root tabs vs liquid fertilizer

Root Tabs vs Liquid Fertilizer-Grab The Best One!

Well, it’s not like all of us loved chemistry in our high school. So all the chemical jargon might seem bewildering while choosing a fish tank fertilizer.

So, which one to choose if it’s root tabs vs liquid fertilizer?

Root tabs are best for root feeders and liquid fertilizer is for the stem plants. You don’t have to pay much attention to underdosing or overdosing root tabs. Once placed these tabs will last for months. On the other hand, you’ll have to be very precise with the liquid fertilizer.

This was just a quick preview of these two types of fertilizers. We understand you’ll need more information to make an ideal choice.

So, let’s get to the next segment and explore more!

Root Tabs vs Liquid Fertilizer: Quick Overview

You might still be confused about which fertilizer is ideal for your aquarium. So what’d be the best- aquarium root tabs vs liquid fertilizer?

We’ve prepared a quick rundown discussing their features. This will give you a better idea of their unique points and differences.

These were just the comparisons of these two. Now it’s time to get into all the nitty-gritty details.

But before that let’s have a look at the following graph to have some more insight.

Seems like we’re heading towards the right track, right? So let’s get into the main discussion now!

Root Tabs vs Liquid Fertilizer: Head-to-Head Comparison

How to Use Root Tabs to Fertilize Your Live Aquarium Plants – Aquarium Co-Op


There are many differences between root tabs and liquid fertilizer. This wasn’t the case while comparing frogbit and duckweed. In this segment, we’ll explain and compare them thoroughly. This in-depth discussion will guide you to make your final choice. 

Tank Size

Tank size is an important aspect to consider while using plant fertilizers. The quantity of fertilizers changes with the size of your aquarium. So let’s see how we divide each one of these!

Root Tabs

Suppose you’re getting a 2-gallon Koller Products BettaTank, a single root tab is enough for this tank. A basic calculation you can use is that, for every 30m2, put 1 root tab. This will help to spread the nutrients evenly.

Also, it’s completely fine if you use 2-3 extra root tabs. But if you’re using fewer tabs, the plants won’t get enough macronutrients.

Liquid Fertilizer

Tank size, liquid fertilizer are quite interrelated with each other. For this kind of fertilizer, the amount you put in has to be accurate. 

You’ll need 10ml of liquid fertilizer, for every 1000 liters of water. Similarly, use 0.378ml of liquid fertilizer if you buy a 10-gallon Aqueon aquarium. The capacity of this kind of tank is around 37.8 liters.

Winner: It’s easier to use liquid fertilizer in the big tanks. But remember, you’ll still need root tabs for the root feeders. So it’s a tie.

Plant Species

Plant species are the most important factor to consider here. Root feeders and stem plants require different types of fertilizers. Among root tabs and liquid fertilizers let’s see which one’s better for your aquarium plant!

Root Tabs 

How to use osmocote / root tabs for planted aquarium substrate? - The 2Hr  Aquarist


Root tabs are great choices for root feeder plants. Root tabs for Vallisneria plants are an excellent choice.

However, if you want a better and instant result you can mix the root tab with Landen Aqua Soil Substrate and plant your plants. This substrate delivers a nutritive plant root system along with a friendly environment.

Now, this brings us to the question, what type of plants are root tabs good for?

This might include any plants that take nutrients with their roots, i.e root feeders. To name a few- Amazon swords, Ludwigia, Japonica, Cryptocoryne Wendtii, etc. are some aquarium plants. 

Root tabs will be the best choice for providing nutrients to these aquatic plants.

Liquid Fertilizer

Liquid fertilizer for root feeders is not a good option, it’s best for stem plants. So, let’s check out what types of plant liquid fertilizer is good for?

Aquarium stem plants are the best for using liquid fertilizer. Stem plants have quick growth and they absorb nutrients via leaves. Some examples of these plants are-  Coontail, Hygrophila, Rotala, and so on. Liquid fertilizers dissolve in water instantly. Thus, the leaves can quickly take the nutrients from the water. 

API Leaf Zone Freshwater Aquarium Fertilizer is one of the bests in the market. You can use this for your aquarium stem plants as it elevates beneficial aquarium plants.

Winner: If all of your plants are root feeders, go for the root tabs. But if they are stem plants, liquid fertilizers will be the best choice.

