Planted Aquarium

Hornwort Plant: A Complete Care Guide, Problems And Benefits

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Hornwort is a versatile plant that is an excellent option for both seasoned and new aquarists. Keeping plants in an aquarium has several benefits. From oxygenating water, shelter, to providing shelter to the aquarium inhabitants, plants will keep your aquarium and the fish inside it much healthier.

For the same, Hornwort is one of the easiest freshwater plants. Originating in North America, they are present all over the world except Antarctica. They have a high tolerance to various water conditions and also make an ideal plant for the beginner as well. Moreover, you can use it as either a floating pant or rooted in the substrate. 

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Overview of Honeywort Plant

Category Rating
Genus Ceratophyllum demersum
Care Level Easy
Growth Rate Fast
Maximum Size 10 foot
Tank Placement Background
Tank Size Maximum 15 Gallons
The pH of the water 6.0 to 7.5
The hardness of the water 5 dGH to 15 dGH
The temperature of the water 59 to 86 degree Fahrenheit
Lighting Moderate
Propagation Side Shoots

What Is Hornwort Plant?

Hornwort, Ceratophyllum demersum, is a popular freshwater plant that is found in ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams. They are mostly a floating plant, but they may also loosely attach themselves to the substrate.

Likewise, they grow in huge bunches in the areas of low current. With the individual strands, they can grow as much as 15 feet i.e., 4.5 meters long.

Hornwort grows long and slim up to 1 millimeter wide. Its leaves are needle-like, and they grow in the whorls where there is a short gap in between.

Do you know that Hornwort is also commonly called Foxtail and Coontail? Well, the reason behind it is its whorls of needles make the plant resemble of bottlebrush or raccoon’s tail. Also, they are known as rigid hornwort as well.

Similarly, the Hornwort does not grow roots. But they absorb nutrients directly from the water through its stems and leaves. They are an important habitat for small fry to hide from predators.

Appearance of Hornwort Plant

The hornwort plant lacks the true roots in it. But their leaves help to anchor the plant in the substrate. Also, it will grow rhizoids (hair-like roots) to help anchor the plants. The height can reach up to your tank’s surface with 1 to 3 branches per node. So, in a natural habitat, Hornwort can reach 10 feet long and 1 by 10 inches in diameter.

Likewise, the leaves (or needles) are produced in whorls of six to twelve, and they tend to fork once or twice. They are short and less than once inch.

The leaves are generally dark green, but in a warmer environment, they can turn into light green shades.

Hornwort is a monoecious plant, which means both the male and female flowers are found on the same specimen. Thus, they are a flowering plant. But the color of the flowers are brown and only 1/10 inch long. Besides that, the flower also produces fruit from a nut.

Natural Habitat of Hornwort

Generally, Hornwort grows in lakes, ponds, and stream with the level of a rich nutrient. Their presence is found all over the world except Antarctica. And, they grow well in slow-moving water.

Benefits of Hornwort Plant In Your Aquarium

Basically, Hornwort is used as a decorative plant in your aquarium. You can place them either in the bottom or allow them to float free in the water column. It is popular for breeding tanks as well as in ornamental shrimp tanks.

You might also like to find out if Shrimps can live in cold water.

Here are few benefits of the Hornwort plant.

Cover For Fry

Baby fish loves to hide in the hornwort plant. The giant bushy mass of stem provides the hiding space for your fry and protects them from the adult fish. Along with that, the needles provide a source of food as well to them.

Thus, this helps the fry to remain to hide and also find something to eat without venturing out of the protection.

Also, learn about the easiest way to set up a fry tank: newborn fry care.

Help Control Algae

Algae are one of the greatest hindrances to the aquarium plant’s growth and survival. They easily grow in stable plants. But, hornwort helps to control the algae in various ways.

First, it is a good eater of nitrate and phosphate. This reduces what is left for the algae to use. Furthermore, it helps to control the green algae as well.

Second, Hornwort secrets substance that helps to beat back blue-green algae. However, these substances do not impact green algae but help to prevent blue-green algae in a low flow tank.

Here are the 30 best algae eaters for freshwater aquariums and how you can get rid of algae in a fish tank naturally?

Tolerate Hard Water

One of the advantages of having a Hornwort is that you can care for your Hornwort in the hard water as well. Some delicate species of aquatic plants do not grow well in hard water. But the Hornwort is tough enough.

However, you still may need to maintain aquarium water hardness for the health of your fish in the aquarium. You can check it in our Freshwater Aquarium Guide.

Removes Excess Nutrients

The wastes from your fish and other invertebrates inside the tank are the major sources of nitrate and phosphate. And these are the major source for algae growth.

