Best Live, Floating Aquarium Plants for Your Fish Tank

By Eddie Waithaka @aquariawise

Best Live Floating Aquarium Plants for Your Fish Tank

Aquarium plants enhance the beauty of your fish tank and play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy environment for your aquatic pets. There are numerous live aquarium plant types, but floating species are the first choice for many fish keepers.

These plants aesthetically float on the water surface, providing cover for your fish, will reduce algae growth, and improve your water quality by absorbing excess nutrients from fish waste and leftover food.

In this blog post, we’ll look at some of the best-floating aquarium plants you can add to your fish tank and discuss the benefits of incorporating them into your aquarium setup.

Here are some of my top choice floating aquarium plants for your fish tank, most of which I’ve tried and loved the outcome.

1— Dwarf Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes)

2— Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum)

3— Floating Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides)

4— Red Root Floater (Phyllanthus fluitans)

5— Giant Duckweed (Spirodela polyrhiza)

6— Dwarf Salvinia (Salvinia Rotundifolia Minima)

7— Floating Crystalwort (Riccia Fluitans)

8— Red Water Fern (Azolla filiculoides)

9— Water Wisteria (Hygrophilla difformis)

10— Purple Fringed Riccia (Ricciocarpus natans)

11— Asia Watergrass (Hygroryza aristata)

12— Java Moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri)

13— Salvinia Cucullata

14— Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)

15— Dwarf Water Lilly (Nymphaea stellatta)

16— Anacharis ((Egeria densa))

17— Cabomba (Caroliniana)

18— Duckweed (Lemna minor)

19— Banana Plant (Nymphoides Aquatica)

Top 12 Floating Plants Types for Tropical Aquarium

There are several floating plants available in the hobby that enhance the look of your tropical aquarium while providing benefits for the aquatic life within it.

Water sprite, for instance, is a fast grower with long, feathery leaves that offer coverage for fish and shrimp. Amazon frogbit, on the other hand, has small, round leaves that make up thick mats on the water surface, absorbing excess nutrients and being easy to maintain.

Another great option is the Red Root Floater, which has striking red roots and circular leaves, while duckweed is a smaller type of floating plant with tiny, round leaves that can help improve water quality.

Salvinia has oval-shaped leaves that form a dense mat on the surface, which can reduce nutrient buildup. Dwarf water lettuce has small, round leaves that float, better at creating the perfect floating shade and cover for shrimp and tropical fish, like betta.


Large floating aquarium plants like Water lettuce, water sprite, and Hygroryza are efficient when you want species with long roots that’ll suspend in the water.

Azolla and other small leaf variants are best for shade and growing with minimal care. Azolla can also gain red colors, which is a plus.

Amazon frogbit (like Azolla) is the perfect floating plant for cover and easy growth, while red rooter and giant duckweed are best if you want floating red plants.

Here are my top 12 choices for floating plants (see the full list in the intro).

1— Giant Duckweed

Giant duckweed (Spirodela polyrhiza) is a perfect short-roots floating plant that grows fast, and the bottoms turn red in a low nitrate environment. The plant is the best alternative to the tinnier and messier duckweed and adds the stunning aesthetics most hobbyists like in red floating aquarium plants. (Click me to see an image)

Giant duckweed will create a cover for your skittish fish with its broad leaves better than other floaters and is a perfect snack for herbivorous fish, hence one of the best live plants for your goldfish tank.

If you dry duckweed and pulverize it, you can also use it as an ingredient for home made aquarium shrimp and fish food.

When adding duckweed to your tropical fish tank, ensure you do not add too much at once. Start with a small amount and monitor the growth to keep it from overgrowing and start to cover the water surface.

An interesting fact is duckweed species are a good food source for human beings that is high in proteins and starch. Some companies are even trying to make it a viable biofuel.

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2— Salvinia Minima

Salvinia Minima is a perfect floating plant. It is a popular choice among tropical aquarists and pond owners due to its ability to absorb excess nutrients and pollutants from the water, thus helping to maintain good water quality. (Click me to see an image)

Salvinia is also an excellent oxygenator, which helps increase the oxygen levels in the water. This is beneficial for aquatic animals and prevents the growth of harmful aerobic bacteria in your fish tank.

