14 Best Floating Aquarium Plants for Beginners (2021)

A full established Rotala Indica in an aquarium

It’s unquestionable that floating aquarium plants are among the most vital components of aquariums. 

In most cases planted plants alone will not fully satisfy the requirement of your species. They will also not give you the aesthetic look you are aiming for your tank.

Floating aquarium plants are great when it comes to filling the gap planted plants haven’t filled. With the help of them, you can model almost any natural set up you can imagine.

Given their diversity, I thought it would be best I round up the absolute best ones that anyone can go for no matter their experience. 

I know how overwhelming it can be for a beginner to arrive at their suitable fish let alone a suitable floating plant.

Don’t worry, nor matter your color and shape preferences, I believe you will something you can go for on this list.

Let’s dive in!

Aesthetics

The aesthetics benefits of floating plants are apparent and clear to anyone who has had a glimpse of a well-planted tank. 

 

They help give tanks a realistic, natural look. If done correctly your tank will appear like a miniature habitat of the fish you have, and sometimes even more intriguing than the actual one. 

 

Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to many of us that the only reason we find most aquarium fish species jaw-droppingly beautiful is we always see them surrounded by tanks greenery. 

 

The fact is that beauty is not always from them, it is also from the scenery they are always surrounded by. 

Increasing Water Quality

If not for plants, aquarists would have always had their work cut for them when it comes to providing qualitative waters for the fish. Floating aquarium plants like planted ones, provide so many benefits in this regard. 

 

To start with, they help oxygenate tanks more and I don’t need to tell you how oxygen can benefit the fish in the tank. It’s basic science that plants take in carbon dioxide and bring out oxygen. 

 

What is not well known however is that a well-oxygenated tank is less likely to be bothered by toxins.

 

Another hidden benefit of aquatic plants is that they aid in snuffing out algae because they both compete for the same nutrient. 

 

The more plant you have in the tank the less nutrient the algae will have and they need nutrients to thrive. 

 

However, some floating plants are more effective than others in this regard. 

Shade

Just like how humans use plants to provide shade their environments, floating aquarium plants provide the same benefit to fish in the tank. 

Some species are naturally used to shade in their native habitat. The only way to make those kinds of species adapt easier in captivity is to fashion a similar habitat in the tank as well. 

Species like Paradise Gourami, Bettas, Clown Killifish and Kuhli Loach are naturally used to dark environments that is densely packed with vegetation where they can hide. 

Without this kind of set up, their overall potential will be significantly reduced as they will constantly feel stressed out.  

Protection

Without floating plants, aquarists wouldn’t have been able to house numerous species together. 

 

You know that different aggressive and territorial species in the hobby do not entertain sharing a tank with any other species. 

 

Take the case of Bettas, there is no way you will be able to include other species in their tank without the help covers provided by plants and other tank decors. 

 

Many timid species hide around plants when they are chased by the dominant species in the tank. 

 

Floating plants are also very helpful when it comes to hiding eggs and fry from parents that eat them. 

Serving as a source of food

Floating plants benefits many herbivorous and omnivorous fish like goldfish, silver dollar, Kuhli Loach and Rubber Lip Pleco to mention a few by serving as a secondary source of food. 

 

While we don’t want these kinds of species to completely imbibe the plants in our tank it’s a great comport that they won’t be malnourished because of the plant. 

 

An example of where this is apparent is when you have a combination of very active species like the Bala shark and sluggish species like the Black Moors. Because Bala sharks are expert swimmers they devour most of the food during feeding times. 

 

In that case, the sluggish species will have to fall back on the available plants to supplement their diet. 

 

Having said that, you don’t want them to gobble so much that they end up damaging the plant. The plants should only supplement the diet, not be their main food source. 

 

It also helps if you include plants that are very robust and can grow quickly.  

Things to consider before choosing and Floating Aquarium Plant

Species living in the aquarium

Since plants aren’t just used for the sake of beauty you need to consider the needs of the species you have in the tank. 

 

Different species have different requirements so use that knowledge and match them with the appropriate plants. 

 

For instance, if your fish prefers a dark environment and a lot of vegetation surrounding it like in the case of Paradise Fish, Amazon Frogbit plant will be well suited for it since it blocks out considerable light. 

Size of your aquarium

Tank size is another vital thing to consider since all the plants are not of the same same size and have different growth potentials. 

 

If your tank is small like 30 gallons below you are better off going for smaller plants. 

 

As adorable as these plants are you don’t want them to clog your tank and stress out the fish. 

 

A highly congested tank sure doesn’t look nice nor matter how beautiful the plants are.

