How To Grow And Decorate With Hornwort (Ceratophyllum): Planting, Propagation, Care

March 26, 2024

There are several advantages to incorporating plants into your aquarium. Plants will keep the tank and the fish healthy by oxygenating the water and offering protection. This article will delve deeper into How To Grow hornwort and decorate another unique aquatic plant that’s popular in aquascaping and, generally, planted aquariums.

The popular hornworts (Ceratophylla demersa) have a distinct look (needle-like leaves) and bring significant value to all tanks’ setups.

How To Grow hornwort plants provide several roles in a tank: they adorn and fill up the tank, aid in oxygenation, function as cover for smaller types of fish and crustaceans, purify the water, and so on.

Whether you are new to the sport and want a low-maintenance plant that will grow and thrive despite everything or are an aquarist looking for more information about this particular plant, you should know from now on that Hornworts are amongst the finest choices for your tank..

How To Grow And Decorate With Hornwort (Ceratophyllum) Planting, Propagation, Care

Hornworts are known to have high survival rates and can easily adjust to changes and pass all development cycles.

Furthermore, it is less expensive than other plants, without this meaning that it makes your aquarium worth any less or that it lowers its ecosystem’s capabilities – quite the contrary.

Continue reading to learn more about hornworts, as we will give you all the details on what they are, how they came to be, and How To Grow hornwort and care for these adaptable plants.

And if you want to check whether they are compatible with your tank’s other water creatures, we will cover that too!

What Are Wornhorts?

Wornhort is a water plant that is a member of the Ceratophyllaceae family, and it is a good choice if you want a simple, fast-growing plant.

It is originally and scientifically named “Ceratophyllum demersum,” a term that is derived from the ancient Greek term “keras” which means “horn,” and the word “phylon” which translates as “leaf,” and “demersum” meaning “underwater.”

Indeed, hornworts are amongst the simplest aquatic plants to cultivate. This is proved by their success in the wilderness; starting from North America, hornworts can be found on all continents apart from Antarctica.

The hornwort’s excellent endurance to a wide range of water conditions makes it perfect for novices, and its fast growth and simplicity of reproduction mean that a little goes a long way.

It may be utilized as a floating plant or as a rooted plant in the soil, providing you greater flexibility in customizing the aesthetic of your tank.

This expands the number of freshwater fish that can benefit from living next to a hornwort.

How To Grow Hornwort Habitat And Ecology?

Hornworts are international underwater plants seen in most freshwater ecosystems across the globe.

These plants are totally submerged and can be found in lakes, ponds, and quiet rivers with medium to relatively high nitrogen levels, as well as in other wetlands or areas with high humidity, like tropical rainforests and tree trunks.

Hornworts are perennial herbaceous plants that may live for a great many years if conditions are appropriate.

It is resilient and adaptable to a big variety of water conditions, allowing it to survive in a variety of environments.

These plants have recently been designated as invasive species due to their ease of propagation and dispersal, causing havoc on the ecosystem.

In places like New Zealand, for instance, they have supplanted the local plants and are known to damage power stations producing hydroelectricity.

Hornwort’s Characteristics

Hornworts have various distinguishing characteristics that set them apart from other underwater species. First of all, their color palette ranges from a green to a yellow-like hue, while their needle-like threaded leaves grow on long, thin stalks.

Hornworts have no actual roots; instead, their bottom leaves function as roots, with the rhizoids helping to anchor the plant down.

Hornworts have been observed and documented for a long time so we know that they can grow quite tall.

They may rise up to 3 meters/120 inches when found in nature, and if proper care is not provided, hornworts have the capacity to occupy the entire tank and kill the other species and living organisms that they live with.

The leaves are tiny and appear in circular patterns of six to twelve. Hornwort is a blooming plant that produces blooms of both genders – therefore it is an agender plant – on the same stem.

