Hornwort – Ceratophyllum demersum: Aquarium Background Plants


The hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) is certainly one of the best-known aquarium plants, although aquarists sometimes take different positions when it comes to assessing the visual attractiveness of this plant.

Ceratophyllum demersum are mostly preferred in the aquarium:

  • because of their voluminous appearance
  • because the hornwort can provide important services for the biological balance in the aquarium
  • because as a fine-feathered plant, a lot of small aquarium inhabitants love it

The hornwort can be used in the aquarium both as a background plant and as a floating plant. In the following you will learn more about what hornwort looks like, how it can be cared for in the aquarium and how you can upgrade your own aquarium with this useful plant.

Hornwort: Quick facts

Popular name: Beckett’s water goblet

Full botanical name: Cryptocóryne beckéttii Thuill. ex trim.

Difficulty: easy

Use: middle ground, foreground group

Growth: medium

pH value: 5 – 8

Temperature tolerance: 15 – 30 ° C

Carbonate hardness: 1 – 18 ° dKH

Total water hardness: 0 – 30 ° dGH

Propagation: Roots, division of rhizomes, division, separation of daughter plants

Can grow immersed? Yes

Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)

Hornwort: Why do aquarists love it?

The hornwort is an undemanding, very fast-growing plant that has been in use since the early days of aquaristics.

 The rough horn leaf or hornwort is found almost worldwide, especially in nutrient-rich waters. Ceratophyllum species are completely rootless.

You can put them in the ground, but you can also let them float freely on the surface, where they quickly form a thicket.

The rough horn leaf is suitable for cold and warm water basins and recommended for initial planting. It quickly removes excess nutrients from the water, effectively competing with algae. It is particularly recommended for fish and shrimp breeding tanks.

Hornwort: Leaf structure and growth

The hornwort presents itself with long stems on which the many small and thin leaves grow. These leaves are elongated and very narrow, so that they almost resemble the green of conifers.

Because there are so many leaflets on the plants, the above-mentioned voluminous impression is created. The growth of the plant can also be described as extremely fast in the aquarium. Apparently there is no limit to it, as the hornwort can grow to be more than a meter long if you let it.

At the same time, however, it remains quite narrow at a maximum of around 15 centimeters – one reason why hornwort is usually planted in a group when used as a background plant in the aquarium so that the entire width of the background can be covered.

A special feature of hornwort is that this plant does not develop roots – how you can still use it to green the background of your aquarium is explained below.

The simplicity of keeping this plant illustrates the typical characteristics of a Cryptocoryne from Sri Lanka.

It can adapt to soft and hard water. Light doesn’t play that big a role either, although it grows better with better lighting. The brown, greenish rosettes that form after the onset of them spread quickly and form dense bushes in the aquarium.

If the substrate is rich in nutrients, it will grow a little faster. Otherwise, the plant welcomes good fertilization and CO2 supply, but will willingly grow even without these components.

Hornwort: Maintenance and Care

Hornwort does not have any special requirements in the aquarium – on the contrary, this plant has to be described as frugal and adaptable. Only the very rapid and intensive growth of hornwort can become a problem in a small aquarium over time. The aquarist then has to prune the plant regularly so that it does not overgrow the entire aquarium. If the plant is also to be planted in the background of the pool, a certain amount of effort is required for the attachment, which we will describe later. Nevertheless, hornwort is almost an ideal plant for people who are just starting to design their first aquarium and who have little experience with aquarium plants.

Hornwort helps newcomers to the aquarium hobby not only because it is modest, but also because it can provide important services for the aquarium. It practically devours the excess nutrients, which are often found in aquariums that are still young, and thus keeps the biological system in balance. Anyone who has already dealt a little with aquaristics and the role of aquarium plants also knows that nutrient-hungry plants such as hornwort can help in the fight against algae – not to mention that the hornwort naturally also brings a lot of oxygen into the aquarium.

Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) Hardy Plant for Beginners

Hornwort: In the Aquarium

If you want to plant the hornwort in the aquarium, there is really only one good place for this: the background in the tank. The plant is particularly unsuitable for the foreground due to its rapid and intensive growth. To beautify the background with hornwort, it is best to plant it in a large group. It is a little problematic that hornwort does not develop roots and thus the planting is difficult.

The aquarist must therefore work with material to weigh down the stems. Even if the stems are brought in carefully, it is by no means guaranteed that the hornwort will remain in its assigned place in the aquarium for a long time. Sooner or later one or the other stalk will surely come up in every aquarium with hornwort and must then be reattached by the aquarist.

If you want to spare yourself this procedure, you can also use hornwort as a floating plant, although at least two restrictions must be expected. On the one hand, hornwort – although this is to a certain extent also a matter of taste – does not come into its own as a floating plant in an aquarium.

This is certainly also due to the fact that the swimming hornwort can affect the overall structure of the pool a little. On the other hand, because it grows very quickly, floating hornwort quickly restricts the amount of light entering the aquarium. Under certain circumstances, this could be a problem for sensitive plants that are planted on the substrate.

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