Lighting Requirement

Lighting is an important thing to consider seeing that these are floating plants we are talking plant. 

 

Because they aren’t stuck to the substrate they can block out lights to almost all the species in the tank no matter the level they occupy. 

 

Your plant selection should rely heavily on the lighting requirement of your species. Otherwise, you will have to constantly trim if the species need a lot of light as in the case of Celestial Pearl Danio.

Growth Rate

Some floating aquarium plants have an off the charts growth rate like the Duckweed and are also very hard to get rid of. 

 

All I have to say is consider the growth rate if you don’t have the time to spare for trimming constantly. 

1. Java Moss

Java Moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri) doesn’t need any introduction for the same reason a fish like Tetra or Betta does not. That is because it’s very popular and among the most kept aquarium plants right now. 

What is not very well known however is that it’s also one of the best floating aquarium plants around. 

Many aquarists (beginners mostly) assume that Java moss can only be planted. The fact is java moss is far more versatile than that, there are many ways of propagating it. 

The easiest one in fact is to take a chunk of it and leave it floating. But make sure to anchor it with something in that case. Other ways to use it include carpeting, using it for walls and creating trees with it. 

In all these ways java moss does pretty well and its also among the hardiest aquarium plants. It’s very easy to care for and can tolerate a varying range of water conditions. 

Once established, getting rid of it can be even harder than sustaining it.

The good thing is that its growth isn’t as rampant as that of the Duckweed. That said, too much lighting exposure accelerate its growth considerably. 

If you want your trimming needs to go down, you have to adjust the lighting level accordingly. 

On the appearance side, it’s very attractive and helps bring out the color of most fish species even more. Luckily its compatibility with most fish and aquarium critters is excellent. 

An Amano Shrimp resting on Java Moss

Java Moss Care Snippet

  • Temperature: 70°F-75°F but can live in temperature of up to 85°F
  • Hardness: 0-30 dGH
  • pH Level: 5.0-8.0
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Compatibility: Excellent
  • Light Level Required: Moderate

2. Hornwort

Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) is a very well know aquarium plants with lots of desirable features. 

It is incredibly hardy and can survive in almost any type of water. In fact, the only thing that can sure kill it is freezing temperatures. Because of this, its care is as simple it can get making it ideal for hobbyists of all experience level. 

It is also very aesthetically appealing and one of the finest choice for anyone that wants to give their tank a genuine natural look. 

Thanks to its non-scanty feature its very effective in hiding fries and small fish from the adult. 

It grows in a way that a single plant appears as multiple due to the presence of many stems per plant.

As a substitute for true roots, it grows rhizoids to suck nutrients and anchor itself. 

This plant is more appealing in a low lit aquarium due to its dark green coloration. Although it sometimes grows to be lighter green, usually in warmer environments. 

Another cool thing about Hornwort is that it can be used as both planted or floating plant. However, it generally does better when left floating because when planted, the lower part of it start to die off making it look less appealing. 

When you consider all these things and its impressive compatibility with most aquarium fish you will understand why its widely kept by aquarist all over the world. 

The only thing I should say when you are keeping this plant is monitor its growth closely so that it doesn’t overwhelm your tank. 

Also, clear out the needles it sheds so that it doesn’t mess up the tank or at worst clog your filters. 

Hornwort Floating Plant

Hornwort Care Snippet

  • Temperature: 59°F-86°F
  • Hardness: 5-15dGH
  • pH Level: 6.0-7.5
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Compatibility: Excellent
  • Light Level Required: Moderate

3. Duckweed

The most tempting feature of Duckweed (Lemnoideae) is its appearance. 

It has very adorable small light green leaves that form a unique pattern on the surface of the water. As adorable as that is it looks even nicer when viewed from below. 

Like Hornwort, Duckweed is a floating aquarium plant that can thrive in virtually any type of environment. But before plunging it into your tank, you need to know it grows remarkably fast and once in the tank, it quite difficult to get rid of. 

I probably didn’t need to tell you this because anyone who has seen how it covers an entire lake in mere weeks will know that it’s one of the fastest-growing aquatic plants around. 

This feature can be undesirable if you are keeping species that need access to lots of light. Or if the species needs to have access to the surface like in the case of Marbled Hatchetfish, Gouramis, or Bettas. 

If despite this reason you decide to keep these sorts of species, your trimming need will greatly increase. And when you decide to remove it completely from your tank you will definitely have your work cut out for you. 

If this is no problem for you then I highly recommend this plant for you. It will surely make your tank look epic.

