Top 7 Floating Plants for Beginners

Top 7 Floating Plants for Beginners

Most people starting off in the aquarium hobby often experience difficulty in choosing the best aquatic plants for their aquariums. While others opt for artificial plants because of the common misconception that floating plants are hard to look after. However, this is not true; floating plants are great for aquascaping and they are very easy to maintain in the tank.

Floating plants are more lively, they have roots that hang onto the water surface for growth and absorption of nutrients, and they are known to provide a lot of benefits to tank inhabitants.

Benefits of Floating Plants

  • Cover: Floating plants provides cover/shade for fish and shrimps. These plants act as shelter and hiding place for tank inhabitants.
  • Oxygenation: One of the main functions of floating plants when introduced into the tank is oxygen generation. They help to provide extra oxygen to the tank water which is beneficial to the inhabitants. Also, a high level of oxygen in the tank helps to reduce the presence of harmful toxins.
  • Aesthetic value: Most floating plants are attractive and can add great aesthetic value to your aquarium. These plants will not only serve as a decorative means but will create a natural-like look to your tank and you will definitely love it.
  • Filtration: Floating plants are great filters. The plants use their well-adapted roots in providing biological and chemical filtration. They absorb carbon dioxide created by tank inhabitants and other detritus from the water thus keeping the water clean and free from bacteria.

In addition, they also help in reducing excessive nitrate level in the water and out-competing excessive algae formation.

Here, we will talk about top 7 floating plants for beginners. This guide will help you choose the best floating plants to introduce into your tank and how to care for them.

The top 7 floating plants include the following species:

1. Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum)
2. Dwarf Water Lettuce (Pistia stratioes)
3. Red Root Floater (Phyllantus fluitans)
4. Salvinia Auriculata
5. Duckweed (Lemma Minor)
6. Water Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis)
7. Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides)

1. Frogbit:

Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum)Its scientific name is Limnobium laevigatum (Amazon Frogbit). It is native to South and Central America. This plant inhabits in slow-moving freshwater bodies like ponds, marshes, ditches and swamps. Frogbit is a popular aquatic plant in the aquarium hobby, commonly used for ornamental purposes. They are fast growers and can cover a large space in the aquarium within a short time.

Frogbit Characteristics:

  • Frogbit has a round leaf structure and a vibrant green color
  • Large rosettes
  • This floating plant grows leaves that lie flat in the water surface. The leaves are smooth and unmarked, adapted for buoyancy due to its bloated underside
  • They are very attractive and can grow up to 20 inches in height, 0.5 to 3 inches in width
  • Flowers are small, white and unisexual
  • Possession of long branching roots

Frogbit Optimal Requirements:

  • Water pH: 6.0 – 7.5.
  • Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water.
  • Temperature: 64-80 degrees Fahrenheit (18 – 26 C).
  • Lighting: Moderate to high lighting.

Frogbit Propagation:

Reproduction of this plant species is through flower pollination and sexual production.

Care level: Easy.

PROS CONS
Fast growth rate. As a result of its fast growth rate, constant trimming is required.
Dense shade cover. Blocks waterways, thereby restricting movement of inhabitants.
Easy to care for and maintain. Long roots may get entangled in the tank filters.
Very beautiful and decorative. Can block nutrient and sunlight absorption for lower-dwelling plants in the tank.
Can survive in a wide range of temperature conditions.
Absolutely wonderful for sucking up nitrates and ammonia.

Read more about it in the article “Amazon Frogbit – Planting, Growing, and Propagation”.

Amazon frogbit – check out the price on Amazon

Dwarf water lettuce2. Dwarf Water Lettuce:

Dwarf water lettuce is an amazing floating plant that is a great addition to any aquarium or tank. This plant grows averagely fast and does well with little or no fertilization at all. They are native to Africa, and are quite popular in the aquarium hobby because of their versatility & resilience.

Dwarf water lettuce Characteristics:

  • Large, spongy, thick broad leaves and rounded structure.
  • Leaves possess parallel veins and are covered in short hairs which form basket-like structures that trap air bubbles for buoyancy
  • Overall pale green coloration
  • 10 inches or 25 inches in diameter
  • Long stringy root structure
  • Flowers (dioecious), hidden in the centre of the plant

Dwarf water lettuce Optimal Requirements:

  • Water pH: 6.0-7.5 .
  • Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water.
  • Temperature: 71-82 degrees Fahrenheit (22 – 28C).
  • Lighting: Moderate lighting.

Dwarf water lettuce Propagation:

Propagation in dwarf water lettuce is through sexual and asexual reproduction.

