There are many reasons to add floating plants to the aquarium. They provide shelters and shades for fish. In some cases, floating plants provide spawning sites and food.
Besides their function, many aquarists like me include them in the aquarium to add variation. No doubt, floating plants have unique visual appeal by their appearance.
You’ll get a wide variation in floating aquarium plants in their appearance. I have made a list of the 15 best floating plants for aquariums. Have a peek at it to pick yours.
Benefits of Floating Aquarium Plants
Floating aquarium plants are gaining popularity mainly because of decorative purposes; however, it also has other benefits. Floating plants are great for Betta tanks, shrimp tanks & nano aquariums.
The main benefit of having floating plants in the aquarium is the extra filtration they provide. Floating plants supply the surface area required for bacteria to grow. Nitrifying bacteria colonize the underside of the leaves & near the roots’ space, which helps break down the ammonia into nitrates.
They are also excellent & very effective in removing nitrates, phosphate, etc. Therefore, adding floating plants is a tremendous boost to the filtration of the tank.
Fish tend to live happier when something is above them. Floating plants provide a necessary hiding place & shelter for the fish. Shading by floating plants also allows fish to get away from direct light if they want. Small fry & shrimp like to graze around the roots & under the leaves from being predated upon by large fish (If any in the tank).
Prevents Algae Growth
Sparsely covering the surface with floating plants creates shading in the tank. Shading areas obstruct lights entering directly into the aquarium, which inhibits algae growth. Floating plants can get rid of nuisance algae by stopping the nutrients flow to them.
Aquariums with floating plants usually face little or no algae problems. But, remember, covering the whole surface might hinder the growth of other plants if any.
Floating plants add a new dimension to the aquarium, bring natural ambiance & wilderness. Lovely leaves above the water surface & trailing roots throughout the water beautify the ecosystem & your aquascapes.
Aerate the Aquarium
Floating plants also oxygenate your aquarium & remove excess carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. They tend to release oxygen under the leaves, which allows oxygen to get into the water. Therefore, it is a natural way of aerating your aquarium. Aeration is vital because an aquarium, rich in oxygen & free of toxic materials, is ideal for fish to thrive.
Floating plants provide some alternative food to the fish. Your fish will never be underfed with floating plants in the tank because they may always get something high in nutrients to eat. Plants with dense & hairy roots work as suitable areas for biofilm to grow, which is a healthy, ideal first food for hatched shrimp & fry.
Floating plants can also provide an excellent place for the fish to lay their eggs. If you wanna breed your fish, keeping floating plants in the tank will definitely help. It works well, especially for shrimp.
My List of Top Five Floating Aquarium Plants (Most Beginner’s Friendly)
Here I start with my favorite top 5 floating plants. I have picked them not only for their beautiful appearance but also they are hardy and easy-to-care plants.
They are great nitrate and other toxicity removers, and at the same time, mimic a natural habitat for fish and invertebrates.
1. Amazon Frogbit
Amazon Frogbit is my top choice for aquarium floating plants. They can survive in a wide range of water conditions and are suitable for beginners also. Attractive round leaves with bright-green coloration can create something spectacular.
They are perennial flowering plants and produce whitish flowers in ideal conditions. Flowered Amazon Frogbits is just astounding in look.
Amazon Frogbit is moderate light requiring plant. But as they float on the water surface, stay closer to lights. So, don’t worry, you won’t have to arrange too intense lighting for them.
You can keep them in small tanks started from a 10-gallon size. But keep in mind that they are fast-growing. So, without frequent trimming, Amazon Frogbit can take over small tanks.
Amazon Frogbit can do well without CO2 supplementation. But they require a lot of nutrients from the water to thrive. So, liquid fertilizer supplementation is preferable.
Duckweed could have been at the top of my list, but they are in the second position just because I like a bit more the appearance of Frogbit. But Duckweed has every quality to be the top floating aquarium plant.
They don’t require any special care and do well in low light. So. Duckweeds are the perfect choice for those who are not adept at growing plants. Duckweeds have small thallus with air pockets that keep them floating. They form a vibrant light green carpet on the water surface.
Duckweed can be a simple way of adding gorgeous greenery to your aquarium. But, they grow aggressively, and they grow so fast, stopping them becomes necessary. Scooping excess Duckweeds out from the aquarium is the simple solution to prevent their overgrowth.
You can keep Duckweeds in small and medium-sized aquariums. But they are plants of stagnant water. So keep your filter output current low.
3. Water Spangles
Water Spangles is also familiar with their scientific name Salvinia minima. They are attractive-looking popular floating plants for aquariums. However, larger green leaves and dangling roots are the trademarks of Water Spangles.
