A Guide to Choosing the Best Floating Aquarium Plants [with Review]

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Floating plants or floaters are very popular among aquarists as they bring a new layer of beautification to a tank. The water becomes much cooler, giving the whole aquarium a much more natural feel.

As there is an abundance of choice out there, choosing the best floating aquarium plants can be a daunting task.

You might well feel like buying all of them at the same time, but that's a terrible idea. You will end up clogging up your whole aquarium!

So, today, we will look at the best options available.

Let’s get started.

1. Duckweed Plants

Duckweed Plants

Scientific Name: Lemna minor

When it comes to floating plants, most aquarists think of duckweed for some weird reason.

It is the most popular and common floating plant which you can find. The main reason behind its exceptional popularity is its insane growth and high survivability rate.

There are two other major factors which fuel the popularity of duckweed. It can be a great source of additional food supply, and it eradicates nitrogen-cycle toxins from the water.

Characteristics Table – Duckweed

Considering Factors

Traits

Why Should You Plant?

Light Requirement

High

Ideal Temperature

42.8°F – 91.4°F (6°C – 33°C)

Ideal pH Level

6.5 – 7.5 pH

Origin

North America, Europe, Africa, and Western Asia

Care Level

Very easy

Fertilizers

Not necessary, but nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash
promote growth

Additional Tips

Lower filter flow, maintain calmer water

2. Amazon Frogbit

Amazon Frogbit

Scientific Name: Limnobium laeviatum

Amazon Frogbit shares some of its characteristics with duckweed. It also clears out nitrates from the water, supporting the filtration system.

A unique trait of the Amazon Frogbit is its thick big leaves. Due to thicker leaves, light can’t pass through it easily. This creates a darker Amazonian style aquarium.

Furthermore, the roots and leaves create an ample number of hiding places for the smaller fish.

However, the long roots can easily tangle up and reduce free-flowing space in the tank.

Characteristics Table – Amazon Frogbit

Considering Factors

Traits

Why Should You Plant?

  • High survivability rate and minimal care
    required
  • Has very attractive lush green coloration
  • - Helps to remove nitrates

Light Requirement

Medium

Ideal Temperature

64°F – 84°F (18°C – 29°C)

Ideal pH Level

6.0 – 7.5 pH

Origin

Central and South America

Care Level

Easy

Fertilizers

Liquid or easy green plant fertilizers

Additional Tips

Avoid submerging leaves to avoid rotting

3. Water Lettuce or Dwarf Water Lettuce

Water Lettuce or Dwarf Water Lettuce

Scientific Name: Pistia stratiotes

With long roots and unique large leaves, the water lettuce will surely give your tank a spectacular look. The leaves of the plant form a lettuce-like shape when they touch the surface of the water.

Hence the name, water lettuce, a.k.a. dwarf water lettuce.

The benefits of water lettuce in an aquarium are manifold.

These African plants are famous for their looks and providing an ample amount of hiding space for fish. Fast growth and a high survivability rate make this plant an easy choice for the aquarists.

However, the high growth rate can also cause some problems. If you don’t maintain or trim the plants, they will soon overwhelm the tank. Furthermore, you should avoid placing them in the tank if your fish require a lot of light.

Characteristics Table – Water Lettuce

Considering Factors

Traits

Why Should You Plant?

  • Very fast growth rate
  • Easy to expose of the extra plants
  • - The roots of the plant create hiding places for small fish

Light Requirement

Medium

Ideal Temperature

70°F – 80°F (21°C – 27°C)

Ideal pH Level

6.5 – 7.2 pH

Origin

Africa, near Lake Victoria

Care Level

Moderately difficult

Fertilizers

Well-balanced fertilizer with nitrogen, potassium and phosphate

Additional Tips

Don't use in goldfish or cichlids tanks; they will uproot the plants

4. Water Spangles

Water Spangles

Scientific Name: Salvinia minima

Are you looking for a fast-growing plant which can also play the role of nutritious food for your fish? Water spangles are just plant for you, in that case.

Most aquarists that I have seen who keep water spangles in their tank use it as food.

But, that’s not the only advantage of having them.

Like many other floating plants, they help you to reduce nitrogen waste and provide cover for small fish. Many consider them to be the best floating aquarium plant for betta.

Also, water spangles are one of the rare plants which can survive in both freshwater and saltwater conditions.

Characteristics Table – Water Spangles

Considering Factors

Traits

Why Should You Plant?

  • Can survive in both fresh and saltwater conditions
  • Reduces nitrogen waste
  • - Robust plants which can survive in tough conditions

Light Requirement

Medium to High

Ideal Temperature

65°F – 89°F (16°C – 32°C)

Ideal pH Level

6.5 – 8.0

Origin

Central and South America

Care Level

Very easy

Fertilizers

Liquid fertilizers with nitrogen, iron, and phosphate

Additional Tips

Prefers stagnant water for better growth

5. Hornwort Plant

Hornwort Plant

Scientific Name: Ceratophyllum demersum

Hornwort is one of the toughest plants for aquarium. It can survive on land or in water. Extreme temperatures are not a problem for them.