 Care level: Moderate

PROS CONS
Moderate to fast growth rate. Not suited for smaller sized tanks due to its broad leaves.
Has broad leaves that are very colorful and attractive. Blocks light for lower-dwelling fishes because of the huge shade it provides.
Provides a lot of shade or cover for tank inhabitants. Requires regular care and maintenance.
Adds great aesthetic value to the tank. The plant absorbs a great deal of nutrients, thereby starving other plants.
The roots provide excellent hiding spots for fish fry and shrimps.
It is cheap.
Dwarf water lettuce – check out the price on Amazon

Read more about it in the article “Dwarf Water Lettuce Care Guide – Planting, Growing and Propagation”.

Red Root Floater (Phyllanthus fluitans)3. Red Root Floater:

As the name suggests, the Red root floater (Phyllanthus fluitans) is a floating plant with distinct red roots commonly used as an aquarium plant. It is attractive and the red color is more pronounced under high lighting conditions.

Red root floater (Phyllantus fluitans) originates from South America, the Amazon River Basin and extends into Central America. This fast-grower has adapted to become a floating plant in a wide range of living environments.

It desires rich nutrient content in the water, especially iron for optimum growth and development of healthy red roots and colorful reddish hue leaves.

Red root floater Characteristics:

  • Bright red roots and underside
  • Long trailing root system
  • Green leaves that develop a reddish hue tinge in intense lighting conditions
  • Brittle creeping stems
  • They possess tiny unisexual flowers

Red root floater Optimal Requirements:

  • Water pH: 6.5-7.5 .
  • Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water.
  • Temperature: 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit (18-26C).
  • Lighting: Moderate to high lighting.

Red root floater Propagation:

Red root floater propagates from the stalks, the plant are known to branch out easily and divide into multiple parts that grow at a fast rate. They propagate very easily with little or no assistance, however they will need iron supplementation and intense light to grow better.

Care level: Moderate.

PROS CONS
Exhibits fast growth under favourable living conditions. As a result of its fast growth rate, constant trimming is required.
The plant is small and is ideal for easy trimming. This plant will thrive only on intense lighting conditions.
Hardy and suitable for humid aquatic environments. Its optimal growth and development is highly dependent on the availability of essential nutrients.
Propagation is easy.
Red root floater – check out the price on Amazon

Sylvania (auriculata)4. Salvinia Auriculata:

Salvinia auriculata is a free floating fern which grows rapidly on water surface. This plant is indigenous to South and Central America and is commonly used in the aquarium hobby. It is capable of extremely fast growth, its high leaf and branch densities allow it to form continuous dense mats on the water surface.

Salvinia auriculata is non-rooted macrophyte that prefers slow-moving water bodies. It can be commonly found in a wide variety of aquatic habitats including lakes, ponds, streams, aquariums, marshes and rivers.

Salvinia auriculata Characteristics:

  • Diverse growth forms, from small flat leaves to mat forms with large, crowded leaves (Depending on environmental conditions)
  • Flat floating leaves
  • Size: small-sized, 1-3cm
  • Submerged leaves are root-like, whitish and has hair-like projections
  • Creeping stems
  • Possession of sporocarps (responsible for production of spores)

Salvinia auriculata Optimal Requirements:

  • Water pH: 6.0-8.0 .
  • Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water required.
  • Temperature: 65 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit (18 – 26C).
  • Lighting: Moderate lighting.

Propagation

Salvinia auriculata reproduces asexually through fragmentation process. Any part of a rhizome that buds and detaches can form a newly independent plant.

Care level: Easy.

PROS CONS
Growth rate is very fast. Due to its rapid growth rate, it requires constant trimming.
This plant is easy to care for. Thrives only in slow-moving waters.
Able to withstand a wide variety of diverse aquarium conditions. Requires special aquatic aquarium light for optimal growth.
Doesn’t necessarily require substrates for its growth.
The small rounded leaves looks good in tanks.
Good in nitrate absorption thereby aiding to keep the aquarium clean.
Salvinia auriculata – check out the price on Amazon

Duckweed (Lemnaceae)5. Duckweed:

This is a tiny floating plant, it is regarded as one of the smallest flowering plants in existence. Duckweed (Lemnaceae) can easily be found living within a wide variety of aquatic environment but slow-moving water favours it more. It requires little or no care and will thrive in relatively every kind of tank set-up. Duckweed is an excellent floating plant that can act as a cover for fish in the aquarium and shelter for newborn fry.

This plant is a great option for those new to the aquarium hobby, it grows quickly and is compatible with diverse tank inhabitants.

Duckweed Characteristics:

  • Has one to three flat leaves/fronds
  • Air pockets that allows it to float or remain just below the water’s surface
  • Leaf size less than an inch
  • Single root protruding from each frond (about 1 – 5.55 inches)
  • Overall bright light green coloration
  • Fast growers

Duckweed Optimal Requirements:

  • Water pH: 6.5-7.5 .
  • Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water.
  • Temperature: 60-85 degrees Fahrenheit (15 – 30C).
  • Lighting: Moderate lighting.

