When keeping fish and other aquarium animals, monitoring everything that goes into the tank, including feeds and aquarium plants, is essential. Though you may have bought aquarium plants from a reputable source, it is important to clean and disinfect them before adding them into the tank.

Cleaning and disinfecting new aquarium plants helps prevent the introduction of parasites, contamination, or diseases into the tank. You can disinfect the plants using chemicals like hydrogen peroxide. Additionally, it would be best to quarantine them for a few days to ensure they are free of any contamination. 

Aquarium plants are beneficial as they promote aeration, offer hiding places for the fish, and absorb fish waste like carbon dioxide and ammonia. However, if the plants are infected or parasite-infested, they can be disastrous to your fish. Therefore, it is important to learn how to clean and disinfect new aquarium plants. 

Why you should sanitize live aquarium plants

How to clean and disinfect aquarium plants
Source: Girl Talks Fish – Screengrab.

Whether you bought live aquarium plants from a reputable source or not, it is crucial to sanitize them to prevent causing harm to your aquarium animals.

Here are the main reasons why you should sanitize live aquarium plants:

To remove chemical residues on the plants

Before some stores sell live aquarium plants, they might spray them with chemicals and pesticides to kill parasites and make the plant look healthier. The chemicals can infect your water if you introduce the plants directly into the tank without cleaning them. The chemicals can lead to your aquatic animals’ infection or sudden death. 

To prevent snail infestation

Though snails can be beneficial, they are prolific and may reproduce in uncontrolled numbers. Therefore, you should avoid introducing them into your tank. Snails can enter your tank in two ways:

  • As snail eggs: Snails may have laid their eggs on the new aquarium plants’ stems or leaves’ underside. After laying their eggs, most snail species make a thick casing to protect them. Therefore, the eggs may be undamaged and will hatch into snails in the aquarium. Since the eggs are too small to see, it is best to disinfect the plants to kill and prevent them from hatching. 
  • Mature snails: Snails are among the most common hitchhikers on aquarium plants. Some snail species that are good at hiding on aquarium plants include bladder, Malaysian trumpet, and pond snails. Since they are large, you can search through the plants and remove any snails you find. 

Prevent parasites and unwanted algae 

Parasites such as springtails and mites may hitchhike on new aquarium plants and start preying on your fish after introducing them into the tank. For instance, the plants may have damselfly or dragonfly nymphs that prey on the shrimp and small-sized fish. Fortunately, you can remove them early since they are large enough to be noticed. 

You need to avoid the uncontrollable growth of algae by reducing the way it enters your tank. The new aquarium plants may have unwanted algae growing on the leaves. If you do not remove the algae, it will thrive in the aquarium to uncontrollable levels.

Carefully inspect your aquarium plants’ leaves and roots since algae and parasites hide in these areas. 

Cleaning plants prevents diseases 

Cleaning new aquarium plants helps eliminate organisms that can make your fish fall sick when introducing new plants. Some plants may be infested with bacteria and viruses that cause diseases to your aquarium plants and animals.

Therefore, you need to disinfect and quarantine new aquarium plants to maintain healthy plants and animals.

How to clean new aquarium plants

It is crucial to clean new aquarium plants to minimize the possibility of introducing disease-causing organisms. Several chemicals are recommended for use when cleaning any new aquarium plants before introducing them into your fish tank. They include the following:

  • Bleach
  • Potassium permanganate 
  • Hydrogen peroxide 

How to clean new aquarium plants using bleach

You can use the common household bleach to clean new aquarium plants. It is advisable to take the necessary precautions, like wearing gloves, since bleach is caustic. You should avoid using bleach with extra chemicals, scent, or more than 10% concentration since it can damage your aquatic plants. Follow these steps to clean your aquarium plants using bleach: 

  1. Prepare the Plants: Before you start cleaning the aquarium plants, you should check if you can see any hitchhikers, such as snails and pests. If you find any hitchhikers, remove them from the plant. Additionally, if you find some leaves with algae, pluck them out. 
  2. Make the plant dip: You should use the 1:19 ratio where 1 is the part bleach, and 19 is the part water to make the plant dip. Ensure that you use plain water and regular bleach with no scent. You will also need another container to mix water with a de-chlorinator.
  3. Dipping: Once the bleach dip is ready, submerge the aquarium plants into the mixture for about two to five minutes before removing it. 
  4. Rinse the plants: Remove the aquarium plants from the mixture and rinse them with water for a few minutes to remove the bleach. Soak the plants in the mixture with the de-chlorinator for three minutes until the smell of bleach is gone. 
  5. Soak in clean water: If you think the plants have some bleach residue, you can soak them in water for about 15 minutes, then transfer them into the aquarium. 

