As a fish keeper, one of the most important goals is to provide a comfortable, practical environment for your tank creatures. Apart from their natural habitats, a fish tank is the next closest thing to a livable space. Different elements go into setting up the ideal surrounding from the soil, water, a few decorative corals in there, filters, and even plants.
For the sake of this guide, we’ll be focusing majorly on the vegetation element. Floating aquarium plants have been the go-to option for the fish breeding community for a long time and for good reasons. We’ll be looking at the different species which you can grow and maintain without hassle. Whether you are a beginner, or simply in search of low-maintenance breeds, this read is just for you!
Advantages and Benefits Other Than Aesthetic Appeal
Floating aquarium plants are unrivaled in introducing an attractive appeal inside a tank. They are gorgeous to look at and make the container feel more like a natural dwelling place. The different shapes, colors, and sizes all add to the aesthetic appeal of your tank.
However, this is only one of the many benefits of having vegetation here. They equally play critical roles including:
From time to time, fish and other sea animals require shading in their environment. It keeps them cool and feeling relaxed. Of course, this may vary with the species you have in your tank, given that some breeds do well in high to medium lighting compared to others. Nevertheless, some degree of coverage is paramount.
The floating leaves play this role at an economical cost. Remember, apart from the natural sun, typically there’s some LED backup and these two can get overwhelming for the critters. The aquatic plants come in to create a nice balance.
It’s important that you do your research from early on to determine how much shading is necessary. For fish that thrive in well-lit waters, grow plants that take up a smaller surface area afloat.
Better Water Quality
A planted tank spots cleaner water compared to that without. Over time, all kinds of waste tend to accumulate from fish, dead leaves, and nitrate compounds as well. A water filter helps take care of this mess by separating the unwanted matter.
While this is true, plants equally help with the same. They naturally manage the nitride and nitrate levels in water and simultaneously increase oxygen amounts. More oxygen in water translates to better living conditions for the animals.
Word of caution, do not resort to plants as a replacement for filters. In some rare cases, a heavily planted tank may suffice, however, this too is not a guarantee. Treat the vegetation only as a supplementary aid for the best hygiene.
Deep underwater fish have rocks, crevices, and plantations in which they can hide. This kind of setting should be replicated inside a tank, especially, if you are rearing shy breeds that prefer to be concealed in some way.
Some people worry that by creating hiding spots they’ll rarely get to see their fish. On the contrary, it helps to reduce stress levels and in turn keeps your creatures at ease. They are more likely to move about freely when their stress levels are on a low.
Just a reminder, the size, and style of the plant will determine how good a hiding place you develop. Carpeting the tank is a good aquascaping idea that can be further enhanced by long, fuller plants.
Additional Vitamins and Nutrients
Fun fact, fish also nibble on the floating plants. This is not their primary diet and you should consider having a traditional meal plan as a staple. However, sometimes they can sink their teeth into the lush green leaves and stems for additional nutrients.
This is okay as long as they have a traditional diet that meets most of their nutritional needs. If you happen to rear goldfish you should be a bit more concerned. This particular species is known to run through aquatic plants and a huge army may leave your tank seemingly empty in a matter of days. Go for special hardy plants if you have a gold tank.
Finding easy-going aquarium plants could spare you a lot of maintenance duty. Not everyone has the leisure to constantly tend to the vegetation while at the same time keep an eye on the fish. Having one role out of the way makes things more manageable.
The good news is that our list comprises of low-maintenance options good for fish keepers looking for non-taxing plants. They grow fast, are sturdy, and hardly need trimming except once in a while. Unless you plan to take on planted tanks as a full-time hobby, it’s advisable to resort to plants that will give you room to focus on the growth and progress of your tank animals.
Economical Floating Aquarium Plants
The Hornwort is a great choice in terms of aesthetics and maintenance. It takes to a slim silhouette with multiple stems and whisp-like leaves. Its deep green color is another one of its strong points. One plant gives the illusion of many so you do not need a bunch of these. They grow very tall too and will give a lush appearance at the surface.
The Hornwort is built to survive cold waters so you do not need to worry about changing plants when winter comes knocking.
The best part is this floating plant can safely be paired with other varieties that you wish. It is not competitive and will coexist well with fellow plants.
The only thing you need to be watchful of is how big a surface it accumulates at the top. It grows quickly and if left unattended for a long time, the plant grows wide and full. It could clog the water filters, putting your entire ecosystem at risk.
This aside, it’s a pretty straightforward option to grow and care for.
2. Java Moss
For those looking to elevate the scaping in their tankers, the Java Moss is a pretty solid choice. The plant can either be carpeted, left afloat (or both) depending on what outlook you’re going for. Healthy Java is bright green and will grow to about 4 inches tall and wide. It makes a lush hiding spot like no other plant can.
Java Moss thrives best in freshwaters which is why it’s very common in a lot of fish tanks. Nevertheless, it is still adapt for other water conditions just as it is compatible with a wide variety of fish species.