Floating Salvinia Minima is generally considered an easy plant for beginners. It is a hardy plant that can adapt to varying water conditions.

Salvinia minima can survive and grow in low light conditions but may not grow as quickly or be as lush as in higher light levels.

In medium to high light conditions, Salvinia minima will typically grow faster and produce more leaves, which can help it to absorb more nutrients and pollutants from the water.

Fortunately, there is more light at the top of the tank, where Salvinia thrives, so lighting should not be too big an issue in your fish tank.

Salvinia minima typically do not turn red. Its leaves are typically a bright green and may have a slightly reddish tint in certain lighting conditions, but they do not change into a true red.

These plant does not grow long roots either, but the length of the roots can vary depending on the water conditions and the age of the plant.

In nutrient-rich water with ample light, the roots can grow moderately long and may extend several inches into the water column providing shelter for top level fish, like betta, and upper, mid-level swimmers, like guppies and danios.

Note that Salvinia minima is a fast-growing plant, and if left unchecked, it can quickly cover the entire surface of the water, making it difficult for other plants and animals to thrive.

Regular thinning or pruning of the plant can help to prevent it from becoming too overgrown.

Salvinia cucullata is a good alternative to floating Salvinia Minina

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3— Dwarf Water Lettuce

Dwarf water lettuce is another ideal floating plant for aquariums and ponds. As a floating plant, it helps to create a natural-looking environment in the water. (Click me to see an image)

It has light green leaves that float on the surface and form a dense mat, which provides excellent cover for fish and other aquatic animals.

Water lettuce also helps to prevent the growth of unwanted algae and other organisms by blocking out some of the light they need to grow.

It can absorbs excess nutrients, such as nitrates and phosphates, from water better than most floaters.

Dwarf water lettuce is relatively easy to care for and propagate, making it a perfect floating plant for beginners and experienced hobbyists.

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4— Water Sprite

Water sprite (not to be confused with water wisteria) is one of the most effective floating plants for a tropical aquarium. The plant is large than most floaters, with generally longer roots that suspend into the water, providing shade and shelter for fish and shrimp; Zecalydon, Reddit.( Click me to watch a facebook Video)

Floating water sprite (ceratopteris thalictroides) leaves do not stick on decorations and scapes, and the plant is easy to remove from your fish tank if you do not need it anymore.

It is also easy to propagate if you want more of it, and the roots and leaves are aesthetically pleasing in small and large aquariums.

Water sprite grows fast and is undemanding of light and your plant will extract most of the needed nutrients from the water column while floating. It is not prolific, like Frogbit and Duckweed, so there is minimal chance of water sprite taking over your fish tank.

Water Sprite is good for shade and cover and a stunning addition to your fish tank.

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5— Red Root Floaters

Red root floater (Phyllanthus fluitans) is a perfect aquarium plant characterized by stunning red roots and leaves, depending on the condition of your fish tank. (Click me me see an image)

The plant grows moderately long roots enough to shelter top-dwelling fish, like betta, and upper-mid level fish, like danios. The foliage cover on top is also dense enough to create a refuge for your skittish fish below.

Red Rooters are perfect when you want a colorful mix of lush and scarlet displays on your tropical tank water surface, and ideal for blocking out excess light from reaching the bottom of your fish tank.

However, be careful not to starve your live bottom carpet plants, like Monte Carlo and Java Moss, with your Red Rooters cover.

The only downside of Red Rooter is they can be challenging to plant and grow in a tropical aquarium (like other red plants). They are not easy for beginners and are best used by experienced aquarists.

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6— Azolla

Azolla, commonly known as water or mosquito fern, is a floating aquatic plant often used as a decorative addition to aquariums. This plant has small but interesting red or green leaves that float on water, providing beauty and cover for your fish. (Click me to see an image)

Azolla and other small-leaf variants are also effective at providing shade and growing with minimal care. However, they grow fast and can take over your fish tank.

These tiny plants (along with duckweed) also get stuck under decorations hardscapes, and plants if pushed under, so ensure you maintain them regularly.

Interestingly, some species of Azolla have been found to have medicinal properties and are used in traditional medicine in some parts of the world.

So, if you are looking for a beautiful and beneficial addition to your aquarium, Azolla is definitely worth considering.

Azolla makes part of the prized red floating aquarium plants, depending on the light exposure in your tropical fish tank.