The blooms are 2 millimeters in diameter and have brown petals. These blooms produce an ovoid fruit measuring 4 millimeters.

When growing out in the wilderness, hornworts form buds during the fall season, which drop to the bottom of the ponds and become new plants in the springtime.

Hornworts grow entirely underwater, although they might also be seen floating on the water’s surface too.

Tank Specifications And Water Requirements

Tank Specifications And Water Requirements

Of all the things you need to take into consideration when adding hornworts to your tank, the most essential one is to offer the Hornworts with an appropriate and pleasant tank setup and to ensure the water condition is right to encourage proper growth and propagation.

Aquarium measurements: Let’s start by stating that Hornworts are not a suitable choice for micro aquariums. The smallest tank size advised for cultivating this plant is fifteen gallons/60 liters.

Even in this case, a bigger tank is preferable since hornworts are known to grow quickly and can become uncontrollable if you don’t take care of them the right way.

Furthermore, a smaller aquarium will cause this particular species to overrun the tank and kill the other species cohabiting there.

Water Specifications

Water Temperature: Because of the hornwort’s resilience and durability, it can live in a broad range of climate situations.

However, one of the most crucial elements for its development is the temperature of the freshwater it lives in as hornworts grow 1 to 2 centimeters or 0.4 to 0.8 inches every day.

To guarantee the optimal growth of hornworts, the water temperature should be kept between 64- and 86-degrees Fahrenheit (18 and 30 degrees Celsius), with 75 to 79 degrees Celsius (24 and 27 degrees Celsius) being ideal.

You may always use a thermometer to check this periodically.


The ideal pH range is 6.0 to 8.0. At least once a week, use a pH test kit to check this. However, there have been studies that prove that hornworts can even survive larger pH variations (up to 10.2 during springs and summers).


Anything from soft to hard waters is ideal for hornworts to grow in, as they are simply too adaptable to give a damn.

However, if you want to ensure the best possible growing conditions, water hardness should be kept between 3 and 17 dGH.


Hornworts grow at a noticeable rate given that they do so under suitable lighting conditions. These plants grow better with medium lighting, so it’s best not to keep them under too little or too much light.

LED lighting systems are undoubtedly the best choice for this use, with lights lasting 10 to 12 hours each day.


Hornworts do not require a substrate. In fact, keeping it in a substrate might be difficult, particularly when they have not yet formed their “anchors.”

Do not attempt burying a hornwort’s stem in the substrate, as it will immediately become rotten.


How To Grow hornwort at an astounding speed; as a result, these plants absorb a large number of nutrients from the aquarium’s water and tend to deplete the tank’s amount of nutrients.

As a result, it is advised that you compliment the tank’s water with extra fertilizers weekly in order to compensate for the nutrients that these plants are consuming.

The presence of CO2 is not required, but it will benefit the Hornworts and the rest of the plants in the aquarium. However, it is important not to add too much of it.

The reason is that high levels of CO2 are particularly harmful to shellfish.

Planting Hornworts

Planting Hornworts

How To Grow hornwort are adaptable plants that may either be free-floating or sometimes ‘rooted.’

As we have already mentioned, while hornworts do not have roots, they do form specialized leaves that they utilize to attach to the substrate when they grow towards the bottom. This plant may create thick mats just beneath the surface.

Again, as previously stated, you should not attempt to root Hornworts in the substrate as the submerged section will begin to deteriorate.

This will, in turn, result in all their leaves falling, with solely the stems floating on the water, if not ending up way worse. It is just that hornworts are better left floating in big numbers when in aquariums.

Floating hornworts are simple; you simply have to place them on the water and let them be and develop. If you want to keep them near the walls of the aquarium, you can also use suction cups.

In addition to that, you should always take into account the different species of fish and shellfish that will cohabit in the aquarium with hornworts to ensure a peaceful and compatible cohabitation condition.

Propagation Of Hornworts

Hornworts reproduce following a process called vegetative fragmentation, which is a typical mechanism for such types of plants.

