How to Remove Algae from Aquarium Plants: Step-by-Step Guide

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At some point, algae is going to cause problems for most fish tank owners. Algae on plants can often be the most troublesome because they are so delicate and hard to clean. Artificial plants can usually be salvaged, but unfortunately it can sometimes be too late for live plants. If you follow the steps in this guide, you will give yourself the best chance of getting your plants algae-free.

The first thing you want to do is gently rub off any debris whilst the plants are still in place. If there is still some stubborn algae remaining, remove the plants and use an algae pad to gently scrub them. If this doesn’t work, you may have to resort to using a bleach solution, but keep in mind this can sometimes kill live plants.

After you have removed algae from your plants, it’s important to take action to prevent algae from becoming a problem in the future. We have plenty of information on that at the end of this guide.

Things You Will Need

If you’re lucky, you might find that you can remove the algae from your plants by simply using your finger. But if it’s stubborn, there are a few things you’re going to need.

  • Algae pad – If the algae is too stubborn to be removed with your finger, you will want to use an algae pad to gently scrub it off. These only cost a few dollars each and you can pick them up on Amazon.
  • Bleach – If even an algae pad isn’t tough enough, you’re going to need to use a bleach solution. Only use regular bleach and not any that is mixed with detergent. If you don’t already have any bleach, you can pick some up from Amazon here.
  • Conditioner – If you have to resort to using bleach, you’re going to need to rinse the plants in conditioned water. You can find conditioner here on Amazon.

Live and Artificial Plants: Same Process?

The process for cleaning live and artificial plants is basically the same. But of course, as live plants are living and delicate, you will need to be a bit more careful with them. There are a few differences in how you would go about cleaning live plants, like how long you should soak them for, but I’ll point those out when we get there.

Step-by-Step Guide

You won’t necessarily need to follow through with this whole guide to clean your plants. Each step gets progressively more vigorous for removing tougher algae. If the algae is removed after the first or second step, you can go ahead and stop there.

If your fish tank has lots of plants, you should only clean one or two plants at a time to reduce the stress on your fish caused by the changes in their environment.

Step 1: Use Your Fingers

The first thing you want to do is remove any loose debris from the plants by gently brushing or rubbing them with your finger. You can leave the plants in place whilst you do this. If the algae isn’t too bad, this can sometimes be all you need to do.

Step 2: Use an Algae Pad

If there is still a lot of algae left on the plants, remove them from the tank and use an algae pad to gently scrub off the algae. Make sure you use an aquarium safe algae pad. You can pick them up for a few dollars on Amazon. Whatever you do, DO NOT use any soap or chemicals as this can be lethal for your fish.

In many cases, this is all you will need to do to get rid of the algae on your plants, but if the algae is really stubborn, move on to the next step.

Step 3: Use Bleach

As a last resort, you can use a 10% bleach solution to get rid of any algae that really doesn’t want to go. If you use this method with artificial plants, be warned that it can affect the color of your plants. You can use bleach with live plants too, but there is a chance they will die. If the algae is really bad, they will probably die anyway, so it is worth a go as a last-ditch effort to save them.

For artificial plants you want to use a 10% bleach solution by mixing 1 part bleach (you can find some on Amazon here if you don’t already have any), with 9 parts water in a bucket or container. Soak them for 5-10 minutes. Next, remove them from the bleach solution, use a clean algae pad to gently scrub off any algae, rinse in conditioned water (link to conditioner on Amazon), and allow to air dry. Now you can place them back in your tank.

For live plants you want to use a 5% bleach solution by mixing 1 part bleach with 19 parts water in a bucket or container. Soak them for no longer than a couple of minutes, then gently rub them to dislodge any algae. Soak the plants in conditioned water for around half an hour. Hopefully the plants survive and you can return them to the tank.

Once you have removed the algae from your plants, it’s important to keep on top of it so you don’t have to keep going through this process. Keep reading to find out how.


They say prevention is the best cure, and that’s no different here. Once the algae on your plants gets too bad, there are some permanent consequences. If you have to resort to using bleach, the color on artificial plants can fade, and live plants can often die.

To prevent algae from becoming a problem on your plants, follow step 1 of this guide once a week. Give the plants a gentle shake and carefully brush or scrub off any debris.

Keeping algae in the rest of your tank under control will also prevent it from becoming a problem on your plants.

Controlling Your Tanks Algae

Plants aren’t the only thing that can get covered in algae. You’re going to want to take some general measures to combat algae in your whole tank. This will help with controlling algae on your plants too. Below you can find ten natural ways of reducing algae in your fish tank. We go into more detail on each of these points in our guide to getting rid of algae naturally.

  • Reduce light
  • Reduce food
  • Change the water frequently
  • Use good filters that are in working order
  • Get some algae eating creatures
  • Introduce more plants
  • Be careful when you purchase new plants
  • Check your water levels
  • Have the correct water temperature
  • Keep your tank clean


Dealing with algae in your fish tank can be a nightmare, and due to their delicate nature, plants can cause the most problems. The most important thing you can do is keep on top of algae in your tank using natural methods. But if it’s got to the point where your plants have a big algae problem, the steps in this guide should help.

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