How to Care for Hornwort in Aquariums and Ponds
Hornwort is a popular aquatic plant for both fish tanks and outdoor ponds because of its fluffy-looking stems, extremely fast growth, and ability to consume excess nutrients from the water. Learn about the care requirements for hornwort and whether or not it’s the right plant for you.
What is Hornwort?
Ceratophyllum desmersum has many common names such as rigid hornwort (a frequent misspelling), hornwart, and coontail. It grows very tall in the wild and will easily reach all the way to the top of your aquarium or pond. Normally hornwort is found floating at the water surface, but when planted in the substrate, it looks like a fluffy underwater bush with many long branches or side stems. The bright green leaves look similar to pine needles. They are rigid and thin, with stiff edges. Hornwort, which is similar to water sprite or java moss has dense leaves that provide excellent protection for baby fishes and shrimp.
Where is Hornwort found? Hornwort thrives in all climates, except Antarctica. It prefers to grow in bodies of still or slow-moving fresh water with lots of organic nutrients in it.
Does hornwort clean water? Fast-growing plants like hornwort are good at “cleaning” aquarium water because they consume waste compounds from the water (e.g., ammonia, nitrates, and phosphates produced by fish waste and excess fish food) and use it to grow more leaves. Hornwort can easily grow to 1-4 inches (3-10cm), if there is enough light and nutrients.
Does hornwort get eaten by snails? Aquariums snails are called detritivores. They don’t eat living plants but only decaying leaves or other organic material. You will most likely see a pest snail eating the leaves of a plant.
Can goldfish eat Hornwort? Generally, plant-eating animals like turtles, koi and African cichlids don’t eat Hornwort. Possible reasons could be the slightly serrated leaves, hard texture, or taste that makes it unpleasant as food.
Hornwort leaves can be a little rough, but they are not perfectly smooth. They have small bumps which give it a slight spiky texture.
How to Care for Hornwort
The aquatic plant can survive in temperatures ranging from 50-85degF (10-30degF) to tropical aquariums. Hornwort is best grown as a floating plants, which have more access to light and carbon dioxide in the air. It can be planted in the substrate or attached to hardscape by some people. However, it does not grow roots and the attached end will rot away. If your hornwort grows out of control, you should trim it so that it doesn’t block light from other plants and limit gas exchange at the surface for fish.
Hornwort tends to prefer gentle flow, so make sure the needles don’t accidentally get sucked up by your filter intake. It can be grown under low to very high light, and it does not require any carbon dioxide (CO2) injection. Because it grows so quickly, it’s best to use it as a background plant in larger tanks (unless you have the time to constantly trim it). In addition, the fast growth rate means it will quickly drain your aquarium of all nutrients, so you may need to regularly dose Easy Green liquid fertilizer in the water column to ensure that the other plants get enough to eat.
Why does my hornwort shed its leaves? Hornwort strays when it experiences a drastic change in water parameters. This is most likely to happen when the plant is new to your tank. Do not throw out the entire plant. Instead, wait for it to recover. It will soon begin to grow new shoots and leaves. To prevent any excess nutrients building up in your aquarium, gravel vacuum the fallen leaves.
Hornwort may be easily propagated simply by cutting off a section and floating in a new tank.
How to Propagate Hornwort
In nature, hornwort may form tiny buds that fall to the ground during cold seasons and then sprout when the temperature warms. The most common way to propagate hornwort at home is to trim the stem’s top or cut a side shoot. If you allow hornwort to float on the surface, or if you plant it in the ground, it will quickly grow into a new plant. It is possible to obtain hornwort by asking around and seeing if anyone has any extra trimmings. They are often more than willing to share. We do not sell Hornwort, as it isn’t able to survive shipping. However, we have many of our favourite beginner plants available for you to view.