They are another extremely easy-to-care floating plant. Water Spangles are hardy and thrive in a wide range of water conditions. But they are relatively more demanding about light.
Like most other floating plants, Water Spangles are also sensitive to surface agitation. They don’t do well with high flowing water. So, keep a gentle water flow in your aquarium if you wish to have them in it.
Water spangles don’t require CO2 supplementation for healthy growth. But nutrient-rich water is necessary, so liquid fertilizer dosing is the best way to keep them happy.
4. Red Root Floater
Now I’ll talk about a little uncommon but lovely and colorful floating plant for your aquarium. Though sourcing Red Root Floater can be challenging, if you can manage them to get, they will please you completely.
The name says something about them, as they have bright red roots and reddish-brown leaves. The leaves are water-repellent, and they become more reddish under intense lighting.
Red Root Floaters are hardy and relatively easy to care for. Beginner aquarists can maintain them comfortably.
You can keep them in small tanks as 5-gallon, but keep a gentle water flow, as they are sensitive to surface agitation like all other floating plants.
CO2 addition, in fact, is not that necessary for any floating plants as they come in direct contact with air. But, besides moderate lighting, nutrient-rich water is the precondition for Red Root Floater to flourish colorfully.
Especially iron complements the reddish color of this plant. So, try to arrange iron-rich fertilizer supplementation for them.
5. Water Lettuce
Water Lettuce has unique-shaped and attractive-looking green leaves with wavy margins and parallel leaf veins. But this floating plant is not very easy to grow in home aquariums. So, I don’t suggest it for beginners.
Still, a little hard work can establish them in your aquarium and form a perfect aquascaping.
They are challenging to grow in a low-humid AC room. To provide adequate humidity for them, you can use lids. However, covering a planted tank is also not an ideal practice.
Once you established the right condition for Water Lettuce, they’ll take control over your aquarium and can overrun it. In that case, it is necessary to remove some plants weekly.
Water Lettuce is a medium-light requiring plant. And in ideal water conditions, they propagate both sexually and asexually. Keeping the right water condition is the key to their healthy growth.
The Other Ten Best Floating Plants for Aquariums
You won’t get all the floating plants available for sale throughout the entire year. Most of them are seasonal offers. The exception is the numbers 2 & 3 in my second list. You’ll get Java Moss and Floating Crystalwort in any season to buy. Let’s explore the list one by one.
1. Mosquito Fern
Many aquarists choose this small aquatic plant to decorate their aquarium. In fact, they are not at all a bad choice as a floating aquarium plant. They are Pleurocarpous type plants and form nice green carpets on the water surface.
Mosquito Fern or Azolla Filiculoides have thick and quilted green leaves that grow each stem’s side to completely cover it. Generally, they are tolerant of a vast range of water conditions. You won’t face difficulties growing them.
However, Mosquito Ferns do their best under direct exposure to sunlight, which might not be possible to arrange in A home aquarium. Full Spectrum LED lights are also capable of mimicking a sunny day.
2. Java Moss
Java Moss is not basically a floating plant, but they are very versatile indeed. They don’t have real roots to anchor. Instead, they have rhizoids, the grabbing organs.
But their organ is not too strong to do its job perfectly. So, if you don’t help Java Mosses be fixed with anything, they’ll remain free-floating. Thus it becomes a floating plant!
Java Moss is one of the easiest plants to keep in home aquariums. So, the beginners can give it a shot without any hesitation. Some people use cork Bark or Styrofoam to help Java Moss floating better. But I think it’s just optional.
Java Moss is a low-demanding plant and doesn’t require a lot. You can grow Java Moss in low-light aquariums without paying much attention to them.
As they absorb nutrients from the water, healthy and nutrient-rich aquarium water helps their healthy growth.
3. Floating Crystalwort
Crystalwort or Riccia Fluitans are trendy aquarium plants that you can keep in both floating or submerged conditions. In the wild, they are floating plants and are found all around the world.
Crystalwort is one of my favorite plants for its beautiful appearance. In a free-floating condition, short, vivid green threads of Crystalwort clump together to form ball-like shapes. They are fast-growing and so require regular trimming.
Crystalword is easy to grow and suitable for beginner aquarists. They are okay with a wide range of water conditions and don’t require much care besides trimming.
If you keep Crystalwort floating, no need to arrange intense lighting. Liquid fertilizer dosing is good for Crystalworts, and CO2 supplementation is only optional.
4. Brazilian Pennywort
Brazilian Pennywort is an ideal aquatic plant and can grow as a floating plant directly into the water. It’s a rapid grower, less demanding & one of the easy to care for aquarium plants.
As a floating plant, it creates shaded areas & provides hiding spots for young fry. While at the water surface, it can produce beautiful white flowers.
