If you are putting together an aquarium, you definitely want to add some plants to the mix, with one good option being floating aquarium plants.
You might be wondering why you should get aquarium plants that float and what the benefits of having floating plants are.
Moreover, what are the best floating aquarium plants? Well, there are many aquarium plants that you can choose from, ones such as dwarf water lettuce, java moss, amazon frogbit, and more. Let’s take a closer look at aquarium floating plants, what the best ones are, and why you might want to get yourself some.
A Comparison of Our Favorites of 2024
|Dwarf Water Lettuce
The 10 Floating Aquarium Plants
Now that we have taken a closer look at the benefits of having some floating plants in the tank, let’s take a look at some of the best floating aquarium plants.
Make sure to read our descriptions closely and to really think about what plant species you want to go for, and if you do this, then making a great choice should not be a problem.
Duckweed is an extremely popular aquatic plant, and yes, a very well known floating aquarium plant, and as you can probably tell by the name of it, ducks like to eat it, but that’s not all it is good for.
Duckweed is extremely low maintenance and it’s almost harder to kill it than it is to keep it alive. In terms of surface plants for your freshwater aquarium, there is not much work that goes into maintaining it.
Something that is convenient about this surface freshwater aquarium floating plant is that it can survive in many different water parameters.
Those small green leaves really don’t care how warm the water is, they don’t need too much light, and they can survive in many pH levels as well.
Just remember that you will have to trim this surface plant down a lot, because as the name implies, it is kind like a weed, by which we mean that it grows very fast.
2. Amazon Frogbit
When it comes to aquatic plants of the floating nature for your aquarium, amazon frogbit is a very popular choice to go with.
One reason why people really love this surface aquatic plant is because those large green floating leaves help provide a lot of cover for the fish below. This plant is known for being great at water filtration too. Of course, your aquarium needs both of those things.
In terms of caring for it, as long as you keep the temperature between 64 and 84 degrees, with a pH level between 6 and 7.5, and you provide the amazon frogbit with a moderate amount of lighting, you really don’t have to do anything else.
Amazon frogbit is another low maintenance surface plant that will easily grow without any additional nutrients or supplements in the tank. Amazon frogbit is a fan favorite indeed.
3. Java Moss
Many people think that java moss is only ideal for planted aquariums where plants are rooted in the substrate, but that is not true, because this stuff can just as easily be used as a floating aquatic plant for whatever freshwater aquarium setup you want.
Sure, this stuff can be tied to rocks and driftwood, but it just can just as easily be used as a floating plant too. Keep in mind that java moss looks like fairly stringy moss, so as far as floating plants go, it does look fairly unique when you don’t have it rooted, kind of like a growth of stringy moss suspended in the water column.
Now, the good thing about java moss is that it is super easy to maintain. It doesn’t need or like much light, it doesn’t need added nutrients in the water, it does fine in both soft and hard, acidic and basic water, and it isn’t too picky about temperature either.
4. Dwarf Water Lettuce
Water lettuce looks really cool, as it has green leaves with large rosettes that jump up out of the water surface. it does closely resemble actual lettuce.
Do keep in mind that this is one of the fastest growing floating plants out there, so you do need a fairly large tank. This is considered one of the best floating plants as it does not require extra nutrients or CO2, it does fine without much light.
It can tolerate a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5, and it also does fine in waters ranging from 72 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is also a floating plant that can go a long way in improving water conditions by creating oxygen and filtering out compounds like ammonia.
Something to remember here is that this a fairly delicate aquarium plant in terms of water movement. It does not like strong currents, so keep it away from powerful filters.
5. Water Spangles
Water spangles, also known as water spangles salvinia, is a popular floating plant to go with, and yes, it looks similar to others, such as frogbit.
Water spangles features relatively small and green leaves with a rooty brown base. This floating aquarium plant does grow to quite a large size and it also grows fairly quickly, so you will probably have to trim it down fairly often.
However, other than that, this is a fairly easy freshwater aquarium plant to maintain. One of the reasons why this floating plant is so popular is because it is quite hardy and has the ability to survive in a wide range of water conditions.
Water spangles can survive in temperatures anywhere from 69 to 85 degrees, in pH levels ranging from 6.5 to 8.0. As long as you give it moderate lighting, it should be fine, plus it doesn’t require any extra CO2 or nutrients either.
Hornwort looks fairly similar to java moss in the sense that it looks like a big, tangly, mess of thin and mossy branches, which is a great thing because it makes for a great aquarium filter.
It produces a good deal of oxygen, it provides fish with cover, and it makes for a good foraging site for food too. As far as beneficial aquarium plants go, this has to be one of the best ones around.
