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Can Plants Absorb Ammonia in Aquarium? What You Need to Know?



Can plants absorb ammonia in aquarium

As an aquarium owner, your highest priority is the proper functioning of the ecosystem of the aquarium. As with a stable environment, your aquatic friends will have a healthy and easy life. Now a major part of the aquarium’s ecosystem is the nitrogen cycle, and an important compound that is a part of it is ammonia.

Ammonia is a compound that is toxic to fish as it can damage their gills. While ammonia serves as a vital nutrient for plant growth, excessive levels of this compound can lead to detrimental consequences in an aquarium.  

Therefore, a question arises, can plants absorb ammonia?

Yes, aquatic plants can absorb ammonia to some extent in aquarium environments. During photosynthesis, plants are able to take up ammonia (NH3) and incorporate it into new proteins and other molecules. This helps reduce ammonia levels in the water. Fast-growing stem plants like hornwort, anacharis, and vallisneria are especially good at absorbing ammonia. 

In this article, we dwell on the answers to this question. So let’s get on ahead.  

Can Plants Absorb Ammonia? 

Can Plants Absorb Ammonia? 

Ammonia is an unwanted chemical in your tank and keeping it minimum is ideal. Live plants really come in handy in controlling ammonia in your tank. Floating plants like duckweed also grow rapidly and uptake a lot of ammonia.

However, plants alone usually can’t eliminate all ammonia from the water. The biofilter and beneficial bacteria play the biggest role in converting ammonia into less toxic compounds like nitrate.

As plants can absorb ammonia from the water column of your aquarium, they are perfect for maintaining and keeping the ammonia levels low. It in turn keeps your fish free from the toxic compound and helps them lead a healthy life.  

Light is needed for plants to metabolize ammonia through photosynthesis. In low light tanks their ability to absorb ammonia is diminished.

Is Ammonia Harmful or Toxic to Plants?  

Plants may absorb ammonia and keep your fish safe, but the high amount of ammonia can be harmful to them. When a plant is exposed to a huge amount of ammonia it can damage their leaves and their roots as well. It can also cause necrosis, and cause stunted growth.

So if a lot of ammonia gets into a plant it is toxic for them as well. But in an aquarium, the amount of ammonia is nowhere near that it can cause an overdose of it in a plant.  

More than in an aquarium, the ammonia levels should be kept in check in agriculture and other similar sectors. As they are more susceptible to being exposed to high levels of ammonia in those circumstances.  

How Long Does It Take for Plants to Absorb Ammonia?  

There is no fixed rate on the amount of time plants take to absorb ammonia. The amount of time a plant takes to absorb ammonia depends upon various things. The speed of ammonia absorption can vary depending on several factors, including the plant species, growth conditions, and ammonia concentration.

Some fast-growing aquatic plants, such as Anacharis and Hornwort, are known for their rapid uptake of ammonia.  

Even the health of the plant, growth rate, and the ammonia rate in the water are also the factors in which the time of ammonia absorption depends.  

Best Aquarium Plants for Ammonia Absorption

To keep the aquarium’s ecosystem stable for the perfect health of the inhabitants ammonia needs to be kept in check and on low amounts. For this to be possible in an easy way, you can add plants in your aquarium that are best for absorbing ammonia in an aquarium. Among the various kinds of plants that are ideal for ammonia absorption, there are a few that stand out to be the best. Let’s see what they are:  

  • Pothos – Pothos is the best plant you can get for your aquarium to control the levels of ammonia. This is a fast-growing and easy-to-care-for plant and is perfect for beginners as well. It is a hardy plant that can withstand a wide range of parameters and can even de well without any kind of additional fertilizers. This plant can also do well in low light conditions, but for a faster growth rate, they need light with higher intensity. Therefore, a medium-light is perfect for them.  
  • Amazon Sword – Amazon sword is a popular plant among aquarists as it is a hardy plant that even beginners can handle. Along with its easiness of care, comes its capability of absorbing ammonia quickly. Moreover, it grows faster than most other plants and is perfect as a background plant. It also doesn’t require intense lighting conditions, it can do well in low to medium levels of light. But if you want it to grow fast, then introduce fertilizers and high-intensity light. 
  • Java – Not only does Java Moss add a touch of natural beauty to the aquarium, but it also contributes to ammonia reduction. As one of the most popular aquarium plants, it can be seen in most of the aquarium because of its lush green appearance and requires less attention. Aside from absorbing ammonia and protecting your fish, it also provides them with hiding places and breeding grounds as well. It is a hardy plant that can do well in a wide range of water parameters.  
  • Hornwort – The hornwort is a popular choice mostly for its ammonia-absorbing abilities and gives a beautiful appearance to the aquarium. Additionally, it doesn’t require intensive care and attention. It can tolerate a wide range of water parameters. Besides, its growth rate is fast and doesn’t require high light conditions and any additional fertilizers for healthy growth. But if you want to promote its fast growth, then you can add fertilizers. 


Ammonia is an unwanted toxic chemical and can harm your fish if there is an excess of it. But to keep this under control you can add plants to your aquarium. They can absorb ammonia and keep it under control. But large amounts of ammonia can be harmful to plants as well.

It can cause their leaves to decay and damage the roots. Although, this is less likely to happen in an aquarium. There are plants that are experts in absorbing ammonia such as Amazon Sword, Pothos, Java Fern, and more. Having these plants in your aquarium is sure to come in handy. 

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