Best Guide on How to Choose Aquarium Floating Plants

Floating plants

Aquarium floating plants have the singular purpose of sustaining and supporting the ecosystem of the fish tank.

Depending on the type of fish that you have in the aquarium, floating plants can help with:

  • Regulating light in the aquarium
  • Regulating temperature in the aquarium
  • Providing Spawning grounds
  • Supplementing the design of the aquarium

On top of helping you to learn how to choose the best aquarium floating plants, this useful guide will help you to easily understand the following common beginner questions:

  • Are floating plants good for aquarium?
  • Why do my aquarium plants keep floating?
  • Do floating plants oxygenate the water?
  • How do you take care of a floating plant?

Owning an aquarium comes with the responsibility of looking after the aquarium inhabitants, and of course looking after the plants (including the floating plants), because they regulate the ecosystem of the tank.

Plants and especially floating plants will allow you to change the design of the aquarium to match the décor of the room housing the aquarium. You can finally start showing your creativity.

Floating plants are a vital part of the overall aquarium flora because:

  • They are suitable as a supplement to ground plants
  • When combined cleverly they help the ground plants thrive as well

How to choose the best floating plants for your aquarium

1. Clearly define WHY you want to have floating plants in your aquarium

Floating plants in the aquarium serve different purposes to different aquariums. In order to make the right decision on the type of plant that is suitable for your aquarium and can thrive without affecting the ecosystem, you first have to understand why you need the floating plants.

Reasons why you may need floating plants in your aquarium

a. To reduce light in the aquarium

Each aquarium species might need different light requirements to thrive. During your research of the best species to buy, you should have determined their lighting needs. Floating plants stay at the top of the aquarium. This positioning in the aquarium usually helps to reduce the incidence of light in the tank.

GET FLOATING PLANTS: Aquariums that have fish and other inhabitants that thrive in an ecosystem with shade should consider getting floating plants. If you have fish in a community aquarium that naturally come from the bottom of murky floodplains and enjoy a dimmer environment, then definitely get some floating plants to better simulate their natural habitat.

DON’T GET FLOATING PLANTS: On the other hand, there are certainly instances where floating plants do not make sense at all. This is often the case when there are light-hungry plants on the bottom of the aquarium, which can no longer develop properly if there is insufficient light. For your aquarium at home, you probably have a fish that come from rivers, streams, or clear lakes. These fish are used to the bright sunlight and warming rays of rainforest weather.


  • Take into account which plants and animals are already in the aquarium.
  • New plants should match the demands made by the existing plants and animals
b. To regulate any excessive growth of algae in the aquarium

Every new aquarium suffers algae growth until the tank cycles. Excessive algae growth starts especially when the aquarium has:

GET FLOATING PLANTS: When your aquarium has an algae problem, introduce floating plants to the aquarium. They will start competing with the algae for nutrients. It is always best to start with fast-growing floating plants.

The floating plants contribute to the fact that the algae no longer find sufficient nutrients for a further strong reproduction.

Ideally, floating plants do the same job that a small ultraviolet sterilizer to the filtration system will eliminate any persistent green water.

DON’T GET FLOATING PLANTS: It does not seem justified to overestimate floating plants. If your aquarium has a real plague of algae, take additional measures to first the problem and then you can think about getting floating plants to help mitigate any future excessive growth in algae.

c. To provide protection for young aquarium inhabitants

In addition, the use of floating plants sometimes makes sense when there are young animals or small aquarium inhabitants in an aquarium.

GET FLOATING PLANTS: Young fish and other aquarium inhabitants particularly like to use fine-feathered floating plants as hiding places and can therefore enjoy a certain protection.

DON’T GET FLOATING PLANTS: If the fish species does not thrive with the darkening of the floating plants then the needs of the young should not necessitate adding floating plants to the aquarium.

2. Decide how you are going to design the aquarium with floating plants

How to design an aquarium with floating plants

Introducing floating plants in an aquarium is usually less expensive than that of plants that are supposed to linger on the substrate.