Although it grows well in low light, it propagates more rapidly in warmer temperatures & under bright lighting. Like all other floating plants, you need to do little trimming since it can grow almost 2 feet under the right condition.
5. Rotala Indica
Rotala Indica is a flowering plant & one of the most versatile plants in the aquarium industry. You can get different colors of Rotala in green, pink, red, purple & orange leaves with diverse leaf shapes. It has at least twenty plus varieties.
The most common types of Rotala usually grow green & get a slightly yellowish or pinkish tone while fully developed. It’s a stem plant, mostly used as a background plant. However possible to grow as a floating plant since It also thrives well on the water surface.
Rotala is a little demanding; intense lights, CO2 injection & nutrients require to keep them healthy & flourishing. With a varying degree of light & supplements, the leaf’s coloration differs.
6. Ludwigia Repens
Ludwigia Repens is a stem plant, prevalent & trendy because of its red & green coloration on the leaves. If you would like to add red contrast beside lush greenery in your aquarium, Ludwigia is the one you can keep.
Ludwiga Repens is easy to care for, beginner’s friendly & can grow in & out of the water. You need to plant Ludwigia in the substrate; it is a very fast-growing plant & will quickly get to the top of your aquarium water.
The only challenge is you need to trim it from time to time to keep it just above the water as if it’s floating.
Ludwigia can flourish in almost all conditions; however, you need to provide sufficient lighting & nutrients to get the best out of it. It may remain green under low lights, but with better (moderate to high) lighting & iron-rich substrates, it grows much redder.
Cabomba, also known as green Cabomba or fanwort, is a stem plant. Despite being a stem plant, you can grow it as a floating plant in the presence of a light source.
To keep it floating, drop the stems in the water, it will drift near the water surface & with lights, it may grow even faster than planted. So, Be prepared to trim once fully developed.
Keeping Cabomba is tricky, especially the red one, compared to its green counterpart; therefore, it’s not a beginner’s choice. In addition to sufficient lighting, Cabomba plants require liquid fertilizer, iron supplements & Other necessary nutrients to thrive.
Moreover, it grows better with CO2 injection; all of these make it a challenging plant for beginners.
Cabomba is a very fast-growing plant subject to high amounts of light & nutrients. I’ll advise using full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs (T5 or T8) rather than LED lights for their better growth. It requires clean, gently moving aquarium water to flourish since it’s quite fussy with water conditions.
8. Water Wisteria
Water Wisteria is a very unique but common aquarium plant. It’s probably one of the best beginner plants since it’s super simple to grow & hardy. Wisteria provides shelter and hiding places to bettas, shrimps that serve well for them.
Water wisteria grows differently under (with lacy leaves) and above the water (with solid blades). The plant’s beautiful green leaves lighten any aquarium, and you can use it as a floating, carpet, or background plant.
This plant’s care requirements are simple and can grow in all water conditions with low to moderate lighting. However, to accelerate its growth & for getting sturdy leaves, provide intense light & fertilizer with mineral-rich substrates.
Anacharis is another ideal aquatic plant for beginners. It grows fast & more straightforward to raise as a floating plant than planted. Considering floating, it remains much closer to the light source.
Anacharis is efficient at drawing nutrients from the water, thus preventing algae growth from getting the necessary supplement.
This plant thrives in hard water as well & requires moderate lighting. Growth rate can vary, though, under bright light, with fertilizer or in the presence of CO2 supplement, it can grow more rapidly. When it’s starting to take over the tank, provide some gentle trimming.
10. Water Sprite
Water Sprite plant is possible to grow both as a floating & submerged background plant. It’s also a beginner-friendly plant & its delicate fine leaves create a beautiful ambiance in the aquarium.
Growing Water Sprite as a floating plant is simple; you just need to drop the plant in the water. It’s fast-growing, and within a couple of days, roots start to come out. While developed, roots swamped 2-3 inches below the water surface. They are capable of getting nutrients from the water.
Water Sprite helps to create shady areas in the tank, allowing aquarists to keep low light plants alongside. It doesn’t need special care, grows slowly in low light, but with high to moderate light, it grows like a weed & can quickly take over the tank. You need to keep it in check by regular trimming.
Picking the best floating plant for your aquarium is not that tricky task, though a guideline can help make your mind. If you are a beginner to have a planted tank, my suggestion is to give one or two floating plants a shot.
Floating plants have a different aesthetic appeal. But be mindful that they don’t cover the whole water surface to obstruct light and oxygen entrance. It could be very harmful to fish and other plants.
I hope you’ll get the proper direction to get floating plants from my article. At the same time, I would love to hear from seasoned hobbyists about their experience with floating plants. If I missed any floating plant that makes an expression in your mind as ‘excellent,’ please tell me about it.