Duckweed Care Snippet

  • Temperature: 41°F-86°F
  • Hardness: 1-12 KH
  • pH Level: 6.5-7.5
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Compatibility: Moderate
  • Light Level Required: Low

4. Anacharis

Also known as the Brazilian Elodea, Brazilain Waterweed, Anacahris (Elodea) is a very hardy floating aquarium plant and one of the best option for beginners. 

What’s more, it can also be planted and is very low maintenance all things considered. 

It can tolerate a varying range of oxygen, pH, nutrients and lighting conditions making it compatible with lots of fish species. 

Anacharis is made up of very attractive looking long green stems with small green leaves. These combine to create a very lush appearance to aquariums that very few other floating plants give.

The coloration can vary in shades of green depending on the condition of the water. 

Create a trimming schedule so that it doesn’t overwhelm your whole tank because of its fast growth rate. 

Anacharis has another awesome peculiar benefit, which is its remarkable effectiveness when it comes to oxygenating tanks. 

It is also among the finest choice when you are keeping species like goldfish and cichlids that snack on plants because of its resiliency. Nor matter how much they nibble, this plant will most likely revive back without any problem.

Ancaharis secrete a certain substance that snuffs out blue-green algae making it very ideal for tanks bothered by that kind of algae. 

Anacharis Floating Plant

Anacharis Care Snippet

  • Temperature: 72°F-78°F
  • Hardness: 3-8 dKH
  • pH Level: 6.5-7.5
  • Care Level: Relatively Easy
  • Compatibility: Good
  • Light Level Required: Moderate

5. Water Sprite

Another popular floating aquarium plant is Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides). This plant is known by other names such as Indian Fern, Indian Water Fern and Water Fern at many pet stores. 

Similar to Aanacharis, it is also versatile and can either be planted or left afloat and can thrive well in both cases. 

It has a thin fern-like light green leaves that grow to form a cluster. As such, it is a great addition to the tank with very timid species such as Hatchetfish, Kuhli Loach, Galaxy Rasbora and the like since it grows to create ample cover.

Likewise, it’s good if you have species that prefer low lit environments. It is also very effective in protecting eggs and fries from parents that eat their young ones. 

The structure of the Water Sprites leaves and their coloration makes it a fantastic addition to most freshwater aquariums. 

Better yet, it is highly sturdy and easy to care for, you just need to monitor its growth. With a scheduled trimming plan, you will be able to manage it without any headache. 

 Water Sprite Care Snippet

  • Temperature: 68°F-80°F
  • Hardness: 3-8 KH
  • pH Level: 6.0-7.5
  • Care Level: Relatively Easy
  • Compatibility: Excellent
  • Light Level Required: Low to Moderate

6. Dwarf Water Lettuce

Dwarf Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) is hands down one of the most aesthetically appealing floating aquarium plant. 

In terms of appearance, it’s a tad similar to the Duckweed mentioned above but its leaves are substantially bigger. 

Surprisingly, the leaves size has only contributed more to its appealing look. It gives tanks genuine flowery natural looks. I couldn’t picture it be this beautiful if it were smaller. 

The only thing though is that it’s more suited for larger aquariums like 30 gallons and above due to its leaves size. 

You have probably assumed that the leaves will also block out a considerable amount of light from reaching the water and that’s correct.

On the plus side, it is way easier to trim and scoop out than the Duckweed. 

It is also perfect for taking care of timid species or species that don’t want too much light exposure. But not so great for species that constantly need access to the water surface like the anabantoids or species that need so much light exposure. 

This is the reason why compatibility is moderate, not excellent like in the case of Hornwort or Java Moss. 

Now don’t get me wrong, Water Lettuce is still an awesome floating plant and a great choice as long as you have the right tank and species. 

Dwarf Water Lettuce floating aquarium plant

Dwarf Water Lettuce Care Snippet

  • Temperature: 72°F-86°F
  • Hardness: 5-20 KH
  • pH Level: 6.0-7.5
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Compatibility: Moderate
  • Light Level Required: Moderate

7. Amazon Frogbits

Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) is a very beautiful floating aquarium plant with flat, rounded leaves that linger on the water surface. 

This plant may not be as well known as Java Moss or Hornwort but it also a beginner-friendly plant with a very low level of care requirement. 

It is very hardy and sturdy and can tolerate a varying range of water conditions.

Despite its large leaves and the tendency to block out a huge portion of light it’s compatibility is excellent. The reason is it’s very easy to take out a chunk of it every now and then and let in the light if you want.

