Floating Aquarium Plants – 20 That Work Amazing in Aquariums

Estimated read time 16 min read

Floating aquarium plants provide numerous benefits to your tank, from oxygenation to natural hiding spots for your fish.

Discover the 20 best-floating plants for freshwater tanks and learn how to set up your aquarium for success.

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What Are Floating Aquarium Plants?

Planted Aquarium Air Pump Bubbles
Planted Aquarium With Air Pump Bubbles

Floating aquarium plants are aquatic plants that grow on the water’s surface or have leaves that float just beneath it.

These plants do not require anchoring to the substrate and can effortlessly move with the water currents.

The Benefits Of Floating Plants For Your Tank

Floating plants offer numerous advantages to your aquarium, from oxygen production to natural cover for your fish. Here are some key benefits:

Oxygen & Food

Floating plants help oxygenate the water through photosynthesis, providing a healthy environment for your fish.

They also serve as a food source for some fish and invertebrates.

Cover For Your Fish

These plants provide a natural cover for your fish, giving them a place to hide, rest, and feel secure.

This can reduce stress and promote healthier fish.

Algae Control

Floating plants absorb excess nutrients in the water, helping to control algae growth by competing for the same resources.

Shade

Floating plants can create shaded areas in the tank, which some fish prefer.

This can help mimic their natural environment and keep them comfortable.

Visually Pleasing

Aquatic plants can enhance the overall appearance of your aquarium, adding a touch of natural beauty to your underwater world.

Hiding Places

Providing hiding places for fry, shrimp, and other small aquatic creatures, floating plants help ensure their survival and growth.

Snack Time

Some fish enjoy nibbling on floating plants, providing a natural, healthy snack.

Low Maintenance

Floating plants require less maintenance than rooted plants, making them an excellent choice for busy aquarium owners.

The 20 Best Freshwater Plants for Your Aquarium

Glowlight tetra and Amano Shrimp in Water Wisteria plants

Aquarium plants play a significant role in providing a healthy environment for your fish.

Not only do they add beauty, but they also offer shelter and improve water quality.

This guide will introduce the 20 best freshwater plants for your tank, suitable for beginners and experienced hobbyists.

Dwarf Water Lettuce

Description: Dwarf Water Lettuce is a floating plant with small, round leaves that form a dense mat on the water’s surface. Its roots provide hiding spots for fish and help absorb excess nutrients.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Floating
  • Origin: Asia
  • Growth rate: Fast
  • Height: 1-2 inches
  • Light Demand: Medium
  • CO2: Low

Hornwort

Hornwort
Hornwort

Description: Hornwort is an easy-to-grow, versatile stem plant with needle-like leaves. It can float or be anchored in the substrate, making it suitable for various tank setups.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Stem
  • Origin: Worldwide
  • Growth rate: Fast
  • Height: 6-10 inches
  • Light Demand: Low
  • CO2: Low

Java Moss

What Can You Use Java Moss For
What Can You Use Java Moss For

Description: Java Moss is an adaptable, low-maintenance plant that can grow on rocks, driftwood, or other surfaces. It’s excellent for creating a natural look and hiding spots for fish and shrimp.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Moss
  • Origin: Southeast Asia
  • Growth rate: Moderate
  • Height: 1-4 inches
  • Light Demand: Low
  • CO2: Low

Water Wisteria

Glowlight tetra and Amano Shrimp in Water Wisteria plants

Description: Water Wisteria is an attractive plant with finely branched leaves that create a lush, bushy appearance. It’s ideal for midground or background placement and helps improve water quality.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Stem
  • Origin: India
  • Growth rate: Fast
  • Height: 6-12 inches
  • Light Demand: Medium
  • CO2: Low

Anacharis

Description: Anacharis, also known as Elodea, is a popular plant with long, flowing stems and bright green leaves. It can grow submerged and floating, making it a versatile option for any tank.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Stem
  • Origin: North and South America
  • Growth rate: Fast
  • Height: 6-20 inches
  • Light Demand: Low
  • CO2: Low

Water Sprite

Description: Water Sprite is a delicate, fern-like plant that can be planted on the substrate or left floating. It’s an excellent oxygenator and provides shelter for small fish and fry.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Stem
  • Origin: Asia
  • Growth rate: Fast
  • Height: 6-12 inches
  • Light Demand: Medium
  • CO2: Low

Brazilian Pennywort

Description: Brazilian Pennywort is a versatile plant with round, bright green leaves. It can be planted or left floating, creating a beautiful, natural look in your aquarium.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Stem
  • Origin: South America
  • Growth rate: Moderate
  • Height: 12-24 inches
  • Light Demand: Medium
  • CO2: Low

