The 7 Best Floating Aquarium Plants

Floating aquarium plants with long roots can add new pizazz to your tank, and your fish are sure to love their new playground! However, before you rush into buying your first floater, you will want to spend some time deciding which ones will be the best floating aquarium plants for your environ. This handy guide is here to help:

Best Floating Aquarium Plants 2019

PlantLevel of CareRequired LightingWater Conditions
Java Moss
ModerateLow to Moderate72-82° F
pH 6.5-7.5
Water WisteriaEasyModerate74-82° F
pH 6.5-7.5
Red Root FloaterModerate to DifficultLow to Moderate72-82° F
pH 6.0-7.5
Water Spangles EasyLow to HighVaries
Dwarf Water LettuceEasyNatural70-80° F
pH 6.5-7.5
Amazon FrogbitsEasyModerate64-84 °F
pH 6.0-7.5
Duckweed (Lemna Minor)EasyModerate50-90°F
pH 5-7
Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) EasyModerate59-86° F
pH 6.0-7.5
Cabomba EasyModerate to High64-78°F
pH 4.5-
Mosquito Fern ModerateModerate72-82° F
pH 6.5-7.5

 

1. Java Moss

 

Java moss is a supremely popular floating aquarium plant, due to it’s hardy nature and easy care. A native to the Southeast Asian region, this plant thrives in tropical environs. Technically a moss, this plant is low maintenance and should be kept in freshwater tanks.

PROS

  • This is a fast growing plant that does not die off easily.
  • Java moss is relatively low maintenance.
  • This plant has a fluffy and soft look to it, which makes it quite beautiful.
  • Survives well under a variety of different lighting conditions.
  • Can be used as a floater, carpeting or substrate cover.
  • Java moss is compatible with the vast majority of fish species.

CONS

  • This plant can spread easily and should therefore be harnessed down to a solid base, such as a rock.
  • The growth of this plant will be hindered in warmer water.
  • Although it can grow in low light, it looks much less lush under these conditions.

2. Water Wisteria (Hydrophila Difformis)

 

The ease of care required by this plant makes it popular among both experienced and novice aquarium owners. Water wisteria is very common and is widely used in a variety of aquatic environs. A native plant to the Indian region, this plant is compatible with most fish. However, it should not be housed with goldfish, as they will quickly devour this plant.

PROS

  • Water wisteria is very easy to maintain and does not require a lot of attention.
  • This plant will grow well under very dim lighting conditions.
  • It will survive both when left floating or when planted into the substrate.
  • This is a great choice for the hobbyist or novice aquarium owner.

CONS

  • This plant does not grow as well when left as a floater as it does when planted.
  • Water temperature will affect the size of the leaves — colder water will result in smaller leaves.
  • Can only thrive in water temperatures between 74 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Red Root Floater (Phyllanthus Fluitans)

 

 

Native to the Amazon River Basin, this plant requires a nutrient rich environment in order to thrive. Iron is especially important for the red foot floater, without which the plant will perish. Under stronger lighting conditions, the leaves of this plant will change from green to red, hence its name.

PROS

  • This plant is most ideal for humid aquatic environments.
  • Will grow fast under the proper conditions.
  • The red root floater is ideal if you are looking for a more exotic and lesser known floater.
  • The plant is small and is ideal for easy trimming.
  • Red root floaters are very beautiful and feature tiny flowers, which make them ideal for open-top tanks.

CONS

  • Red root floaters will only thrive under intense lighting set-up.
  • This plant is quite finicky and requires a very specific nutrient balance.
  • Due to it’s fast rate of growth, excess plant matter will need to be removed regularly.

4. Water Spangles (Salvinia Minima)

 

Water spangles are a type of floating fern which grows naturally on the surface of water. This plant can grow in both fresh and salt water, provided the salinity of the water ranges between 4 and 7 ppt. Water spangles are very effective in regard to ridding tanks of nitrogen waste, and are also ideal for outdoor pond use.

PROS

  • Water spangles are a very strong type of plant.
  • This plant is able to withstand a wide variety of different aquarium conditions.
  • A great option for a beta aquarium, as this plant provides a lot of cover.
  • Serves as a high-nutrient food source for many different types of fish.
  • Water spangles work to harness the growth of algae.
  • This plant does not require any type of substrate.

CONS

  • When used indoors, this plant requires a specialized aquarium light.
  • This plant should only be used in aquariums which maintain a low current.

5. Dwarf Water Lettuce (Pistia Sratioes)

 

 

This beautiful looking plant resembles a small head of lettuce, floating on the water’s surface, hence its name. Its leaves are spongy and have a fuzzy texture. However, it is important to note that this plant can easily overwhelm a tank and cause oxygen depletion.

PROS

  • This plant has long roots and large leaves which make it a very attractive looking plant.
  • Adds a sophisticated and decorative touch to large aquariums.
  • Water lettuce grows very quickly and provides a lot of shade.
  • Easy to dispose of excess plant matter, but shouldn’t be placed in public water systems.
  • The roots will drop all the way down to the bottom of the aquarium providing great hiding spots.