Plant Mass

Too many plants might not be ideal for your aquarium. This is because you’ll need a lot of fertilizers which can mess with the pH level. Moreover, excessive CO2 will also cause algae growth and harm to your fish.

So, the number of plants you put in your tank should be limited.

Root Tabs 

Well, how many plants should I put in an aquarium to use root tabs?

It’s not possible to pinpoint an exact number of plants. But it’s safe to keep 3-4cm of space between two plants. For a 10-gallon tank, you can have 8-12 plants. This way all of the plants get sufficient nutrients from the root tabs. Moreover, there’ll be enough room for the fishes to float around. 

Well, we would recommend you to get Fluval Stratum or Seachem Flourite to mix with your root tabs. Because these types of gravels offer neutral to mildly acidic pH.

Liquid Fertilizer

Now you must be thinking about the plant mass for liquid fertilizer. So, how many plants should I put in the aquarium to use liquid fertilizer?

Plant the stem plants 3-4 cm apart as well. This method will let plenty of light inside the aquarium and your stem plants will get enough fertilizers. 10-12 floating plants are ideal for a 10-gallon tank. In this way, your plant will have room to grow! 

Otherwise, too many plants can increase pH and CO2 levels. This might not be good for the fishes in the aquarium. 

Black Diamond Premium Gravel is a good choice of plant mix for stem plants. This activated carbon extracts smells, contusion, and impurities for transparent sparkling aquarium water. You can use this to plant the stem plants. After that, you’ll only have to properly fertilize it for it to grow properly.

Winner: Liquid fertilizer wins this comparison. If you want too many plants in the tank, keep stem plants. Using liquid fertilizer in a densely planted tank is easier. 


How to Select Substrate for Planted Aquariums - The Tye-Dyed Iguana -  Reptiles and Reptile Supplies in St. Louis.


Soil, sand, rocks, and gravel are essential for planting aquarium plants. This is because, for some plants, fertilizers get mixed with substrate first. Choosing the right substrate can also be difficult. However, choosing between flourite and eco complete can help you out. Then the nutrients reach the plants through the roots. Let’s see which is this technique applicable for. 

Root Tabs

Substrate allows the roots of a plant to grow. You must be thinking, do I use substrate for root tabs?

Of course, you have to use substrate for root tabs. Root tabs are a soil-based fertilizer. Hence they need substrate to go into the roots of the plants. This will help to spread the fertilizers evenly, for faster growth. Moreover, this also helps to prevent the fertilizer from being exposed to direct water. 

Now, let’s move on to liquid fertilizers. 

Liquid Fertilizer

Liquid fertilizers, on the other hand, dissolve in water. So, the substrate is not a big concern in this case. 

You can use liquid fertilizer when the plant is planted only on the sand mix. You don’t have to worry about being precise with the substrate. The plants will take in the nutrients through their leaves once dissolved.

I’ve used both CaribSea Eco-Complete and Aqueon Plant Stratum as my substrate. These can be very effective substrates for your aquarium plants. Because they contain all the essential trace elements to nourish aquarium plants.

Winner: Root tab’s the winner here. Because the substrate is a must for this fertilizer. 

CO2 Injection System

The CO2 injection system is required for hi-tech aquarium plants. This regulates and controls the Co2 level. Moreover, it also controls the fertilizer level.  

Root Tabs

Root tabs contain phosphorus, magnesium, nitrogen, and many other necessary elements. These elements help the plant to grow rapidly and produce CO2. However, it doesn’t reduce the pH level by more than 0.5. 

So, should I use root tabs when injecting CO2?

Well, you can use root tabs while injecting co2. This is applicable only if you have more than 10-12 plants in a 10-gallon tank. But if there aren’t many plants, the CO2 from the fertilizer will be enough. 

Moreover, excessive CO2 can cause rapid algae growth. This is bad for the plants and the fish. So, use co2 injection and root tabs together only if you have a hi-tech aquarium.

Fret not! You don’t have to look here and there for a good quality CO2 booster. Let’s go through our following recommended list-

Liquid Fertilizer

Liquid fertilizers work faster than root tabs. So, never use liquid fertilizer and co2 together in a low-tech tank. There will be an uncontrollable growth of algae due to excessive CO2. Eventually, it’ll cause the death of the plants and fish. 