Amazon Frogbit

Amazon Frogbit
Amazon Frogbit

Description: Amazon Frogbit is a floating plant with long roots that dangle in the water, providing shelter for fish. Its round, lily-pad-like leaves create a pleasant surface cover.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Floating
  • Origin: Central and South America
  • Growth rate: Fast
  • Height: 1-2 inches
  • Light Demand: Medium
  • CO2: Low

Cabomba

Description: Cabomba is a feathery, fan-shaped plant that adds texture and depth to your aquarium. It’s a great background plant and helps improve water quality by absorbing excess nutrients.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Stem
  • Origin: Americas
  • Growth rate: Fast
  • Height: 12-20 inches
  • Light Demand: Medium
  • CO2: Low

Salvinia cucullata

Description: Salvinia cucullata is a small, floating plant with distinct, cup-shaped leaves that provide surface cover and shelter for fish. It’s an excellent choice for both small and large aquariums.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Floating
  • Origin: Asia
  • Growth rate: Fast
  • Height: 0.5-1 inch
  • Light Demand: Medium
  • CO2: Low

Subwassertang

Description: Subwassertang is a unique, liverwort-like plant that forms dense, cushion-like mats on rocks, driftwood, or other surfaces. It’s an excellent choice for creating a natural, mossy look in your aquarium.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Liverwort
  • Origin: Asia
  • Growth rate: Moderate
  • Height: 1-3 inches
  • Light Demand: Low
  • CO2: Low

Crystalwort Riccia

Description: Crystalwort Riccia is a fascinating liverwort that forms a lush green carpet in your aquarium. It provides excellent shelter for small fish and shrimp while oxygenating the water.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Floating
  • Origin: Cosmopolitan
  • Growth rate: Fast
  • Height: 1-2 inches
  • Light Demand: Medium
  • CO2: Low

Banana Plant

Description: The Banana Plant is a unique and eye-catching addition to any aquarium, with its banana-like roots and broad, round leaves.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Rosette
  • Origin: North America
  • Growth rate: Slow
  • Height: 3-6 inches
  • Light Demand: Low to Medium
  • CO2: Low

Red Root Floater

Description: The Red Root Floater is an attractive floating plant with a reddish hue, providing shade and hiding spots for your aquatic life.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Floating
  • Origin: South America
  • Growth rate: Fast
  • Height: 1-2 inches
  • Light Demand: Medium to High
  • CO2: Low to Medium

Java Fern

Java Fern
Java Fern

Description: Java Fern is a popular, hardy plant that thrives in various aquatic environments, making it perfect for beginners and experienced aquarists.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Rhizome
  • Origin: Southeast Asia
  • Growth rate: Slow
  • Height: 6-12 inches
  • Light Demand: Low
  • CO2: Low

Mosaic Plant

Description: The Mosaic Plant features stunning geometric leaves, adding a touch of elegance and sophistication to your aquarium.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Stem
  • Origin: Brazil
  • Growth rate: Medium
  • Height: 6-10 inches
  • Light Demand: Medium to High
  • CO2: Medium

Duckweed

Duckweed
Duckweed

Description: Duckweed is a fast-growing floating plant that can help reduce excess nutrients and shelter aquatic creatures.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Floating
  • Origin: Cosmopolitan
  • Growth rate: Fast
  • Height: 1-3 inches
  • Light Demand: Low to Medium
  • CO2: Low

Amazon Frogbit

Description: Amazon Frogbit is a floating aquatic plant with long, trailing roots and round, green leaves. It provides excellent cover for fish, helping them feel secure, and reduces excess light in the aquarium.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Floating
  • Origin: South America
  • Growth rate: Fast
  • Height: 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm)
  • Light Demand: Low to moderate
  • CO2: Low

Rotala Indica

Description: Rotala Indica is a versatile stem plant with thin, needle-like leaves that grow in dense clusters. Depending on the lighting conditions, it adds a splash of color to aquariums, ranging from green to pinkish-red.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Stem
  • Origin: Southeast Asia
  • Growth rate: Moderate
  • Height: 6-20 inches (15-50 cm)
  • Light Demand: Moderate to high
  • CO2: Moderate

Ludwigia Repens

Description: Ludwigia Repens is an eye-catching stem plant with vibrant green and red leaves, making it a perfect choice for adding contrast and visual interest to your aquarium’s landscape.

Plant Info:

  • Type: Stem
  • Origin: North America
  • Growth rate: Moderate
  • Height: 4-20 inches (10-50 cm)
  • Light Demand: Moderate
  • CO2: Moderate

Planted Tank Setup: A Brief Guide

substrate for planted tank

Create a lush underwater paradise for your tropical fish with this guide on setting up a planted tank.

Learn about going lidless, selecting the perfect lighting, and choosing the right filter for your aquatic haven.

Going Lidless/Hoodless: Embrace the Open-Top Aesthetic

One of the most striking features of a planted tank is the natural look that comes from having an open-top or hoodless aquarium.

