Skip to Content

How Long Can Aquarium Plants Live Without Water?

get 5 secrets to thriving plants

Aquatic plants are a great way to spruce up your aquarium. They can also remove chemicals from the water, thus improving your tank’s ecosystem. But suppose you need to remove your plant from the aquarium; you may wonder how long they can survive without water.

Most aquarium plants can survive without water for a maximum of 3–4 days. Aquatic plants should never be allowed to dry out. It’s always best to keep these plants moist so they stay alive. 

Keep reading to learn more about aquatic plants and the different varieties they come in. I’ll also share some tips on taking aquarium plants out of the water and re-introducing them back into the tank. 

Aquatic Plants Need More Than Water

There are certain essentials that most plants need like: 

  • Water 
  • Sunlight 
  • Carbon dioxide 
  • Fertilizer 

But some plants need more of these essentials than others. 

The key characteristic that distinguishes an aquatic plant from a terrestrial plant is that aquatic plants most often live under, in, or on bodies of water. This means aquatic plants need more water than your typical plant to survive. 

Though most plants can go up to a week or more without water, aquatic plants don’t. Aquatic plants shouldn’t go more than a few days outside of water, or else they’ll dry out and die. 

Aquatic Plants Need More Than Just Adequate Water

In addition to water, aquatic plants need a few more things in their environment to thrive. Some other things to think about when caring for aquarium plants include: 

  • Adequate lighting 
  • Substrate 
  • Fertilizer 
  • Plant food 
  • Clean and quality water 

Different Types of Aquarium Plants

The 3 main types of aquatic plants: 

  • Submerged
  • Emergent
  • Floating

I’ll explain each one of them.

Submerged Plants Only Live Underwater

Submerged plants grow entirely underwater. These are the plants that you’ll see at the very bottom of the tank. They’re rooted in the aquarium substrate and don’t have any leaves or flowers breaking through the surface. 

Some examples of submerged plants include: 

Emergent Plants Have Their Roots and Stem Underwater

Emergent plants are aquatic plants that start their lives underwater and grow up and out to the surface. These plants will have their roots and stem firmly underwater, but their leaves and flowers will be above the surface. 

Some common examples of emergent plants include: 

  • Amazon Sword 
  • Giant Hygrophila 
  • Cryptocoryne 
  • Aponogeton bulbs 

Floating Plants Sit on Water

Floating plants sit just on the water’s surface. Unlike the submerged and emergent plants, these plants don’t have roots that radiate from the bottom of the tank. The root systems for these plants dangle in the water. 

Some examples of floating plants include: 

  • Water sprite 
  • Duckweed 
  • Riccia fluitans 

Tips on Taking Your Aquarium Plant Out of the Tank

It’s ideal to always keep your aquatic plants inside of the tank with quality water. However, there’ll be times when your plants will be out of the water, such as when you first purchase it or move to a new home. 

If you have to take your aquatic plant out of the tank, here are a few tips you can use: 

  • Use a bucket. Putting your plant in a bucket will give it the most room and water to survive while outside of the tank. A bucket is an excellent option for moving plants between tanks without transporting them to a new location. 
  • Keep your plant in a bag. One thing you can do is keep your plant in a bag while it’s out of the tank. Keeping your plant in a bag will allow you to have a certain amount of water with the plant and help keep the plant alive. Bags are a great option for transporting your plants across longer distances, such as moving from one house to another. 
  • Wrap the leaves and roots in wet paper towels. Wrapping the leaves and roots in damp paper towels will keep your plant from drying out. When you buy an aquatic plant from an online company, they use this method to keep your plant moist during shipping. However, this option isn’t ideal because it provides your plant with the bare minimum amount of water. 

No matter which method you choose, keep in mind that these should be temporary homes for your plant. You should return your plant to its habitat within a few days. Returning the plant to the water as soon as possible gives it the best chance of survival. 

How To Reintroduce Your Aquarium Plants 

It’s best to re-introduce your aquatic plant to the aquarium as soon as possible. When re-introducing your plant, there are a few things you should keep in mind: 

  • Make sure you have a good light source. Even underwater plants need light to survive. Good lighting is an essential part of your aquarium ecosystem. The amount of light you need will depend on the size of your tank and the type of plants you’re growing. Be sure to consider this when setting up a new habitat. 
  • Don’t overcrowd the tank. Plants don’t grow well when they lack room, so give your plants the space they need to grow and thrive. You can also put plants of varying types and sizes to help give them more room.  
  • Use enough substrate. Submerged and emergent aquatic plants need a couple of inches of gravel or substrate at the bottom of the tank to grow their roots. Be sure to include enough and clean it regularly to keep your plants healthy. 
  • Remove dead leaves. Just like terrestrial plants, aquatic plants have leaves that die or bulbs that rot. Be sure to remove these from your tank regularly. 

Final Thoughts

Aquatic plants can grow entirely underwater, partially submerged in water, or on top of the water. Because they thrive in wet environments, they need more water to survive than their terrestrial counterparts. 

When removing your plant from your aquarium, be sure to keep the leaves and roots moist to keep your plant from drying out. You should also return the plant to the aquarium within a few days. 


get 5 secrets to thriving plants