Garden pond aquatic plants usually thrive just as well in cold water aquariums, so that they can be admired indoors during the cold season instead of remaining under a barren layer of ice. Exotic pond plants, on the other hand, prefer life in warm water aquariums because they don’t like the freezing temperatures here. Consequently, resourceful hobby gardeners use an aquarium as an advantageous addition to the garden pond. Since both variants of a native water world undoubtedly require a good deal of time and work, there should at least be an exemplary plant community here. If you are not yet familiar with the best aquatic plants for ponds and aquariums, you are advised to familiarize yourself with them, including constructive care tips.
Table of Contents
Flowering plants for ponds and cold water aquariums
As the ‘queen of pond plants’, the water lily wields the scepter unchallenged; of course, some other flowering aquatic plants have now emerged that can compete with her on an equal footing.
African water spike (Aponogeton distachyos)
This member of the genus water spike is native to South Africa but is hardy in Europe. Under the right conditions, the floating-leaf plant produces a seductively fragrant, white flower twice a year.
- Thrives in a sunny to partially shaded spot
- tends to go wild
Golden water feather (Hottonia palustris aurea)
The native golden water feather, often also called water primrose, is a real eye-catcher. The pinnate leaves are like golden crystal braids, which sprout delicate white flowers in May and June.
- Growth height 20 cm to 30 cm
- The cooler the water, the more vigorous the growth
- needs a lot of light
Cardinal Lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis)
The versatile aquatic plant for ponds and aquariums comes with green or violet, cream-veined leaves, depending on the variety. Wherever she feels at home, she presents a bright red flower in summer that protrudes above the water surface.
- Growth height 20 cm to 30 cm
- Vigorous and at the same time tolerates pruning well
- Compact habit with medium light requirements
Water lily (Nymphaea)
The range of water lilies is overwhelming and diverse in terms of color, size or shape of leaves and flowers. Since the popular aquatic plants grow in size over time, cultivation is only advisable in an adequate aquarium. Since various dwarf varieties are currently making a name for themselves, a practicable alternative for small ponds and aquariums is emerging.
- Hardy as long as the rhizomes on the ground do not freeze through
- Best living conditions in water depths of up to 150 cm
- Most of the water lily species are under nature protection
Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)
This attractive floating plant has beautiful inflorescences and striking, thick petioles that act as floating bodies. If she moves to the aquarium for the winter, this should have a sufficient volume in connection with strong lighting.
- Growth height 5 cm to 30 cm.
- The minimum temperature of the water is 15° Celsius.
- Tends to proliferate, cut regularly
Water mimosa (Aeschynomene fluitans)
Deep yellow flowers that float like butterflies above pretty feathered leaves. With these attributes, the floating plant wins the hearts of garden lovers and aquarists.
- Growth height 1 cm to 5 cm
- High light requirement in the pond and aquarium
- forms long spurs underwater
Green aquatic plants
Green aquatic plants compensate for the lack of magnificent flowers with numerous useful properties that a biotope cannot do without. First and foremost, they serve as an oxygen supplier, reliably prevent an algal bloom due to their high nutrient consumption and offer the creatures protection, food, a place to spawn and security.
Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)
The rootless stem plant is very decorative with its branched whorls of leaves. At the same time, the chickweed grows quickly while consuming plentiful amounts of phosphorus, iron, potassium and other vital elements and producing oxygen.
- Growth height 5 cm to 80 cm and higher.
- Tolerates all water hardness levels.
- Thrives in dark and light locations.
Spring moss (Fontinalis antipyretica)
Spring moss is indispensable as an underwater plant. As the name suggests, where the evergreen plant is located, the water is clear and pure. With its adhesive organs, the moss sticks to the ground, stones and decorative material and does its useful work.
- Suitable for all water temperatures.
- Withstands a fish stock with perch.
- Also grows under difficult lighting conditions.
Narrow-leaved waterweed (Elodea nuttallii)
At least one species of waterweed is indispensable for ponds and aquariums. This rather dainty variety is ideally suited for all areas of application in large and small bodies of water to effectively prevent algae blooms there.
- Growth height up to a maximum of 60 cm.
- Prefers a sunny to full sun location.
Pond liverwort (Monosolenium tenerum)
The popular underwater plant forms puffy, bright green cushions. Since it only holds together loosely and falls apart quickly, the clever hobby gardener uses a hairnet in the pond and aquarium that is weighted down with stones.
- Growth height 2 cm to 10 cm.
- Adjust flexibly to the fullness of light.
- Water temperatures between 5° and 28° Celsius are ideal.
Exotic green plants for pond & warm water aquarium
Throughout the summer they transform the garden pond into an exotic wonderland to continue their work indoors during the dark, cold season. Tropical aquatic plants do not tolerate temperatures below 15° Celsius and prefer to overwinter in warm water aquariums.
Large Amazon sword plant (Echinodorus bleheri)
This undemanding species of frog’s spoon is a classic specimen plant. In the nutrient-rich substrate, it forms a lush habit that is kept in check by regular pruning.
- Growth height 20 cm to 50 cm.