Even though it grows pretty fast it is very easy to maintain and keep under control. 

Amazon Frogbit becomes even more spectacular looking when it grows its whitish flowers. 

Its long branching roots, wide rosettes make it ideal when setting up biotopes.

As a beginner, you might be better off keeping Amazon Frogbit than Duckweed because of its straight forward care requirement and low maintenance demand.

Amazon Frogbit

Amazon Frogbits Care Snippet

  • Temperature: 64°F-80°F
  • Hardness: 0-30 °dGH
  • pH Level: 6.0-7.5
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Compatibility: Excellent
  • Light Level Required: Low to Moderate

8. Brazilian Pennywort

Brazilian Pennywort (Hydrocotyle leucocephala) is another fast-growing beginner-friendly floating aquarium plant. 

This plant can thrive not only when left floating but also when planted. 

It has fairly large circular leaves that are spaced a bit at the middle giving it a classy look. Appearance-wise it looks similar to the Japanese Cress.

Many aquarists like it because of its resemblance to the popular mini Lily Pads. Just like the species we discussed before, it is easy to grow, thrive in most conditions and setups and doesn’t require a sobering upkeep. 

One vital thing to point out is that the amount the light greatly affects its growth rate more than in the case of most species.

This plant can even give attractive flowers that are nice to behold from above if they are receiving good care. 

A fully matured Hydrocotyle leucocephala

Brazilian Pennywort Care Snippet

  • Temperature: 68°F-82°F
  • Hardness: 0-30 °dGH
  • pH Level: 6.0-7.0
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Compatibility: Excellent
  • Light Level Required: Moderate

9. Red Root Floater

One of the least known floating aquarium plants is the Red Root Floater (Phyllánthus flúitans) but the people who know it will understand why it needs to have a spot on this list. 

In my opinion, aquarists should start considering this plant more in their tank considering its aesthetic appeal and low level of care requirement. 

While the majority of plants on this list are all green with some having a slight speck of white, the Red Root Floater leaves have the capability of turning all red under the right condition. 

This combination of green and red can give your tank a very unique appearance or help bring out the colors of some fish in the tank more. 

Maybe you can picture the species that will look even better with a nice speck of red around the tank. 

To make the leaves turn red, all you have to do is increase the lighting exposure. It doesn’t have to be natural, your regular aquarium lightings will work fine. 

Even if you don’t want the striking red coloration, Red Root Floater is still an amazing looking plant. 

Red Root Floater Floating Aquarium Plant

Red Root Floater Care Snippet

  • Temperature: 70°F-82°F
  • Hardness: 0-30dGH
  • pH Level: 6.5-7.5
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Compatibility: Good
  • Light Level Required: Low to High

10. Cabomba

Even though Cabomba (Cabomba caroliniana) is a weed from South America it still presents aquarists with a very unique desirable feature that is essential in a floating aquarium plant.

Because of its densely packed arrangement, it’s perfect for small species like Ember Tetras and aquarium critters like cherry shrimp to hide.

Cabomba is an all-purpose plant that can either be planted at the substrate or left afloat. This plant is available in most decent pets stores but it is sold under different names which include Carolina Fanwort, Simply Fanwort or Green Cabomba.

An important thing to point out is that Cabomba comes in different colors such as Red, Purple, reddish-purple, with green being the most popular.

The only thing you can fault this plant for is that it sometimes requires more light than the average. Otherwise, it will start to wither away and eventually die. 

Therefore, it may not be the best option for tanks that don’t have a substantial access to light.

Luckily its perfect whatever tank size you have, be it small or large. Personally, I love it because it is an excellent background plant with excellent species compatibility.

A matured Cabomba

Cabomba Care Snippet

  • Temperature: 72°F-82°F
  • Hardness: 3 – 8 GH
  • pH Level: 6-7.5
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Compatibility: Excellent
  • Light Level Required: Moderate to High

11. Water Wisteria

This plant is also sold under the name Water Fern, Indian Water Fern and Indian Fern. 

Water Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis) is the next popular freshwater floating aquarium plant. This plant also has the capability of being planted or left afloat and does quite well in all the scenario.

Water Wisteria grows very fast, however its easier to manage than Amazon Frogbit or Duckweed because it grows in stalks that can be removed in chunks without any hassle. That means there is no reason for you to let it overwhelm your tank, I mean unless you want an aquatic forest.

It is a great choice if you have shy species in your tank or aquarium critters like shrimps as it provides a lot of covers giving them a sense of safety. 

When the need comes for you to trim the surface it’s easy and straight forward.