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7— Amazon Frogbit

Amazon frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) is a perfect live floating plant for a tropical aquarium. It has small, round leaves that float on water, creating a natural and attractive look in the tank with its long roots. (click me to see an imagae)

Frogbit’s rouded, waxy looking leaves are also larger than (and a suitable variant) to duckweed, which most aquarist don’t like because it causes a mess in the fish tank if left unchecked.

Your floating frogbit will also grow bigger than duckweed (overall), which cuts back on maintanance and looks stunning.

In addition to its aesthetic appeal, Amazon frogbit can provide several benefits to your aquarium ecosystem. It can help to absorb excess nutrients from the water ( like other floating plants), reducing the growth of algae and improving water quality.

It can also provide shade and cover for fish and shrimp, making them feel more secure and comfortable in the tank.

Personally, I’ve had a good experience with frogbit. It grows faster than most floaters, and the roots grow long, creating a beautiful effect.

If you are looking for live floating plants with long roots, Amazon frogbit and Water Lettuce are some of the best species in the hobby.

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8— Riccia Fluitans

Riccia Fluitans is not just a good floating aquarium plant - it is an exceptional addition to any aquarium, and here’s why. (click me to see an image)

Firstly, its bright green color adds a striking vibrancy to any tank, giving it a lively and natural look that will enhance the overall aesthetics of your tropical aquarium.

Fish swimming among the lush, green foliage of Riccia Fluitans - it’s a sight to behold!

But it’s not just about looks - Riccia Fluitans is also incredibly easy to care for, making it an ideal choice for beginners and experienced aquarists. With moderate lighting or minimal fertilization requirements, it is low-maintenance and won’t add to the workload of maintaining your aquarium.

You may need to add CO2 to your floating Riccia Fluitans, but not a must.

Tiny bubbles on Riccia Fluitans plants are a common occurrence and are a good sign. These bubbles are called pearling and are a result of photosynthesis.

Riccia Fluitans produce oxygen as a byproduct of the said photosynthesis, which helps to oxygenate the water and maintain a healthy balance of gases in the aquarium.

It also indicates that your fish tank is getting adequate light for your floating plants’ photosynthesis.

Note that Riccia fluitans is not known to turn red naturally. Its natural color is bright green, and if it turns yellow or brownish-green, it could indicate that the plant is not receiving enough nutrients or light it needs to maintain its healthy green color.

It is also not considered a large floating plant compared to other floaters, like water sprite. It is a small, delicate liverwort that floats on the water surface just enough to provide shade and cover for your fish.

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9— Dwarf Water Lilly

Dwarf water lilly is a rare floating plant in tropical aquarium, but it is beautiful and rewarding once you have it. This lilly is among the few aquarium floater that produce flowers, and caring for it is not too complicated, alhthough it might be challenging for beginners. (click me to see an image)

Dwarf lilly is a miniture species ideal for fish tanks, with plate-like leaves that rest on the water surface and produce white, pink, and yellow flowers under the right conditions.

Dwarf lilly foliage creates perfect blinds for skittish tropical fish and limits the light reaching the bottom of the tank, an ideal way to reduce algae bloom.

The foliage and flowers also improve your tropical tank chemistry by removing nitrate and phosphates from the water column.

The underside of the broad dwarf water lilly leave also provides a perfect place for fish, such as goldfish, to lay their eggs.

Add floating water lilly to your tropical aquarium if you have shy fish to prefer to hide away. They will come from hiding more with the cover from your lilly plants above them.

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10— Water Wisteria

Water wisteria (Hygrophila difformis) can be floated and grows nicely but will also grow in the substrate, even as carpet. It develops quickly with moderate lighting and liquid fertilizer and does not always need Co2. (Click me to see an image)

Floating wisteria provides ample cover for shrimp and betta and has some of the most stunning leaf structures in the hobby. The leaves change their shape from broad, dark green, serrated foliage when emersed to narrow, bright green, multi-pinnate when submerged.

Water wisteria grown floating will take nutrients from the water column, hence perfect for cleaning your tank and maintaining water quality. However, hygrophilla is not as good a cleaner as duckweed and water lettuce.

Water wisteria also has narrow leaves that will not cover the entire top of your fish tank, hence not the best choice for skittish fish, like axolotl or kuhli loaches.

