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Best Floating Plants for Aquariums: Our Top Picks

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Are you looking for suitable floating plants for your aquarium? Well, you’re in the right spot! In my many years of experience, I’ve successfully grown about 4 different types of floating plants. But there are even more options! They add shelter, take CO2 straight from the air above the tank, and add a whole different layer to your tank’s appearance.

Aquarium Plants that Float: Spotlight

  • Red Root Floaters
  • Water Lettuce
  • Duckweed
  • Water Spangles
  • Water Poppy
  • Amazon Frogbit

1. Red Root Floater (Phyllanthus Fluitans)

The first floating plant on this list is the Red root floater. This plant is originally from the continent of South America. You won’t get huge leaves or roots from this plant, but the roots come in an interesting shade of red.

Many aquatic plants that we can keep in our tanks are green, so having a plant with hits of red is quite special! I think this makes this plant quite a cool option as a floating plant.

Red root floaters don’t require a lot of care. However, these plants do need a lot of light. If you want them to grow to their full potential, make sure to give it to them. Bright lights are not hard to achieve, as floating plants are usually right below them.

These plants are pretty simple to care for. You won’t get the longest roots with this plant,  but the look of the red root is eye-catching. You can even get them to flower if you’re lucky and take good care of them!

2. Water Lettuce (Pistia Stratiotes)

Water lettuce is a very popular and common option. They’re especially suitable for larger tanks, as they grow quite big. The roots are also very long.

Because of their size, they’re also common in ponds.

In general, these are great options to keep in your aquarium. I’ve personally kept them in a big turtle tank and found them to be easy to grow. The great thing about floating plants is that they do not rely on the CO2 dissolved in the aquarium water. All we have to provide are enough nutrients and light.

Water lettuce spreads through runners, and if the plant does well you’ll find smaller plants growing attached to a bigger plant. Eventually, the runner that keeps them connected breaks and you’ll find yourself with two beautiful floating plants!

3. Duckweed

Duckweed is one of the fastest-growing floating plants on the list. You can put this plant in with almost any type of tank setup, this even includes small tanks. Many people like the look of duckweed. The leaves are small but grow into a vibrant and pleasing layer that can blanket your tank. 

Still, you want to be careful and watch over their growth. Duckweed isn’t big but it grows rapidly and can quickly crowd small tanks.

And really, it doesn’t take much to grow them because they are extremely hardy plants. They fit in with most water conditions and are not picky about light. Their growth rate is good if you want a plant with plenty of shade for your pet. But they could obstruct light in your tank if you let them grow unchecked.

Duckweed is quite common in large bodies of water such as ponds. In summer you’ll see them cover the entire surface. This is also a risk in aquariums, so be warned. You can keep duckweed, but if you have enough nutrients dissolved in your water it can spread like crazy.

You’ll need to stay on top of the rapid growth. And if you’re fed up with duckweed, removing it can be challenging as you need to get every last leaf.

4. Water Spangles (Salvinia Natans)

My personal favorite: water spangles. The beautiful texture on the leaves is amazing. And I also find their size to be very suitable for aquariums. Not too small and not too big.

From all the different floating plants on this list, I’ve selected this one to be on my list of aquatic plants that are great for beginners. If you’re interested and are looking for some more inspiration, make sure to check out my list here.

You won’t have to worry much about plant care. Just keep your water healthy and nutritious for your plant. Water spangles are pretty low maintenance overall.

In addition, Water spangles are hardy like Duckweed and will survive in several water climates and conditions. Because of this, these plants can grow out of control. However, as they’re not tiny, it’s quite easy to remove a part of the plants to create some space in your tank.

5. Water Poppy (Hydrocleys Nymphoides)

Water poppies are another low maintenance floating plant. The small compact form of the Poppy brings color and great coverage to aquariums. It also strongly resembles water lilies but requires much less care.

Water poppy plants have their own unique characteristics. In fact, this floating plant is actually one of the few species on this list that develops flowers. The Water poppy sprouts a yellow flower on its surface. These flowers are noticeable, large, and really add a lot of color to your tank.

How cool is it that you can grow flowers in your tank? If you’re interested in cool plants, make sure to check out my list of aquarium plants that flower.

You’ll want to make sure to prune your Water poppies often though. These plants grow notoriously fast. They are hardy and can even survive in colder climates. But their flowers only bud in warmer climates though, around 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. So keep this in mind.

6. Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium Laevigatum)

The last plant I’ll talk about is the Amazon frogbit. Amazon frogbit is a popular floating plant. Many fish owners like its pad-like shape and long-growing roots. The Amazon can actually grow roots that are up to 20 inches long.

