Bringing new dynamics to your aquarium, free-floating aquarium plants are worth a try. They give a more natural and wild appearance to the tank, turning it completely from mainstream to unconventional and stunning tank.
Free-floating aquarium plants enhance the overall aesthetics of the tank. When you see them in action, you will understand how they alter the whole perspective of your otherwise normal-looking tank.
Besides bringing colors, they cast light differently, changing how your tank looked earlier. You may also notice a change in the behavior of your water creature as you introduce free-floating plants.
Moreover, you go from viewing your fish in your tank to observing the natural habitat. It really feels like you jumped underwater somewhere halfway around the world!
If all this has compelled you to introduce free-floating water plants, the next step is to know what plants are suitable for your tank.
In this guide, we will talk about some of the best free-floating water plants for your fish tank so that you understand them thoroughly and take your aquarium to the next level.
But first, let’s know the major advantages of free-floating water plants aside from visual appeal.
Advantages of free-floating water plants
Apart from increasing the overall look of your tank, free-floating plants also open multiple avenues to making your tank astounding.
So, before selecting the free-floating plants for your tank, look at their advantages. It will help to make the right decision.
- They provide shade
Free-floating plants, as the name suggests, float along the surface. Therefore, they influence how and how much light enters the water.
If there is shade-loving fish in our tank, free-floating plants will make them feel like home. Such fish feel more comfortable and safe when put in a tank with free-floating and shade-providing aquarium plants. It helps reduce their stress inside the tank.
So, now that you know free-floating plants provide shade, be mindful while choosing the right plant for the tank. Some fish like shade, and some prefer well-lit waters. Take this into account when deciding just how much of the surface you want your floating plant to take up.
- They provide good hiding spots for the fish
Smaller and shyer fish always look for hiding spots in the tank. It gives them a sense of comfort and security, which in turn, low down their stress levels.
With Free-floating plants, fish can hide anywhere in the tank and not just at the bottom. It gives more natural habitat to the fish, which is also one of the main intents of any aquarium.
- They make a good snack
Some fish love to spend most of their time on the upper surface, and free-floating plants could be a tasty snack for them.
Yes, we understand that letting your fish feed on your plants is not a good idea, but some bites and chews here and there won’t do any harm. Make sure you choose the right fish when you have live plants in the tank (fish that don’t eat only plants).
If the fish is omnivorous, it will definitely take some of its nutrition from different vegetation in its natural habitat. So, even if you feed them properly with a traditional diet, they may occasionally take some of the vitamins and minerals from the free-floating aquarium plants.
- They are low maintenance
Many free-floating aquarium plants are easy to care for, and we have included most of them in our list. So, you don’t have to fret about any extra care or attention for your free-floating plants.
In fact, most of them are fast-growing, undemanding, and hardy. You may find them flourishing even in adverse conditions, so getting any of them in a tank is a win-win.
- Other benefits
Just like any other aquarium plant, free-floating aquarium plants also bring multiple benefits with them. Some of them are-
- Provides natural habitat to the fish and other aquarium creatures.
- Functions as a living filter and doesn’t allow bio load in water
- Maintains the level of nitrate and makes managing these levels easy
- Oxygenates the water
However, it doesn’t mean you can skip adding filters to the tank. You still need a filter, as depending alone on a free-floating aquarium plant will do more harm than help. Taking such plants only as an additional filter is a good idea.
Now, let’s check out the five best free-floating aquarium plants.
- Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)
Hornwort is one of the best free-floating aquarium plants, and aquarists swear by it. There are many reasons we call it the best, one of which is its undemanding nature.
Apart from the aesthetic appeal, the ease with which it grows makes it extremely popular among aquarists. You can grow it in the tank without any hassle.
The deep green color of hornwort elevates the mood of the tank. In different lighting, it looks different and imparts lovely visuals. Moreover, the thin stems and leaves grow out of them to give a unique appearance to them.
Apart from this, hornwort is easy to pair with fish of any species. They are suitable for all types of tanks and emerge beautifully. Since it grows well and doesn’t pose any threat, it will be a pretty safe purchase.
However, one thing that you need to take heed of is the growth rate of hornwort. Since it grows profusely, regular trimming will be necessary. You don’t want your hornwort to grow all over the surface and hinder light from entering the tank, right? In such cases, the plant can also cover the surface and clog up equipment like filters.
So, keep an eye on its growth, and everything will sail smoothly.
Since hornwort is a pretty hardy aquarium plant, it can thrive well in wide environmental conditions. Here is what you need to be mindful of.
- Tank Size- Hornwort is flexible when it comes to tan size. Since it can grow free-floating and plant in the wild, it grows up to 10 feet tall. So, whether you have a large or mid-sized tank, hornwort will work fine. Just make sure it doesn’t outgrow the tank.
