Aquariums are a source of great joy and entertainment, and they can be somewhat addictive. There’s just something relaxing about watching a bunch of fish swim peacefully through their habitat. However, there are some little touches that can turn a nice aquarium into a great one. One of those little touches is the addition of floating aquarium plants.
Of course, there are many different kinds of aquarium plants, and not all of them are suitable for each situation. Depending on your setup, you might need to choose certain plants that fit the artificial environment that you have created. With that in mind, let’s look at our picks for the nine best entry-level aquarium plants. These entries are presented in no particular order.
1. Water Lettuce
Other Names: Nile Cabbage, Water Cabbage, Shellflower
This is an Egyptian water plant that has come to be very common in the world’s lakes and rivers. In many places, it is described as an invasive plant. Based on that classification, we can see that this plant is very tough. If not, it wouldn’t have the capacity to become an invasive species in the first place.
Water lettuce is a very forgiving plant that is easy to grow. That makes it a great choice for beginners who may not have much experience with plants of this type. This plant is so tough that it can live in some of the most polluted waterways in the world. Therefore, you are unlikely to kill this stuff without deliberate effort or great stupidity.
Because this plant grows so quickly, it will occasionally need to be trimmed. If it reaches a point where it covers most of the water’s surface, it’s time to pull out some of that excessive plant material.
Other Names: Watermoss
Native to South America, this plant is a member of the fern family, and it offers large floating leaves that can be very appealing to amphibians. There are 12 different species of Salvinia, but the differences between them are generally quite small. Salvinia is also related to the Azolla fern, which is also on our list.
Each leaf has small hairlike structures called trichomes. Science doesn’t seem to know why these structures exist. Like our first choice, this is a plant can cause problems if it grows too large. In some places, this plant has choked out the life of entire ponds, but a little cropping from time to time should prevent these issues in your aquarium.
This plant is so hardy that it has sometimes been used to soak up oil spills. Its trichomes repel water, but readily absorbs oily substances. This is a good example of the way that plants can serve as filtration mechanisms.
3. Carolina Fanwort
Other Names: Carolina Watershield, Green Cabomba, Fishgrass, Washington Grass
This is a perennial water plant that is native to North America and South America. These plants are a little different in appearance from most others, as it doesn’t really resemble moss and has no large floating leaves.
In essence, this plant looks like some kind of miniature underwater tree. As such, it can be pruned in creative ways like a Bonsai tree. This plant is very common in the decorative plant industry because it offers a forest-like appearance and a striking contrast with the mossier plants. Unlike most of our other choices, this plant will put down roots and anchor itself to the ground.
Thus, it won’t tend to form a thick carpet on top of the water like many others. It is worth mentioning that hard water can inhibit the growth of this plant, so keep your water at a pH value between 5.5 and 6.8.
Other Names: Coontail
This plant is found worldwide, although it mainly grows in damp or humid areas. There are thousands of different species of Hornwort, and not all of them are aquatic. Thus, you should be careful if you choose to buy this species through the mail.
Hornwort is another leafy-looking water plant that can be used to create an underwater forest in which fish can hide, play, and reproduce. It roots itself to the ground much like Cabomba and is incredibly hardy. One little issue with Hornwort is the fact that it can inhibit the growth of other plant species.
The plant releases certain chemicals into the water, and these are harmless to most aquatic creatures. However, they will inhibit the growth of other plant species. Thus, Hornwort doesn’t mix very well with other kinds of aquarium plants. At the same time, you couldn’t ask for a cheaper option. This plant has a very fast growth rate, so there is very little work involved in its cultivation.
Other Names: Water Lenses, Water Lentils
This plant, which is native to North America, is easily the tiniest plant on our list. Each plant consists of a small leaflike structure called a “frond.” There are no visible stems or roots, which might be the reason for some of the alternate names given to this species. Each leaf is slightly concave, which might be why some people compare them to lenses.
When these plants accumulate in a thick carpet, they can be very problematic for boats. We would recommend that you use Duckweed for aquariums that are meant to house amphibians, but it might not add much to an all-fish aquarium.
Still, it’s a great plant for beginners because it’s so easy to grow. This species produces flowers, but they are literally the smallest flowers known to science. A Duckweed flower might be as small as 0.3 mm.
6. Amazon Frogbit
Other Names: West Indian Spongeplant, South American Spongeplant
If you want the classic look of a wetland, this plant has a lot to offer. Its floating pads are very large and can support the weight of most amphibians.
Thus, this is an ideal choice for frogs, salamanders, and the like. The underside of each pad has a spongy texture that fish seem to like. This plant is native to Central and South America. As it matures, it will grow tall white flowers that offer a lot of beauty.
On the dietary side, this plant is totally safe for most aquatic creatures to eat. Like most water plants, this one can be a danger if its’ growth is allowed to get out of control.