A healthy-looking water sprite specimen has plenty of leaf blades, stiff stems and abundant root structures. 

The leaves are thin, fern-like, light green and without any rips, holes or cracks. The first step to rising a very successful water Wisteria is buying a healthy specimen from the get-go. 

The same goes for any other aquarium plant.

 

Water Wisteria Floating Aquarium Plant

Water Wisteria Care Snippet

  • Temperature: 70°F-82°F
  • Hardness: 2 – 8 KH
  • pH Level: 6.5-7.5
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Compatibility: Excellent
  • Light Level Required: Moderate

12. Rotala Indica

You wouldn’t think that Rotala Indica is a floating plant by mere looking unlike the rest of the species discussed previously. 

It looks more like something that would always be seen by the side of the road or something.

What this means is that it will bring an exceptional look to your tank. Many species on this list have some sort of similarity with each other in terms of appearance but not so for this plant.

Rotala Indica can also serve as both a planted or a floating plant. More than most plant it needs access to light to grow and when it has enough access to that the bottom of its leaves and the stem turn to pinkish red.

It grows to be thick and tall and produce that specular combination of green and pinkish-red if it is receiving proper care and adequate light. 

Its compatibility is excellent although all thing considered require a bit more upkeep than species like hornwort, java moss or Cabomba.

Lastly, be sure to exercise caution while trimming it so that you don’t damage the stems.

A full established Rotala Indica in an aquarium

Rotala Indica Care Snippet

  • Temperature: 39°F-89°F
  • Hardness: 2-30 dGH
  • pH Level: 4.0-8.0
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Compatibility: Excellent
  • Light Level Required: Moderate to High

13. Ludwigia Repens

One of the least talked about and underrated floating plant is the Ludwigia Regens. This plant does pretty well whether planted or submerged and in my opinion has a spot on the top 3 most aesthetically appealing plant on this list. 

Ludwigia comes with an interesting mix of red and orange coloration on its leaves. Precisely the tops of the leaves are olive green and the underside contains a nice red stain. 

I believe you can imagine that this combo will put on a good show in tanks better than the previously mentioned Red Root Floater. 

Happily, Ludwigia Repens isn’t just about appearance considering it can thrive in different sets of water conditions and its compatibility is great.

Having said that it does require moderate to high lighting to perform well and does require more nutrients than many of the species listed above. 

But I think many many aquarists will probably agree this is a small price to pay for the exquisite beauty it brings to tanks. 

The fact that it needs more light to thrive means you will need more trimming so that it doesn’t overrun your tank and maintain a nicer looking plant. 

Ludwigia Repens floating aquarium plant

Ludwigia Repens Care Snippet

  • Temperature: 75°F-79°F
  • Hardness: 2-15 dKH
  • pH Level: 5.0-7.5
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Compatibility: Excellent
  • Light Level Required: Moderate to High

14. Limnophila

And lastly, we have Limnophila which is probably the least popular floating aquarium plant on this list. 

Limnophila is an awesome plant which in my opinion is being underrated considering its attractiveness and low care requirement.

Any aquarist who truly knowns this plant would agree it’s an excellent substitute for the Cabomba. The best part is they look pretty similar and it requires low light to thrive, unlike the Cabomba.  Limnophila can also be planted or used as a floating plant.

For me, there is no reason to go for the Cabomba when I can go for the Limnophila. That is not to say I’m condemning the Cabomba it’s just that its moderate to high lighting requirement can be a limiting factor in some scenarios.

Since they are similar, this plant is also great choice if you have small timid species or aquarium critters like shrimps.

Limnophila floating plant

Limnophila Care Snippet

  • Temperature: 71°F-82°F
  • Hardness: 0 – 30°dGH
  • pH Level: 0-7.0
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Compatibility: Excellent
  • Light Level Required: Low

Conclusion

Now that you have 14 different options of floating aquarium plants the only thing remaining is to use what we discussed earlier and select the one that will best suit the fish or critters you have in the tank. 

All of the plants on this list are beginner-friendly and low maintenance although some are better than others.

Again if you are a beginner I recommend you start with the least demanding ones and work your way up when you gain more experience.

Aqauscaping is one of the fun and loving aspect of keeping an aquarium so don’t worry if you encounter a few hiccups the first time you start.

In the process, I’m sure you are gonna develop something you will be proud of.

I hope this guide has provided you with so much clarity about floating aquarium plants and will aid in selecting the appropriate species for your tank.

I would appreciate if you comment on your favorite one. Also, if you have a suggestion on adding another species that you think deserve to be on this list I will appreciate your input.

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