Duckweed Propagation:

Duckweeds propagate sexually by forming chains of new stems from vegetative buds.

Care level: Easy.

PROS CONS
Thrives in a wide variety of tank setups. It covers large surface of the tank, if unchecked it can lead to oxygen depletion.
Requires very low maintenance. Blocks sunlight penetration.
Provides shelter/cover for fry and shrimp. The plant can be difficult to collect and dispose after pruning.
Grows very fast.
Great choice for amateurs.
Helps in controlling toxins.
Duckweed – check out the price on Amazon

6. Water Sprite:

Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides)Scientific name – Ceratopteris thalictroides. Water sprite is a fast growing beginner plant that is well suited for a wide range of aquarium and water types. Water sprite grows in swamps, ponds, marshes and other slow-moving water bodies. For the aquarium hobby, Water sprite is a great choice and an undemanding plant that thrives successfully in a well-planted tank.

Water sprite Characteristics:

  • Lace-like leaf structure
  • Narrow green leaves
  • Pale or slightly bright green coloration
  • Short and fleshy rhizomes
  • Has proliferous or dormant buds with large scales
  • Long floating roots for nutrient absorption

Water sprite Optimal Requirements:

  • Water pH: 6.5-8.0
  • Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water required.
  • Temperature: 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit (15 – 26C).
  • Lighting: Low to moderate lighting.

Water sprite Propagation:

Just like other ferns, Water sprite reproduces when baby plantlets form on the parent plant, which are then released into the water column. You will notice plenty floating plantlets in the aquarium which will grow and develop into full plants within a short time.

One can also propagate Water sprite by replanting stem trimmings in the substrate or leave them floating in the water. They will develop roots and growth cycle continues.

Care level: Easy.

PROS CONS
Fast growth rate. It grows like a weed and can cover a huge area of the tank quickly.
Can be maintained in a wide array of tank setups. Creates a mess in the tank due to its excessive growth.
Helps to slow down algae growth in the tank. Requires regular trimming.
Thrives under various light conditions. Competes fiercely with other plants.
Easy to maintain.
Cheap to purchase.

Read more about this plant in the article “Water Sprite Care Guide – Planting, Growing and Propagation”.

Water Sprite – check out the price on Amazon

Water Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis, Synnema triflorum)7. Water Wisteria:

Water wisteria is a floating plant adored by beginners because of its fast-growing ability and undemanding nature. This plant is native to countries in Southern Asia – India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal where it grows and reproduces on marshy habitats and shallow water bodies.

This plant can be grown submerged or floating above the water surface. Water wisteria is easy to introduce into the aquarium, it is a versatile plant and thrives in a wide variety of tank conditions.

Water wisteria Characteristics:

  • Bright green leaves with serrated margins, oval and lace-like
  • Has grandular hairs on leaves
  • Thin root system for attachment to substrate and absorption of nutrients
  • Height (20-50cm)
  • Ability to effect change in structure of the leaves
  • Blueviolet flowers

Water wisteria Optimal Requirements:

  • Water pH: 6.0-8.0 .
  • Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water.
  • Temperature: 20 – 27 C (68 – 82 F).
  • Lighting: Moderate lighting condition.

Water wisteria Propagation:

Propagation is through stem cuttings. As a beginner, all you have to do is to cut parts of the stem and grow them in a nutrient-rich substrate.
These cuttings will develop their own roots and grow into new plants after a while.

Care level: Easy

PROS CONS
Easy to maintain. Wisteria thrives excellently when planted, doesn’t grow well when floated.
Affordable. Temperature affects the leaf structure and color.
Easy to propagate.
Great choice for beginners.
Provides cover for fish and shrimps.

Read more about this plant in the article “Water Wisteria Care Guide – Planting, Growing and Propagation”.

Water wisteria – check out the price on Amazon

Final Thoughts

With this guide we hope you can finally choose the suitable floating plants for your home aquarium. All of them are attractive, easy to care for and cheap to purchase in local aquarium stores.

Pick the ones you like and go planting! Also, don’t forget to trim them at intervals to maintain that perfect aquarium.

Quarantine Any New Plant

Do not forget to quarantine any new plants before put them into your tank!

  • They can have parasites, pests like snail or even predators (dragonfly, damsefly nymphs, etc.).
  • They can be treated with chemicals (pesticide) to remove parasites, snails, etc. However, these chemicals are extremely poisonous to shrimp and invertebrates.

To find out more, read my articles:  

Dragonfly and Damselfly Nymphs. Monsters in Shrimp Tanks. Treatment
How to Remove Snails from a Shrimp Tank.
How to Quarantine and Disinfect Aquarium Plants.
Pesticides in Shrimp Tanks. Plants Quarantine.

Related articles:

Top 7 Nano Aquarium Plants
Top 5 Plants for Your Shrimp Tank

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