But, the presence of Hornwort helps to control it. Since the fast growth of this plant is fueled by eating nitrate and phosphate, so it controls algae growth. On the other hand, it also improves the water quality significantly. Though this helps to reduce the vulnerability, you still need to change the water at a certain interval.

Shrimps Love it

Another benefit of Hornwort is that the ornamental shrimp loves it. They spend all day grazing along its surface to find any algae, uneaten food, and biofilm lying around.

Likewise, adding plants to the shrimp’s tank is always a good idea since it increases the surface area that the shrimp have to feed on.

Moreover, the Hornwort also makes a great place for the baby shrimp to hide. They also provide food for the hungry shrimp.

You can also get more details on “Why Is Calcium Important For Your Shrimps?”.

Decorative plant

Hornwort is an inexpensive plant that can be used in decorating your aquarium. It makes the presence of the aquarium beautiful. When these leaves grow in bright light, it turns to red. However, it is also considered a temporary plant due to its fast-growing nature.

How To Care For Hornwort Plants?

How difficult is it to care for the Hornwort plant? Well, caring for your hornwort plant is not so difficult. Besides trimming and disposal of the unwanted hornwort leaves, it is easy to maintain. However, if the plantation is done in the pond, it becomes easier to look after as you do not have to look for the propagation as well.

Likewise, if your plant starts to shed, there might be some issue in filtration maintenance. And in the absence of the snail, it becomes difficult to care for the dying plant material.

Also, after the plant dies, you can bury them in your local garden or even throw them away in plastic bags to prevent them from getting into local water bodies.

Here is some area where you can care for Hornwort plants:

Tank Requirement

Generally, hornwort inhabits the lakes, rivers, and ponds. Thus, it includes a range of tank sizes since it will grow to fit big tanks. A minimum of 15 gallons tank size will be a good option. Else the plant may get out quickly due to its fast growth.

Likewise, a temperature of 59 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit is suitable. And, you should maintain a pH range from 6.0 to 7.5, while hardness should be between 5 dGH to 15 dGH.

Filtration is necessary to keep nitrogen compounds to a minimum level. Our Beginners Guide To Installing Freshwater Sump Filter And Media To Add-In will help you in learning more about the installment of sump filters in an easier way.

Suggested products for the maintenance of a proper tank for hornwort:


Lighting is one of the important factors to consider while growing the hornwort plant. This plant needs medium lighting to thrive. Also, it survives in low light, but it may not grow well or even turn brown and die. Thus, if you plan to grow this plant, you will need sufficient lighting in your tank.

Else, the growth will become leggy that causes the gap on the stem in between each whorl of needles longer. Though you do not need special lighting to grow, if you do need a nice light, here are a few of my favorites:

Fertilizer and Substrates

Generally, your Hornwort will do best when left to float in the water. But you can also choose to plant it. Also, it will start to lose its leaves (needles) at the base of the plant, which caused it to look “leggy” or “stringy” You will need plant debris on the bottom of the tank or inside the filter.

Planting this plant will not require additional fertilizers. But if your plant is struggling, you can try fertilizing. Since they do not have roots, you will need liquid fertilizers. Thus, the substrates and root tabs will not help them.

Here is the list of some good fertilizers that I recommend:

Water Condition

There is no particular requirement for a water condition if you want to grow Hornwort. They are highly adaptable that can be found in waterways all over the world.

Furthermore, they are not picky when it comes to water hardness. It can thrive in hard water tanks just as easily as it does in neutral water. Also, your Hornwort plant can handle the lower temperature as well.

Tankmates of Hornwort

Hornwort is a good companion with the fish. However, some fish are more compatible with this plant. Along with this, Snails, shrimp, and scavenging fish are great at clearing up the debris shed from the plant. So, keeping it is also a good option.

Learn the easiest way of how to clean and maintain the aquarium. Check out our article on “Why Do Fish Tanks Get Dirty So Fast – How To Clean And Maintain Tanks”

How To Plant Hornwort?

Planting Hornwort is not a difficult task. It is a versatile plant that can float as well as it can weigh down with driftwood and rocks. Also, you can partially bury it in the substrate as well.

Floating Method

Hornwort can float as well as weigh down to the ground as well. But if you want to leave your hornwort floating but remain in one place only, then do use a strong suction cup on the aquarium glass.

Weighted Down

You can stick one end n the driftwood or rock if you have some good-sized rocks available underneath it. Also, place the decor on the substrate. Natural Decorative Polished Mixed Pebbles Gravel, Outdoor Decorative Stones for Plant is best for decorating the aquarium with Hornwort.

Buried In Substrate

Another way is you can pile a bit to a grave on top of the one end of the hornwort to weight it down. Your plant will start to grow small root-like structures called rhizoids. It helps to anchor it down to the substrate. These rhizoids help to hold the plant in place, but it can not be useful to suck the nutrients.