This design choice offers numerous benefits:

  • Unobstructed view: Enjoy a clear, panoramic view of aquatic plants and fish without obstructing a lid or hood.
  • Better gas exchange: An open-top tank promotes better gas exchange, ensuring healthier plants and fish.
  • Easier maintenance: A lidless aquarium allows for more accessible maintenance and care for your plants and fish.

However, going lidless also has some drawbacks, such as increased evaporation and the risk of fish jumping out.

To mitigate these risks, maintain a safe water level and choose fish species less prone to jumping.

Lighting: Illuminate Your Underwater Garden

Proper lighting is crucial for the growth and health of your aquatic plants. Follow these tips to select the best lighting for your planted tank:

Choose the Right Spectrum

Aim for full-spectrum lighting that mimics natural sunlight, with a color temperature of 5,000-7,000 Kelvin.

This range promotes healthy plant growth and enhances the vibrant colors of your fish and plants.

Consider LED Lights

LED lights are energy-efficient, long-lasting, and generate less heat than traditional aquarium lighting.

They also offer customizable features, such as adjustable color temperature and intensity, making them ideal for planted tanks.

Set a Consistent Light Schedule

Maintain a consistent light schedule of 8-10 hours daily to avoid stressing your plants and fish. Consider using a timer to automate your lighting schedule.

Filtration and Substrate for Your Aquarium Plants

Best Canister Filter - Eheim Classic
Eheim Canister Filter

Discover how to choose the perfect filter and substrate for your aquarium plants, ensuring a thriving and healthy environment for them to grow.

Selecting the Right Filter for Your Aquarium Plants

Understanding the Role of Filters in Aquarium Plant Health

Filters are crucial in maintaining water quality, promoting gas exchange, and providing essential biological filtration for your aquarium.

In addition, a good filter can help plants absorb nutrients effectively and prevent harmful substances from accumulating in the water.

Filter Types for Aquarium Plants

There are three main types of filters suitable for aquarium plants:

  • Hang-on-back (HOB) filters are easy to install and maintain. They provide mechanical and biological filtration, but their water flow rate might need to be increased for larger aquariums with numerous plants.
  • Canister filters are known for their excellent mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration capabilities. They have adjustable flow rates, which makes them suitable for various aquarium sizes and plant requirements.
  • Sponge filters: Sponge filters provide gentle water flow and additional surface area for beneficial bacteria, making them suitable for planted aquariums. However, their filtration capabilities might need to be improved for heavily stocked tanks.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Filter for Aquarium Plants

When selecting a filter for your aquarium plants, consider the following factors:

  • Aquarium size: Choose a filter with a suitable flow rate for your aquarium size. A general rule of thumb is to select a filter with a flow rate of at least 3-5 times the aquarium’s volume per hour.
  • Plant requirements: Some plants prefer gentle water movement, while others thrive in stronger currents. Research your plants’ preferences to select the appropriate filter.
  • Maintenance: Filters require regular cleaning to maintain optimal performance. Consider the ease of care when choosing a filter for your planted aquarium.

Substrate for Aquarium Plants

The substrate in your aquarium serves as the foundation for your plants, providing anchorage and a source of nutrients. Therefore, choosing a suitable substrate is essential for your aquarium plants’ healthy growth and development.

Types of Substrates for Aquarium Plants

There are various types of substrates available for aquarium plants:

  • Gravel: Gravel is a popular choice for aquariums due to its aesthetic appeal and ease of maintenance. However, it may need to provide more nutrients for some plants. Consider using root tabs or a nutrient-rich substrate layer beneath the gravel in this case.
  • Sand: Sand can create a natural appearance in your aquarium, and certain plants prefer it as a substrate. However, sand can compact over time, which may limit oxygen and nutrient flow to plant roots.
  • Aquatic plant soils: Specially formulated aquatic plants are designed to provide essential nutrients and a suitable environment for plant roots. These soils can be more expensive than other options but can lead to healthier and more vibrant plants.
  • Clay-based substrates: Clay-based substrates, like laterite and fluorite, provide a rich source of iron and other nutrients, promoting strong root growth and vibrant colors in your plants.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Substrate for Aquarium Plants

When selecting a substrate for your aquarium plants, consider the following factors:

  • Plant preferences: Some plants prefer specific substrates, such as fine-grained sand or nutrient-rich soils. Research your plants’ choices before choosing a substrate.
  • Nutrient content: Opt for substrates that provide essential nutrients for your plant’s growth, or consider supplementing with root tabs or liquid fertilizers.
  • Aesthetic appeal: The substrate will significantly impact your aquarium’s appearance, so choose a color and texture that complements your plants and overall aquascape design.
  • Maintenance: Some substrates require more maintenance, such as regular vacuuming or replacement. Consider the ease of care when choosing a substrate for your planted aquarium.