Floating plants with special requirements

Some floating plants have special requirements that you should be aware before making the decision to buy them.

  • If you fish and other inhabitants in the aquarium that depend on lighting to display their full spectrum of colors you might want to be specific about the floating plants that you choose
  • On the other hand, if you have aquarium inhabitants that are visually stunning in low light conditions, then floating plants will definitely complement them
Floating plants and water current

If the water surface in an aquarium shows a certain current, it cannot be ruled out that small floating plants in particular will move continuously on the surface.

However, some floating plants do not tolerate such a continuous current well. When the currents are only light, the floating plants often gather in a corner of the pool where the current is not so noticeable.

You should consider using a fishing line to make sure that the floating plants can stay stationary in one location of the tank according to your aquarium design.

Floating plants with long roots

Some floating plants form roots that extend into the aquarium.

Some aquarists see these roots as annoying; others find their sight interesting and consciously include the roots in the design of their tank.

The trend towards aquariums set up as naturally as possible should be a motivation here.

3. Clearly understand how to maintain the floating plants in the aquarium

Floating plants, which tend to grow strongly and quickly, usually have to be decimated quite frequently.

With some floating plants this can easily be done by hand, with others like the duckweed you have to use a landing net.

Keeping floating plants in check is especially important so that enough light can still enter the aquarium and the aquarium is not completely occupied by the plants.

GET FLOATING PLANTS: When caring for floating plants, the specific requirements of the individual plant species must always be taken into account. You should get floating plants when you understand that there are some types of floating plants that grow very quickly and thus increase the amount of maintenance required for the aquarium.

DON’T GET FLOATING PLANTS: If you intend to keep a low maintenance aquarium and depend on the ecosystem in the tank, then you might want to avoid on the floating plants that require too much maintenance.

4. Decide on the type of floating plant species you want

The following are the most common species of floating plants that you can get for your aquarium

  • Frogbit
  • Hornwort
  • Mussel flowers
  • Pond liver moss
  • Duckweed
  • Milkweed

Frogbit – Hydrocharis morsus-ranae (“Amazon frog bite”)

The Frogbit is one of the most common floating plants found in a lot of aquariums.

Frogit Factors to help you decide on this floating plant
Origins: The Frogbit that is mainly used in aquariums today comes from South America, so it is understandable why it is sometimes called the Amazon frog bite.
Optics:The Frogbit is an extremely beautiful floating plant that can significantly enrich an aquarium.

Both the leaf color, which can be best described with a beautiful, bright green, and the round, oval leaf shape of the Frogbit are appealing.

The individual leaves of this floating plant can also become quite large in an aquarium, although it should be noted that the Frogbit can also contribute significantly to shading the tank.
Designing your Aquarium Frogbit: From a design point of view, it is also important to know that the Frogbit floating plants develop roots.

These can grow quite abundantly and should be included in the design of the aquarium for this reason alone.

Aquarists sometimes shorten these roots when they get too long. It’s not still easy to conclusively clarify at this point whether this is in any case harmless to the plant itself.
Frogbit Maintenance and Care:As indicated above, the frog bite is quite straightforward.
Because the frog bite grows very densely you can always retrofit extra lighting if you need to.

But it seems more important to know that the Frogbit can grow and spread very quickly in the aquarium.

• Regularly remove any individual cuttings from the aquarium in order to avoid excessive darkening in the aquarium.
Why would you choose to have the Frogbit floating plants?• If your reason for getting the floating plants is to darkening the aquarium, then the Frogbit is perfect for you. The reduction in the incidence of light benefits some aquarium dwellers, but is also suitable – especially in combination with the plant’s hunger for nutrients – to contain algae. Now and then, for optical reasons, such a slight darkening in the aquarium may be desirable.

• Floating plants in general and the Frogbit in particular offer aquarium inhabitants good hiding places. The Frogbit forms runners when it is cultivated in the aquarium, so that the plant can also be propagated well by less experienced aquarists.

