2022’s Five Best Floating Aquarium Plants

Oct 13, 2020

Best floating aquarium plants

I was reluctant to add live plants to my rather small aquarium because I wasn’t too sure if they’d survive fierce pruning or sparse substrate. That all changed when I was gifted moss balls on my birthday last year, and I haven’t looked back since. Now every time I see my little fish peeping through the drifting plant and having fun, it makes my day. And that’s what inspired me today to write this blog on 5 best floating aquarium plants. 

After experimenting with a few types of floating plants myself and an intense research session, here’s a list of my favorite picks for you.

Five Best Floating Aquarium Plants 

  • Duckweed
  • Marimo Moss Balls
  • Bladderwort
  • Java Moss
  • Water Lettuce

Editor’s Choice 

As for my choice, I’ll go with marimo moss balls.

In my opinion, there are very few floating aquarium plants that can rival marimo balls

For starters, they can live up to a hundred years! 

They’ll make great family heirlooms. 

Jokes apart, they’re great for any fish tank. Their unique size and shape won’t only enhance your tank’s visual appeal but also remove nitrate and make enjoyable toys for your fish to play with! 

Let’s check out 5 best floating aquarium plants in depth. 

1. Duckweed

Duckweed is a fascinating floating aquarium plant that can flourish in any kind of environment. Its unique leaves sprout quickly and cover the water surface in a beautiful pattern. 

Duckweed is known for its ability to remove nitrate efficiently from the water. Moreover, it will also slow down the green algae growth by blocking out the light. 

Note: if the creatures in your tank need plenty of light and easy access to the surface, duckweed may not be the right option for you. Otherwise, you’ll have to trim the plant every few days. 

  • pH Level:5-7.5 
  • Temperature: 45-90°F.

Which Fish Will Love Duckweed?

Since duckweeds thrive in pH level between 6.5 and 7.5, these are particularly well-suited for fish that can live in slightly acidic or neutral water. 

To name some, barbs, tetras, and angelfish will love duckweed. Make sure you don’t use it with fish that favor alkaline water like livebearers. 

How To Take Care Of Duckweed? 

We’ve already established that duckweed is low-maintenance. That being said, its rapid growth can make the water quality lower in terms of nutrients for other plants and itself. 

The reduction in nitrate is healthy for fish, but it will cause the floating aquarium plants to quickly die. 

And if the decaying foliage isn’t removed on time, it will lead to a spike in the ammonia level. 

So, make sure that you’re pruning your duckweed time and again. 

It’s Best For Your Aquarium If:

  • There’s an algae outbreak caused by excess light
  • You have fish that love to consume a lot of vegetation 

2. Marimo Moss Balls 

Marimo literally translates to ‘seaweed ball’ in Japanese. So, in fact, these are not moss balls but a rare form of spherical algae. This plant is equal part striking and strange and is a breeze to care for. 

It grows very slowly and in a radially outward fashion, at a pace of just 5mm every year. 

Marimo moss balls thrive in low-light spaces and can photosynthesize in regular household light.

As for water change, you can do that once in 2-3 weeks, and your marimo balls will still be kicking. 

Marimo balls can float at any level of the tank and act as brilliant nitrate removers. And since they create their own food and don’t need fertilizer, marimo moss balls make great floating aquarium plants for starters. 

Note: They’ll turn brown if exposed to excess light. Once you move them to shade, they will turn green once again. If not, add a pinch of aquarium ocean salt.

  • pH Level: 6-8
  • Temperature: 70-80°F

Which Fish Will Love Marimo Moss Balls?

Bettas will love to push around the small-sized marimo moss balls. That won’t only keep your curious bettas entertained but also help the plant retain its spherical shape. 

Fantails, goldfish, tetras, barbs, and angelfish will also enjoy nuzzling and batting it around.

How To Take Care Of Marimo Moss Balls? 

Marimo moss balls can live for longer than 100 years! But that doesn’t mean they don’t need their share of care. 

Marimo balls need to be shielded from excess heat and light to prevent them from turning brown. 

Also, after they grow an inch or larger, you have to rinse them once in a while so that the algae living inside the ball has a better chance of receiving nutrients. 

To retain the balls’ round shape, you will have to very gently agitate the water in your Marimo enclosure. That’s because when they reach the bottom, they rest on a different side each time. 