Cleaning new aquarium plants with potassium permanganate 

You can use the crystal or liquid potassium permanganate to eliminate aquarium plants’ hitchhikers. Before starting the cleaning process, wear gloves to avoid staining your skin. 

  1. Make a pink solution: If you use the crystal potassium permanganate, add four grams to one liter of water. 2-3 drops per liter will be enough for liquid potassium permanganate. The general idea is to add enough potassium permanganate to a half-full bucket of water until you achieve a dark pink solution. 
  2. Soak the new plants: Insert the aquarium plants into the mixture and soak them for 10-15 minutes. 
  3. Rinse the plants: Dip them into a mixture of water and de-chlorinator and rinse them thoroughly. Afterward, rinse them with clean water to ensure they have no chemical residue. 

Cleaning new aquarium plants with hydrogen peroxide 

Hydrogen peroxide is also effective in getting rid of parasites, algae, and bacteria. You should use 3% peroxide while disinfecting aquarium plants to avoid killing them. 

  1. Mix hydrogen peroxide with water: Mix about 3-5 ml or one tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide with a gallon of water. 
  2. Dip the plants: If you only want to sanitize the plants, dip them for about 30 seconds. However, if you are cleaning them against algae and hitchhikers, soak them for five minutes. 
  3. Rinse the plants: After cleaning the plants, soak them in dechlorinated water, then rinse them using clean water.

How long to quarantine new aquarium plants

Besides cleaning the aquarium plants, it is advisable to quarantine them before adding them to your tank. Quarantining the plants prevents introducing disease-causing organisms, algae, and snails to your aquarium. It is advisable to keep new aquarium plants in a quarantine tank with no plants or fish for about 3-4 weeks. 

Here are the steps to follow while quarantining new aquarium plants: 

  1. Prepare the plants: Remove the materials used to pack the plants, then cut any overgrown roots to about 1.5 cm. 
  2. Disinfect the plants: Use hydrogen peroxide, potassium permanganate, or bleach to clean the aquarium plants. 
  3. Add them to the tank: After disinfecting the plants, introduce them to the quarantine tank. Ensure that they have proper lighting and add fertilizer to enhance their growth. You should also perform regular water changes. 

If you don’t want to wait for about three weeks to add the new plants to their respective tanks, you can quarantine them for 5-7 days. This short quarantine will require you to change the water daily fully. You need to treat the water using a water conditioner such as Seachem Prime for every change. The water conditioner binds any chemical residues and pesticides, removes chloramine and chlorine, and detoxifies ammonia.

The best disinfectant for aquarium plants

The best disinfectants for aquarium plants are bleach, potassium permanganate, and hydrogen peroxide. However, some people use aluminum sulfate and vinegar to disinfect their aquarium plants. 


Sodium hypochlorite or bleach is one of the best disinfectants since it is readily available. This disinfectant is widely used for home cleaning services. Bleach is very effective in removing algae that grow on the leaves. 

Due to its strong oxidizing properties, it also helps get rid of parasites and disease-causing organisms like bacteria and fungus. You should only use regular unscented bleach to clean your aquarium plants. 

If you use bleach with additives like scent and colorant, it might harm or even kill your plants. Since bleach is a strong chemical, you should only dip the plants for a few minutes to avoid damaging them. 

Potassium permanganate

Potassium permanganate is also an effective aquarium plant disinfectant. This strong oxidizer will ensure that your plants are free of snails, bacteria, algae, parasites, and fungus. It is also used as an aquarium disinfectant, including disinfecting ornaments before putting them into the tank. 

You should never mix potassium permanganate with chemicals such as Formalin because they react vigorously to form toxic gases. Additionally, you should keep potassium permanganate away from direct sunlight to prevent it from losing its potency. 

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a strong disinfectant that you should use with care to avoid killing plants. Due to its properties, you should not use it to disinfect delicate live plants such as carpet plants and moss balls. 

Additionally, you should avoid dipping the roots in the hydrogen peroxide for long as it can entirely kill the plants. If you are a beginner, it is not advisable to use hydrogen peroxide as your first disinfectant option since it can damage plants. However, you can use it with the proper precaution to eliminate aquarium plants’ hitchhikers. 


To maintain healthy aquarium life, you need to ensure that everything you add to the tank is free of stress and disease-causing organisms. Therefore, if you plan to add new plants to your tank, you need to clean and disinfect them. Use the different methods discussed here to disinfect and quarantine new aquarium plants. Always consult an aquarium expert when you encounter a challenge.

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