• This is particularly advantageous if you want to produce plants for another aquarium at low cost or if you want to exchange Frogbit for other plants with aquarists who are friends

• You do not need any nets to keep the Frogbit under control


Hornworts are a very well-known floating plant which can be found in aquariums all over the world.

floating plants
Hornworts Floating Plants
Hornworts Factors to help you decide on this floating plant
Origins: The Hornwort occurs naturally all over the world in places that are damp or humid.
Optics:Hornwort can be kept in an aquarium without any major problems.

The beauty of having Hornworts in the aquarium is the design possibilities that you can achieve with the floating plants. You can either:

• Let them swim freely in the aquarium

• Or attach the Hornworts to the bottom of the aquarium in order to design the aquarium with the upright stems
Designing your Aquarium: Should you decide to use Hornworts on the ground, you should place them in the background, which is the best location for them. The reason being:

• They are larger and fast-growing floating plants. This means they will not restrict the view into the aquarium

• They also help to conceal the rear glass pane of a tank or technical equipment such as heating and filters

Hornwort is usually planted in groups in an aquarium in order to get a rich green cover.

• Hornworts do not form roots. Make sure you attach the lower end of the plant stem by weighting down it down with a stone

Should you choose to have the Hornworts free floating, then simply place them in the aquarium and have them swim just below the surface of the water.

Maintenance and Care:Hornworts also grow very densely. Should you need to, you can always retrofit extra lighting if you need to.

Hornworts consume a lot of nutrients in the aquarium. This makes them perfect because they prevent excessive algae growth in the aquarium.  However:

• Regularly control the growth of the Hornworts

• Make sure you prune any overgrowth

• If you decide on free floating Hornworts, then make sure that they do not obscure too much of the light to avoid damaging plants and other aquarium inhabitants that dwell on the bottom of the aquarium
Why would you choose to have the Hornwort floating plants?• Just like the Frogbit, Hornworts are perfect for darkening the aquarium. They provide optimal conditions for bottom aquarium dwellers

• They are ideal especially when you have shrimp or other small animals in the aquarium. They provide protection.

• They also offer good hiding places for aquarium dwellers. Hornworts are beginner friendly.

• This is particularly advantageous if you want to produce plants for another aquarium at low cost or if you want to exchange Frogbit for other plants with aquarists who are friends.

• You do not need any nets to keep the Frogbit under control.

Pistia stratiotes (also referred to as water cabbage, water lettuce, Nile cabbage, or shellflower)

Pistia is a floating plant that is not necessarily suitable for every aquarium, but is very pretty to look at.

floating plants
Pistia Floating Plants
PistiaFactors to help you decide on this floating plant
Origins: In nature, Pistia occur in many warm regions of the world. In colder regions, they are normally cultivated in ponds during the warm season
Optics:The visual appearance of the Pistia floating plant is impressive:

• The individual leaves of this floating plant are arranged in a rosette shape and partially overlap

• The Pistia plant has a light green tone, which makes the plant look very fresh – reminiscent of fresh, young lettuce. That is why is sometimes also called “water lettuce

• Pistia has very fleshy leaves with a lot small hairs on the outside

The surfaces of the leaves of the Pistia have a very special property:

• They are very water-repellent, so that liquids almost roll off them
Designing your Aquarium: Pistia floating plants grow a bit slower but are a very beautiful addition to the aquarium.

They also form roots which inevitably hang in the aquarium.

Adding them to the aquarium requires no effort. Simply place them on the surface of the water where they will remain.