It’s Best For Your Aquarium If:

  • You have fish that relatively like shade better than light
  • There’s an algae outbreak pestering your tank

3. Bladderwort

If there’s one plant that can transform your fish tank’s appearance singlehandedly, it’s bladderwort.

It grows as a large mat on the water surface and produces vibrant yellow flowers. 

However, some species of bladderworts have wheel-like structures and don’t produce flowers.

Like all other carnivore plants, bladderworts can flourish in nutrient-poor conditions, where your normal plants wouldn’t stand a chance. However, they also have different needs than usual aquarium plants. 

Bladderworts can take up some of the responsibilities of cleaning the tank. These plants will trap the floating algae and consume them as food.

In the same manner, they will eat up mosquito larvae and other insects that need water for hatching. This feature makes them suitable for controlling unwanted bugs in the tank. 

Note: When buying, always ask about the size. While some will only grow up to 8 inches in size, others can grow 8 times that size. 

  • pH Level: 5-7
  • Temperature: 65-75°F.

Which Fish Will Love Bladderwort?

Although they don’t have to be rooted or anchored to grow, bladderworts need tannin-rich, acidic water. That’s why they’ll be compatible in tanks with bettas, tetras, and angelfish. 

If you have small fry, you need to keep them away from Bladderwort since the plant can trap and eat them. Once the fry has grown big enough, you can shift them to tanks with bladderwort. 

How To Take Care Of Bladderwort?

Since bladderworts need light to flourish, you can use a fluorescent tube or compact fluorescent bulb.

As for pruning, these plants grow slowly and don’t require as much tending. 

It’s important to note that the oxygen bladderworts produce from photosynthesis isn’t enough. So they have to depend on dissolved oxygen in the water.

It’s Best For Your Aquarium If:

  • The place you live is suspectable to mosquitos 
  • Algae is growing and floating freely in the water 
  • If your aquarium is infested with worms or disease-carrying organisms

4. Java Moss

Java moss is a super hardy plant that can sustain a healthy life in any kind of water environment, which is one reason it’s so popular among first-timers. 

Despite having low requirements regarding the lighting and water quality, these plants often bloom to produce stunning results.

Unlike most floating aquarium plants, Java Moss does require a place where it can anchor. Luckily, that’s not hard at all. It can attach itself to all kinds of surfaces, including commercial decorations, driftwood, gravel, and rocks.

Java moss will act as a food source to young fry and be a great hideout from adult fish.

Note: The flowing water can transfer loose Java moss debris into the aquarium filter intake, which over time, can clog and even damage the filter.

  • pH Level: 5-8
  • Temperature: 70-75°F

Which Fish Will Love Java Moss?

Due to its wide pH range, essentially, Java moss will work well in any aquarium with any fish. To name a few, fish that like consuming plants like Buenos Aires Tetra and goldfish are well-suited to be placed with Java Moss. 

If you’re looking to raise fry, Java moss is a good source of nutrition and hiding place.

How To Take Care Of Java Moss?

The suitable tank conditions for Java moss include soft acidic water and goof water. 

As for light, it can grow in both high and low-light conditions. The plant tends to be darker and taller in low light, while high light contributes to thicker and compact plants. 

The choice of maintenance is entirely up to you. It doesn’t need any special care besides occasional pruning. Keep in mind that this beautiful plant can turn ugly rather quickly if not pruned on time. 

It’s Best For Your Aquarium If:

  • You are raising fry (they can’t tolerate fast current)
  • Your tank has high levels of ammonia and nitrates 
  • You have a new tank that’s just completed the break-in process 

5. Water Lettuce 

Water Lettuce is one of the most widely used floating aquarium plants in the fishkeeping scene. 

Although it’s only green and has no other colors, many consider it stunning, aesthetically.

Also known as water cabbage, this plant grows floating in the surface water, and its leaves form a beautiful rosette, with thick, submerged roots below it. 

Now water lettuce demands a tad bit more care than other plants mentioned in this list. When grown right, these plants create a beautiful maze of hanging roots, which creates a lovely environment for your fry and skittish fish.

Note: if allowed to grow to the full potential, water lettuce can completely overrun an aquarium. Make sure to remove a few plants during weekly maintenance. 

  • pH Level: 6.5-7.2
  • Temperature: 70-80°F

Which Fish Will Love Water Lettuce?

Thanks to rapid growth and the ability to displace significant amounts of nitrogen from the water, water lettuce is compatible with most fish kinds, including fantails. 