What happens during this process is that a portion of the original plant gets detached from it and grows to become an entirely new and independent hornwort.

Furthermore, the parent stem produces several lateral shoots that will eventually split, fall into the aquarium water, and continue to develop.

If you wish to reproduce Hornworts in a tank, you should cut the stems and leave them floating on the water’s surface.

Routine stem trimming can help with propagation and eventually grow and evolve into a new hornwort. As for how and where to cut it, it makes no difference, and you can cut it into two or three pieces.

Maintenance And Care Of Hornworts

How to grow hornwort at an extremely fast pace, so you will have to trim them on a regular basis to keep them from expanding and overcrowding the tank.

Trim the unwanted hornwort stems with a pair of scissors and discard the remnants or save them for replanting.

As we previously said, even though it is not required, Hornwort benefits from fertilizer treatment since it collects a lot of nutrients from the freshwater due to its quick development.

As a result, a liquefied fertilizer treatment is a good way to meet the plant’s massive nutritional requirements. Look for indicators of nutrient inadequacies in the plants and treat them as needed.

Finally, you should make sure the hornwort is not near the filter to avoid its falling leaves getting caught in it, you should also remove the falling leaves whenever you change the water and discard them, as keeping them within the aquarium can disturb the aquatic environment and can spawn hazardous organisms.

Benefits Of Hornworts

  • Aquascape: Using Hornworts in Iwagumi aquascapes is definitely not an option. However, this lovely plant with an exotic appearance may be a lovely aesthetic accent to a tropical aquascape.
  • Excess nutrient removal: Hornworts can absorb metals to a great capacity and can help with the absorption of hazardous substances such as nitrates and CO2, which, as we previously mentioned can be dangerous for the tank’s living organisms and threaten their lives.
  • Clears the freshwater: If your water is dirty, Hornwort will clean it up better than you!
  • Outperforms algae: The hornworts’ leaves assist to suppress the formation of some forms of algae, such as the blue-green type. How To Grow hornwort have allelopathic properties because they excrete compounds that impede the development of organisms like phytoplankton.
  • It is a shelter for other creatures: Hornworts provide protection and cover for crustaceans and small types of fish and are a nice spot for them to hide.
  • Foraging site: A hornwort can function as a biofilm buffet, making it a good initial diet for freshly hatched fish and shrimps.
  • Reduces unwanted minerals: Hornworts assist in filtering and lowering the unwanted metals on the tank’s filter. It has been shown in several studies that ammonium and nitrate were reduced by more than 62 and 41.66 percent, respectively, in 6 to 18 days, thanks to the presence of hornworts. Young plants are more effective at extracting minerals than mature plants since they need these minerals for regular metabolic functions.
  • Oxygenation: Hornworts help to oxygenate and aerate the freshwater in the aquarium.

How To Grow Hornwort Difficulties And Issues?

Hornwort is simple to cultivate, resilient, and flexible; yet, keeping it in a tank poses some challenges. Let us have a look at a few of them:

  • Hornworts becoming brown: If you see a brownish coloration on the tips, that is usually caused by too much light getting in the aquarium. To address this, reduce the brightness of the lighting and remove the damaged leaves. Also, ensure that the temperature in the tank is not too high, ideally not more than 30C or 86F.
  • Its leaves are shedding: Leaves’ shedding occurs when the Hornworts’ shed their needle-like leaves. This frequently occurs when the plants are first placed in the aquarium. After a period, the plant becomes used to the tank environment, and leaf loss progressively diminishes. If leaves shedding persists for an extended length of time, it could be attributed to a shortage of nutrients in the aquarium’s water or extreme lighting conditions.
  • Sensitive leaves: Hornworts’ leaves are fragile and unable to sustain pressure. They are easily damaged during maintenance.
  • Yellow leaves: If the hornworts present yellow leaves, that can be caused by a shortage of soluble iron or a lack of light.
  • Rapid development: Because of the Hornworts’ fast development, these plants can quickly overflow the aquarium. To keep the hornworts from destroying the entire tank, frequent stem trims will be required.

