderate[20] No[20] Also known as Fern algae, this algae is able to survive in a wide range of temperatures and for this reason can become quite invasive in the wild.[20] 10 in (25.4 cm)[20]
Mermaid's fan
Udotea flabellum (mermaid's fan alga) Bahamas.jpg
Udotea flabellum Easy[21] Moderate[21] Moderate-High[21] Moderate[21] No[21] This species of calcified algae is very popular although it requires a sand bed of at least 4 in (10.2 cm) deep along with calcium supplementation. Given that its requirements are met and conditions are favorable, an individual Mermaid's fan will rapidly reproduce, forming new individuals at its base.[21] 12 in (30.5 cm)[21]
Mermaid's shaving brush
Penicillus capitatus-Rhodos.jpg
Penicillus capitatus Easy[22] Moderate[22] Moderate-High[22] Low-Moderate[22] No[22] This species of algae generally grows out of the sand bed although it may grow on rocks. It requires a sand bed of at least 4 in (10.2 cm) deep along with calcium supplementation like many other calcified stem plants. In aquariums, mature specimens will often die, only to produce new individuals at its base.[22] 8 in (20.3 cm)[22]
Mermaid's wine glass
Acetabularia meditarranea.jpg
Acetabularia sp. Moderate[23] Slow[23] High[23] Low[23] Yes[23] This algae usually does not live long in aquariums. It is somewhat calcified and requires calcium supplementation and is very delicate so care should be taken when removing it from water. It prefers to grow on hard surfaces.[23] 4 in (10.2 cm)[23]
Money plant Halimeda discoidea Easy[24] Moderate[24] Moderate-High[24] Moderate[24] Somewhat[24] Out of all the Halimeda species, this one possesses the largest segments and unlike its relatives, it only grows on hard surfaces. It requires calcium supplementation as it is calcified.[24] 10 in (25.4 cm)[24]
Palm tree algae
FMIB 52423 Caulerpa Wurdemanli.jpeg
Caulerpa paspaloides Easy[25] Moderate[25] Moderate[25] Low-Moderate[25] Somewhat[25] This species of Caulerpa is a good nutrient export choice as it pollutes aquariums less often than its relatives. It should be pruned regularly as its fine structure captures undesirable substances. Depending on lighting conditions, it will take on different forms.[25] 12 in (30.5 cm)[25]
Pinecone algae
Rhipocephalus phoenix (pinecone alga) (San Salvador Island, Bahamas).jpg
Rhipocephalus phoenix Easy[25] Moderate[25] Moderate-High[25] Moderate[25] No[25] This algae attaches itself to sandy substrate (and occasionally rocks) using a bulb-like structure possessing several rhizoids. It requires an at least 4 in (10.2 cm) deep sand bed and calcium supplementation.[25] 6 in (15.2 cm)[25]
Prostrate sea cactus
Nembrotha cristata on Halimeda opuntia.jpg
Halimeda opuntia Easy[26] Moderate[26] Moderate-High[26] Moderate[26] No[26] This calcified algae grows in large mounds and attaches itself to rocks and sand using several holdfasts. It is rarely available in the aquarium trade and requires considerable calcium supplementation.[26] 10 in (25.4 cm)[26]
Sawtooth algae
Caulerpa serrulata Réunion.jpg
Caulerpa serrulata Easy[27] Moderate[27] Moderate[27] Low-Moderate[27] Somewhat[27] This algae is often available and put in refugiums. It prefers to grow on small rocky objects.[27] 5 in (12.7 cm)[27]
Sea grapes
Caulerpa racemosa algae.jpg
