6 Aquarium Plants That Float | Pictures and Care Guide

Not all plants have to stay rooted in your aquarium. In fact, there is a unique subset of aquarium plants that are easier to cultivate. I get that many new fish owners are hesitant to start planted tanks. But when you choose plants that float, you’ll have a much easier time maintaining your aquarium!

Floating plants are full of features and benefits not found in conventional plants. They require less work, but still offer many of the benefits found in more complicated plant systems. In other words, you won’t have to worry about rooting your plants into a substrate to keep your tank in top condition!

Overall, floating plants are ideal for all kinds of aquarium setups. In addition, if you are looking to get into aquatic planting, these are great first plants to start with!

The Following Plants Will Float In Your Water:

  • Red root floater (Phyllanthus fluitans)
  • Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes)
  • Duckweed
  • Water spangles (Salvinia natans)
  • Water poppy (Hydrocleys nymphoides)
  • Amazon frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum)

Benefits of Floating Plants

Floating plants are one of the best ways to liven up your tank with as little hassle as possible. These types of flora 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

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.

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 plants only come in shades of green. So if you are looking for more color in your aquarium this could be a good choice.

As you would expect, Red root plants 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, give them plenty of light. You’ll want to get a good LED system to keep your Red root happy!

Also, keep track of the water temperature with a thermometer. These floating plants should not be in frigid water. You want them in water between 68 degrees to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The range of temperature for red roots are pretty flexible, but a water heater might not be bad to have on hand. 

Really, these are pretty simple plants 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 bud a flower with these if you take good care of them!

2. Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes)

Water Lettuce is another option to consider, especially if you have a larger tank. These floating plants rest on the top of your water. Some people even describe them as looking flower-like.

Overall, these are great looking plants that can keep your waters clean and free of algae. However, know that water lettuce is not the easiest floating plant to grow. They are simpler to take care of in comparison to most water plants.

But I recommend that you only go for Water lettuce if you have some experience with planted tanks. Temperature has to be well controlled to keep these plants thriving. You want your aquarium water to be around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit with water lettuce. In addition, the air should be humid, and the water current in your tank strong.

It isn’t easy getting conditions exactly right for this floating plant. Some fish owners might not want to deal with the challenge of keeping this plant. However, if you have a tropical fish, the Water Lettuce might be a good match for your pet.

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 over 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.

Duckweeds are tiny but found growing in large bodies of natural water. They can be seen in lakes and ponds and can fill entire sections of water. Keep this in mind, and watch over your duckweed and prune it often.

I recommend this floating plant if you have a small fish. They could easily snack on this and keep Duckweed from getting too big. But this might not be the best option for larger fish with a bigger appetite. They could end up eating all the Duckweed before it has a chance to grow back.

4. Water spangles (Salvinia natans)

Water Spangles are similar looking to Duckweed. However, the leaves on this plant are a lot bigger than Duckweed. This is great if you want to provide your fish with ample shaded areas!

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. You want to trim the Spangle often to avoid overcrowding your aquarium. Overall though, these are a pretty basic floating plant that won’t give you much trouble.

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, which 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.

You’ll want to make sure to prune your Water poppy’s 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.

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 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.

Bart Sprenkels

I have been keeping multiple aquariums since I was 18 years old. Just like many of you, I started with two goldfish but quickly learned they were not suitable for aquariums. Later, I switched to a tropical community tank and I also have two pet musk-turtles in a bigger aquarium. You can read more about me here.

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