For novice aquarium hobbyists, cultivating a planted aquarium can be quite a challenge. Not only do you need to care for your fish, but you also have to worry about cultivating the ideal environment to support the health and growth of your aquarium fish. Maintaining live plants requires you to invest in special substrates, plant foods and tank equipment – if you are not prepared for the task, these things can be overwhelming. If you like the idea of adding live plants to your tank but aren’t sure you are ready to take on the challenge of a fully planted tank, you might want to consider adding some floating plants. Floating plants are generally easy to cultivate and they are a great way to ease yourself into cultivating a planted tank.
Benefits of Floating Plants
Floating aquarium plants provide a number of significant benefits. Perhaps the most important benefit is that they do not require planting – floating plants simply drift on the tank surface so they do not require any special substrate or planting medium. Floating aquarium plants play a particularly useful role in breeding tanks. The leaves and roots of floating plants may provide newly hatched fry with a place to hide from adult fish – the microorganisms living in and around the plants will also provide your fry with food. Another use for floating plants is to diffuse tank lighting – some species of fish prefer subdued lighting and adding floating plants to your tank is an easy way to accomplish this. Some floating plants, such as duck weed, can also be used as a supplementary food source for fish – it provides plant-based nutrition and grows very quickly so you do not have to keep replacing it.
Types of Floating Plants
There are a number of different species to choose from including:
Azolla This plant is a type of floating fern and there are six different species. Though typically used in ponds, azolla may grow in tanks utilizing low water movement and high lighting. Azolla is unique in that it forms a symbiotic relationship with certain algae, boosting the nitrogen-fixing ability of tank algae.
Hornwort These plants have feathery leaves and they tend to grow well in both high- and low-light conditions. Hornwort plants never produce roots, so there is no need to ever plant them in substrate. These plants grow quickly and are favored by fish that tend to feed on live plants.
Duckweed There are several species of duckweed, many of which produce very small leaves. This plant is easy to grow in the aquarium and very popular among plant-eating fish.
Bladderwort There are several species of bladderwort, some of which can be kept in the aquarium. These plants are unique because they are carnivorous, feeding on tiny insects and crustaceans. These plants are not recommended for breeding tanks because they are likely to eat newly hatched fry.
Crystalwort This plant produce thick, bright green mats that looks similar to java moss. Crystalwort is ideal for diffusing tank lighting and providing shelter for newly hatched fry – it also grows very quickly under proper lighting conditions.
Tips for Floating Plants
Your floating plants are more likely to thrive if the water in your tank is kept clean. To achieve this, try adding an EcoBio-Stone to your freshwater tank. EcoBio-Stones are made from natural volcanic rock and they are infused both with beneficial bacteria and the nutrients they need to thrive. Once installed in your tank, EcoBio-Stones help to establish and maintain the nitrogen cycle, thus keeping your tank clean so your floating plants can thrive.