If you hate your fish eating beautiful green plants, hornwort can provide you with some good news.

As the plants have hard, thorny leaves, most fish will avoid taking a nip out of them. Smaller fish use this to their advantage and hide within the thorns. This gives them a sense of safety.

And there’s more!

Hornwort helps to keep the amount of algae under control.

However, if you want to see this plant thrive, you should keep the brightness at a low level.

Characteristics Table – Hornwort

Considering Factors

Traits

Why Should You Plant?

  • Very fast growth rate
  • Offers hiding places as the roots are in the substrate layer
  • - Fish will not eat them due to thorny hard leaves

Light Requirement

Low to Medium

Ideal Temperature

60°F – 86°F (15.5°C – 30°C)

Ideal pH Level

6.0 – 7.5 pH

Origin

North America

Care Level

Easy

Fertilizers

Not required

Additional Tips

Trim occasionally to avoid overgrowth

6. Java Moss

 Java Moss

Scientific Name: Taxiphyllum barbieri

Java Moss is the perfect carpet or foreground option as it is highly unlikely to die, even in extreme conditions. You will not need to worry about its maintenance after you plant it in your tank.

If you want to speed up the growth, you should maintain a colder environment.

Characteristics Table – Java Moss

Considering Factors

Traits

Why Should You Plant?

  • Requires only a minimal level of care
  • High survivability rate
  • - Typically, freshwater fish avoid eating them

Light Requirement

Low to High

Ideal Temperature

59°F – 86°F (15°C – 30°C)

Ideal pH Level

5.0 – 8.0

Origin

Southeast Asia

Care Level

Very easy

Fertilizers

Not necessary

Additional Tips

Prefers colder water for faster growth

7. Underwater Treasures Floating Moss with Feather Roots

Underwater Treasures Floating Moss with Feather Roots

Plant Type: Artificial

What if you are looking for an artificial plant for your aquarium? Well, having an artificial plant has its advantages too.

Firstly, you can say goodbye to the burden of heavy maintenance. Secondly, you will not need to worry about plants rotting in the water.

Things are much simpler with an artificial plant.

But still, I would suggest getting live natural plants as beautification is NOT the only purpose of having plants in your aquarium.

However, if you are determined to have artificial plants, you should buy Underwater Treasures floating moss.

Buying Guide for the Best Floating Aquarium Plants

There are many ways to create a natural-looking habitat in your small aquarium. Among all the creative ideas, I am a bit biased towards floaters.

If you have tropical fish in your tank, then I would say that floating plants are a must. Floating plants are a special feature of shallow tropical waters.

However, you can’t simply place any kind of floating plant in any type of aquarium. You could end up killing them!

For example, if you put duckweed in a saltwater aquarium, it will die. Duckweed can’t tolerate salinity and prefers to live in warm shallow waters.

That being said, you must consider a number of factors before you decide to add floating aquatic plants to your aquarium.

More: Guide to Goldfish Plants

What's in Your Tank?

The number one rule to becoming a successful aquarist is to sync every element of your aquarium. The best way to do this is by creating an interdependent ecosystem.

For example, if you have both goldfish and duckweed in your tank, the goldfish can rely on the duckweed for an extra source of food. So, if you leave your aquarium for a couple of days during your vacation, your goldfish will be able to rely on a natural food source.

On the other hand, duckweed collects nutrients from the waste which your fish produce. This will create an interdependent ecosystem.

Let’s consider another scenario. What if you are looking for good floating aquarium plants for betta?

If that is the case, then you should choose plants which will give your bettas enough cover to build bubble nests for reproduction. In addition, duckweed and other similar plants can reduce the amount of nitrate in the tank.

So, what’s the bottom line?

You should always crossmatch fish and plants in an aquarium before introducing them to each other. With a little bit of research, you can find the perfect partners for both fish and plants.

The Size of the Tank

Don’t simply add plants just because you saw a YouTube video of an aquarist with certain floating plants in their aquarium.

You must consider the size of your tank. Otherwise, you could end up making a huge mistake.

For example, Amazon Sword is a very popular aquarium plant, but you should never put that in a small tank. These plants can reach up to 16 inches in height. As you can imagine, smaller tanks (under 10 gallons) cannot adequately support them.

Also, there is the issue of free-flowing space. If you plant large plants in a small tank, you will essentially reduce the swimming area of the fish.

Active fish such as betta love to roam around the tank as they naturally live in enormous paddy fields.

Always make sure that that number of plants in the tank doesn’t reduce the swimming area of the fish.

However, floaters don’t pose such issues.

Still, you should gather proper information about any plant before making a final decision.

The rule of thumb suggests that you should pick small plants for small tanks and large plants for large tanks.

Lighting

Most floating aquarium plants tend to demonstrate a robust growth rate.

However, you can witness such a high growth rate only if the plants receive sufficient light. If the opposite occurs, and they receive less light than required, their growth rate will be drastically reduced.

Almost all floaters demand a large amount of light.

Therefore, you will need to have a good lighting setup for your aquarium.

There is also the issue of offering the correct light color. Floaters tend to show different growth rates under different colors of the spectrum. There are even some floaters which thrive under low light conditions.

