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 more about hornwort care and whether it’s right for you.
What is Hornwort?
Ceratophyllum dmersum can be called many things, including rigid hornwort, coontail, and hornwart. In the wild, it can grow to a height of approximately 3 feet and can reach the top of any aquarium or pond. Hornwort can normally be found floating in water. However, when it is planted in substrate, it appears like an underwater bush with many long branches and side stems. The bright green leaves are thin and rigid, similar to pine needles. 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 can survive in a diverse variety of climates and is found on every continent except for Antarctica. It prefers to grow in still or slow-moving bodies of fresh water that contain lots of organic nutrients in the water column.
How does hornwort clean the water? Hornwort plants are fast-growing and can “clean” aquarium water. They consume waste compounds such as ammonia and nitrates from fish waste and excess fish foods and then use that water to grow more leaves. With enough light and nutrients, hornwort can easily grow 1-4 inches (3-10 cm) per week.
Do snails eat hornwort? Aquarium snails are detritivores and do not eat healthy plants but rather dying leaves and other organic debris. 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 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. 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 prefers gentle flow. Make sure your filter intake doesn’t allow the needles to get caught up in your filter. It can grow in low to high light conditions and does not require 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). 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 is my hornwort shedding its leaves? Hornwort sheds needles anytime there’s a major change in water parameters or it’s kept in an unfavorable environment, such as strong currents, not enough light (especially at the base of planted stems), lack of nutrients, or dosing of certain chemicals like liquid carbon. This is most likely to happen when the plant is new to your tank. You don’t have to throw the whole plant away. Wait for it time to recover, and it will soon start growing new shoots. Gravel vacuum any fallen leaves to keep excess nutrients from building up inside the aquarium.
Hornwort is easily propagated by trimming off a section and floating it in a new 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. A side shoot can be cut or the top of a tall stem can be propagated at home. A single hornwort segment will soon become a new plant, if it is allowed to float on the water surface or planted in the ground. Ask around to see if there are any other hobbyists who have extra trimmings that they can give you. This is a great way to get Hornwort. We do not sell hornwort because it doesn’t survive in shipping very well, but we have a whole collection of our favorite beginner plants for you to browse.