This plant adds a pleasing visual to aquarium waters. It has a unique look in comparison to other floating plants. But you shouldn’t put these flora in small aquariums. Since they can grow large, it’s best to place them in medium or larger tanks. This will give you the best results.

Amazon frogbit is not a difficult plant to grow. But you do want to keep one thing in mind as you grow them. The leaves of this plant have to be kept dry. You can keep the roots in water of course, but if the leaves are put in water they will wilt and die.

So don’t forget this care tip if you choose to buy this plant! Also, prune your Frogbit when you can. They look beautiful, but you don’t want them to overtake your tank. Frogbit can get pretty thick and cover the top layer of your aquarium entirely.

You want to avoid this, as thick Frogbit can actually keep oxygen from reaching your fish. This won’t be a big concern as long as you trim your plant though! Amazon frogbit isn’t tough to care for, you just want to watch over it well for signs of wilting or overgrowth.

7. Other Plants That Float in the Water

I’ve kept this list contained to floating plants that float on top of the water. Many other lists include plants that can thrive floating around in the tank.

Are you looking for plants that can float suspended in aquarium water? Make sure to check out my list of plants that do not require substrate. Here you’ll find much more plants that theoretically can float.

I did not want to artificially bloat this list by adding as many plants as possible. Are you missing plants on this list? Make sure to reach out to me!

Best Aquarium Plants that Float: Benefits

Floating plants are one of the best ways to liven up your tank with as little hassle as possible. These types of plants create a realistic tank environment and look striking in your water! With any aquarium, you want to mimic your pet’s tank natural environment as closely as you can.

Floating plants ensure this. They create a natural-looking tank perfect for your pet. Shade and coverage is essential for many fish. Floating plants offer this to your fish and give them a good place to relax and rest.

Floating plants, like other aquatic plants, have excellent filtration qualities as well. They keep aquariums free of toxins and other dangerous substances. At the same time, these plants also add oxygen to your water. Filtration devices and other tank devices are necessary of course. But having added filtering and oxygenation from plants doesn’t hurt one bit!

Even with all these benefits, you might still have worries about caring for your water plant. It’s true that some planted tanks require a lot of work, but floating plants are different. They don’t require as much as other plants and are much easier to handle.

All in all, floating plants look beautiful, create a more hospitable atmosphere for fish, and keep your pet happy and healthy.

How to Care For Floating Plants in Your Aquarium

Many plants have to be attached to an object or anchored in a tank with substrate. With floating plants, none of this is necessary. This is a big draw for this plant type. You won’t need to purchase extra items to keep your plant fixed in a specific spot.  As their name suggests, floating plants can just float in your water.

Still, you want to create the right water conditions for your plant so they grow optimally. First, make sure your aquarium water is filtered and free of toxins. Really, cycling the water beforehand is a good idea.

Once you know your water is in the right state, make sure you have good lighting equipment placed in your tank. Most floating plants should grow easily as long as they have light and a clean area to live in. Some floating plants can even develop roots up to a foot-long.

Light needs depend on the specific plant of course. So do research on any plant you plan on putting in your aquarium water!

After everything is set up you can put your floating plant in. Again, these plants add great coverage to your tank. They grow fast though, so make sure to prune them often. You can even let you fish snack on your floating plants to keep your plant at a manageable size.

Do Floating Plants Need Additional Fertilizer?

Many people wonder whether floating plants require fertilizer. In general, most plants will require fertilizer, even floating plants. Liquid fertilizer works best though. Your floating plant gets its nutrition directly from the water.

A liquid fertilizer will put that nutrition into the water so your plant can feed itself. It’s actually really important to add a quality liquid fertilizer, otherwise your plant will have a rapid growth period initially and quickly come to a halt. The fertilizer that I recommend is called Seachem Flourish, I’ll link to Amazon here.

Do Aquarium Fish Eat Floating Plants?

Another common question about floating plants is whether fish can eat them? Some pet fish have large appetites, and might even gobble up your floating plants. For other plants, this might be a problem. But for floating plants, this could be good.

We mentioned this earlier in the post and even suggested getting small fish to eat your plants if they grow too much. Floating plants are usually highly nutritious for fish and can act as an alternative food source.

If your plant grows fast enough they can even be a meal for larger fish. Just make sure to do some research on your plants and fish. Some plants should not be eaten by certain fish. This isn’t usually a concern. Most plants should be fine to consume for fish, but it never hurts to check!

Along this line of thought, you might also wonder whether floating plants are a good fit for your fish. Really, most fish can benefit from these types of plants. They add a lot of oxygen and extra filtration to water. But shy fish and small fish are especially suited to this fauna. They can hide and feel safe in the long roots of floating plants.

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