Ceratophyllum submersum (Hornwort): A Guide to Keep this plant in Your Aquarium

Ceratophyllum submersum, commonly known as soft hornwort or tropical hornwort, is a species of aquatic plant native to tropical and subtropical regions. It has been a popular addition to aquariums for many years, due to its ability to thrive in a variety of water conditions and its versatility in terms of the types of aquariums it can be used in. Ceratophyllum submersum is a highly valuable plant for aquarium hobbyists, as it helps to maintain water quality, provide shade and shelter for aquarium inhabitants, and enhance the overall aesthetic of the aquarium. Additionally, its fast growth rate and ease of care make it an attractive choice for aquarium hobbyists of all levels of experience.

Ceratophyllum submersum (Hornwort)

Habitat and Distribution

Natural habitat of Ceratophyllum submersum

Ceratophyllum submersum is commonly found in slow-moving or still bodies of water, such as ponds, lakes, and slow-moving rivers. In the wild, it grows in areas with a high water temperature, abundant light, and soft water.

Distribution in the wild

Hornwort can be found in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide, including South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

Availability in the aquarium trade

Ceratophyllum submersum is widely available in the aquarium trade and can be purchased from pet stores, online retailers, and specialized aquarium shops. It is a popular and readily available species for aquarium hobbyists.

Taxonomy and Evolution

Scientific classification

Ceratophyllum submersum is a species of aquatic plant that belongs to the family Ceratophyllaceae and the genus Ceratophyllum. It is a type of flowering plant known for its feathery, lush appearance and ability to thrive in various aquatic environments.

Evolution of Ceratophyllum submersum

Ceratophyllum submersum has likely evolved over time to adapt to its environment and its role as a highly effective oxygenator in bodies of water. Its ability to grow quickly and its versatility in terms of the types of water conditions it can tolerate have likely contributed to its success as a species.

Relationship to other species within the Ceratophyllaceae family

Ceratophyllum submersum is one of several species of plants within the Ceratophyllaceae family, including other species of aquatic plants commonly used in aquariums and pond gardens. These plants are known for their ability to oxygenate water and improve water quality, making them valuable additions to aquariums and aquatic ecosystems.

Structure and Physiology


Ceratophyllum submersum is a stem plant that features delicate, feathery leaves that are usually light green or yellowish-green in color. The leaves grow in whorls along the stem, and they are known for their ability to absorb excess nutrients from the water and release oxygen.

Root system of Ceratophyllum submersum

Ceratophyllum submersum has a very small root system, as it is primarily supported by its stem. The roots are primarily used for absorbing nutrients from the water and anchoring the plant to the substrate.

Reproduction and growth habits

Ceratophyllum submersum reproduces through the growth of new stems from the base of the plant. These stems can be separated from the main plant and used to create new plants. The species is known for its fast growth rate, and it is capable of quickly establishing itself in an aquarium or other aquatic environment.


The physiology of Ceratophyllum submersum is closely tied to its role as an oxygenator in aquatic environments. The plant absorbs excess nutrients from the water and releases oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. This helps to improve water quality and maintain a healthy balance in the ecosystem.

Importance in the Aquarium Ecosystem

Oxygenation of water

One of the primary functions of Ceratophyllum submersum in an aquarium is its ability to oxygenate the water. This helps to maintain a healthy balance in the aquarium and can improve the overall health of the aquatic life within the ecosystem.

Absorption of excess nutrients

Ceratophyllum submersum also absorbs the excess nutrients from the water, which can help to reduce the growth of harmful algae and improve water quality. This is particularly important in closed systems like aquariums where the accumulation of excess nutrients can quickly become a problem.

Improving water clarity

The feathery leaves of Ceratophyllum submersum help to filter the water and improve its clarity, which is good for overall health and appearance of the aquarium.

Providing shelter and habitat for aquatic life

Ceratophyllum submersum can also provide shelter and habitat for small aquatic creatures such as fry, small fish, and invertebrates. This can help to create a more diverse and balanced ecosystem within the aquarium.

Aesthetics In addition to its functional benefits, Ceratophyllum submersum is also known for its beautiful, lush appearance, making it a popular choice for aquarium hobbyists looking to create a visually appealing environment

Care and Maintenance of Ceratophyllum submersum

Lighting requirements

Ceratophyllum submersum prefers bright, direct lighting, and can tolerate a wide range of light intensities. However, it is important to provide adequate light for the plant to carry out photosynthesis and maintain its growth.

Water conditions

Ceratophyllum submersum is a hardy plant that can adapt to a diverse range of water conditions, including pH levels from 6.0 to 8.0 and water temperatures from 68 to 86°F (20 to 30°C). However, it is important to maintain stable water conditions to ensure the health and growth of the plant.

Nutrient requirements

Ceratophyllum submersum is known for its ability of absorbing excess nutrients from water, which can help to reduce the need for frequent water changes and nutrient additions. However, it is very much essential to ensure necessary nutrients for maintaing proper plant growth.


Propagating Ceratophyllum submersum is a simple process, as the plant can be divided into smaller sections and planted individually. This allows hobbyists to create new plants and add to their aquarium setup easily.

Trimming and pruning

Regular trimming and pruning of Ceratophyllum submersum can help to control its growth and maintain its appearance within the aquarium. Removing dead or yellowing leaves is also important to prevent them from affecting water quality.

Threats and Conservation

Habitat loss

One of the biggest threats to Ceratophyllum submersum is habitat loss, as the plant is often found in bodies of water that are being drained, dammed, or otherwise altered. This my have a devastating impact on the overall health of the species and its ability to thrive in the wild.

Water pollution

Water pollution is another major threat to Ceratophyllum submersum, as the plant is highly sensitive to changes in water quality. Pollution can have a variety of impacts on the plant, including reducing its ability to photosynthesize and absorb nutrients and increasing the risk of disease.


Over-harvesting of Ceratophyllum submersum can also have a negative impact on the species, as the plant is often used for ornamental purposes in the aquarium trade. Over-collection of the plant from the wild can reduce its population and increase the risk of extinction.

Conservation efforts

To help protect Ceratophyllum submersum and its habitat, conservation efforts are underway to promote the responsible use of the plant in the aquarium trade and to reduce the impact of habitat loss and water pollution. This includes promoting sustainable practices, encouraging the use of captive-bred plants, and educating hobbyists on the importance of protecting this species and its environment.


Ceratophyllum submersum, also known as soft hornwort or tropical hornwort, is a valuable addition to any aquarium setup. With its ability to absorb excess nutrients and its hardiness in a wide range of water conditions, this plant is an excellent choice for hobbyists looking to create a healthy and thriving ecosystem. Despite facing threats such as habitat loss, water pollution, and over-harvesting, conservation efforts are underway to protect this species and its environment. By understanding the importance of this plant and taking steps to care for it properly, hobbyists can help to ensure the long-term survival of Ceratophyllum submersum and contribute to the overall health of the aquarium ecosystem.

A B M Zahidul Hoque

I'm the owner of weedsingardens.com. After completing my bachelor of science in agriculture, I have joined as a scientist at Bangladesh Jute Research Institute (BJRI) under the Ministry of Agriculture, Bangladesh. I started Weeds in Gardens to make you familiar with different weeds and their positive and negative aspects.

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