- Water Conditions– With hornwort, you don’t have to be very specific when it comes to water conditions. Still, this plant will thrive comfortably under the following conditions-
- pH level: 6-7.5
- Water temperature: 59°F to 86°F / 15°C to 30°C
- Water hardness: 5-15 dGH
- Lighting– Hornwort doesn’t require too much light for survival; only a small amount of light will suffice.
- Java Moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri)
Java moss doesn’t require any introduction as it is one of the popular aquarium plants. While new aquarists may think that java moss needs to be planted, no! It is one of the plants that need proper anchoring to float on the surface.
Furthermore, it is one of those plants that don’t require too much attention. You don’t have to worry about its health as it is hardy and flourishes come what may. Also, you can plant it in any tank environment and with various tank mates.
Apart from floating, you can also give a carpet look with Java Moss. Whatever you decide, it will increase the tank manifold’s aesthetics.
Java Moss does not have roots. It consists of little oval leaves on the stems. So, all you need is to trim the plant in whatever way, anchor it properly and give it a look you desire.
For anchoring, you can use a simple piece of cork. It will float and be an easy surface for the moss to secure itself to.
Java Moss Care
Caring for Java Moss is pretty easy. It is a hardy and undemanding plant that can be looked after by beginners as well. Some care instructions that you can keep in mind are-
- Tank Size– It can grow in a minimum tank size of 5 gallons or as big as you want. Since it doesn’t have roots, it doesn’t require any particular substrate. It can grow on glass walls, driftwood, or any other decor inside the tank. Proper anchoring is all that it requires growing and developing.
- Water Conditions– Java Moss can live in wide water parameters. It includes the following-
- pH level: 5-8
- Water temperature: 60°F to 80°F / 15°C to 27°C
- Lighting– When in the wild, Java Moss used to grow well in dim light conditions. So, moderate to dim tan lighting for 8 to 10 hours every day will suffice. When grown under bright light conditions, this plant grows profusely and densely, which increases the algae growth too.
- Red Root Floater (Phyllanthus Fluitans)
If we talk from the visual perspective, Red Root Floater will be the favorite of many. Even though the red rood floater is often underestimated, it can bring charm and glory to the tank.
It is an easy plant that can thrive in diverse water parameters. It simply means that all you need is to add it to the tank and see how beautifully it starts growing and enhancing the tank’s aesthetics.
One feature that makes Red Root Floater unique is its color. When the right water parameters are provided, the leaves turn completely red. In fact, the stems and roots also have a lot of red in them, but the color of the leaves is what makes them one of a kind.
When this plant is exposed to high light intensity, nothing can stop it from developing a stunning red color all over. Creating an army of red leaves won’t be a hustle if your tank is placed where enough light strikes or you have a proper lamp.
The bright red leaves make the aquarium look stunning. If you want to have a slightly green, expose the plant to less light.
So, for all those who love to have bold vegetation, this free-floating plant will be the right choice.
Red Root Floater Care
Even though Red Root Floater is a low-maintenance plant, you need to follow some specific care requirements to help it adjust to the new environment.
- Tank Size– It can grow well in tanks as small as 5 gallons size and in as large as you intend to have.
- Water conditions– Calm water is preferred by most free-floating plants, including Red Root Floater. In too much water flow, the plant’s growth is stunted. No additional carbon dioxide or fertilizers are needed.
- pH-6.5 and 7.5
- Water temperature-72-80 °F (22–26°C)
- Lighting– A good amount of light is needed to develop the bright red color in leaves and the entire plant, including roots. High light also produces flowers that you may see growing on the surface. So, hard water and high light intensity will give good results.
- Duckweed (Lemna minor)
Everything about duckweed is escalating from the unique green pattern of leaves to the ease of growth and undemanding nature.
It is an interesting free-floating aquarium plant that can flourish in all types of environments, thanks to its hardy nature. The leaves are small that quickly overtake the surface in their own unique pattern,
It creates a neat and astounding pattern from both above and below the surfaces.
Even though everything is good about duckweed, one thing that could restrain you from having it is its growth habit. The growth rate of duckweed is high, making it unsuitable for tanks with fish that need well-lit waters.
Moreover, there are fish that need ample access to the surface, and for them, duckweed could constrain.
Having duckweed in the tank means you are constantly trimming the plant to keep it good for tank creatures. Since it is hardy with a profuse growth rate, removing duckweed once it enters the tank gets tricky.
So, choose it only if you are sure this plant will not cause any trouble to the fish and other water creatures that need light to reach the upper surface.
Duckweed grows copiously, floating on the surface of the water. Calm water ensures its growth abundantly; however, if there are currents, the growth may stunt.