Winner: Choose root tabs in this case, because it doesn’t mess up with the co2 in the water. But that too only if you have root feeders.

pH Level

The pH level of water rises and falls because of the acidic elements of fertilizers. So the pH level is important in determining the portion to use.

Root Tabs

Root tabs generally contain highly acidic elements. This brings up a big question, will root tabs increase water pH?

No, not really! If the root tabs aren’t exposed to the water, the pH level will stay intact. On the other hand, if exposed they’ll reduce the pH. The pH level will go below 6.2 which is not good for the plants.

Hence make sure the root tabs aren’t exposed!

You can watch the following video to understand how to use root tabs-

Liquid Fertilizer

Liquid fertilizer directly gets mixed with the aquarium water. So, you might want to know, will liquid fertilizer increase water pH?

Yes, liquid fertilizer increases water pH. But, not to a threatening level. pH level 7.2-6.8 is a good pH level for aquarium plants and fish. Mixing the fertilizer can sometimes increase the acidic level of the water. But this too to a tolerable 6.2-6.8 level.

So, you should only use the amount as instructed to balance the pH of the water.

You can use the API Water Test Kit to check the Co2 and pH level of the tank. However, it’s designed to use in freshwater aquariums only.

API Tap and Fluval Water Conditioner are top-notch water conditioners. Use 2-3 drops of water conditioner every time you change the tank water. This will keep the pH level in the water balanced.

Winner: Root tabs are a safe option. You don’t have to worry about messing up the pH level unless they’re exposed.


Lighting Requirements for Plants in Community Aquariums


Aquarium plants need fertilizer for their optimal growth. These fertilizers produce nutrients and CO2 to create the perfect environment for plants to grow. In turn, these happy plants keep the fishes alive and well!

Root Tabs

Roots tabs are mainly used to provide necessary nutrients to the root feeders. The nutrients help the plants to grow and produce oxygen. Since the substrate in the aquarium doesn’t carry any nutrients, we have to provide it. That’s basically where the root tab comes in. 

Liquid Fertilizer

These are used to provide nutrients to stem plants. You basically mix the fertilizer in the water and your plant will absorb it. This type of fertilizer works fast, so you have to be mindful of the portions. 

There are so many promising liquid fertilizers in the market. However, choosing between thrive and easy green can be a tough nut to crack because both of them are super efficient.

Winner: Both the fertilizers serve their purpose as they should. So, make a choice according to your tank type.

Shelf Life

Root tabs and liquid fertilizer have different shelf lives. Also, they have different usage frequencies. Let’s check them out below!

Root Tabs

To begin, let’s see how long do root tabs last?

Well, root tabs have a limited shelf life. They last for like 2-3 months. After 3 months, they don’t work on plants anymore. Thus you need to replace them with new ones.

You only need to use root tabs every month on your aquarium plants. This ensures the proper health and growth of your root feeder plants. 

Moving on, let’s check out the deal with liquid fertilizers. 

Liquid Fertilizer

You need to use liquid fertilizer once a week or every 2-3 days. This might vary according to the brand type and number of plants. You can read the instructions in the packet for specific instructions. 

As for shelf life, let’s see how long does Liquid fertilizer tabs last?

Liquid fertilizer has a longer shelf life than the root tabs. It can last up to 3-10 years. So, you can use it without having to think about expiry dates. However, do check it once every 3 to 6 months to keep track. 

Winner: Undoubtedly liquid fertilizer wins this round. As it has longer shelf life than the root tabs.


The usage might vary between these two fertilizers. So, let’s go through this part to know about the fertilization dosage and usage. 

Root Tabs

Root tabs come in different numbers varying brand and price. Using the root tab is very simple and easy. So, how to use root tabs?

It’s very easy. You can use it in both salt and fresh water. You don’t need to remove the fish or anything from the tank. No preparation is needed before the fertilization process.

First, identify the roots, especially the weak ones. Then use a tweezer to place the tabs as close as possible to the roots. You’ve to go at least 2-3 inches deep into the substrate to install the root tab.

How to Trim Aquarium Plants (Easy) - Long Stemmed, Leafy & Bushy | It's A  Fish Thing


So, there are many durable and comfortable to use aquarium tweezer kits that you can order. Therefore, you’ll be able to insert your tabs without the risk of exposing it. Take a look at the following recommendation table:

After burying the root tab, cover the hole with the substrate. This will ensure no exposure to the fertilizer. That’s all you have to do for the tabs to start working. 