The only thing that you need be careful of with hornwort is that it is one of the faster growing floating plants around, and it can get extremely large, up to 10 feet in the right conditions, so you will have to trim it regularly.
Other than that, this is a very easy to maintain floating plant, as it does fine in a wide variety of water parameters.
It thrives in water with temperates between 69 and 86 degrees, within a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5m, and a water hardness range of 5 to 15 dGH. It only needs a moderate amount of lighting and does not require extra CO2 or nutrients.
Yet another good floating plant to go with is the azolla plant, also known as the mosquito fern. This surface plant features small stems that grow out of the water surface, complete with tiny green leaves growing out of those stems.
The most convenient things about this plant is that it does not grow very large, and it doesn’t grow too quickly either, thus making it fairly easy to maintain.
It’s also a good option because it does fine in shady and partially sunny areas, it can survive in a pH range between 3.5 and 10, and it does fine in temperatures between 59 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit.
Do keep in mind that this plant should always have its leaves growing above the water surface, with only the roots being below the water. This is a surface floating plant that won’t do well if it is fully submerged in your aquarium.
8. Floating Bladderwort
This is indeed one of the most interesting floating plants that you could get for your aquarium. The reason for this is because it’s actually a carnivorous plant, kind of like a venus fly trap.
No worries, though, because this plant is safe for your aquarium and its inhabitants. It only eats very small microorganisms, not your fish.
In terms of the look, it features long, thin, and green stems with tiny little pocketed leaves growing out of the stems. Those pockets act like mouths that eat small organisms.
This carnivorous plant likes partial to full sunlight, it likes the water to be acidic, fairly soft, and although it is not too picky about temperature, it does prefer the temperature to be on the warmer side of things.
9. Floating Moss with Feather Roots
This is another really cool choice to go with. In terms of its looks, this aquarium plant looks like a medium-size ball of floating moss with very long and feather-like roots below.
These roots make for the perfect hiding spots for little fish, plus they can forage for food in there as well. It does also provide your fish with some shade.
Now, what you need to know here is that this particular free-floating plant is actually an artificial plant, nothing more than decorative, so it won’t do anything to help filter your tank water, although it does look very beautiful.
The upside to this plant, because it is artificial, is that it requires absolutely no care or maintenance, making it a great option for people who don’t want to have to do anything.
- We’ve also reviewed the best artificial aquarium plants here.
10. Water Hyacinth
When it comes to beautiful aquarium plants, Water Hyacinth is a top contender. It features green leaves, and when it flowers, the blossom is a large purple hyacinth blossom, and yes, it does look amazing.
Many people like adding these plants to their tanks because they provide lots of shade and cover for the inhabitants below.
Now, it is important to note that these plants grow and multiply very quickly, so you will need to trim them back fairly regularly.
It’s a great option for any planted aquarium where you want plenty of plant coverage. Water hyacinth enjoys full to partial sun, a temperature between 70 and 80 degrees, with a pH range of 5.0 to 7.5.
The 5 Benefits of Having Floating Plants In Your Aquarium
There are a few different benefits that your tank will get from floating plants. Sure, floating plants look real cool, but there is a lot more to it than that. By adding floating plants to your fish tank, you can improve both the health and the overall look of the aquarium.
1. Provide Shade & Cover
One of the biggest benefits of having a floating plant in your aquarium is that it will help to provide some shade and cover for the fish and plants below as many grow above the water surface.
The fact of the matter is that not all aquarium fish like having too much light, and the same can be said for aquarium plants as well.
Many fish enjoy hiding under live plants, particularly due to their natural instinct to avoid predators from above, or in other words, they make for good hiding spots.
Just keep in mind that you don’t want to cover the whole surface of the aquarium with floating plants, as this will severely limit the amount of light the rest of the tank gets, and this can reduce the growth of other aquarium plants.
2. Generally Low Maintenance
Another benefit that you will get from having a floating plant for aquarium, at least one, is the fact that they are generally very low maintenance.
One reason for this is because they don’t need to be rooted in the substrate. They have long roots that float freely and gather nutrients right from the water column.
These aquarium floating plants tend to not need a whole lot of light, they are fast growing, and to keep them under control, floating aquarium plants like the ones we will look at today just need to be trimmed on occasion.
3. A Dietary Supplement for Fish
Something else to consider here is that fish often like to eat plants, whether they are rooted plants or floating aquarium plants.
In fact, many fish love the floating plants as they are easy to get to, they are often quite tasty, and because they often grow very quickly, they can withstand being snacked on regularly.
As you can see, floating aquarium plants such as dwarf water lettuce, amazon frogbit, and java moss not only provide cover and shade from above, and are easy to grow. They also provide your fish with a good source of food, especially when those plants grow quickly.
