Aquarium Plants

Red Floating Root – Phyllanthus fluitans: care guide

Red Floating Root is a popular aquatic plant seen in freshwater tanks all over the world. It is known to be low maintenance, pretty and beneficial to the health of an aquarium.

This guide includes everything you need to know about this plant. From care to propagation, we’ve got you covered!

Species Summary

The Red Floating Root (Phyllanthus fluitans) is a beautiful floating fern that can add a lot of life to your aquarium. It has vibrant colors and responds well to a wide range of growing environments. The buoyant nature of the plant results in a unique aesthetic both above and below the surface of the water.

This plant is native to South and Central America. It is most common in the Amazon River basin, where it grows in canals and ponds with stagnant water.

In the aquascaping and aquaculture communities, red root floats are in high demand! They flourish in most habitats and don’t require much experience to stay healthy. With the many benefits they provide, caring for this plant is a no-brainer!

The benefits of having it in your tank

Beyond the aesthetic advantages, red root floats have a lot to offer aquarists.

First of all, this plant provides much-needed shelter in the aquarium. Whether you have timid fish or small creatures vulnerable to larger tank mates, red root floats can provide some security. Although thin, the roots are dense and hang down in the water column.

Small fish can swim in them for cover and protection. Even playful fish will have fun with them! If you plan on raising fish or shrimp, a floating aquarium plant like this can also maximize survival rates.

Another notable benefit is the shallow coverage of the plant. Red root floaters spread quickly. They soon cover the entire surface of the water.

This process diffuses light, creating a better environment for many species of fish and invertebrates.

Author’s Note: Not only that, but filtered light can also control algae growth. Algae need sunlight and nutrients to flourish. The Floating Red Root deprives him of both!

Finally, there is the issue of water improvement.

When this plant grows, they draw nutrients through the roots like any other plant. Because the roots are submerged in water, they directly impact the enclosed habitat. Floating aquarium plants can help oxygenate the water while removing toxins that could harm your fish.

Phyllanthus fluitans appearance

On the surface, red root floaters look like a delicate «ground» cover. It has small heart-shaped leaves. Each one is rounded and features a deep pocket to create a distinct shape.

The leaves are phobic to water. Any water splashed on them will immediately slide off!

Author’s Note: The most noticeable aspect of the leaves is the color. Under standard lighting, they may appear light green or yellow. But in a lot of light, they will turn a deep, vibrant red! The change is completely normal and does not reflect the health of the plant.

If the water conditions are impeccable, you may see little flowers appear! They are white six-petaled flowers with tiny visible stamens. Flower blooming is rare, but it is a sight to behold.

Below, the Phyllanthus fluitans is just as beautiful. The plant gets its common name from the rich red color of the root system.

The individual root tendrils are tiny and delicate. However, the roots grow in large clumps to create beautiful masses that fish can swim through.

size and growth rate

Red root floating plants have a moderate to high growth rate. In good water conditions, it can spread very quickly.

If you’re not vigilant about maintenance, you can end up with a thick mat of leaves floating on the surface. It takes many inexperienced aquarists by surprise. Fortunately, controlling plant growth isn’t too complicated with pruning (more on that later).

The individual leaves of the red root float start out small. But they have the potential to grow up to an inch long.

Author’s Note: As mentioned above, the roots are thin. Most don’t get thicker than a millimeter or so. As for depth, healthy root systems can hang five to six inches below the surface.

Red Floating Root Care

Whether you’re new to aquascaping or an experienced hobbyist, Phyllanthus fluitans care is a snap! It is one of the easiest aquatic plants to grow and cultivate.

That said, there are still some basics to cover. Phyllanthus fluitans can adapt to most aquarium conditions, but if you want to give it the best possible chance of thriving, you should follow the recommendations below!

tank size

Red root floats adapt to the size of the aquarium, so you can be quite flexible. That said, we recommend growing them in a tank that holds no less than five gallons.

For the greatest possible visual impact, focus on length and width rather than depth. Obviously, if you have fish in your aquarium, their needs should come first, but a long tank would be ideal.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a very deep tank to help this plant flourish. In the wild, they can grow on muddy surfaces!

Author’s Note: Having a large amount of surface water available for this plant is the most important thing here. Phyllanthus fluitans is fully capable of spreading out to fill even massive tanks!

water parameters

This blush red plant is highly adaptable and does well in a wide range of conditions. That’s one of the many reasons Red Floating Root care is so simple!

As always, it is best to get as close as possible to its natural growing conditions. That means focusing on tropical biotypes. The water should be warm and rich in nutrients.

CO2 is not required like other plants, but Phyllanthus fluitans can benefit from natural supplements such as iron. Just make sure the fertilizers are safe for any aquatic creatures you have in the tank!

Here are some benchmarks Red Floating Root needs to thrive. In addition to the following, make sure the tank has minimal water flow. Strong currents will only disrupt the growth cycle.

