Saltwater plants or macroalgae make your saltwater aquarium look more realistic and natural. But unlike freshwater plants, macroalgae are more challenging to grow as it is difficult to keep saltwater aquariums balanced. But when established properly, saltwater plants are colorful and make your reef look more sophisticated and well-put together.

Unlike the abundance of plants that grow in freshwater, few aquatic plant species can survive in saltwater. If you are thinking about adding plants to your saltwater reef tank, you’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, we will walk you through how to choose the best saltwater plants, the benefits of adding one to your reef tank, and some of the top saltwater plants you should consider getting.

aquarium in low light

Top 7 Saltwater Plants for Your Reef Tank

There are three main categories of macroalgae: green algae (Chlorophyta), brown algae (Phaeophyta), and red algae (Rhodophyta). To create a striking reef tank, try incorporating saltwater aquarium plants.

1. NW Wholesaler Faux Plant

NW Wholesaler Faux Plant

This NW Wholesaler faux plant is a set of two red and green artificial plants suitable for saltwater aquariums. This moss-like artificial plant can transform your fish tank with colorful natural-like plants that sway like real underwater plants.

Each plant measures 9.5 inches tall and is approximately 6 inches wide, which fits a variety of aquariums. As a high-quality aquarium décor crafted with premium plastic, it is durable and low-maintenance.

2. Danmu Flowing Reef Plant

Danmu Flowing Reef Plant

Danmu is another excellent fish tank saltwater plant with eco-friendly polyresins and silicon material. This material is safe for fish both in fresh and saltwater environments. This Danmu ornament flower simulates the fantastic sea view adding unique vitality and vibrant color to your aquarium. This plant ornament has a glowing effect on your tank with proper lighting.

3. KHGYY Aquatic Plant

KHGYY Aquatic Plant

The KHGYY aquatic plant is another artificial plastic plant you can use in your reef tank. It is a fairly tall artificial plant measuring 15.6 inches. The plastic used in designing this plant has been so beautifully craved that it replicates the natural sea environment when in the tank. Also, it’s easy to maintain and does not need any specialized lighting or other substrates to look great.

4. Piety Aquarium Plant

Piety Aquarium Plant

This Piety aquarium plant is ideal if you want a complete set of saltwater aquarium plants to decorate your reef tank. It is a pack of 25 colorful aquatic plants with small to large-sized plants. The heights of the plants range from 2.4 inches to 12 inches and feature 9 different styles. Designed with plastic plant material, its smooth surface makes it easy to wipe and keep clean.

5. Underwater Treasures Red Ludwigia Bonsai

Underwater Treasures Red Ludwigia Bonsai

This Underwater Treasures plant is another excellent artificial saltwater plant for your reef tank. It is an incredibly realistic decoration that features life-like leaves with vivid coloration—made of high-quality plastic that is non-toxic and safe for saltwater aquariums and marine life. This artificial plant is incredibly detailed, which enhances your aquarium.

6. biOrb Sea Pearl & Kelp Plant

biOrb Sea Pearl & Kelp Plant

The biOrb plant is a set of two plants: sea pearls and kelp olive. It is an artificial plant made of plastic material. Inspired by the Pacific coastal areas, this artificial plant features life-like foliage that strikes an intriguing display on your reef tank. The rich green and deep purple coloration compliments each other excellently and against the contrasting shapes of most aquariums.

7. Otterly Fish Tank Plant

Otterly Fish Tank Plant

Otterly is another beautiful artificial aquarium decoration for your reef tank. It is a set of 8 large artificial plants with vividly bright and complimentary color hues. The plants range in height from 4 to 12 inches making them great for most tanks. Otterly made each plant from environmentally safe plastic that is non-toxic for saltwater aquariums.

How to Choose the Best Saltwater Plants for Your Reef Tank

Maintaining saltwater plants, especially live ones, is challenging because of their intense pH sensitivity. However, if you use artificial plants for your saltwater reef tank, you won’t have any issue keeping the balance as long as the material is safe for use in a saltwater environment.

So, when choosing plants for your saltwater reef tank, here are some important factors to remember.