Once more, the best way to choose the best floating aquarium plant is by doing proper and thorough research.

Now, let’s consider the second factor. If floaters get enough light, they will spread very quickly and cover up the entire surface of the water.

This will result in less light being provided to the other inhabitants of the tank, and plants on the substrate layer and fish will suffer from a low-light situation.

Maintenance

I have said it several times before, and I will say it again – you can’t expect to have a healthy aquarium without proper maintenance!

This statement is even truer for tanks which have plants at the top of the aquarium.

Situations can become dire in next to no time.

For example, if your floating plants don’t get sufficient light and food, they might die. And, if they die, they will decompose and increase the concentration of ammonia.

On the other hand, if they get too much light and food, they will cover up the entire surface. Light will then be unable to penetrate through the top layer, and the plants and fish in the tank will suffer.

You must maintain the correct balance.

You may have to remove some of the floating plants from the tank every once in a while, in order to maintain the balance.

Also, keep an eye on the health of the plants. If they die, it can have a significant negative impact on the water chemistry.

What if you don’t have enough time to tend to the needs of your aquarium? Well, you can always choose low-maintenance floating plants.

Duckweed, pennywort, java moss, and Amazon frogbit are some of the low-maintenance plants which you could consider.

More: Guide To Cleaning Your Aquarium With Vacuum Cleaner

What Are the Benefits of Having Floating Plants?

Why should you keep floating aquarium plants? Do they only serve the purpose of being aesthetic ornaments?

NO!

There are many benefits of having floating plants in your aquarium.

They Offer Shade

Having shade in an aquarium isn’t a bad thing at all. Some fish actually feel a sense of comfort when living in the shade.

For example, small fish such as betta and guppy prefer living in the shade if there are other hostile fish in the tank. They hide in the shade in their natural habitat in order to keep themselves safe from bullies and predators.

Also, bright light can deteriorate the beautiful coloration of many fish. Being in the shade can help them maintain their true color.

Wait, there’s more!

There are many plants which live on the bottom layer that thrive better in cooler temperatures and low light conditions.

For example, you will see plants such as Anubias Barteri or Anubias Nana thriving in low light situations.

So, having shade in the aquarium isn’t an entirely bad thing.

However, you shouldn’t allow floating plants to cover the entire surface either. I suggest having a fish feeding ring on the surface.

A feeding ring prohibits floaters from covering up the entire surface and then you get the best of both worlds.

Air Circulation or Aeration

Fish require oxygen in order to survive, just like every other species of animal in the world.

As they live underwater, they collect oxygen from the water, so the water must have a sufficient percentage of oxygen concentration.

Having plants in the tank is the easiest and most natural way of increasing oxygen concentration.

The plants, including floaters, support the air circulation system in the tank.

The Savior of the Tank!

Having floating plants means that you have an extra layer of filtration in the tank. 

Through the assimilation process, floating plants intake harmful nitrates from the water, and then they break down the nitrate to produce nitrogen.

Finally, they use that nitrogen to produce amino acids, nucleic acids, and chlorophyll.

Also, floating plants welcome various beneficial bacteria to build colonies. These bacteria aid in destroying toxins in the water.

Think of floating plants as a natural protector and filtration system. Having plants in the aquarium reduces the stress which is placed on your filter.

Keeping Things Natural

No matter what, fish will always prefer to live in the wild rather than in a glass chamber.

Think of it like this: betta live in the enormous paddy fields of tropical South Asian countries. If you remove a betta from that environment and put it your glass-made aquarium, will they feel happy about it?

No, they won’t.

Therefore, you should create a habitable environment for your fish. Your aim should be to create a self-sustaining ecosystem which is as close as possible to their natural habitat.

Adding plants is the best, and easiest, way to mimic their natural environment.

Alternative Food

I have heard one question asked over and over by fishkeepers – I am going on vacation; how long will my “x” fish survive?

Yes, this is a major concern for dedicated fish keepers. They don’t want their fish to run out of food or die.

Well, the solution is pretty simple.

Install some edible plants in your aquarium.

The fish will not only survive but they will also thrive. Giving them natural food is always better than offering them commercially processed food.

Most floating plants also serve as nutritious greens, so, in a way, you will be giving your fish an ample amount of food. In this way, they will never starve.

How Do You Grow Floating Aquarium Plants?

Most floating aquarium plants have a fast growth rate. Therefore, you can always use them as an additional source of food for your fish.

For example, if you have goldfish or African Rift Lake cichlids, you can use floaters such as duckweed without any problems.

The fish will certainly eat a large amount of duckweed, but the rapid growth rate of this plant will balance the number out.

To grow plants, you require 50 to 100 saplings on the surface. You will need to add some fertilizers according to the specific need of the plants.

Soon, you will see that floaters cover the entire surface.

Conclusion

So, what are the best floating aquarium plants? Based on usability and survivability, I think that the winners are pretty clear.

Of course, duckweed is the best plant when it comes to floaters. It is the most versatile floating plant species.

Second and Third places go to Amazon Frogbit and Water Lettuce, respectively.

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