Just as with fish, there are plants that inhabit different strata of their aquarian habitats. There are short, foreground plants and mosses, wide-leaved and medium-height mid-ground plants, and of course, the all-important tall backdrop plants. Nothing, however, provides the comfort and light-dampening security of floating plants. Particularly important for breeding aquaria (especially guppies!), floating plants provide great shelter for small fry, and, of course, they make tanks look great from above!
Of the common floating plants that stock our plant tanks, Pistia stratiotes (Water Lettuce) is undeniably the most popular for many reasons. Water Lettuce is beautiful, easy to grow, and its size provides ample cover. Exhibiting a rosette-like leaf pattern with a small flower in the center and an attractive hanging root system, Pistia adds a lovely, cozy feel to tanks. When given optimal environmental conditions, these plants asexually propagate quite readily, and small, daughter plants will be found surrounding the mother plant.
Pistia does particularly well in outdoor ponds with natural light but will thrive indoors under medium-light in waters with temperatures between 70 and 80°F and pH of 6.5 to 7.2.
Editor’s note – Water Lettuce is a prohibited invasive species in several states in the U.S. According to the website Pond Plants Online’s 2019 List of Regulated or Illegal Aquatic Plants, P. stratiotes is currently restricted or prohibited in Alabama, California, Florida, Louisiana, Missippi, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin. Check your local and state regulations prior to obtaining/purchasing Water Lettuce.