How To Grow Hornwort Can Be Unpredictable?

Hornworts Can Be Unpredictable

Even though the previous paragraphs did mention some difficulties and issues that might occur with hornworts, it is important to emphasize once again that these plants are extremely durable and nearly impossible to kill once they start developing in the aquarium.

However, there have been numerous accounts of aquarists having difficulty keeping them alive in any way, with them claiming that hornworts began dying shortly after purchase and placement in the tank.

But how did this happen, and is it actually true? To shortly answer that, yes, it is. And, to make matters worse, determining the cause might be quite difficult!

Some reasons why this might happen are the following:

  • Hornworts can experience transplant shock, which could explain their inability to adapt to their new environment. What’s best in such cases is to just give them some time to see if they will eventually adapt.
  • The aquarium water is devoid of nutrients, so all you need to do is add some to it.
  • The dishonest merchant who provided you with these hornworts actually took them from a local lake, pond, or other humid/water area nearby. Many of the hornworts found in such places are considered wild, as they can act strangely and occasionally are unable to adapt to the tank’s environment.


Remember that hornworts are large free-floating plants that can prevent light from entering the aquarium. As a result, hornworts can cohabitate solely with plants that can survive in low-light environments.

American water weeds, Anubias, Vallisneria, and Sagittaria, for example, can be placed alongside hornworts.

Hornworts’ compatibility with fish is often unimportant because they are a great companion for all species. However, they are better suited to certain fish than others.

Hornworts are ideal for shared aquariums that include freshwater fish and invertebrates. The Hornworts’ leaves are thick and have a rough texture; as a result, water creatures will have difficulty nibbling on it.

However, this is exactly what makes hornworts suitable for the majority of the freshwater fish species who will utilize these plants for a range of activities such as egg-laying, fertilization, sheltering, and so on.

Especially the life-bearers are the ones who will make the most out of a hornwort’s presence in the tank, as they will use the plant as a haven for their offspring.

However, hornworts may be conveniently planted in an aquarium containing the following general categories of water creatures:

  • Fish, especially the small types
  • Snails
  • Shrimps

However, you should not add hornworts in the same aquarium with Gouramis, Goldfish, herbivorous cichlids, or even Oscars as they all have the potential to harm these amazing plants.

Buying Hornworts

How To Grow hornwort may be found at most pet and aquarium retailers. Here is what you should look for when purchasing Hornworts for tank use:

Healthy Hornwort always grows bushy, with needles covering the stems abundantly. Therefore, they should look bright and colorful. Hornworts with few scattered needles should be avoided.

The hornworts’ leaves should be in a consistent shade of green. Plants with more colors than that and with brown or yellow spots should be avoided.

Hornwort is cheap; paying something between 5 and 10 dollars should get you a handful, which should be enough for you to put in a 15-gallon or 60-liter aquarium.

It is not necessary to order an immense number of hornworts. You’ll have more than enough Hornwort in the tank in a month or two if you take proper care of them and allow them to grow fast.

The Bottom Line

How To Grow hornwort do not have many requirements and are hence likely to prevail in your tank.

They are extremely resilient plants that are great for novices in the aquarium hobby, but also useful for those who are looking for the most natural ways to preserve their aquarium water while giving it a decorative touch.

Hornworts also has several other functions, such as boosting the safety of newborn fish while also reducing fish waste and algae rates.

Because of their capacity to free-float on the tank’s water, they are great for keeping the light away and protecting smaller fish.

And now that you know How To Grow hornwort properly take care of them and how to tell when something is wrong, why not go ahead and get some hornworts for your aquarium? We bet you’ll love them!
Aleem Ahmed

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