Caulerpa racemosa Easy[28] Fast[28] Moderate-High[28] Moderate-High[28] Somewhat[28] Unlike other species of Caulerpa, this one has round, clustered formations. It can quickly strip a tank of nutrients so care should be taken To not to let it grow too large.[28] Banana algae (Caulerpa racemosa cylindracea) and Saucer algae (Caulerpa racemosa peltata) are two varieties of this algae in the aquarium trade.[29][30] 8 in (20.3 cm)[28]
Sea lettuce
Meersalat-Ulva-lactuca
Ulva sp. Easy[31] Fast[31] Moderate-High[31] Moderate[31] Yes[31] It is almost as popular as Spaghetti algae and like it, is good at absorbing excess nutrients and housing microinvertebrates in aquariums. Unlike the Spaghetti algae, Sea lettuce may feature a holdfast and is relished by many aquarium inhabitants. It is usually kept in refugiums where it may clog unprotected return pumps.[31] 8 in (20.3 cm) mound[31]
Spaghetti algae
Chaetomorpha.jpg
Chaetomorpha sp. Easy[32] Fast[32] Low-High[32] Moderate[32] Not really[32] Also called Chaeto, this unique algae grows as a tangled mass of green filaments. This species is very hardy and can serve a useful role as habitat for microinvertebrates and an absorber of excess nutrients in aquariums. It is often kept in a refugium where it can either be tumbled or float around.[32] 24 in (61.0 cm) mound[32]
Three finger leaf algae
Halimeda incrassata (calcareous green algae) (San Salvador Island, Bahamas) 3 (16051464831).jpg
Halimeda incrassata Easy[33] Moderate[33] Moderate-High[33] Moderate[33] No[33] This algae can grow in different forms with some taking on clump-like forms and others growing 5 to 6 branches. It requires calcium supplementation and an at least 4 in (10.2 cm) deep sand bed. They generally stay small in aquariums, but will rapidly reproduce when conditions are favorable, growing new plants near their bases.[33] 8 in (20.3 cm)[33]
Toadstool algae
Naturalis Biodiversity Center - L.4123669 - Cladophora prolifera (Roth) Kütz. - Chlorophyceae - Plant type specimen.jpeg
Cladophora prolifera Easy[34] Slow[34] High[34] Moderate[34] This species of algae grows in small clumps on rocks and rubble featuring many rigid, finely branched filaments. Many aquarists believe it is a nuisance considering how once it establishes itself in an aquarium, it will become hard to remove.[35][34]
Tufted joint algae Cymopolia barbata Moderate[36] Slow[36] High[36] Moderate-High[36] Not really[36] This species of algae is rarely available although it may enter aquariums through live rock. It is quite interesting, but it requires calcium supplementation as it is calcified.[36] 12 in (30.5 cm)[36]
Turtleweed
Turtle weed, Chlorodesmis fastigiata, at 6 meters depth.jpg
Chlorodesmis sp. Expert[37] Moderate[37] High[37] Moderate-High[37] No[37] This popular algae is often mistaken for hair algae and enters the aquarium trade through live rock and coral. It is toxic, making it inedible and capable of effecting coral growth.[37] 8 in (20.3 cm)[37]
Zipper algae
Caulerpa cupressoides (Vahl) C.Agardh (AM AK338885).jpg
Caulerpa cupressoides Easy[38] Slow[38] Moderate-High[38] Moderate[38] No[38] This interesting and undemanding species of Caulerpa prefers to grow on sand, however it can grow off of harder surfaces.[38] 8 in (20.3 cm)[38]