This plant has no roots of its own, only stems and leaves that look like ovals. To anchor it, you need a base of some sort to help with this. You can use anything from driftwood or our personal favorite a piece of cork. Light materials like these float and therefore are an easy surface for the Moss to attach itself.
As you do this, be watchful for the intake filters lying above. Very powerful ones will suck up both the plans and cork, destroying them.
3. Red Root Floater
As far as aesthetic appeal goes, the red rooter is a strong contender if not the ultimate prize. It boasts of a vibrant color above and below the water surface when exposed to sufficient lighting.
The plant originates from South and Central America, naturally growing in ponds with stagnant water. Under bright illumination, its leaves although green/yellow turn fully red with dashes of the same extending to the dangling roots. This is not a poor reflection on the health of the plant, rather the combination creates a magnificent sight.
It’s impressive how widely compatible it is with different growth environments. You do not require a lot of experience to keep a Red Root healthy and vibrant. Only drop it in the tank and let it blossom.
Finally, the plant is a remedy for aquarists with an algae problem. Being that it spreads fast, it filters light which is an ingredient for algae multiplication. As a plus, the creatures below get to enjoy some cool coverage away from harsh rays.
The duckweed family is part of a floating plant group with unique characteristics. They are the smallest flowering plants known consisting of multiple single, flat oval leaves that grow no more than a ¼ inch long. Primarily it is a floater although parts of it are submerged. When laid out above the water, duckweed creates a striking uniform appearance that is unrivaled.
The species takes to a beautiful green shade supplemented by a colony of stems running underwater. It doesn’t take long for the plant to double in size, at the same time, it is resilient. Getting rid of duckweed is no easy task. While this can be a pro regarding easy maintenance, it can equally be disadvantageous in some cases.
Creatures that require ample lighting and surface exposure will not do well with duckweed. You’d have to do a lot of regular trimming to free the clogged surfaces. That implies the need to take time in research to create a conducive environment for whatever animal species you intend to bring to your tank.
5. Amazon Frogbit
One of the most underrated aquarium plants that we’d like to bring to your attention is the Amazon Frogbit. It easily doubles up as a shelter for smaller fish while at the same time a decorative species for tanks of all sizes.
The plant is an eye-catcher owing to its authentic design. First, the leaves grow round and flat in rich green color. On top of this, the roots develop to great lengths given the right conditions. In a tank with fairly fast currents, they get swindled around beautifully creating a serene feel.
The Amazon Frogbit floats so easily given the structure of its leaves. Because they lay flat, they are also quite neat to look at. Bring in a mother plant and this is one of those species that can single-handedly renovate your tank’s appeal.
As far as reproduction goes, the plant is easy to manage. On average a new leaf is produced every 2 days, however, you do not need to constantly trim it. It grows orderly and will be perfect for aquarists in need of a self-caring plant.
On a side note, the Amazon is an illegal species in some countries like Australia. Before purchase confirm that your state allows for it.
Speaking of interesting aquarium plants, Cabomba is high up the list. This one adds a tropical touch to your tank so that it feels as though you are staring at a beach scenery.
The species is ideally a weed. Not the dangerous kind, but a reproductive genre great for aquascaping. It boasts of long stems (as high as 50cm), a voluminous body, and adventitious roots at the bottom. It does take up quite some space internally which is okay if you have the room. And even if your critters end up nibbling on it, it is not harmful.
The Cabomba grows with divided submerged leaves in the shape of a fan. The good thing about floaters with submerged parts is that they help to directly oxygenate the water in the tank. And as we all know, fish and other water animals need plenty of oxygen to survive.
The plant does well in aquatic conditions with fresh hard water and minimal light. This fits a large majority of conditions in domestic tanks, but in case you have powerful LEDs, you may want to consider another option on our list.
7. Dwarf Water Lettuce
There’s no denying how much potential a Dwarf Water Lettuce carries when fed with favorable environmental conditions. It blooms to a flower-like head that you’re going to love having as part of your decorative elements.
Interestingly, the species is actually a smaller variation of water lettuce. This family can grow to incredibly large sizes and you will typically find them in massive lakes. Despite the seemingly minute size of this plant, it requires a generous amount of space to thrive. Anything below 30 gallons of tank room will likely choke its natural growth capacity.
Being that the plant has exceptionally large leaves, it makes a great medium for light filtering. In the early budding stages, this may not pose a challenge up until full development. Here, the heat and light blockage could grow too severe and be problematic for creatures needing surface exposure. The good news is, as long as you have the tools, pruning is a breeze.
Overall, the Dwarf lettuce is a smart artistic choice for a majority of fish tanks. It anchors independently, grows to full sizes, adds a flavorful appearance, and even fights off algae accumulation.
8. Water Wisteria
It’s convenient to have a plant that can either be floated or rooted into soil substrate because it gives you options in terms of tank style. The water wisteria is one of the few that fall into this category. It’s no wonder it amasses a die-hard fan base among fish keepers.
At first glance you notice the thin, long leaves sprouting from a sturdy stem. All this is tied together by the lush green color of the plant, especially under bright lighting. A forest of it creates a lovely pattern to behold as well as an effective hiding spot against predators.