4. Aeration & Oxygenation
Yet another benefit that comes along with having floating aquarium plants is that they help to provide your fish tank. Adding a floating plant or two to your tank will help to greatly increase the amount of oxygen in the tank, and it helps spread it around too.
All aquarium plants in general will to aerate and oxygenate a tank, but floating plants tend to do this extremely well. Having a few floating plants in your tank will go a long way in terms of allowing your fish to be able to breathe easily.
Moreover, aquarium plants like this will help to eliminate the need for something like an air pump and/or an air stone.
5. Tank Filtration
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits that you get with aquarium plants of the floating variety is that they go a long way in filtering your tank.
The fact of the matter is that ammonia and nitrites can build up quickly in your tank, particularly due to uneaten fish food and fish waste.
This stuff is very poisonous to fish, and if your filter is not working at full capacity, then too many of these compounds will remain in the water, and this can kill your fish.
An aquarium plant such as java moss, amazon frogbit, and water lettuce all absorb ammonia, nitrites, and more, thus creating a much healthier place for your fish and other plants to live. Simply put, they can help to improve water conditions in your aquarium.
6. A Natural Look
The other thing which floating plants bring to the table is that they just look really nice. Not only do they provide fish with cover and hiding places, filter the water, produce oxygen, and more, but they also provide your tank with a natural and peaceful look, something that all plants do for aquariums, not just the floating ones.
Whether you get some water spangles, water wisteria, a duckweed plant, or a whole load of amazon frogbits, in their own way, they will all add something special to the tank.
Factors To Consider When Choosing Floating Plants
Before you start picking any old plants for your aquarium, whether floating or otherwise, there are a few things that you need to consider first. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to think about when choosing the right setup for your tank.
One of the most important things to consider when choosing the right plants for your tank is what their lighting needs are like.
As you may have noticed from our descriptions of various floating plants, no two plants are going to have the exact same lighting needs.
Some require a very specific amount of lighting, whether high or low, whereas other can survive in various light levels with ease.
You need to consider how strong your aquarium light is, and if the lighting needs of the plants are compatible with the lighting needs of the rest of the tank.
Moreover, don’t forget that these floaters will also block out a fair amount of light and provide shade for the inhabitants below.
Just remember that not all other plants and fish like cover or some shade, although many do. The lighting conditions are very important to consider.
The next thing to consider when choosing floating plants for your aquarium is if the plants in question enjoy strong currents, mild currents, or no current at all.
For example, if you have fish that like strong currents, then you can’t add floating plants that like no or low currents, and vice versa.
Also, some plants don’t like currents at all, and if you have a strong filter, you will need to find a way to keep them away from that strong filtration unit.
pH & Hardness
Yet another factor that you need to consider before going out and buying plants for your fish tank, whether floating or otherwise, is what level of acidity and hardness they prefer.
Acidity is measured on a scale of 1 to 14, with 1 being super acidic, 7 being neutral, and 14 being very basic.
Most plants will fall within 5.0 to 8.0, but you do of course need to make sure that the pH requirements of your fish and other plants are similar to those of the new plants you are looking to add.
Moreover, you also need to think about water hardness, which is a measure of the amount of dissolved minerals in the water. Once again, these requirements must match those of the other tank inhabitants.
The next factor that needs consideration when adding plants to your tank is what temperature range they can tolerate.
Some of these aquatic plants can handle a wide temperature range, usually no lower than 60 degrees and no higher than 89 degrees, but this does of course vary.
Just make sure that you have the right temperature in your tank, and that all inhabitants can handle that specific temperature.
CO2 & Nutrients
The final factor to consider here is whether or not your new additions require extra CO2 and nutrient supplementation.
Generally speaking, you don’t want plants that require you to add extra nutrients to the water, as this may cause issues with algae growth (More on removing Algae here).
Do floating plants oxygenate the water?
Yes, they do oxygenate the water to a certain extent. Now, because floating plants have their leaves and flowers above the surface of the water, much of the oxygen they produce is released into the air above the tank.
However, with that being said, they do still oxygenate the water to some degree and are definitely better than nothing at all.
How do floating plants get nutrients?
Floating plants get their nutrients through their roots just like rooted plants too. The difference is that the roots are suspended in the water as opposed to being planted in a substrate. Everything else is the same.
How do you take care of a floating plant?
As long as you provide your aquatic plant with the right amount of light, keep them within the ideal temperature, pH and hardness range.
Make sure that they have the right amount of current, there is really nothing else to know. Sure, you may have to trim them back every now and again, but that is about it.
The bottom line is that there are many great floating aquarium plants out there, and which is right for your tank will depend on your current setup or the setup you are looking to create.
Either way, just think about all of the determining factors which we have discussed here today, and you should not have any problems choosing the right floating aquarium plants for your aquarium.