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Red Root Floaters

Posted by Henry Yang on

Red Root Floaters

Red root floater is also known as Phyllanthus Fluitans and belongs to the family Phyllanthaceae. It is one of the finest looking free-floating ferns that prefer freshwater. The plant is called root floater because it floats and it contains gorgeous roots. It is also known as apple duckweed and floating spurge. If you have plaudarium or a low-tech aquarium this plant is a much-needed piece.


Once this plant was classified as spurge in the family Euphorbiaceae. Red root floater is endemic to temperate areas of South America to Central America. There in the wild, the floater can be found in the sluggish waters of Amazon. It is also reported to be cultivated in United States nurseries for domestication purposes.


Red root floater has round foliage leaves, arrange alternatively on nodes, and can grow up to 1 inch in size. they are water repellant and light green in color but can change into deep red due to low nitrogen levels and intense lighting. The leaf usually floats with each containing two pockets from which it is attached to the roots. The color of the roots is deep red and they are hanging in the water which makes the plant gorgeous. Its stem however is fragile and usually is 130mm in length and 1 or 1.5 mm in width. In a healthy environment, gentle white flowers are produced on the axils of leaves. This plant is tiny compared to other floating plants. The plant looks best in open tanks with lots of lights and other green plants. 

Caring and Maintaining

Red root floater is easy to maintain and care for. There is no special substrate required to help the plant grow. Just make sure your plant is getting enough nutrients especially iron. It will be better if you supply iron with a fertilizer like UNS plant food liquid iron. There should not be any disturbance or agitation on the surface because it could affect the growth of the plant. Light availability is also an important factor. Light does not impact roots but it does have an impact on leaves because leaves change color based on the amount of light they are receiving. Light intensity depends on which type of water you are having for the aquarium. If it is hard water then make sure to provide a high amount of light which in turn will change the color of leaves red. In low or medium-light, leaves will stay green with red only present at the rims or as a small smudge in the center of the leaf. Soft water is good when there are low light conditions. It’s all depends on your preferences. It is also reported that low nitrogen content in water can deepen the red color. Supplementations are good for the plant but do not overdo the chemicals, it will only harm the plant. Due to healthy environment, these floaters can grow exponentially and can cover the entire surface of your aquarium and can be the reason for blocking light for other tankmates. An overabundance can also start a competition between plants for nutrients and lead to their death. So, keep the plant in check with regular pruning and weeding out the extra. 

How to plant and propagate it

Before planting the floater in the aquarium make sure you quarantine the plant for some time. It can contain some pests(snails), parasites, or predators (damselfly nymphs). You can also treat the plant with chemicals to remove these pests but be careful because the chemical can harm your tank pets later. About the planting of the floater, In the aquarium, you only have to put them on the tank’s surface and leave them to do their own thing. They will grow by themselves, given the required conditions. It usually propagates by producing seeds and runners. Its stalks can also be used for propagation. Simply cut them in half from between leaves and roots. You can just throw them in water and when adjusted to the environment they will grow. Side shoot can grow and produce extra floaters which will also grow. Smaller plants can be easily split off and planted in other parts of the tank. If the plant fails to propagate check the iron content in the tank and supply it accordingly.

Tanks requirements

The perfect aquarium for this beautiful floater will be the one with an open-top, a great system of ventilation, and lots and lots of lighting. It is suggested to have a minimum of 5 gallons of tank for this floater. LED lights are good for this plant because they don’t generate much heat which can melt the floater. Supply the water with abundant nutrients like nitrogen, iron, potassium and also restore the tank with liquid fertilizer regularly. The pH of the water should be upheld from 6.5 to 7.5 although it can survive on a wide range and it usually depends on how much light you are planning to provide in the aquarium. The optimum temperature for best plant growth is from 70 to 82⁰ Fahrenheit and low to high lighting is best for 6 to 8 hours daily. If you are providing hard water for the tank make to limit the hardness within the range of 0 to 12 GH. It is not imperative to have a CO2 injection on the plant. do supply the tank with supplements because it can help the plant to be healthy and beautiful.

Reasons to have it in your tank

The first aesthetic of an aquarium is crucial so having a plant that increases aesthetics is a must and a red-root floater can do this job for you. Its beautiful foliage leaves will make your aquarium looks to be natural. Another positive impact of this plant is it can provide a lot of spaces for shy species and a landscape for breeding for dwarf shrimp and egg scatterers. Red root floater can help you in mitigating the growth of algae because they can cover the whole surface and block the entry of light which is imperative for algal growth. Also, blocking the light can help other plants who do not need a lot of light, for example, AnubiasMarimo Moss, and Java Fern. They can also help in removing pollutants and biological debris from the aquarium. As a plus, Red Root Floaters offer oxygenation by doing photosynthesis and denitrification which comes in handy with aquariums with low water flow. Also, red root floater helps in removing toxic waste that generate through plant decay and waste material of fish


It will be great to have those critters who are particularly shy and do not come out much because after having this floater, they might come out to play. The shade and plenty of hiding spaces will give confidence to many timid and nocturnal creatures and they will be seen more often under this floater. If we talk about other plants then it is a good idea to mix the plant with Frogbit because both require the same amount of care level. It will also work best alongside Salvinia Natans. Among the animals, many fish are compatible with the floater e.g, Otocinclus CatfishTetras, Bettas, Platies, Danios, Guppies, MolliesOtocinclus Catfish,  EndlersPygmy Cory Catfish. Snails for example, Ramshorn snails, Malaysian Trumpet snails, Asolene spix, Japanese trapdoor snails, etc are good to have. Among the shrimp, dwarf shrimp is the best and all varieties of Neocaridina and Caridina species are compatible with red root floater. Commonly crabs and crayfish are difficult creatures to have in the aquarium because they tend to destroy and uproot plants that come in their path. But with the floaters you can have these creatures, they won’t be able to reach the plant. one tip is to avoid having those fish who wants to taste this floater. This includes Goldfish, Rainbow, African Cichlids, Koi fish, Oscars, Jack Dempsey, and Clown loaches.

Common problems

The floater does not thrive in an agitated environment where lots of movement is occurring. So, you will have to set up a system to allow the minimum flow of water. Extreme lighting can also cause the melting of the plant so when it happens try to change the light period and intensity and melting won’t be a problem. Another dilemma associated with red root floater is it grows at high speed and can cause overcrowding in a small amount of time in the tank so take precautions and keep the growth in check by pruning and cutting. Sometimes small holes start to appear on the leaves of the floater. The reason for this problem is potassium deficiency. This can be handled by adding potassium-rich fertilizers like Flourish advance.


Red root floater will be a great choice for those who are looking for some floaters for their tank. It looks gorgeous in an open tank. As long as you care for the plant and make sure it doesn't conflict with the needs of your fish it will be good to have.

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