- Tank Size– It can be grown in a tank as small as 5 gallons. Since duckweed is found growing in the wild, it is often preferred for pond cultivation.
- Water conditions– there are no specific water requirements for duckweed, but keeping water parameters in check will give good growth.
- pH– 6.0 and 8.0
- Water temperature– 63-79 °F (17 to 26 °C)
- Lighting– High light intensity ensures generous growth; however, this plant can thrive well in low light conditions too. So, if your tank is placed where it receives around 6 hours of sunlight, it would suffice. For denser growth, high-quality, full-spectrum light is essential.
- Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum)
Amazon frogbit is one of the popular free-floating aquatic plants for many good reasons. With its vibrant lime-green color leaves and nearly perfect round shape, it easily becomes the center of attraction.
The leaves are smooth and unmarked that buoy on the water’s surface. The bloated underside helps in its smooth buoyancy. This plant also allows for some fun and interesting aquascaping.
The roots are relatively long and trailing, reaching up to 20 inches in length. With the trailing hair on the roots, the final look of Amazon Frogbit is mesmerizing in the tank.
One thing that makes this plant interesting is that planting it doesn’t require much effort. It can thrive in diverse water parameters and is pretty easy to maintain.
Also, it is a well-behaved plant, so there is no need to spend too much time trimming it. It is one of the reasons why it is recommended for both beginners as well as experts.
So, if you are one of those who want plants that can do their job without requiring too much of your time to look after, Amazon Frogbit is your pick.
Before picking it, make sure you don’t have species that require too much light, as the broad and flat leaves often obstruct most of the light.
Amazon Frogbit Care
Since Amazon Frogbit is adaptable, it doesn’t have very peculiar tank needs. Neither it demands much in the way of special requirements. However, a few tank conditions that you should strive to meet are the following-
- Tank Size– Amazon Frogbit can be planted in nano tanks as well as large aquariums with 200 gallons in size. However, if you are growing it in a small tank, remember it grows quickly and may cover the entire surface, obstructing light from entering. So, regular trimming will be needed.
- Water requirements– Slow and calm water is needed for Amazon Frogbit. Some other requirements are-
- pH– 6 and 7.5
- Water temperature– 64 and 80 °F (17 to 26 °C)
- Water hardness– 4 to 20 KH
- Lighting– Since Amazon Frogbit floats on the surface, lighting is not a matter of concern. Moderate to high light conditions work in favor of this plant; however, it can survive well under low light conditions too.
So, these are the five best free-floating plants that you can pick to increase the aesthetic appeal of the tank.
However, once you decide, you should be aware of some cons that come with free-floating plants. We have discussed some downsides of adding floating plants to the tanks along with their possible solution. Check them out!
Cons of free-floating aquarium plants
- They overgrow due to fast-growing habit
It is one of the most common problems that you have to deal with. Due to their rapid growth, they take no time to overrun the tank.
So, picking less invasive plants like Amazon Frogbit or Water lettuce may help. Also, you can create some kind of barrier to prevent the plant from spreading all over the tank.
- They prefer calm or stagnant water
With floating plants, water flow is one issue, as they do not prefer turbulent water. Strong current can negatively impact their growth by damaging the long and delicate roots and stems.
You can prevent this problem in two ways-
- Always keep the water flow to a minimum
- Use a floating rope or tube and divide the surface area and keep the floating plants there.
- They may obstruct the light
Some plants and fish love to live in well-lit water. Since floating plants reside on the surface and block light from entering the tank, plants and fish may suffer. Also, if floating plants are left unattended, they prevent light from getting to plants at the bottom of the tank.
To avoid this, regular trimming and disposing of the cuttings are essential.
- They entangle with other plants and decor
Some free-floating plants have long roots that often tangle with other plants and decor items inside the tank. Sometimes they also clog the tank filters.
Proper maintenance is the only solution to prevent such a problem.
- Suppress other aquarium plants
It didn’t take much time for free-floating aquarium plants to overtake the tank, especially when they are left unchecked. They easily outcompete submersive plants for nutrients and suppress their growth.
Therefore, regular trimming of free-floating plants and fertilizer application will help to replenish nutrients in the tank water.
Apart from these, some other problems that you may experience with free-floating plants include the following-
- Food gets stuck in their stems and leaves and starts decaying over time, degrading the water quality
- Some plants become hard to eliminate from the tank once they are introduced, like duckweed.
- Most free-floating aquarium plants have soft leaves, so they are most likely to be eaten by fish.
With so many options, free-floating plants could be a great addition to any aquarium. However, choosing the right plant and being mindful of its requirements will ensure the best result.
It will keep the plant, as well as the rest of the aquarium plant and fish, stress-free.
So, if you want to change the look of your tank or just make it look more natural and wild, pick any free-floating plant and enjoy the new visual appeal.
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