Red macroalgae[edit]

Red macroalgae are highly sought after given their intense coloration and striking appearance. For some species, identification is difficult.[39]

Common name Image Taxonomy Care Level Growth rate Description Max size
Ogo algae
Gracilaria2.JPG
Gracilaria parvispora Easy Moderate 10"
Coralline Algae
Lithophyllum orbiculatum 037.jpg
Order Corallinales Moderate Slow Ubiquitous in well maintained reef aquaria, this algae forms attractive splotches of color encrusted on live rock. Calcium supplementation encourages good growth of coralline algae species.

Mangroves[edit]

Most mangroves that end up in the aquarium trade are either collected as seeds or grown on land.[40] Their leaves should be exposed to the air, well beyond the surface of the water, and be sprayed with freshwater regularly to prevent salt buildup. They also require intense lighting and a layer of substrate, not too shallow as to let the tree topple over and not too fine which would make parts of the sandbed to go anaerobic.[41]

Common name Image Taxonomy Care Level Growth rate Description Max size
Black mangrove
Cayos Mangrove02
Avicennia germinans Moderate Slow 70'
Red mangrove
Rhizophora mangle BotGardBln1105RootsLeaves.JPG
Rhizophora mangle Easy Slow 80'
White mangrove Laguncularia racemosa.jpg Laguncularia racemosa Expert Slow 60'

Seagrass[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ : BROWN MACROALGAE (PHAEOPHYTA) [1]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [2]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g SARGASSUM PLATYCARPUM [3]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [4]
  3. ^ a b c d e f g LOBOPHORA SP. [5]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [6]
  4. ^ a b c d e f g CYSTOSEIRA SP. [7]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [8]
  5. ^ a b c d e f g DICTOYA SP. [9]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [10]
  6. ^ a b c d e f g TURBINARIA SP. [11]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [12]
  7. ^ a b c d e f g PADINA SP. [13]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [14]
  8. ^ a b c d e f g SARGASSUM HYSTRIX VAR. BUXIFOLIUM [15]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [16]
  9. ^ : GREEN MACROALGAE (CHLOROPHYTA) [17]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [18]
  10. ^ a b c d e f g ANADYOMENE SP. [19]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [20]
  11. ^ a b c d e f g CAULERPA PROLIFERA [21]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [22]
  12. ^ a b c d e f g VALONIA SP. [23]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [24]
  13. ^ Valonia [25]. In: Melev's Reef [26]
  14. ^ a b c d e f g CODIUM SP. [27]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [28]
  15. ^ Codium green seaweed [29]. In: Wild Singapore [30]
  16. ^ a b c d e f g CAULERPA MEXICANA [31]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [32]
  17. ^ a b c d e f g NEOMERIS ANNULATA [33]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [34]
  18. ^ a b c d e f g CAULERPA ASHMEADII [35]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [36]
  19. ^ a b c d e f g CAULERPA SERTULARIODES [37]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [38]
  20. ^ a b c d e f g CAULERPA TAXIFOLIA [39]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [40]
  21. ^ a b c d e f g UDOTEA FLABELLUM [41]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [42]
  22. ^ a b c d e f g PENICILLUS CAPITATUS [43]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [44]
  23. ^ a b c d e f g ACETABULARIA SP. [45]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [46]
  24. ^ a b c d e f g HALIMEDA DISCOIDEA [47]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [48]
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n CAULERPA PASPALOIDES [49]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [50]
  26. ^ a b c d e f g HALIMEDA OPUNTIA [51]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [52]
  27. ^ a b c d e f g CAULERPA SERRULATA [53]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [54]
  28. ^ a b c d e f g CAULERPA RACEMOSA [55]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [56]
  29. ^ CAULERPA RACEMOSA VAR. CYLINDRACEA [57]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [58]
  30. ^ CAULERPA RACEMOSA VAR. PELTATA [59]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [60]
  31. ^ a b c d e f g ULVA SP. [61]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [62]
  32. ^ a b c d e f g CHAETOMORPHA SP. [63]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [64]
  33. ^ a b c d e f g HALIMEDA INCRASSATA [65]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [66]
  34. ^ a b c d e Cladophora prolifera [67]. In: Saltcorner [68]
  35. ^ Cladophora prolifera [69]. In: Gulf Coast Ecosystems [70]
  36. ^ a b c d e f g CYMOPOLIA BARBATA [71]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [72]
  37. ^ a b c d e f g CHLORODESMIS SP. [73]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [74]
  38. ^ a b c d e f g CAULERPA CUPRESSOIDES [75]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [76]
  39. ^ : RED MACROALGAE (RHODOPHYTA) [77]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [78]
  40. ^ : MANGROVES [79]. In: Marine Plants in the Aquarium [80]
  41. ^ : How to properly care for mangrove trees in ‘aquaria’ [81]. In: Reef Builders | The Reef and Marine Aquarium Blog [82]