However, it should be avoided in tanks with cichlids, goldfish, and other herbivores. They are inclined to eat the roots and even the plant itself. 

How To Take Care Of Water Lettuce?

Water lettuce needs a moderately lit environment to thrive. Since most water lettuce plants available commercially are grown in the shade, you shouldn’t introduce them to bright lights immediately. 

If your room has low humidity, you have to cover the tank to boost the plant’s growth. 

Since this plant tends to drift easily, it can also potentially clog filters. Prune time and again to tackle this problem alongside oxygen depletion. 

It’s Best For Your Aquarium If:

  • You have a big tank that generates a lot of waste
  • You’re willing to put a bit more effort to tend it
  • The tank has medium-level lighting

Before you decide on a plant, I want you to quickly go through everything you know about floating aquarium plants. 

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Benefits Of Floating Aquarium 

Besides adding an alluring appeal to the tank, there are other valuable but lesser-known benefits of floating aquarium plants. 

Gives More Swimming Area 

More often than not, plants take center stage, leaving your fish with little room at the center and a bottom area for swimming. It especially poses a problem for species that dart and swim fast. 

On the other hand, floating plants take up lesser space in areas where fish swim. That makes floating plants great for small tanks. 

Provides Healthy Snacks 

Aside from commercial fish food, floating aquarium plants make an excellent supplement for your fish. These plants are fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. 

In the wild, omnivorous fish also fulfill their nutritional requirements from the surrounding vegetation. Thus, these plants can be an affordable and effective way to fortify your fish’s diet. 

Note: You have to be careful that they don’t nibble down the entire plant (that boils down to choosing the right fish).

Filters Waste And Protects Fish

Floating aquarium plants are all-rounders when it comes to the protection and filtration functions of the tank. 

The bacterium that develops on the plant functions as a filter element as it can handle chemical and biological filtration quite well. Likewise, floating aquarium plants create a suitable place for nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the water.

In short, by retaining the chemicals that are harmful to your fish’s health, floating aquarium plants act as a strong underpin to your tank’s filter system.

Provides Shade And A Relaxing Environment

While bright lights lend your tank a dazzling look, they can stress your fish to the point of fatality. 

Just like us, fish need their share of light and dark. 

Floating aquarium plants balance the shade and filtered light naturally, recreating the environment that fish are used to in the wild. 

Moreover, introverted and anxious fish can find solace in the dense greenery that’s located away from the main swimming area. 

Provides Aeration

Floating plants oxygenate the water in ways we simply can’t imitate.

These plants work together to form an air circulation system that will benefit the fish and tank’s health in the long run. A healthy amount of oxygen safeguards the aquarium against toxins while also resulting in robust and long-living fish.

How To Grow Your Floating Aquarium Plants?

One doesn’t need a green thumb to raise floating aquarium plants. 

These kinds are low-maintenance, forgiving, and resilient. They can grow without much support in a wide range of environments, which makes them quite manageable for beginners as well. 

Their lighting, nutritional, and propagation needs are basic, and you don’t have to commit dedicated hours to look after them. Aside from occasional pruning, if they’ve grown big, there’s not much you have to do. 

Suppose you have voracious fish like the African rift lake cichlid species. In that case, they will chew off the entirety of the plant pretty quickly. You can grow the plants separately and toss a certain amount of it in the fish tank in such cases. 

When To Add Floating Plants To An Aquarium?

Before adding any floating plant inside the tank, you need to make sure that it will peacefully cohabitate with other tank residents. If the combination goes wrong, it will only add to your fish’s stress. 

Factors like the substrate’s type, water’s pH level, lighting settings, and filtration capacity come into play. 

If the plants have roots, make sure there is enough substrate and gravel as the roots will be extended downwards. 

If the plants don’t have roots, you don’t have to worry about the substrate type. They usually come in pots with roots wrapped in wool. You can simply remove the wool and place them in water.

How To Anchor Floating Aquarium Plants?

If you want to anchor the plants, create a gap in the gravel using your finger. Next, put the plant’s roots in the gap and cover with gravel. 

For better precision, you can use aquarium tweezers. 

Conclusion: 5 Best Floating Aquarium Plants

Live plants are great for your fish tank, and floating aquarium plants can be even better. 

They don’t only amp the aesthetic appeal of your tank but provide an array of benefits like we mentioned before. 

From providing shade to acting as mini filters, the virtues are many. As for maintenance, most don’t need substrate, fertilizer, or any special care. 

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rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.