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The 10 Best Saltwater Aquarium Plants

While many aquarists enjoy the experience of growing and maintaining a saltwater aquarium, many wonder how to make the transition from artificial to real bonsai.

Although more difficult to find and cultivate, saltwater aquatic plants can provide shelter to aquarium occupants, enhance an aquarium's aesthetic value, and assist in maintaining an aquarium's water quality with proper maintenance and attention.

Plants that thrive in saltwater help the aquarium look more natural and encourage owners to adopt a more hands-on approach to saltwater aquarium care.

BestForPets (bestforpets.org) has compiled a list of the best saltwater aquarium plants that are desirable and easiest to maintain for your aquarium.

How to Choose the Finest Plants for Your Saltwater Aquarium

The benefits of growing plants that thrive in saltwater environments.

Plants that thrive in saltwater are called macroalgae, and they provide saltwater aquariums a more realistic and natural appearance, as well as a sense of refinement and polish. The benefits these plants provide extend to many marine organisms.

Plants are an excellent option if you want to replace the plain look of imitation saltwater aquarium decorations with intriguing plant species that you can learn about and care for, as is the case with many aquarists.

If the minimum needs of each species of saltwater aquarium plant are satisfied, nearly all of them can thrive in a home aquarium and even be cultivated by a novice aquarist.

A suitable lighting system, the appropriate substrate, and a large enough habitat to support the growth of the various plant species are the primary essentials you will need to grow saltwater plants in your aquarium.

Saltwater Aquarium Plants: What They Do For You

  • Improve the aquarium’s natural appearance.
  • Bring vibrancy and life to a fish tank.
  • Supply a means of oxygenation.
  • Purify water by soaking up impurities including ammonia, nitrate, phosphate, and heavy metals from the water supply.
  • Unlike their freshwater counterparts, most saltwater plant species are low maintenance and simple to care for.
  • Inhabitants can get their nutrition from some marine plants.
  • Protect the marine life that lives there, such fish, seahorses, and crabs.


Red Mangrove is our top pick for saltwater aquariums because it is a beautiful plant that thrives with no effort. In the end, we chose Dragons tongue algae because it is slow growing, thrives in saltwater environments and requires little care.

With any luck, you can already use BestForPets (bestforpet.org) reviews to identify some of the best saltwater aquarium plants for your saltwater aquarium loveliness in the form of live plants.


The Red Mangrove Is the Top Performer

  • Slow to moderate expansion
  • Infinite height limit of 30 feet
  • Medium to high requirements:
  • CO2: Low
  • Difficulty: Beginner-friendly

Red mangrove is the greatest plant for saltwater aquariums in general (also known as Rhizophora mangle). A tropical saltwater plant, it provides excellent camouflage for finny critters.

As a real marine plant, it thrives in the bright lighting conditions of a saltwater aquarium. When planted in an aquarium, this plant develops from “propagules,” which are the seeds of the red mangrove tree, to create a stunning forest-like effect.

While it may get rather huge in the natural, even a large marine aquarium should be able to keep this plant under control. Due to its low CO2 needs and the absence of fertilizer requirements in the presence of adequate water, this plant requires little care in cultivation.


  • Uses little carbon dioxide and few nutrients
  • Simple to cultivate
  • Quickly purifies water by removing phosphates and nitrates.


  • Inappropriate for use in cold-water aquariums


The Most Cost-Effective Caulerpa Prolifera

  • Explicitly, the expansion is rapid.
  • Up to a maximum of 6-8 inches
  • Low Intensity: Moderate
  • Carbon Dioxide Levels: Mild to Moderate
  • Difficulty: Beginner-friendly

Caulerpa prolifera is often regarded as the most cost-effective plant option for saltwater aquariums. It is primarily utilized to help reduce the nutrient load, but it also makes for a beautiful ornamental plant in marine aquariums.

Aquarists have the option of cultivating the plant in the aquarium’s planted substrate, refugium, or sump. Caulerpa prolifera is not a particularly quick grower, thus it need weekly maintenance and trimming to keep it looking healthy.

If you have a seahorse and a tank with adequate lighting and substrate depth, you can grow this plant successfully. The accumulation of waste products, such as phosphates and nitrates, may be removed from the water with the aid of this macroalga, which in turn helps to maintain a clean saltwater aquarium.


  • Hardy
  • Very well suited to life in the sea
  • Not a tall plant


  • Contrary to California law


Dragon’s Tongue Algae, The Finest Available

  • Ratio of growth: low
  • At most, you can be 5 inches tall.
  • Low to moderate requirements
  • CO2: Medium
  • Difficulty: Beginner-friendly

Among algae, we choose dragon tongue because of its resistance to stress and sluggish growth rate as our top pick. Because of its waste-filtering abilities, this plant has gained popularity as a refugium addition, making it a good choice for seahorse aquariums.

This plant’s low-maintenance requirements make it ideal for those just starting out. Dragon tongue algae are a great addition to saltwater aquariums because of its bushy look, brilliant colors, and ability to filter out harmful ammonia, nitrates, heavy metals, and phosphates.

Besides eradicating microalgae, this plant provides a delicious food source for herbivorous marine fish. This plant is very low care due to its moderate growth and limited maximum height, and it will not take over your aquarium.


  • Conveniently low-maintenance
  • Provides sustenance for herbivorous fish
  • An excellent option for bettering water quality


  • Needs a lot of light in order to function


 Asparagus fern

  • Explicitly, the expansion is rapid.
  • Optimal stature is 12 inches.
  • Low to moderate requirements
  • CO2: Medium
  • Difficulty: Beginner-friendly

A wide variety of marine organisms, including crabs and fish, rely on sea lettuce as a source of nourishment. This plant can withstand the harsh conditions of an aquarium and thrive for years.

This plant can withstand a wide range of lighting and temperatures, making it ideal for new aquarium owners. As its name suggests, sea lettuce is a thallus, the body of fungus, algae, and other creatures that resembles lettuce.

It may easily become invasive if not routinely clipped or eaten by the aquarium’s other residents. Keeping this plant healthy requires a lot of light, but it’s worth it since decaying sea lettuce may quickly contaminate an aquarium’s water supply. Generally speaking, it is a simple plant to cultivate, and it may even be placed in a refugium system.


  • Simple to cultivate
  • Strong resistance to heat and light
  • Those that live there get their sustenance from


  • Water quality can be harmed by decaying sea lettuce.


Thumbs Up!

  • Moderate expansion
  • Our tallest member is 13 inches.
  • Low to Medium Requirements
  • CO2: Low
  • Difficulty: Beginner-friendly

A bright macroalgae, the Green Finger aquarium plant features long, erect stems that emerge from the plant’s crown. When given the proper circumstances, this plant may quickly multiply, adding both oxygen and a type of natural filtration to saltwater tanks.

If you want this plant to reach its maximum potential, you probably shouldn’t put it in a saltwater tank with a heater.

The Green Finger is striking since it doesn’t have the typical leafy or algae-like look of other saltwater plants.


  • Characterized by a look that is both distinctive and alluring,
  • Purification and oxygen supply
  • Simple in both cultivation and upkeep


  • Needs the water to be chilly 

Author Image

Dr. Barry Buttler

Dr. Barry Buttler, DVM, MS, DACVIM, is an experienced veterinarian who specializes in the care of small animals, specifically dogs. Dr. Barry K. Buttler is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and holds multiple certifications in small animal emergency medicine and geriatric pet health.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Barry Buttler


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