When cultivating a planted tank, it’s easy to get caught up in rooted varieties. While rooted aquarium plants serve wonderfully as background, midground, and carpet plants, there’s another level of your tank to be utilized—the surface. This is where floating aquarium plants come into play.
Whether you’re looking for an easy entrance into the world of planted aquariums or you want to take an existing planted tank up a notch, consider adding floating plants. Here’s what you need to know.
Benefits of Floating Plants
Floating plants provide the same benefits any aquarium plant does but they don’t need to be rooted in substrate or anchored to decorations. Many species of floating plants grow quickly and require little in the way of maintenance.
Some of the benefits floating plants may provide include:
- Absorbing nitrates from the water column to help combat algae growth.
- Increasing oxygen levels and utilizing excess carbon dioxide.
- Helps diffuse overhead lighting for shy or nocturnal tank inhabitants.
- Provides a fast-growing food source for herbivorous fish species.
Though floating aquarium plants often require less maintenance than rooted plants, it’s important to choose them carefully. Some plants may work better in certain setups than others.
10 Popular Types of Floating Plants
Before adding floating plants to your tank, consider your tank inhabitants. Many fish will nibble on aquarium floating plants, but herbivorous species might devour them entirely. If you have herbivorous fish in your tank, do some research to find out what plants they prefer and choose different species.
Here are some of the most popular types of floating plants:
- Duckweed – One of the fastest-growing floating plants, duckweed will quickly take over your tank if you’re not careful. It’s best in tanks with fish that will snack on it.
- Azolla – Also known as fairy moss, Azolla is a great snack for herbivorous fish. It grows quickly like duckweed but has bigger leaves and a purple edge on the leaves.
- Frogbit – Though it grows quickly, frogbit grows leaves attached to a central unit, so it’s much easier to remove if it grows out of control.
- Hornwort – Also known as coontail, this plant grows long stems with fine needle-like leaves. It’s a great filtering plant and helps with algae control.
- Anacharis – Like hornwort, this plant grows in long stems. It grows quickly and adapts well to a variety of tank parameters.
- Java Moss – While mosses are often anchored to driftwood or other tank decorations, you can also simply let it float in your tank.
- Red Root Floater – With its bright red color, this is a very attractive floating plant. Like other red plants, it requires a good deal of light but it’s usually easy to get at the tank surface.
- Water Hyacinth – This plant grows thicker leaves than many floating plants and, in the right conditions, will produce pretty purple flowers.
- Water Lettuce – If you’re looking for a bigger plant that stays on the surface, water lettuce is easy to grow—it works well in ponds as well as aquariums.
- Water Wisteria – This is one of the hardiest floating plants you’ll find but it can also be planted in substrate.
Keep in mind that some species of floating plants are considered invasive in certain states. Do your research before ordering floating plants and be particularly careful about accidentally introducing them into natural waterways where they might compete with native species.
How to Propagate Floating Plants
One of the main benefits of floating plants versus rooted aquarium plants is that they’re easy to propagate. Because they float freely, you don’t need to worry about trimming them and replanting the trimmings to encourage denser growth. That said, you may want to thin out fast-growing floating plants from time to time to keep them from taking over your tank.
In most cases, you won’t have to do anything special to propagate your floating plants. Maintaining high water quality and stable conditions will yield the best results. If your plants aren’t growing as quickly as they should, consider dosing your tank with liquid fertilizer once a week. Just be careful not to overfertilize or you may end up with algae growth.
Care Tips for Floating Aquarium Plants
As long as you have an established aquarium with stable parameters, you should be able to simply add floating plants to the tank without much special care. Just be sure not to overcrowd the tank immediately—give your plants room to grow.
Here are some general care tips for keeping floating aquarium plants:
- Don’t worry about purchasing specific lighting for them. Since they float at the surface, they’ll be much closer to the light anyway, so you don’t necessarily need to upgrade.
- Keep an eye on how quickly the plants are growing—you may need to thin them out to prevent them from blocking light to other plants in the tank.
- Consider using floating dividers to keep floating plants away from your filter intake and outlet—plants with leaves that grow above the surface don’t like to be splashed on.
- If your red floating plants aren’t developing the color you want, you may need to increase the intensity of your tank lighting. They may also benefit from an iron supplement.
- Be patient and give your plants a good month or two to become established before you change the tank parameters or start using supplements.
- Check your floating plants once a week or so. Even if they don’t need to be trimmed, it’s a good idea to remove weak or damaged plants so that healthy plants have space to grow.
- Keep an eye out for mosquitoes, depending on where you live. Floating plants are great for fish but can also become a breeding ground for mosquitoes if you’re not careful.
If you’re looking for an easy way to upgrade your aquarium, consider adding some floating plants. Not only are they beautiful and easy to care for, but they’ll help improve water quality and just might provide a tasty snack for your fish.
Order your floating plants for the perfect freshwater aquarium!