Floating water wisteria roots look stunning when adequately manicured, so ensure you trim your plant regularly. You will love wisteria roots floating below the water surface.

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11— Hornwort

Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) is a very versatile aquarium plant that can be grown floating or planted on a sand substrate, depending on the specific needs and preferences of the aquarium. (Click me to see an image)

When grown floating, hornwort will provide cover and shade for fish and shrimp, but it is better known for its ability to absorb excess nutrients from the water, which can help to improve water quality.

Live floating hornwort will also add oxygen to water and emits a unique algaecide-like hormone that can help eliminate algae, though not 100 percent.

Hornwort is easy to grow, does not always need CO2 (particularly when floating), and grows nicely even with the built-in LED light that comes with most fish tanks.

It will grow fast with the right conditions and is perfect for filling blank spots in the tank without much foliate.

However, hornwort can consume a significant amount of nutrients if allowed to grow too densely, which can deplete the nutrients other plants and animals in the aquarium need to thrive.

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12— Hygroryza Aristata

Hygroryza aristata is not the most popular floating aquarium plants, but it is still a favored choice for aquascaping enthusiasts. It is often used to create a natural-looking aquascape due to its lush green, grass-like foliage and easy maintenance. (Click me to watch to watch a video)

When floating, the plant will grow roots from its stems that hang down into the water.

Floating Hygroryza aristata can be a great way to add variety to your aquarium’s aesthetic. It can also provide additional hiding places and cover for fish and other aquatic inhabitants.

However, the grassy and feathery whorled roots of Hygroryza are not broad or extensive, so they may not cover your fish tank fully, so the plant is best used when you need partial shade in the fish tank.

To float Hygroryza aristata, remove it from the substrate and allow it to sit on the water surface. It’s important to note that while floating hygoryza, the plant will require higher lighting intensity to grow.

Regular water changes and fertilization may be necessary to ensure the plant stays healthy.

Hygroryza and salvinia are some of the best Asian floating aquarium plants.

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Are Floating Plants Good for Your Aquarium

Live floating plants are generally considered to be very beneficial for aquariums. They offer several advantages, such as improved water quality, oxygenation, reduced algae growth, and cover (shade) for shy and skittish fish.

Red floating plants, like red root floater (Phyllanthus fluitans) and red water lettuce and long roots floater, like water sprite, also add interest to your tropical aquarium, with all the benefits of other live aquarium plants.

Their vibrant red or pink hues create a striking contrast against the green of other plants in the aquarium or against the blue of the water.

Below are detailed benefits of floating aquarium plants!

What are The Benefits of Floating Aquarium Plants

Floating plants can be beneficial for aquariums for several reasons:

1— Shade and Cover

Floating plants can help to create a shaded and comfortable environment for your fish, reducing stress and promoting healthy behavior. They also provide natural hiding spots, which can help to prevent aggression and territorial behavior between fish.

Tropical aquarium species like betta, guppies (and other schooling fish), and skittish bottom dwellers, such as bristlenose pleco, kuhli loach, and axoltl and prey-critter, like shrimp and snails, benefit the most when you add floating plants in your fish tank.

2— Visual Appeal

Floating plants can add a stunning visual element to your aquarium. The lush green leaves and vibrant reds of some floating plants can create a stunning contrast against the crystal-clear water, making for an even more impressive display.

If you want floating in your fish tank for visual appeal, I suggest adding red plants, such as red root floater, and long root plants, like water lettuce.

Grass floater, like Hygroryza and large plants, like water sprite, make spectacular centerpiece plants when floated.

3— Hiding Spots

Floating plants can provide hiding places for fish and other aquatic creatures, which helps to reduce stress and aggression in fish, especially if they are kept with other fish species.

4— Improve Water Quality

Floating plants clean your water by absorbing excess nutrients from the tank, such as nitrate and phosphate,which can help to prevent algae growth and keep the water clean and clear.

Live floating plants that clean aquarium water include:

Floating plants can absorb excess nutrients from the water, such as nitrate and phosphate, which can help to prevent algae growth and keep the water clean and clear.

Live floating plants that will clean your aquarium water include:

— Water wisteria

— Hornwort

— Frogbit

— Water Sprite

Happy aquascaping!

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