Hornwort: A Versatile Aquatic Plant

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Looking to add some life and vibrancy to your aquarium?

Look no further than Hornwort, an aquatic plant that can transform your underwater world into a stunning oasis.

With its feathery leaves and fast growth rate, Hornwort is perfect for both beginners and experienced aquarists.

It not only enhances the appearance of your aquarium, but also provides numerous benefits such as oxygenation, natural filtration, and hiding spots for fish.

In this article, I will delve into the various aspects of this plant, including its appearance, care requirements, and how to propagate it.

So, let’s dive in and discover why Hornwort is the ideal plant for vibrant aquariums.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameCeratophyllum demersum
AppearanceDelicate, feathery leaves; bright green; stems up to 24 inches
Plant TypeFloating aquatic plant
Water ConditionsTemperature: 59°F to 82°F; pH: 6.0 to 7.5; moderate to hard water preferred
Lighting RequirementsModerate to high light intensity; avoid excessive light
SubstrateNot required; can float or be anchored
FertilizersNot a heavy feeder; liquid fertilizer can be used sparingly
MaintenanceRegular trimming and removal of decaying parts
Growth RateFast; requires monitoring to prevent overcrowding
PropagationThrough stem cuttings; fragments can grow into new plants

Hornwort: An Aquatic Plant for Vibrant Aquariums

One way to enhance the beauty and vibrancy of your aquarium is by adding live plants.

Among the many options available, Hornwort stands out as an excellent choice.


Hornwort, scientifically known as Ceratophyllum demersum, is a floating aquatic plant that is native to North America and other parts of the world.

It belongs to the family Ceratophyllaceae and is characterized by its delicate, feathery leaves that resemble the antlers of a deer.

This is a versatile plant that can be used in both freshwater and brackish water aquariums, making it a popular choice among aquarists of all skill levels.

Appearance & Size

Hornwort is a visually appealing plant that is easily recognizable.

Its long, slender stems can grow up to 24 inches in length, providing a vertical element to your underwater landscape.

The leaves are bright green and arranged in whorls around the stem, giving the plant a lush and full appearance.

As a floating plant, Hornwort does not require planting in the substrate, allowing for easy customization and arrangement within the aquarium.

Benefits of Hornwort in Aquariums

The inclusion of Hornwort in your aquarium brings numerous benefits to both the tank’s inhabitants and the overall ecosystem.

Firstly, the plant absorbs excess nutrients from the water, thereby reducing the chances of algae growth.

This natural filtration helps to maintain water clarity and stability, creating a healthier environment for fish and other aquatic life.

The plant also provides shelter and hiding places for small fish, fry, and invertebrates, contributing to a more natural and secure habitat.

Hornwort floating at the top of a tank

Compatible Tank Mates

Hornwort is a versatile plant that can thrive alongside a wide range of fish species.

Its feathery foliage and dense growth provide ample hiding spots for shy or easily stressed fish.

Popular tank mates for include tetras, guppies, danios, rasboras, and small cichlids.

However, caution should be exercised when keeping this plant with herbivorous fish, as they may graze on the plant and inhibit its growth.

Water Conditions & Lighting Requirements

One of the reasons why Hornwort is favored by many aquarists is its ability to adapt to a wide range of water conditions.

It can thrive in temperatures ranging from 59°F to 82°F, with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5.

Hornwort can tolerate varying water hardness levels, but it generally prefers moderately soft to slightly hard water.

As for lighting, this plant can grow under moderate to high light intensity.

However, it is important to avoid excessive lighting, as it may encourage algae growth.

3 strings of hornwort

Substrate & Fertilizers

Hornwort is unique in that it does not require planting in a substrate although you can plant it if you want to.

The plant can be left to float freely in the water column, allowing for easy rearrangement or removal if needed.

If you prefer to anchor Hornwort, it can be done so with the help of a plant weight or by securing it to rocks or driftwood using fishing line.

Hornwort is not a heavy feeder and can obtain nutrients from the water itself.

If you wish to provide additional fertilization, a liquid fertilizer can be used sparingly, following the manufacturer’s recommendations.


Maintaining Hornwort in your aquarium is relatively straightforward.

Regular trimming is essential to prevent the plant from overcrowding and shading other inhabitants or blocking water circulation.

By trimming the stems, you can promote healthy growth and prevent the plant from becoming too unruly.

Removing any dead or decaying parts is also important to maintain water quality in the aquarium.

Hornwort planted in substrate with a shrimp sitting on top of it

Growth Rate & Algae Control

Hornwort is known for its fast growth rate, which can be both advantageous and challenging for aquarists.

On one hand, rapid growth means that this plant can quickly fill out your aquarium and provide ample cover for fish and fry.

On the other hand, if left unchecked, it can become invasive and overshadow other plants, leading to limited access to light.

Regular pruning and monitoring growth are key to keeping Hornwort in check and preventing excessive algae growth.

Propagating Hornwort

Propagating is relatively simple and can be accomplished through stem cuttings.

As the plant grows, it naturally sheds small fragments that can take root and give rise to new plants.

To propagate, simply cut a healthy stem segment and replant it somewhere else in the aquarium.

Ensure that the cuttings have access to adequate lighting and water conditions to encourage successful growth.

With proper care, you can create a lush and thriving bed of Hornwort in your aquarium.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, Hornwort is an excellent choice for aquarists looking to add beauty and vitality to their aquariums.

Its versatility, easy maintenance, and numerous benefits make it a popular plant among both beginners and experienced hobbyists.

By including this plant in your aquascape, you can create a vibrant and engaging underwater environment that both you and your aquatic inhabitants will enjoy.

So why not give Hornwort a try and see the wonders it can bring to your aquarium?

Photo of author


Irma Bense is the founder of BetterFishkeeping.com. She has over 42 years of experience in keeping fish.She has kept both freshwater and saltwater fish through the years.She has extensive knowledge in breeding numerous species of fish from Show Guppies, Cory Catfish, German Blue Rams to Apistogrammas.You can learn more about Irma on the 'About' page.

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