Care and Instructions for Your Aquarium Plants

Learn how to properly care for your aquarium plants by following these essential instructions, covering everything from feeding to dealing with pests.

Feeding

Aquarium plants require essential nutrients to grow and thrive. These nutrients can be absorbed from the water column or through their roots. To ensure your plants receive proper nutrition, consider the following feeding options:

  • Liquid fertilizers: Add liquid fertilizers to the water column, which the leaves of your plants can absorb.
  • Root tabs: Place nutrient-rich root tabs beneath the substrate to provide a direct source of nutrients for root-feeding plants.
  • Fish waste: Fish produce waste that can be broken down into nutrients, such as nitrates and phosphates, which plants can use. A well-balanced aquarium will benefit from the symbiotic relationship between fish and plants.

CO2 Injection

CO2 is essential for photosynthesis, and injecting CO2 into your aquarium can significantly boost plant growth. If you decide to use CO2 injection, remember to:

  • Use a CO2 regulator and timer to maintain stable CO2 levels throughout the day.
  • Monitor pH levels closely, as CO2 injection can lower pH.
  • Adjust lighting to match the increased CO2 and nutrient uptake, preventing algae growth.

Propagation

To propagate your aquarium plants, follow these general guidelines:

  • For stem plants, cut healthy stems and replant them into the substrate.
  • For rhizome plants, divide the rhizome into sections with a sharp knife and replant each section.
  • For rosette plants, separate the daughter plant from the mother plant and replant it.

Tank Maintenance

Regular tank maintenance is crucial for maintaining a healthy environment for your plants:

  • Perform 25-50% weekly water changes to maintain water quality and prevent nutrient imbalances.
  • Clean the glass and filter media as needed to avoid algae buildup.
  • Trim and prune plants regularly to maintain proper growth and remove dead or decaying leaves.

Keeping Them In Check

Avoid overcrowding your aquarium with plants, leading to nutrient deficiencies and resource competition.

Instead, provide ample space between plants and monitor their growth to ensure they do not overtake the tank.

Tank Mates

Choose tank mates that are compatible with your plants and won’t cause damage:

  • Avoid large, boisterous fish that may uproot or eat plants.
  • Opt for smaller, peaceful fish that will coexist with plants without causing harm.
  • Consider invertebrates, such as shrimp and snails, which can help control algae and contribute to a balanced ecosystem.

Pests and Other Problems

Monitor your aquarium plants for pests and diseases:

  • Common problems like snails, aphids, and algae can be controlled through manual removal or the introduction of natural predators.
  • If your plants show signs of nutrient deficiencies or disease, identify the issue and take appropriate action, such as adjusting fertilization or treating with proper medication.
  • Quarantine new plants before adding them to your main aquarium to prevent the introduction of pests or diseases.

FAQs about Aquarium Plants

Get answers to common questions about aquarium plants, including their role in oxygenation, algae control, CO2 requirements, and more.

Do aquarium plants oxygenate the water?

Yes, aquarium plants oxygenate the water through a process called photosynthesis. During the day, plants absorb CO2 and light, converting them into oxygen and energy. This oxygen is released into the water, providing a valuable source of oxygen for your fish and other inhabitants. However, keep in mind that plants also consume oxygen during the night through respiration, so maintaining a balanced aquarium is essential.

Do aquarium plants help prevent algae growth?

Aquarium plants can help control algae growth by competing for the nutrients algae require to thrive. By using these nutrients, plants can reduce the available resources for algae, which can slow down or even prevent algae growth. Moreover, healthy plants can block light from reaching the substrate and other surfaces, limiting algae growth. However, plants alone may not eliminate algae, so other preventive measures should be implemented, such as proper lighting, water changes, and nutrient control.

Do aquarium plants need CO2?

Aquarium plants require CO2 for photosynthesis, which is the process by which they produce energy and oxygen. While there is naturally occurring CO2 in an aquarium, providing additional CO2 through the injection can significantly enhance plant growth and health. However, not all plants have the exact CO2 requirements, and some can thrive in low CO2 environments, while others will benefit from CO2 supplementation.

Will floating plants block light?

Floating plants can partially block light from reaching the lower levels of your aquarium, as their leaves can create a shaded area beneath them. While this can be beneficial in reducing algae growth, ensuring sufficient light reaches your submerged plants is essential. To avoid light limitation issues, consider using floating plants with a more open growth pattern or trim them regularly to maintain the right balance of light.

Can you have too many plants in an aquarium?

Yes, overcrowding your aquarium with plants can lead to issues such as resource competition, reduced water flow, and limited swimming space for fish. Overcrowding can also cause certain plants to overshadow others, leading to poor growth or even death. To maintain a healthy and balanced aquarium, provide ample space between plants and monitor their growth, ensuring they do not overtake the tank.

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