Traits of Other Inhabitants

One of the first things to consider when choosing a saltwater plant is the tank’s inhabitants. Saltwater plants can thrive and flourish only if the animals living with them don’t harm them.

If the inhabitant in the aquarium is aggressive towards it, the plant will not be able to survive or grow. Fish tend to dig substrate, uproot plants, and chew on the leaves, which poses a risk to their existence.

Water Chemistry Levels

Another factor to consider is the chemical makeup of the water. Consider parameters like the hardness, salinity level, and amount of carbon dioxide, ammonia, and nitrates in the water that can affect the plant.

So, whether you are getting a live saltwater plant or an artificial one, the water chemistry can affect it. As such, ensure the water chemistry level in your tank supports your chosen plant.

Water Temperature

The effect of temperature on plants is not negligible as plants are sensitive to temperature levels. Temperature fluctuation in a tank can affect live macroalgae’s growth and survival ability.

As such, take special care to maintain the temperature level of your reef tank. You can install a heater that automatically regulates the tank’s temperature to avoid significant temperature changes that can kill the plant.


Macroalgae also need light to carry out photosynthesis. If the tank is poorly lit, it will affect the plant’s ability to photosynthesize and ultimately survive.

Without light, macroalgae will not produce enough oxygen and energy, affecting their well-being and distorting the tank’s oxygen balance. So, if the tank’s position does not allow sufficient sunlight, you can compensate for it with artificial aquarium lights.

Tank Maintenance

Another factor to consider when choosing a saltwater plant for your reef tank is how it affects maintenance. Aside from monitoring the chemical levels, the water in the tank needs to be changed and cleaned regularly to eliminate any decaying matter. Using a magnet cleaner makes it a lot easier to clean the tank.

If your chosen plant does not support your maintenance routine, you will be better off choosing a different one. Taking care of your tank plays a big role in keeping your plant and inhabitants healthy and disease free.

Benefits of Adding Saltwater Plants to Reef Tank

Keeping saltwater plants in your tank comes with several benefits. Here are a few reasons to consider adding macroalgae to your saltwater reef tank.

Decorative Benefit

One of the benefits of saltwater plants is that they improve the aesthetic appeal of your reef tank. Macroalgae are a great alternative to coral. It adds color and liveliness to your aquarium. Also, saltwater plants make your aquarium look more like a natural habitat.

Dragon’s Tongue Macro Algae is a good example of a live saltwater plant to add color to your marine tank. It is predominantly grown as an ornamental plant, and exports phosphates and nitrates as it grows. It thrives under full spectrum light and coral lights.  

Macroalgae and mangroves are good for a seahorse tank as well. Red mangrove propagules can be planted in the sand or between rocks in an open-topped aquarium or seahorse tank. Red mangrove is suitable for salt water marine life and fresh water tanks.

Supplementary Feed

Aside from the aesthetic aspect of adding saltwater plants to your aquarium, another benefit is that it can be used as a supplementary feed. Omnivorous and herbivorous fishes can eat the macroalgae as a supplement. Ogo and sea lettuce are good examples of live saltwater plants that add nutrition to your fish’s regular food.

Maintain Water Quality

Another benefit of saltwater plants is that it helps to balance the chemicals in the aquarium. Plants need chemicals like phosphate and nitrates to grow, which are chemicals fish excrete, so rather than the aquarium being concentrated on these chemicals, the plant will use them and balance out the chemical level.

Encourages Microscopic Fauna

Tiny microorganisms like amphipods and copepods make their homes in macroalgae. The plant encourages the growth of microfauna, which makes a great addition to the diet of inhabitants in the aquarium, like reef fish and seahorses.

Provide Shelter for Inhabitants

Also, saltwater plants can make a good shelter for inhabitants in the aquarium. The plants replicate their natural habitat to a great extent, improving the environmental condition for the fish and other aquatic animals. 


This guide should clarify how to choose saltwater plants for your reef tank or marine aquarium. Whether you choose to grow the saltwater plant yourself or use an artificial saltwater plant, keep in mind that the chemistry of the water has to support it. Adding saltwater plants to your reef tank offers several advantages; this guide will help you find a beautiful addition.

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