CONS

  • Due to the size of the leaves, this plant is not ideal for smaller sized aquariums.
  • Due to the amount of shade this plant provides, it is not ideal for fish who like a lot of light.
  • Unless it is controlled, this plant absorbs a lot of nutrients which can cause other plants to suffer.
  • Requires regular care to remove dead and yellowing leaves.

6. Amazon Frogbits

 

 

Like duckweeds, this plant is very effective at removing nitrates from the water. The long thin roots of this plant collect a number of bacteria which serve as an ideal food source for fish and shrimp. Frogbit leaves and roots make ideal hiding places for fish.

PROS

  • Very long roots with large leaves make this plant quite attractive.
  • The Amazon frogbit grows very easily.
  • Ideal for use across a wide range of temperature conditions.
  • Frogbit provides very dense shade cover.
  • Looks great inside of Amazonian style tanks which feature dim lighting.
  • Has a classic look that has been favored by generations of aquatic-lovers.

CONS

  • May not be ideal for fish that prefer lighter biotopes.
  • The long roots of this plant may sometimes get tangled in tank filters.
  • This plant may need to be harnessed to one side of the tank to prevent it from spreading.

7. Duckweed (Lemna Minor)

 

 

Light green in color, duckweed is a free floating plant. Ideally, you will want to keep this plant in a tank which maintains a minimal current. They live well beside plants such as mosquito fern/azolla. When including this plant in your aquatic environ, be aware that overproliferation can cause oxygen depletion in the water, so maintenance is imperative.

PROS

  • Duckweed grows quickly, and can proliferate in just a few weeks.
  • This plant can be used as food for beta fish.
  • The duckweed plant is very low maintenance and requires very little care.
  • The plant can thrive in a wide variety of different tanks.
  • Duckweed is most ideal for tanks that rely on low lighting.
  • This plant is a great option to serve as shelter for baby fish.

CONS

  • This plant can be rather difficult to dispose of.
  • The level of light and nutrient exposure needs to be controlled, otherwise it will overrun the tank.
  • Excess duckweed needs to be removed from the tank on a regular basis

8. Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)

 

 

Hornworts are capable of living both on land and in water. Also known as ‘coontail’ due to its fluffy, tail-like aesthetic qualities, Hornwort is an extremely popular aquarium plant and is widely available. Unlike other floaters which are rather sensitive to their environs, the Hornwort is a true survivor, even in extreme temperatures. This is perhaps why this plant has survived on earth for hundreds of millions of years!

PROS

  • Due to its superior toughness, the hornwort plant can thrive in a multitude of environments.
  • This plant can either be planted in the substrate or left to float.
  • Hornwort is very effective at helping to keep algae growth under control.
  • Young fish love hiding out in these plants!
  • Hornwort makes a great addition to new tanks in particular.

CONS

  • The hornwort may at times drop its prickly leaves, which will require cleanup.
  • This plant will lose some of its beauty and luster under brightly lit conditions.

9. Cabomba (Cabomba caroliniana)

 

Currently growing in popularity, the cabomba plant ranges in color from green to purple. Purple varieties are sometimes called purple fanwort. This plant tends to work best at the back of an aquarium.

PROS

  • This plant is actually a weed and therefore grows well in a variety of environs.
  • It has a unique pale green color which helps to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your tank.
  • This plant can either be left to float or can be planted in the substrate.
  • Survives equally as well as a floater as it does when grounded.
  • An ideal plant to add to an aquarium that has shrimp in it.

CONS

  • This plant can be a bit tricky to care for, especially the red and purple varieties.
  • Cabomba is not an ideal choice for novice aquarium owners.
  • Should not be kept in dimly lit or basic tank set-ups.

10. Mosquito Fern/Fairy Fern (Azolla)

 

The azolla is considered both a plant and a weed. This plant grows rapidly, able to grow twice its size in a matter of days. The fern is rather dense and has a carpet-like appearance. Contrary to its name, the ‘mosquito fern’ actually repels mosquitos, which makes this plan a great addition to any outdoor aquarium or pond.

PROS

  • This plant can be left to float freely on the surface.
  • Comes in a variety of different colors, ranging from greens to reds.
  • Azolla can tolerate a wide range of different tank temperatures.
  • Its colors change from green to red and brown depending on sunlight and nutrient factors.
  • Despite its rapid growth, there are various methods to slow this down.

CONS

  • Does require some consistent care, including trimming, otherwise it will overtake the tank.
  • Hot and humid conditions can cause this plant to grow fungus.
  • This plant easily breaks apart, which causes it to grow even faster.
  • This requires a lot of care in order to control its growth.

