Hornwort – Aquarium Plant Complete Care Guide

Hornwort is one of the most frequently used plants for a freshwater aquarium and pond. It grows at a fast rate, it’s easy to take care of, and even more convenient to propagate, all these reasons make hornwort the best aquatic plant.

Hornwort is getting popularity all around the globe due to its aesthetic look and the fact that it’s a perfect plant for beginner fishkeepers. They not only grow rapidly but they also consume waste products from your aquarium.

There are many benefits of using this plant in the aquarium, we will more about hornwort in the detail below.


Hornwort or Ceratophyllum demersum belongs to the genus Ceratophyllum, there are more than 300 species as a part of this genus. Hornwort plant is also named as “Coontail”.

This plant was first discovered in New Zealand as a type of weed later it became famous as an aquatic plant.

Scientific NameCeratophyllum demersum
OriginNew Zealand (Cosmopolitan distribution)
Growth Rate1-4 inches every week

The fact that hornwort is so easy to grow and grows rapidly in all types of atmospheres, contributes to its cosmopolitan distribution. Today hornwort can be found in all parts of the world in every continent except Antarctica due to the very low temperature there.

Hornworts is an “Angiosperm or a flowering plant” that produces flowers, fruits, and seeds, and seeds are normally hidden within the fruit. Thus, the seeds of this plant are used for its propagation.

Hornworts are “Tracheophytes” which literally means “Vascular plants” with lignified tissues (xylem and phloem) for distribution of nutrients. Hornworts have long stems, and they require lots of nutrients for their growth thus such transporting strictures are necessary.  

For all the benefits that are achieved through these plants comes a price as well, hornworts are growing rapidly and thus they are taking away nutrients from other plants as well thus they are now referred to as invasive species.

Moreover, they secrete substances and chemicals that affect the growth, survival, germination, and reproduction of other neighboring plants. This property will be further discussed later.


Hornworts have long shoots with multiple stems arising giving it a look of a whole tree. Their leaves are long needle-like just as needles from a pine tree. The roots of hornwort plants have rhizoids small hair-like extensions that are mainly for anchoring the plant to the substrate.


The color of the Hornwort leaves and the stem is light green to dark green. As hornwort is a flowering plant that bears flowers, the color of flowers is brownish.

Arrangement of Leaves:

Along with the long shoot, multiple branches have needles like leaves arranged in the form of whorls. Each whorl is composed of a bunch of 6-12 leaves in an alternating fashion.

Male and Female Parts:

Hornwort has both male and female parts collectively seen in the same plant helping them in self-fertilization. In the wild vegetative propagation is the main process behind the formation of new plants.

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Hornwort can grow tremendously in size and can reach up to “10 feet in length” if not trimmed on regular basis. Keeping a hornwort in an aquarium requires constant work of trimming extra shoots and keeping an eye on its excessive root growth.

The thickness of its stem is no more than 0.1-0.3 inches in diameter. Thus, their stem is thin and long growing.

It can take over your aquarium in no time so it’s necessary to keep them as small plants that can reach the middle of the tank at most.

Hornwort appearance

Growth Rate:

Its impressive growth rate is what makes them best suited to your freshwater aquarium. They can grow at a rate of “1-4 inches per week”, yes that’s right hornwort can reach a length of 10-16 inches within a month.

Their fast growth rate depends on the nutrients available to them in the aquarium. Furthermore, they can acquire their nutrients from waste products present in your aquarium.

Aquarium Care Guide:

Taking care of a hornwort plant is pretty easy as they are hardy plants that can tolerate drastic fluctuations in water parameters. The fact that they are found on almost all continents of the world is evident that they can survive different atmospheric conditions.

Water Parameters:

There is no such thing as a perfect tank for hornwort they can survive in almost every condition. Still following are the best suitable water parameters for excellent growth of your hornwort.

Aquarium Size15-20-gallons
Water Temperature55-85-degree Fahrenheit
Water Hardness5-15 KH
Ammonia LevelsLess than 10ppm

Aquarium Setup:

While setting up a tank or pond with a hornwort plant in it you have to make that hornwort can grow in any freshwater body such as lakes, rivers, ponds, etc. Usually, hornwort inhabits warm water areas and higher temperatures also support its growth, so a warm water tank should be preferred.

Hornworts are already really flowing and wavy thus a water pump is unnecessary. Moreover, light water currents are more suitable for hornwort plants. An efficient water filtration system is necessary but most of the work of the filter is done by the plan itself.

While keeping hornwort with other plants make sure to add extra nutrients or fertilizers for other plants, otherwise, they will not grow at all. Better lighting is advised by fishkeepers to improve photosynthesis and growth.

The best substrate for hornwort is soft sand or gravel substrate. They usually don’t anchor well in the substrate so anything that can give them a little support is fine.

Fishes that are Compatible with Hornwort:

Finding a fish compatible with hornwort is not a big deal almost every freshwater fish can get along well with the hornwort plant. Only a few species can damage the plant by eating away its leaves.

Most compatible fishes with hornwort plants are following.