If you struggle with twisters you can use your hand or a wooden ice-cream stick. Simply drop a root tab and use your hand or stick to push the tabs inside the substrate as deep as possible. 

Lastly, replace them every month with new ones. Otherwise, your plants will not get sufficient nutrients to stay alive. 

Liquid Fertilizer

Using liquid fertilizer is a bit tough. This is because you have to follow the instructions very carefully. Now let’s see how to use liquid fertilizer in the aquarium?

For using this you need to be very precise about the measurement. You can use only 10ml per 1000 liters of water. Now use a measuring cup to estimate the exact amount you need. Recheck your measurement and mix the liquid in the water.

Remember the tank should be filled with fresh water. Liquid fertilizers don’t work on saltwater. Also, this process doesn’t require any preparation. You can put the liquid directly in the tank without removing or disturbing any fish or plants.

Flourish is a thriving brand when it comes to liquid fertilizers. Both of their flourish and flourish excel will give you an exemplary result. So, you should get a clear idea by comparing these two liquid fertilizers.

If you’re struggling with measurement, use the cap as a guide. Simply put 1 cap of fertilizer per 10-gallon water. Another way to get the precise measurment is using a dosing spoon. I like the Ezy Dose spoon as it has always helped me to get the accurate measurement.

You have to fertilize the plants every 2-3 days. Otherwise, the floating plants won’t survive.

Winner: Root fertilizer is comparatively easy to use.

So, Root Tabs vs Liquid Fertilizer: Which One is Better?

Now after factoring in all the above-mentioned criteria we’ll come to a decision. So, let’s check out the final rundown. 

Root Tabs

First of all, root tabs are very reasonable. They’ll cost you around $20-40. Moreover, they have a very low chance of contaminating aquarium water.

But remember, it works only on plants that have developed roots. Hence you can’t use them for floating plants like Duckweed or stem plants. The shelf life of root tabs doesn’t last more than 4 months.

Seachem Flourish Tabs are very effective fertilizers for root feeders. Also, you can use Osmocote Root Tabs to help slow-growing plants to grow fast. These root tabs are the best ones available at a very reasonable price. 

Liquid Fertilizer

On the other hand, liquid fertilizer is a bit expensive. It costs around $30-$100. But they work well for the floating plants. Also, they have a longer shelf life, almost 3-10 years.

But, liquid fertilizers only work on freshwater aquarium plants. It’s not effective for saltwater plants. 

If your aquarium is full of floating plants, this is the right choice for you. Here’s a list of the top quality liquid fertilizer-

These liquid fertilizers have no toxins and no harmful chemicals. Moreover, you can use them without removing the fishes from the aquarium.

Well, that’s all the information we had about root tabs and liquid fertilizers for you. As you can see both of the fertilizers serve different purposes. Tab works best for root and liquid one for floating plants. You can also compare these fertilizers with bud candy or molasses to make a suitable decision.

So, depending on the plants in your aquarium, you can make your choice. 


Should you use root tabs and liquid fertilizer?

In simple words, yes. You can use root tabs and liquid fertilizers together. If you have root feeders and stem plants in your aquarium, use both fertilizers. Just make sure not to put too much fertilizer.

How long does it take for root tabs to work?

It takes a week or two for the root tabs to work on the plants. They last for 2-3 months. They help the plant to gradually flourish and grow.

Are root tabs enough?

If you have only root feeders like Anubias, Amazon sword in your aquarium, then yes. Root tabs are enough for your root feeder plants. But if you have floating plants too, you have to use liquid fertilizer as well.

How often should I use root tabs?

To ensure healthy growth, use root tabs once a month. Because the substrate used to plant aquarium plants doesn’t contain any essential minerals. So, you have to continuously supply additional nutrients for your plants to live.

Can you use too many root tabs?

Though using too many root tabs doesn’t cause any harm. But, using 5-6 tabs for a 10-gallon aquarium is enough. You can 2-3 tabs more to give the unhealthy plants an extra dose of nutrients.


Hopefully, now you know everything about the root tabs vs liquid fertilizer. So, you will be able to pick the ideal fertilizer for your aquarium. 

If you have both stem and root feeders in your aquarium, use both kinds of fertilizer. However, make sure to proportion it correctly to not overdose the plants. 

Until next time, goodbye and take care of yourself!

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