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 demersum is known by many common names, such as rigid hornwort, hornwart (a frequent misspelling), and coontail. It can easily grow up to the top end of an aquarium or pond in its natural state. Hornwort is normally found floating on the surface of the water, but it can be planted in the substrate to look like an underwater bush with many branches or side stems. Bright green leaves with a stiff, thin texture are similar to pine needles. Hornwort is similar to water-sprite, javamoss, and has dense foliage which provides excellent protection for shrimp and baby fish.
Where can hornwort be found? Hornwort is adaptable to all climates. It is found on all continents except Antarctica. It prefers to live in water bodies that are still or slow moving and contain lots of organic nutrients.
Can hornwort clean water. Hornwort is a fast-growing plant that uses waste compounds (e.g. ammonia, nitrogen, and phosphates) to grow new leaves. With enough light and nutrients, hornwort can easily grow 1-4 inches (3-10 cm) per week.
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. A pest snail may be eating plants. This is usually a sign that the snail has removed some of the unhealthy leaves.
Does hornwort harm goldfish? Hornwort is not eaten by most plant-eating species (like turtles, koi, African Cichlids and goldfish). It could be because of its hard texture or slightly serrated leaves.
Hornwort leaves may not be perfectly smooth, but they have tiny bumps that give them a slightly 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. While some people prefer to plant it in the substrate, others attach it to hardscape. But because it doesn’t grow proper roots, the attached ends tend to rot away. Make sure to prune back your hornwort if it starts growing out of control so that it won’t block out the light if you have other plants or limit gas exchange at the surface if you’re keeping fish.
Hornwort prefers gentle flow. Make sure your filter intake doesn’t allow the needles to get caught up in your filter. It can be grown under low to very high light, and it does not require any carbon dioxide (CO2) injection. It is best to place it in background plants in larger tanks, unless you have the time or ability to trim it. Its rapid growth rate can quickly drain your aquarium’s nutrients. Therefore, you might need to periodically add Easy Green liquid fertilizer to the water column to ensure that other plants have enough food.
Why are my hornwort leaves falling off? Hornwort can shed its needles when there is a significant change in the water parameters, lack of light, and/or if it has been exposed to chemicals such as liquid carbon or strong currents. It happens most often when you add the plant 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. Also, make sure to gravel vacuum the fallen leaves to prevent excess nutrients from building up in the aquarium.
Hornwort can be easily propagated by cutting off a section of the plant and floating it in a fresh fish tank.
How to Propagate Hornwort
Hornwort can make little buds in the wild. These buds will drop to the ground in the winter and then sprout when it warms up. 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. In fact, one of the easiest ways to get hornwort is to ask around and see if any local hobbyists have some extra trimmings to give away, which they are usually more than happy to share. We don’t sell hornwort as it won’t survive shipping, but we do have a lot of great beginner plants that you can browse.