  • Mollies
  • Guppies
  • Rasboras
  • Goldfish
  • Koi
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Hornwort is especially beneficial for live-bearing fishes such as mollies so they can hide their eggs and fry from predators. Moreover, such long plants also protect fishes, especially during mating periods.

Some fishes such as angelfish, Gouramis, and plecos are notorious for their ability to consume the leaves of these plants. Thus, it is important to consider the tank inhabitants before using hornwort in the aquarium.

Scavengers, snails, and some shrimps can also consume the plant leaves but only the damaged parts and fallen off leaves. Thus, these organisms are beneficial in clearing the waste produced by shedding and rotten leaves.

Benefits of Using Hornwort in Aquarium:

The benefits that you can get from the hornwort plant are multi-folded. First of all, it makes your aquarium seem like a natural habitat to your fish that provides another level of comfort to your fish.

Following are the advantages you can get from your hornwort in the aquarium.

Hornwort care guide
Image Credit: Authority Aquarium

Boosting the Aesthetics:

The bright green color and large stem of this plant enhance your aquarium’s aesthetics. Their shoots often come up to the surface of aquariums and ponds and give them a more natural look.


The long stem and shoots are used as hiding spots for small fishes such as mollies to hide their eggs and fry for protection. Small fishes can also hide in the long branches of this plant.

Oxygenation of Tank:

The major benefit that you get from having plants in your aquarium is the production of oxygen with the usage of carbon dioxide from your aquarium by a process called photosynthesis. This way plants contribute to the oxygenation of your aquarium. Moreover, it also lowers the levels of carbon dioxide from your aquarium.

Cleaning the Tank:

Hornworts grow by consuming the waste products from the aquarium the dead organic matter, leftover food, and fish waste. Thus, hornwort actually protects your tank from waste buildup and facilitates your aquarium filter.

Prevent Algal Bloom:

One of the most beneficial facts about hornwort is that they prevent the growth of algae by consuming all the waste from aquariums. Moreover, it uses up all the nutrients from the aquarium soil and thus inhibiting the growth of any unnecessary plant in the tank.

How to Propagate Hornwort?

Hornworts are flowering plants and have both male and females parts found in one plant, so they are “Monoecious plants”. The mechanism of propagation in wild is way more complex than what we see in captivity.

The common phenomenon seen in the wild is vegetative propagation or fragmentation. Both male and female parts develop separately and after the whole winter season, new plants form.

In captivity, if you want to grow a new plant just cut some stems from your plants and place them at a separate place in the tank. This trimmed stem can give rise to a new complete plant within no time.

Thus, hornworts are so convenient to grow and that’s what makes them so inexpensive, readily available, and easy to keep in an aquarium.

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How to trim Hornwort?

Hornwort is known for its rapid growth and thus there is a constant need to trim these plants otherwise they will spread all around your tank in no time. The roots also grow to such a limit that one nodule gives rise to 3-4 plants at a time.

The best way to trim these plants is to remove them from roots and again plant small stems of the plant. A new plant will grow again in a short period.

Also constantly trim the apical and lateral stems to prevent unnecessary growth. It is significant to trim the plant from the sides to prevent excessive lateral growth.

Common Problems with Hornwort:

Unlimited Growth:

Common problems with keeping a hornwort are their unlimited growth. They can grow to such an extinct that there is no room left for other plants or fishes in the tank. Thus, they need constant trimming and that’s a lot of work.

Excessive Shedding of Leaves:

Hornwort can be a mess in the beginning or during autumn. They shed their leaves at a tremendous rate making it almost impossible to clean up the aquarium.

Lack of Nutrients for Other Plants:

Hornworts require tons of nutrients for their constant growth thus they use up all the essential nutrients from your aquarium. This property leads to inadequate nutrition for other plants and their growth is greatly halted.

Allelopathic Properties:

Well, hornwort has the property to release toxic chemical substances that can affect the growth of its neighboring plants. So, you have to be careful while keeping hornwort in your tank as the growth of other plants will be affected.

Hornwort Price:

Hornwort plants are pretty easy to propagate, and they grow at a terrific rate that makes them pretty inexpensive. A bunch of hornwort plants can cost up to 6$-10$ at most. Moreover, you can get them at an even cheaper rate if you are buying a lot of them at a time.

You can even get some trimmed stems from a fish store and grow them in your aquarium.


Q: Can goldfish eat hornwort?

A: No, goldfish don’t eat the leaves of the hornwort plant. Thus, it is alright to keep goldfish in an aquarium with a hornwort plant.

Q: What is Hornwort?

A: Hornworts are angiosperm tracheophytes with a long and thin stem. They are one of the most popular plants for aquariums and ponds. 

Q: How to plant Hornwort?

A: To plant a hornwort in an aquarium or pond, take one shot at a time and plant it in the substrate. Hornworts don’t have deep roots they can even grow while floating on the surface.


Hornworts are by far the easiest and most aesthetically pleasant aquatic plant seen. The range of aquascaping they provide with such a low-price range is extraordinary.

Hornwort is without a doubt a better choice for beginner fishkeepers. All you have to do is to trim them regularly and you are good to go.

Hope this article will help make the best choice for your aquarium.

Best of luck with your aquarium!!!!

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