• As a rule, you should add Pistia into the aquarium in groups

• It should be noted, however, that not every aquarium seems to offer ideal conditions for them to grow
Maintenance and Care:• With optimal conditions in the aquarium, Pistia grow rapidly and can completely overrun an aquarium, and in most cases, it’s a good idea to remove a few plants during weekly tank maintenance

• Make sure that you have sufficient sunlight
Why would you choose to have the Pistia floating plants?• Pistia are beautiful to look at

Other factors you should be aware regarding the Pistia floating plants:

• If you have an aquarium with a cover, the Pistia plant is sometimes prone to heat and moisture that splashes onto the plant leaves from above. This in turn contains heat-emitting lighting material

• In an open aquarium, these risk factors are less pronounced, and the Pistia plant really grows splendidly

• Pistia tend to be incompatible Goldfish or any other large herbivore fish since as they tend to eat the roots and even the plant itself

Floating Crystalwort – Riccia flutians

Floating Crystalwort (referred to at times under its Latin name Riccia fluitans) is a floating plant that grows thick clumps of short vivid green threads. 

floating plants
Floating Crystalwort
Floating CrystalwortFactors to help you decide on this floating plant
Origins: Floating Crystalwort occurs in the wild all over the world. It has conquered aquariums mainly because of its beautiful appearance, its frugality and its diversity.
Optics:Floating Crystalwort develop numerous branches over time giving rise to very dense cushions in the aquarium. This gives the aquarium a full, healthy and fresh look.

The color of the Floating Crystalwort has a fresh light green color that can brighten up a dull aquarium.

The floating plant grows very quickly in the aquarium and can easily reach dimensions of 5 x 5 centimeters.
Designing your Aquarium:
Floating Crystalwort can either be used as floating plants in the aquarium or used to give the substrate or individual furnishings some green color.

• Crystalwort does not have a true root structure but need time to anchor itself to other surfaces over time

• Tie the plant down using a fishing line or a thin thread to keep it from floating away

• Within 7-14 days it will stabilize and hold on to something inside the aquarium. You can either then cut off the fishing line or simply left there

• Unlike many other floating plants, Crystalwort absorbs nutrients through its leaves and stems instead of a typical root system. That means you do not need to worry about a special substrate

Maintenance and Care:• The relative rapid growth of Floating Crystalwort means that you have to prune the plants regularly. If not, it will lead to restriction of the amount of light entering the aquarium

• You should also regularly check whether the plants are still sufficiently well fixed. This prevents the Floating Crystalwort from unexpectedly loosening and drifting to the surface of the water

• Trimming is also advisable from time to time with this variant of use. This is not only for design reasons, but is also recommended against the background that deeper plant parts could sometimes be damaged if they are not supplied with sufficient light
Why would you choose to have the Floating Crystalwort?
• No question about it: Floating Crystalwort is a very beautiful aquarium plant

• In addition to this visual stimulus, it can also provide other important services. For example, Floating Crystalwort is particularly recommended for use in an aquarium in which, for example, shrimp or other small aquarium inhabitants are kept

• In the dense branches of the Floating Crystalwort will create hiding places and thus protection, which can be necessary especially in a community aquarium. Fish often use these retreats in an aquarium to release spawn

• Floating Crystalwort on the surface of the water can help reduce the amount of light entering the aquarium

• Just like other floating plants, Floating Crystalwort are also perfect when you are trying to reduce a mild case of algae in the aquarium

• If you used fishing line to attach it, its and thickness will be perfect for hiding away any unwanted string. It will give an appearance of a rich bed of moss

Duckweed – Lemnoideae

Duckweed is the most well-known aquarium floating plant.

CAUTION should be taken when selecting Duckweed because it has an enormous potential for reproduction and thus overrun the aquarium.

When it overgrows, it can deprive the tank of oxygen and leads to the death of fish and beneficial algae in still waters.

floating plants
DuckweedFactors to help you decide on this floating plant
Origins: This plant originally comes from South America, but now and then it also finds a home in an aquarium. The giant varieties are both natives to North America while the dotted variety (Landoltia punctate) was originally found in Australia and South Asia but escaped from cultivation and has been carried all around the world.
Optics:Duckweed only grows to about a size of a few millimeters.

It develops small leaflets that are light green in color.

Every now and then, the small duckweed can also turn yellow. When this happens you know that there is an iron deficiency in the tank.

