Red Root Floater (Phyllanthus fluitans) – Species Profile

The Red Root Floater (Phyllanthus fluitans) is a lovely addition to the surface of any planted aquarium. The common name “Red Root Floater” comes from this plant’s ability to develop bright red-colored roots. The leaves and roots of this plant grow from nodes along a central stalk in an alternating fashion. Each node produces a single leaf and some roots.

The roots will hang down into the water column, nut not as dramatically as Water Lettuce or Amazon Frogbit. Interestingly, it comes from a family of predominantly desert dwelling plants.

Care Level: Moderate
Preferred Water: 6.8 – 7.2 pH – Soft to Hard
Minimum Lighting: Moderate or Bright with available shade
Temperature: 65 to 85 °F (18-30 °C)
Leaf Size: up to 1 in (2.5 cm)


This plant originates from South America in the Amazon River Basin and extends into Central America.

Here you can see a single red leaf of the Red Root Floater (center) among the green salvinia and water lettuce.


This plant will naturally produce daughter plants in a similar fashion to Salvinia minima, and you can propagate a single plant by cutting or pinching the stalk in half between the clusters of roots and leaves.

A view of the underside of the Red Root Floater.

In the Aquarium

For those of us who favor floating plants in our aquariums, the Red Rood Floater is a must-have addition. Its bright red roots will seem to glow against the typically green backdrop of other floating plants like duckweed, water lettuce, and frogbit.

When first starting out, this plant can be finicky. Like most floating plants, it desires rich nutrient content in the water column, especially iron. If it is provided with enough iron and adequate lighting it will develop lush, red roots and the leaves too will take on a reddish hue. CO2 supplement is not needed with this or other floating plants, because it derives all of the CO2 needed directly from the air. When this plant is in good health it may produce miniscule, white flowers. Too much surface agitation, too much bright light (or too little light), and too little iron can be harmful and will prevent it from thriving. In lower light conditions, soft water is favorable, and in high light conditions (direct sun) hard water is preferable.

Like all floating plants with trailing roots, this plant’s roots provide excellent shelter for small creatures like fry, shrimp, and amphipods. The added surface area created by the roots help to “cleanse” the water by providing adequate surfaces for the growth of bacteria, in addition to the plant’s own natural ability to soak up nutrients.


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