- Easy propagation by adventitious plants.
- PH value preferably between 5 and 9.
Little Indian Water Lover (Hygrophila polysperma)
The light green stem plant from Southeast Asia ranks very high on the popularity scale. It shoots up rapidly and forms countless, elongated oval leaves. At the same time, it scores with pleasing frugality and can be easily propagated with top cuttings.
- Growth height 25 cm to 40 cm
- Quickly overgrows its neighboring plants.
- Copes with all lighting conditions.
Mussel flower (Pistia stratiotes)
Its reputation is legendary among aquatic plants, because its green rosettes adorn any still body of water. Hobby gardeners and aquarists affectionately call them ‘water lettuce’, because microorganisms and fish benefit enormously from the pretty floating plant.
- Growth height 1 cm to 5 cm.
- Tolerable minimum temperature is 15° Celsius.
Flame moss (Taxiphyllum spec. Flame)
The popular growth moss from Southeast Asia develops erect shoots which, due to their spiral twist, are reminiscent of flickering flames. Therefore it is also called ‘fire moss’, albeit in green flames.
- Growth height 5 cm and beyond.
- Ideal water temperature 15° to 30° Celsius.
- Regular pruning promotes a compact habit.
Blooming and colorful exotics
Their breathtaking beauty gives the impression of being from another world. Tropical aquatic plants add color to the visual appearance of ponds and aquariums without worrying about any particular utility. After all, only very few specimens require extensive care.
Burgundy parrot leaf (Alternanthera reineckii)
The more light hits the aquatic plant, the more intense its colors shine. In the summer pond and open aquarium, the popular stem plant stretches out over the water surface. The variety Pink-leaved Parrot Leaf (Alternanthera reineckii ‘Pink’) is a little less complicated to care for.
- Growth height 20 cm to 50 cm.
- Requires medium to bright light conditions.
- Increased growth through CO2 supply.
Tropical water lilies (Nyphaea)
Those among the species and varieties of water lilies that come from tropical countries are not hardy in Central Europe, but present a more luxuriant flower splendor in relation to the leaf mass. Happy are the hobby gardeners who have a warm water aquarium in which the exotic treasures survive the winter safely.
- Fragrant and non-fragrant flowers in many sizes.
- Water temperatures below 20° Celsius are rarely endured.
- Water lilies have an insatiable urge to spread.
Aquatic orchid (Spiranthes cernua var. odorata)
Most of an aquatic orchid is submerged. There it grows very slowly and takes its time before allowing the coveted flower to appear on the surface.
- Growth height of the flower: 10 cm to 20 cm.
- Thrives in deep shade as well as in sunlight.
- If the roots are cut back, the flowers will not bloom.
In detail, every aquatic plant has its specific, more or less demanding, requirements for care. However, there are various basic principles with regard to fertilizing, pH value and cutting, which are good for all plants in the pond and aquarium.
As a rule, it is not necessary to fertilize aquatic plants. The values of the water, on the other hand, are not static, but are subject to influences such as the composition of the plant and fish stocks, which cause fluctuations. Consequently, deficiency symptoms can also occur if, for example, a plague of shell snails afflicts the garden kingdom and removes the lime or the duckweed grows rampant in the aquarium and uses up the iron supply. In contrast to bedding plants, which are usually supplied with fertilizer on a fixed schedule, aquatic plants only need to be fed when they are needed.
- Pale colors and stunted growth indicate nutrient requirements.
- Only fertilize in the smallest dosage and possibly fertilize later.
- Too much fertilizer is difficult to reverse.
- Preferably use special liquid fertilizer for aquatic plants.
Heavy root feeders in the pond or aquarium often require additional fertilization of the substrate. In this case, fertilizer balls or sticks that are pressed into the substrate are best suited.
Fish, aquatic plants and other small creatures prefer low-lime rainwater and do not like to frolic in hard tap water. By no means every hobby gardener has access to a sufficient amount of rainwater, so that there is a need for action in view of a high pH value in order to create an environment that is more compatible with plants.
- Hang a nylon stocking filled with peat in the water.
- Peat extracts about 3% of its weight from the water in the form of lime.
- Settle water snails in a targeted manner, whose housing consumes the lime.
Since the pH value of the water is rarely constant, the forward-looking hobby gardener ensures that there are always some specimens that thrive particularly well given the current conditions by means of a varied selection of plants.
One of the characteristic features of aquatic plants is often the tendency to proliferate. Even the beginner should not be irritated by this circumstance, because regular cutting can control even the most eager urge to spread.
- Cut back aquatic plants in the pond in autumn at the latest.
- Thin out floating and underwater plants repeatedly.
- Cut stem plants in half and replant the top part.
- Cut out the old leaves on rosette plants.
Even the moss likes a pruning every now and then. Experienced hobby gardeners remove the overgrown stone and trim the moss outside of the pond and aquarium.
No one has ever created a universal ranking list of the best aquatic plants for ponds and aquariums. This is understandable, because the local framework conditions determine which species and varieties are assigned to the favourites. What counts is that a sensible mixture of beneficial and decorative aquatic plants is formed.