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. Find out about the care and maintenance requirements of Hornwort to determine if it is the right plant.
What is Hornwort?
Ceratophyllum demersum is known by many common names, such as rigid hornwort, hornwart (a frequent misspelling), and coontail. In the wild, it can grow to a height of approximately 3 feet and can reach the top of any 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 are thin and rigid, similar to pine needles. Much like water sprite and java moss, hornwort has dense foliage that provides excellent protection for baby fish and shrimp.
Where is Hornwort found? Hornwort thrives in all climates, except Antarctica. It prefers to live in water bodies that are still or slow moving and contain lots of organic nutrients.
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 grow up to 1-4 inches (3-10cm) per week if it has enough nutrients and light.
Can snails eat Hornwort? Aquarium snails do not eat healthy plants, but instead eat decaying leaves and other organic matter. You will most likely see a pest snail eating the leaves of a plant.
Do goldfish eat hornwort? In general, plant-eating animals (such as goldfish, koi, African cichlids, and turtles) do not 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 thrives best when it is a floating plant. It has more light and carbon dioxide from 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 grow in low to high light conditions and does not require CO2 injection. It grows quickly so it is best to use it as background plants in larger tanks unless you have time to maintain 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 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. Don’t throw away the whole plant, but instead wait for it to recover and it will quickly begin growing new leaves and shoots. To prevent any excess nutrients building up in your aquarium, gravel vacuum the fallen leaves.
Hornwort is easily propagated by trimming off a section and floating it in a new fish 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. At home, the most common method of propagation is to cut off a side shoot or trim off the top of a tall stem. Any segment of hornwort will quickly become a new plant if you let it float at the surface or plant it in the ground. 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 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.