How To Propagate Hornwort Plant

Propagating a Hornwort plant is very easy. Simply cut the pieces off and then allow those cut portions to grow. The Hornwort plant grows very quickly.

So, these plants are easy to grow, and along with that, it is very difficult if your tank is small. Thus, I would recommend that it not a safe option to propagate hornwort in a small tank.

What Are The Problems for Hornwort Plant?

Although Hornwort is easy to grow and care for, it is still not absolutely perfect. Hence, we must be able to learn about the problems of Hornwort to counter them effectively if it ever occurs in real! Let us check the problems out below and the ways to make it better.


Hornwort is a fast-growing plant. So, they shed like crazy. To care for hornwort, you will have to do some routine clean up so that your tank does not get dirty.

The needles of the plants get broken and sink to the bottom of the tank. Also, the needle shedding can be especially terrible when you add this plant to your tank.

Likewise, the needles will starts to grow after a few weeks, even after the cussing. So, even any little piece that you miss can potentially grow a whole new plant. Thus, you must be extra careful and be prepared to do some housekeeping if you choose this plant in your tank.

Not Good For Aquascaping

If you plan to have a neat, clean and tidy aquascape, probably, Hornwort is not a good option. They are extremely high growing plants and tends to put out new branches that spread all over the tank. They are great for jungle tanks, but if you plan for a small aquarium, then it is not a good option.

You will need to trim them regularly to keep them tidy and under control. Else, it makes your fancy aquarium look messier. So, it is not a good choice for a fancy aquascape.

Lack of Nutrients

Hornwort, as being a fast-growing plant, can cause several nutrients issues.

  • They can absorb many nutrients and might choke up themselves.
  • Hornwort shall outcompete the fry for the same nutrients.
  • Also, they can choke other plants out-competing for the nutrients and cause the death of other plants.

You can solve this issue by changing the water regularly or by adding fertilizers to the water to replace nutrients.

Rapid Growth

One of the most common problems of having a Hornwort is its rapid growth. Trimming your Hornwort, maintaining nutrients, and excess plant disposal is the major problem that you will face while growing Hornwort. The fast-growing plant is basically invasive species, so taking care to properly dispose of them is extremely important.

Moreover, they can also choke out your other plant. To avoid it, you need to change the water regularly, add fertilizer to your water constantly, and trim them regularly. This is a hectic task and also time-consuming.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Hornwort Suitable For Your Aquarium?

Hornwort is a multi-purpose plant that can be suitable for young fry. This plant has very few demands that make it best suited for the aquarium. It is a hardy plant that is suitable for beginners.

Moreover, it is a floating plant as well that makes a rare point of interest for surface-dwelling fish. The only disadvantage of this plant is to trim them at regular intervals.

Is Hornwort Toxic, Poisonous, or Invasive?

Though they are considered decorative plants, Hornwort is considered an invasive and toxic weed in the Australian state of Tasmania ad also in New Zealand.

It is said that Hornwart’s fast-growing nature allowed them to outcompete native freshwater flora. This plant is also a nuisance for the hydroelectric water plants as well.

Will Fish Eat Hornwort?

Generally, plant-eating animals such as goldfish, koi, African cichlids, and turtles do not eat hornwort plants. The reason behind it is the slightly serrated leaves and their hard texture. Along with it, its taste is also unpleasant as a food.

Can Hornwort Grow Floating?

Yes, the Hornwort can grow floating. Moreover, this plant grows better floating rather than weighted or planted.

Is Hornwort Safe for Goldfish?

Goldfish will not nibble on it to any great extent. Thus, this makes goldfish safe. So, yes, Hornwort is safe for a Goldfish.

Does Hornwort Clean Water?

Yes, Hornwort does clean water. They are a fast-growing plant and are good at cleaning aquarium water. They consume compounds from the water such as ammonia, nitrates, and phosphates produced by fish waste and excess fish food. Reducing this waste makes the water clean.

Our regular readers are also interested in finding out what is ammonia poisoning in the fish tank and how to get rid of it.

Final Words

Hornwort is a bushy plant with a stem covered in thick needles. It looks like a bottlebrush. Thus do not buy a hornwort that has few sparse needles in every few inches as it shows the plant is under stress.

As already mention earlier, they are a versatile plant whose presence is found in all waterways over the world. They provide a lot of benefits such as removing the excess nutrients, providing shelter to shrimps and fry, etc.

Despite the advantage, it shed its needles that make the aquarist clean the tank regularly. Also, your aquarium shall be messy.

All in all, it is a great plant for the beginner to grow. You can plant them in multiple ways. You can bury them in the substrate, or weigh them down or even let them float in the water.

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