Buyer’s Guide/Frequently Asked Questions

1. What should I do before choosing floating plants for my aquarium?

Before adding any new plant to your aquarium there are several key factors to consider, especially if this is a new aquarium. You will need to think about the type of substrate you have, the chemistry of your tank water, your lighting and filtration systems, along with the other types of plants and animals that are residing in your environ. It’s important that all your plants and creatures will cohabitate nicely.

2. What are the benefits of adding floating plants to my aquarium?

Provided they are live, floating plants help to cleanse and purify your tank’s water by absorbing nitrates, which build up in the water as a result of fish waste. Additionally, many varieties of floating plants serve as a tasty snack for your fish, depending on the species of each. This further helps to keep the plants level of growth under control. Floating plants also serve to provide hiding places and breeding grounds for your fish. Lastly, floating plants add a wonderfully decorative and natural looking touch to virtually any aquarium eviron, and provides an aesthetic appearance to the upper portion of the tank, which otherwise tends to look a bit bare.

3. What type of aquarium and environ do I need in order to home floating plants?

There is a floating plant for virtually every type of aquarium. The kind you choose ultimately comes down to which one is best suited for your specific set up. Although most floaters can live in any sized aquarium, they tend to best in aquariums on the larger side. The size of your aquarium is something you will want to keep in mind. If you have a smaller aquarium, you may want to select a species that doesn’t grow quite so fast.

4. What should I look for when purchasing a floating plant for my aquarium?

First and foremost, you should fully research the plant you intend to buy to make sure that it will be suitable for your aquarium. A healthy floater will appear fresh, and should have little to no dead spots. Avoid buying plants that have algae growing on them.

5. I currently have floating artificial aquarium plants. How can I introduce live ones?

Live plants not only look more attractive than artificial plants, but they will make your fish happier too! If this is your first time adding live plants to your tank, you will first want to add substrate and gravel, as even many floating varieties of live plants will extend their roots down to the tank. In some cases you may be able to avoid this, as there are a few varieties of floaters which do not rely on substrate.

After setting up your tank as normal, you will want to prepare your floaters for entry. These plants usually come in a pot and are surrounded by a type of fabric. Remove the fabric carefully before adding them to your tank. It’s a good idea to keep smaller floaters up front and larger ones to the back for viewing pleasure.

6. What is the best way to maintain my floaters?

The key factor of importance when it comes to maintaining your floaters is lighting, as this will be the plants’ primary source of nutrients. You may want to adjust the lighting to help your floaters grow faster or slower depending on your goal. If possible, choosing floaters that your fish will enjoy eating is a handy way to keep your floaters growth under control. Aside from these factors, you will want to trim or prune your floaters occasionally. The frequency of trimming required will depend on the species of plant. Regardless, this is usually a quick and painless process.

7. Is it better to get a floater with roots or without roots?

Ultimately, this simply depends on your own personal preference in what you feel would work best in your set up. Roots provide the benefit of keeping your plants in one space, and many people enjoy the aesthetic of the roots hanging down. Non rooted varieties, however, have the advantage of locating themselves in their most desirable location within your tank.

8. I introduced floaters to my aquarium, but they died. Why?

Every floater plant has a specific set of water and lighting conditions that need to be met in order for it to thrive. If you tried to introduce a floater to your aquarium and it perished, you may want to spend some time reanalyzing the water conditions of your aquarium and choose a floater that is meant to live in that specific type of environ. For instance, plants are sensitive to the pH levels of the water and won’t be able to survive in water that is outside of their given range.

9. My floater is growing out of control, what should I do?

When your aquatic plants over-grow, it can wreak havoc on your environ. Therefore, it’s important to keep your floaters under control with regular trimming. Feel free to remove a large portion of the floater rom the tank if necessary. However, before you do, make sure there are not any fish hiding in the roots, as it’s possible for them to be taken up when you remove the plant.

Another important thing to note is that many floaters are considered invasive species and since they grow so rapidly, you should never try to reintroduce them into the wild pond or public water system. To help slow your plants growth, keep its lighting and warmth on the lower end of its acceptable spectrum. Just make sure that this will not upset the rest the living creatures in your aquarium.

10. Should I clean a new floater before adding it to my aquarium?

Although most retailers will sell your floater clean and ready to go, it is still wise to go through the process of cleaning it yourself before adding it to your tank. This is to ensure that you are not adding an undesired little creatures or bacteria to your tank. This is especially important if you see any soil on your floater.

To clean the floater, rinse the roots under running water that has a mild temperature, and make sure that all the individual roots get a nice rinse. You may also want to trim the roots of the plant a little bit, as this will help them to more easily adapt to their new home.

11. Do my floating aquatic plants need fertilizer?

Most live aquatic plants should have some type of regular fertilizing treatment. However, the type of fertilizer you need will depend on the type of fish you have, the type of substrate you have, and the species of aquatic plants that live in your tank, so it’s important to do some solid research on this. Be sure to always follow the instructions on the fertilizer package, and never over fertilize.

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