Best Floating Plants for Freshwater Aquariums

Choosing one or more of these best floating plants for aquariums will help you create that dream setup. You’ll also know what to expect from each plant, and where to find it.

While I am not a particularly huge fan of floating plants in freshwater aquariums, mainly because they can interfere with the quality of lighting (by simply blocking the light coming from above), I agree that with proper care, they can prove to be a really nice addition to any setup out there

So with these in mind, let’s check out the best floating plants for aquariums below, with more details on each recommendation following after you’re done reading the table.

Plant NameShort DescriptionLink
Duckweed (Lemna minor)A fast-growing plant ideal for nutrient control and providing cover for fishCheck at Amazon
Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes)Slow-growing, picturesque plant that helps purify the waterCheck at Amazon
Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum)Glossy-leaved plant that reduces algae growth and is preferred by Betta fishCheck at Amazon
Red Root Floater (Phyllanthus fluitans)Offers unique red coloration under high light and helps in nitrate reductionCheck at Amazon
Salvinia (Salvinia natans)Unique fern-like plant that provides cover and helps control algaeCheck at Amazon
Giant Duckweed (Spirodela polyrhiza)Larger duckweed variety excellent for nutrient control and providing coverCheck at Amazon

If you’re just starting your journey in the world of fish keeping, don’t forget to also check out my previous article sharing the best low light plants for aquariums.

Or, if you’re niching down to a specific type of fish, check out my list of the best plants for cold water aquariums.

Now that we’ve got all the basics covered, let’s get a bit more in depth with the floating aquarium plants!

How to Select Floating Plants for Your Aquarium

Duckweed in freshwater aquarium
My Anubia flowering through a sea of duckweed

The task of selecting suitable floating plants involves assessing several characteristics and preparing for them taking over the entire surface of the water.

Therefore, before you add any floating plant to your tank set-up, make sure that you know exactly how fast it will spread (and prepare to remove excess plants if needed), but also ensure that they can work well with your water conditions and ideally offer some sort of benefit to your aquarium dwellers.

Top 6 Floating Plants for Freshwater Aquariums

Let’s get a bit more in depth with each of my recommended floating aquarium plants above and see why they’ve made it onto the list.

Duckweed (Lemna minor)

floating plants for freshwater aquariums

Duckweed, despite its unassuming appearance, is a powerhouse performer.

Its rapid growth rate makes it excellent for controlling nutrient levels, helping to prevent the proliferation of unwanted algae or for keeping water parameters under control.

However, this rapid growth comes with its own challenges, mainly as duckweed can quickly cover the water surface, potentially hindering gas exchange if left unchecked, as well as greatly reducing the amount of light that gets to your other aquarium plants.

I also had problems with duckweed in one of my self-sustaining jarrariums, where dying plants sank to the bottom, initially providing natural food to my shrimp population, but eventually destroying the ecosystem as the decaying plants outgrew my shrimp’s capacity of eating them.

So be very careful after adding duckweed to your tank – once you do, it’s pretty difficult to get rid of it, as even a single plant will multiply like crazy. Proper maintenance and removal of excess plants is required.

But the best part about this type of floating aquarium plant is that it’s very hardy and low maintenance. It does well in all sorts of water and temperatures, being extremely friendly to beginners.

And, as long as it is kept under control, it will look really good floating on the surface of your tank, also helping remove that white film on top of your tank’s water.

Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes)

Water Lettuce is a tropical plant that prefers warmer water temperatures, ideally between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius.

It’s a slow-growing plant, which means it won’t overrun your tank, but it still offers significant surface coverage.

I personally consider it a better choice to duckweed, as long as you can offer it the warmer water all year long and a slightly more acidic to neutral PH.

Keep in mind that the delicate rosettes of this plant should stay dry, making it more suitable for aquariums without splashy inhabitants or excessive surface agitation.

Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum)

The Amazon Frogbit is another tropical plant that thrives in warm water, ranging from 18 to 30 degrees Celsius.

The plant loves a nutrient-rich environment to support its fast growth, which in turn helps keeping your water clean and the parameters in check.

As with Water Lettuce, it’s important to keep the upper leaf surface dry to prevent rotting.

It is also similar to duckweed – but larger and better looking, as well as easier to keep under control, since it is larger.

Do have in mind that it can quickly take over the entire surface, so make sure that you have proper light for the plants you have planted in your tank’s substrate.

Red Root Floater (Phyllanthus fluitans)

The Red Root Floater is a fascinating plant to include in your aquarium due to its unique coloration. It’s probably the best looking of the bunch, and not extremely high maintenance either.

While it does require high light and a warmer water all year long (21-28 degrees Celsius), it is extremely beautiful and due to the slower growth rate, it is a lot easier to keep under control

It still helps with nitrate absorption and similar to floaters, it benefits from calm waters and a dry leaf surface.

Overall, a much better choice to naturally keep your water parameters in check – unlike, for example, Borax which might be dangerous for your fish.

Salvinia (Salvinia natans)

Salvinia, often referred to as water spangles, is a floating fern that stands out due to its unique, springy leaf structure.

It prefers warm waters, thriving at temperatures of 18-30 degrees Celsius.

Salvinia is a great choice for beginners due to its low maintenance profile: it can grow under range of light conditions, though it flourishes best in bright light, and doesn’t care too much about the water temperatures either.

Not only does it provide excellent cover for aquatic inhabitants, but it also competes with algae for nutrients, helping maintain a clean and healthy aquarium.

I really like Salvinia due to the format of the leaves, and the fact that it doesn’t spread as duckweed does is a big advantage in my books.

Giant Duckweed (Spirodela polyrhiza)

The Giant Duckweed is a larger cousin of the common Duckweed, but very similar in all other aspects.

As the name suggests, it has a much larger leaf size (grows up to 1cm) and it can provide a more significant cover for fish and absorb more excess nutrients.

Of course, this also means that it’s easier for it to take over the entire surface of the water and mess up the lighting of your bottom plants, but with constant care and removal of excess plants, you can keep it under control.


Any of the recommended plants above are great for freshwater aquariums. All of these plants are really low maintenance.

Actually, you have to worry more about them covering the entire surface of the water than meeting their care requirements.

As I said in the intro, I am not a huge fan of most floating plants due to some bad experiences I had in the past – but back then I was still a beginner and didn’t really offer the proper care. So my bad.

But if you like to add then to your tank, you have the best options above. If you prefer a different surface plant for your freshwater aquarium, don’t hesitate to let us all know by commenting below.

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