  • Water temperature: 70°F to 82°F
  • pH levels: 6.5 to 7.5 (neutral conditions)
  • Water hardness: 0 to 30 dHG

Author’s Note: In case you don’t already have one, an accurate water testing kit will go a long way in managing the overall health of your aquarium.

Turning on

Red root floating plants require a normal day and night cycle to stay healthy. About six to eight hours of light is the bare minimum!

However, you can also increase the exposure to get the desired look. The ability to achieve the aesthetic you want with lighting is just one of the many reasons this plant is so popular.

In low to medium light conditions, the leaves remain a vibrant green. You may notice some hints of red around the edges, but standard light exposure makes the plant look like an average float.

For that red coloration to come out, increase the amount of light it receives. The high lighting turns the leaves the characteristic blush red!


Here’s some good news: Red Root Floaters don’t require any substrate!

As we have already mentioned, this is a floating plant. The root system remains suspended in the water and does not make any contact with the bottom.

Now red rooted floaters can grow in mud and sand substrates in some cases. But in a typical aquarium setting, this is not something you need to worry about.

How to plant Phyllanthus fluitans

Planting Phyllanthus fluitans is as easy as placing the young plant in your aquarium. Most pet stores sell them as small, dime-sized root balls. They may only have two or three leaves.

Once the water conditions are right, the plant will grow and spread rapidly.

Author’s Note: Some aquarists like to use clear plastic tubes to keep the plant contained. This technique can create an open water window. However, the confinement technique is temporary at best. The plant can still spread over the limits quite easily over time.

Before you introduce the plant to your tank, don’t forget to quarantine it first. Never add a Red Floating Root, or any plant, directly into your main aquarium without quarantining it.

This is because the plants may contain pesticides or chemical preservatives that are toxic to fish.

Worse yet, it may be harboring some hitchhikers. Infected plants are among the most common ways aquarists introduce pest snails, parasites, and predatory insects into the mix.

Trimming and pruning

Pruning is one of the most important parts of caring for red rooted floaters. The spread is so prolific that the growth pattern can easily get out of control!

Get in the habit of trimming excess growth. Focus on the leaves starting to dip. You can also pinch leaves that approach the one-inch range.

Trimming the plant should be a regular thing. If you let the plant bloom too long without intervention, the foliage at the top will become crowded. Not only is this unhealthy for the plant, but it could cause too much light diffusion for life below.

Invest in some simple pruning shears to get the job done. Simply cut off the entire leaf at the base, then dispose of the clippings outside of the tank. You don’t want to leave clippings, as they will only break down and cause extreme fluctuations in water conditions.

Author’s Note: You can also trim the roots if they start to get unruly. We recommend staying at least a few inches back for good measure.

tank mates

This plant can do a lot to enhance any tank! Most fish will appreciate the coverage and influence the plant has on the water. However there are some exceptions.

Phyllanthus fluitans is an ideal plant for fish that enjoy natural cover and diffused light. Due to its rapid spread, it is best to stick with smaller aquatic animals. Larger fish can become entangled in roots, posing a serious health and safety risk.

It’s also a good idea to avoid fish that might see the plant as food. Goldfish and oscars are notorious for ruining red root floats.

Fortunately, the list of compatible fish and invertebrates is much longer! Here are some good tank mates that can live in peace with the Red Root Floating Plant:

  • betta fish
  • tetras
  • Platy Fish
  • molly fish
  • danios
  • Cory pygmy catfish
  • otocinclus
  • River crab
  • freshwater crabs
  • Red Cherry Shrimp
  • Ghost Shrimp
  • Amano Shrimp
  • bamboo shrimp
  • Ramshorn snails
  • Malaysian trumpet snails
  • Japanese trapdoor snails


There are a few different ways to propagate red root floaters.

Like many other plants, red root floater can be propagated naturally through seed. This occurs when the flowers bloom and become fertilized. You can easily remove the new plant that results from this event.

The natural flowering and seed production is a beautiful sight to witness. However, it is also very rare. The conditions have to be impeccable to trigger it. Most plants will spread through roots.

You may see small “daughter” plants appear alongside larger ones. If you look below the surface, you will see a horizontal rhizome root that lays eggs from the primary stem. To propagate the plant, cut off the root and let it grow elsewhere.

Finally, there is the propagation of the stem. This method is ideal if you have a larger plant that needs to be cut back.

Cut the stem of the plant between a clump of leaves and a root. Moving the cut piece to a separate tank will result in a new plant.

final thoughts

As you can probably see, Phyllanthus fluitans care is something anyone can do. You don’t need to be an experienced aquarist or aquascaping master, just grab this plant and add it to your tank!

Please let us know if you have questions about anything we didn’t cover in the care guide. We are more than happy to help!

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