Water wisteria has a very fast growth rate, one of the things to be mindful of if you choose to grow it. It multiplies quickly and if you already have another plant in the vicinity, there may be a scramble for room and nutrients. Be apt at controlling how thick and tall the species grows or else you may have another problem altogether.
Some of the ways to maximize the Water Wisteria is by carpeting it or simply letting the roots suspend the plant high. Some people go ahead to do both. Either way, it looks great!
For beginners, the Anacharis plant is a solid choice simply because it doesn’t take much to own this species. Even smaller tank sizes will do well with it so why not give it a try?
Anacharis can handle a wide range of water temperatures/ surroundings. Provides the waters are fresh and clean, the rest is pretty much sorted. Take a sample of it, toss it in, and let the magic happen. It also does not require too much light. For those with tanks in enclosed areas, this is a good add-on that’s going to blend in seamlessly.
Usually, the plant grows fast but not to worry, you could prune it to fit the size of your tank. It doesn’t get out of hand either so you have little to worry about.
Away from this, the plant is quite effective in oxygenating waters. The leaves partly sink in and, therefore, produce the much-needed oxygen inside the tank.
If you’re looking for a simple, easy-going aqua plant, we strongly recommend Anacharis.
10. Brazilian Pennywort
Another fashionably modern plant fit for aquariums is the Brazilian Pennywort. It is quite popular in local pet stores so, unlike other species that are hard to come by, this one is an exception.
Brazilian Pennywort originates from wetlands in Southern Mexico extending to Northern Argentina. Its name is coined after its penny-shaped leaves, strikingly close to what lily pads look like. These leaves grow along a creeping stem which can reach up to 8 inches or more in height. Upon reaching the water’s surface, they blossom into a gorgeous, cool leafy pattern supplemented with little white shoots.
A Brazilian Pennywort will grow rapidly where there is plenty of nitrogen and lighting. Starved of it, the growth rate is capped. Depending on the needs of your tank and the life in it, you have control over whether to accelerate or plateau the propagation.
Another distinct feature worth noting is the leaf spacing. This is good because it leaves room for light rays to permeate. Unlike the Dwarf Water Lettuce that fully covers up the surface, with this plant there’s a good balance.
11. Rotala Indica
Anyone looking to add a bit of contrast to their tank should take a closer look at the Rotala Indica. It’s a bold statement that will have onlookers admiring the setup in your aquarium.
Whether you choose to use it as background décor or full-on ensemble, the two methods are nothing short of breathtaking. Appearance-wise, the leaves embody a dual color. The top part is largely in dull green which then breaks out to a pinkish-red at the bottom. Add a bit of current in the tank and this distinction is amplified all the more.
But wait, this is not just a beautiful plant, it’s functional too! It has been associated with bettering water quality especially when you have a nice bunch present. They suck the nitrogen compounds and fish waste chemicals and in exchange give oxygen. Of course, this doesn’t imply doing away with the purifiers; however, the plant does quite some heavy lifting at this.
Furthermore, the manageability is quite practical. You only need to be careful when trimming the stem and leaves since they grow delicately.
12. Ludwigia Repens
In most cases, owning a pretty plant comes at the cost of expensive maintenance. The Ludwigia Repens fortunately is a rare exception. Indeed it is a high-end breed but one that is quite easy to keep alive and healthy. And speaking of pretty, the species mixes up to 3 vibrant shades all at once!
In its full glory, the Ludwigia Repens can take on hues of olive green, orange, and red-brown along different parts. The leaves particularly combine a shade of green at the top and orange-red splashes at the bottom. As for the stems, they grow thick and predominantly red. This mix alone is enough to liven up any tank.
The Ludwigia Repens is a versatile plant that can be grown in either one of two ways. Typically, it features in most tanks as submerged, however, in a nutrient-rich environment it heightens above the waterline. As a floater, it is capable of blooming tiny flowers each with four yellow petals.
You can never exhaust the dynamic that comes with the Ludwigia Repens. And to top it all, it adapts to standard water parameters with a neutral PH.
13. Water Sprite
To close the list we go back to a timeless plant that has been in the aquarium industry for years – the Water Sprite. The plant is no stranger to aquarists and this is why.
First, it’s a simple look not too overboard, but yet classic and composed. The leaves take to a thin finger-like shape very similar to what a water fern looks like. Left to mature, dense foliage emerges and your fish will love taking shelter and cover here.
The natural green color is one sturdy indicator that the plant is growing healthy. This is not one of those rainbow-colored species so spots of brown or yellow reflect poorly.
The Water Sprite germinates speedily and in multiple ways. It serves as a mid-ground or background plant when anchored to soil substrate. Alternatively, you could let it sprout above the water surface if you like. Either way, just be ready for regular trims because things can get wild pretty fast.
There you have it! A comprehensive list of aquatic plants we have found to be practical, aesthetically pleasing but most of all, easy to care for. Give them a try and let us know how you find the experience!