7. Riccia Fluitans
Other Names: Floating Crystalwort
Riccia Fluitans is a leafy, frond-like plant that tends to stay just below the surface of the water. As such, it can handle just about any kind of overhead light. The water acts as a photon filter, removing things that might be harmful. Because this plant tends to form a thick carpet of foliage, some people like to use a net or other framework to guide their growth. If not, they can become a problem.
This plant has a very communal nature, which means that different pieces will grow together and form one unified carpet. When it comes to providing hiding spaces, this one is second to none. The thin leaves leave plenty of empty pockets in the carpet where the smallest and most vulnerable creatures can hide.
One of the best things about this plant is the fact that it can be anchored to objects on the bottom of the tank. The extra depth might cause it to grow a little more slowly, but that can be a good thing.
8. Java Moss
Other Names: Christmas Moss
Java Moss is native to Southeast Asia and has become one of the most popular plants in the home aquarium industry. If you see aquatic plants at your local pet shop, you are very likely to find Java Moss among the available options.
The great thing about this plant is the fact that it’s so easy to grow. It doesn’t have any special requirements in terms of lighting or water quality, so you can pretty much use it anywhere.
Most fish tend to enjoy eating this plant, and it has a very rich nutrient profile. You really couldn’t ask for a better beginner’s option.
Other Names: Mosquito Fern
Azolla is another plant that has become quite popular in recent years. It is another type of water fern, which gives it some unique properties in comparison to the others. This plant will float at the surface of the water, but each plant will put down a single root that is often concealed by the thick accumulation of this plant.
Because these are just aquatic ferns, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see that they have a look reminiscent of an evergreen tree. If you really like the look of evergreen conifer trees, this plant should provide all kinds of enjoyment for both you and your pets.
Azolla also provides a lot of nutrition for fish, who enjoy eating this plant as often as possible. Like all the other plants on our list, this one is also low-maintenance. These kinds of water plants will often become a nuisance in the wild, but their hardy nature makes them perfect for the beginning aquarium keeper.
This plant can grow in the water or along the surface of the water. Either way, this species offers a rare level of beauty without the tangled and difficult nature that many of these plants have.
Why Use Floating Aquarium Plants?
There are quite a few reasons to use floating aquarium plants in your aquarium. Whether you are keeping fish, amphibians, or any other water-dwelling creature, these plants give you a way to decorate the tank and improve the habitat at the same time. Let’s consider the main reasons for which you might choose to use these plants.
Provides Extra Food
Most aquatic creatures will nip at your aquarium plants. In most cases, this won’t go far enough to kill the plant, so it creates a sustainable food source. In fact, some aquarium plants will grow so quickly that you need fish to crop them down in a hurry! Otherwise, your whole tank will just become a big green mess.
These aquarium plants provide your pets with extra nutrients that they might not be getting from their normal food. Many commercial fish feeds are high in preservatives and very processed. Floating plants give them a safe and healthy food source at all times.
Better Oxygenation Of Aquarium Water
Most people think that fish do not need oxygen to breathe. This is actually false because fish use oxygen for respiration much like land animals. However, they extract their oxygen from the water using gills. Thus, more oxygenated water leads to healthier fish. While it is possible to overdo it on the oxygenation, you won’t have to worry about that when using natural methods.
Like all plants, aquarium plants feed on carbon dioxide and excrete oxygen. That might be a somewhat vulgar way of putting it, but that’s essentially how it works. When water plants excrete their oxygen, they put it into the water. There is plenty of evidence to show that oxygenated water leads to healthier fish.
Places To Hide
A lot of fish enjoy a good hiding spot. In fact, some species might be described as flat-out reclusive (like the Amazon ghost knife, which tends to stay hidden all the time). These kinds of aquatic creatures will greatly enjoy hiding in the foliage provided by your plants. It will reduce their stress level, and that always means healthier fish.
On a more practical level, aquarium plants make it possible to raise big fish along with small fry. Without adequate places to hide, the adult fish will usually eat the newborn fry. If you are trying to breed your fish, this is not acceptable at all.
Instead of trying to catch all those tiny little baby fish and put them in a separate tank, you can just give them a good place to hide. A few will still be eaten, as it is in nature. but most of the young will survive.
Speaking of fish breeders, they will sometimes be forced to use aquatic plants. When fish lay their eggs, they need a proper place in which to lay them. Standard aquarium gravel isn’t really suitable for most species, so the fish will have more reproductive success by laying their eggs in the tangled underwater forest that you have created.
As we explained before, some plants will not be suitable for your setting. However, we guarantee that at least one of the plants on this list will fulfill your needs without posing any real problems. This list is a good starting point, but you can always do some research and find other options.
At the same time, it can be very dangerous to put unknown plants into a contained biological environment. That’s why it’s better to stick with well-known and time-proven choices. By doing that, you lessen the chance of a toxic reaction and make a healthier environment for your little friends. If you have enjoyed this article and found it to be helpful, please fill out the contact form below for more information.