Floating aquarium plants, often with long decorative roots, are popular in many types of aquarium setups. With good reason! There are many advantages to keeping floating plants in your planted aquarium; although they may not always be ideal combined with plants that need a lot of light, they are a great addition to almost every setup and quite easy to keep. Keep reading for more information about keeping floating plants, why they are great and which species make a good choice!
Why grow floating plants?
Hiding place – many popular fish species such as bettas, dwarf puffers, gourami and clown killifish occur naturally in darker waters and prefer a densely planted and shaded aquarium with plenty of hiding places. Floating plants provide shade and cover and the long roots help make your fish feel safe, which can help prevent stress.
It’s not just adult fish that will make thankful use of floating plants; they are also a great place for tiny fry and dwarf shrimp to hide and forage. The most popular floating plant with long roots is Limnobium Laevigatum, also known as Amazon frogbit.
- Easy to grow & low maintenance – many of us fishkeepers are plant enthousiasts but at the same time unfortunately lack the green thumb, time or money to set up a high-tech, high-maintenance aquascape with more difficult plant species. Easy plants that require no extra lighting, nutrients or Co2 are life savers; luckily, there are plenty of easy floating plants that will do wonderfully in a low-tech aquarium as well! They grow very quickly and don’t need any extra care except for the occasional removal of a few plants if things get a bit too overgrown*. If you’re interested in low-care (floating) aquarium plants, you can find a list of the 8 easiest plant species here.
*When removing aquarium plants, please do not
release them into the wild. This can destroy local ecosystems. You can instead discard them, sell them or use them as compost.
- Food – as mentioned before, many floating plants grow very quickly. This makes them a great snack for herbivorous fish beside their regular diet of pellets and vegetables. You can grow the plants separately if you’re dealing with very destructive fish like vegetarian African rift lake cichlid species or (fancy) goldfish. Just toss a handful in the tank regularly for some variety in their diet. I’d personally go for only the fastest growing floating plants as fish food so you never run out. Duckweed is a great option.
- Water values – most floating plant species are very fast growers, which makes them great at reducing harmful wastes such as nitrate in your aquarium: these are used by the plants as nutrients. The only other way to reduce nitrate is by doing a water change, and although this will still definitely be necessary it’s great to have a “helping hand” that reduces nitrate levels inbetween water changes. Especially if you have very messy fish that produce lots of wastes but are very sensitive to bad water quality at the same time, such as fancy goldfish or puffers!
Popular floating plant species
- Duckweed (Lemna minor) – you probably just know duckweed as the tiny floating plant that can overgrow an entire pond in a matter of weeks. However, it can also be used in the aquarium; just don’t introduce it unless you’re sure you want it, because it’s not easy to get rid of!We have duckweed in our own tropical community aquarium to provide cover for the fish in the top water layer, but as mentioned earlier it’s also a great choice if you want to use plants as food for your (gold)fish. Duckweed requires no care at all and will survive in almost every type of aquarium setup.
- Amazon frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) – if you’re looking for the classic floating plant with large rosettes and beautiful long roots that is often seen in Amazon biotope aquariums, this is it! Amazon frogbit is easy to keep, can withstand a huge temperature range and will provide lots of cover for your fish. It does block quite a bit of light, but in the type of setup it’s usually kept in this is not a problem because the other plants as well as the fish prefer darker water.If you’re having trouble with the roots getting stuck in your filter, try confining the frogbit to one corner of the aquarium. You can do this by attaching fishing wire to suction cups and putting the plants in this “designated” space; this way, they won’t be able to float towards your filter. You can buy Amazon frogbit online here.
- Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) – like Amazon frogbit, water lettuce grows long, attractive roots. The rosettes are a bit bigger which makes this floating plant less suitable for the smallest aquarium setups; in a larger tank, though, it can be really decorative. Just keep in mind that it’s a very fast grower which blocks a lot of light. If you don’t want your other plants to be outcompeted for light and nutrients or have problems with the roots getting into your filter, use the fishing wire method to keep it confined to one corner or one side of the aquarium.Regularly remove yellowing/dead leaves and excess plants to keep your water lettuce healthy and green! You can buy water lettuce online here.
- Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum), Java moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri), Brazilian pennywort (Hydrocotyle leucocephala), etc. – these are all popular aquarium plants than can be planted or left free floating. While they are not usually seen as “true” floating plants, they are easy, quick growers and offer many of the same benefits!
If you have any more questions about keeping floating plants or which species are suitable for your aquarium, be sure to leave a comment below! Happy fishkeeping.