The small duckweed also forms roots that are suitable as hiding places for the animals that are cared for in the aquarium.

Designing your Aquarium:
• Make sure that the aquarium has freshwater. Most Duckweed species prefer freshwater tank)

• An aquarium with rapid water surface movement might not be ideal for Duckweed

• Make sure that the water has a pH of 5 to 9 and a temperature of 42 to 68 degrees celsius (below this and the Duckweed will drift to the bottom of the tank
Maintenance and Care:• As part of biological Duckweed control, you can add natural predators of duckweed, such as Koi, grass carp, goldfish and domesticated waterfowl to the aquarium to regulate the growth of Duckweed before it takes over the aquarium

How to control duckweed mechanically
• Skim the plant off the surface with small mesh nets to reduce their numbers and keep it in check
• Install an aerator or fountain creating water movement to keep the area around the turbulence clear of duckweed and restrict its growth rate.
• Introduce native plants and animals to your natural ponds

How to control duckweed chemically
• If you are seeking a chemical control, use an herbicide rated for use in water
• Treatment should begin early in the season for best control
• This is not a permanent solution and repeat applications may be required
Why would you choose to have Duckweed?Pros:
• The advantage of the small duckweed is that its use, like that of other swimming plants, can create shade in the aquarium, thanks to its rapid growth it can remove pollutants from the water

• It also serves as a hiding place for aquarium inhabitants due to its development of a root structure.

• It can reproduce rapidly even under suboptimal conditions thereby covering the entire water surface within a short period of time. This would be deadly for the fish because it has the potential to completely prevent sufficient light from falling into the aquarium

Red Root Floater – Phyllanthus fluitans

The Red Root Floater has a special visual appeal and is known for its bright red roots and underside.

floating plant
Red Root Floater
Red Root FloaterFactors to help you decide on this floating plant
Origins: South America
• The leaves of the floating milkweed are quite small with their size of one to two centimeters

• The shape of the leaves is somewhat reminiscent of a heart: This applies at least to the incision that the leaves have at the transition to the stem. In contrast to a heart, however, the leaves at the other end are not pointed, but are gently rounded

• The reddish color of the leaves is great because you can incorporate ito the design of the room

• The change from a greenish to a reddish or even brownish color in the floating milkweed usually only starts when the plant receives a lot of light and otherwise conditions prevail that can be considered optimal for the plant. It is therefore not absolutely guaranteed in every case that the floating milkweed will perform the described color change
Designing your Aquarium:
• A nitrogen deficiency and lack of proper lighting will make the leaves turn deep brown-red

• If the conditions are optimal for growth, leaf axils will have tiny white flowers

• The Red Root Floater has brittle stems with diameters of 1-1.5 mm and lengths of 130 mm

• Care is extremely easy for Red Root Floater. It can thrive in a relatively wide pH range as well as low to high lighting

• Make sure that the aquarium does not have a high level of surface agitation

• It is best kept in an aquarium with gentle water flow

• Under these simple conditions, it will multiply very quickly and provide significant denitrification as well as oxygenation, which is particularly important in aquariums with low water flow. It does not require CO2 supplementation
Maintenance and Care:
• You should make sure that the iron levels in the aquarium are optimal. Iron is required to give the Red Root Floater their red coloration. If there is deficiency, supplement the iron levels in your aquarium’s water with fertilizers

• Avoid the excessive use of chemicals since they will cause your plant to die quickly

• Remember to weed out the surplus red root floater when it starts multiplying. Failure to do this might lead to the overcrowding of your tank and the plant completely covering your water surface and affecting the flow of environmental elements

• Overcrowding also causes the plants to start fighting for nutrients and causes them to die slowly. When trimming your red root floater, start with the leaves that are submerged

Why would you choose to have Duckweed?
• Has very bright red roots and underside under any lighting
• Overall red leaves under high lighting
• Provides shade to areas of the aquarium
• Very hardy and durable in low water flow