This article was last updated by on

Water Lettuce Aquarium Ideas [Transform Your Home Into A Tropical Aquascape]

Floating Water Lettuce has a splendid appearance making it convenient to grow in an aquarium, and it is perfect for aquascape designing!

Generally, Water Lettuce needs an aquatic temperature of around 72-86°F to proliferate. Also, the plant requires a pH between 5.5 and 6.5 with a water hardness of around 3-8 d°GH and 11-12 hours of partial lighting.

Water Lettuce can grow vigorously and eat up all the oxygen in the tank, killing all other aquatic inhabitants.

But with proper inspection, you can easily keep their growth in check with a few measures.

Water Lettuce [Quick Stats & Overview]

Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) is a freshwater aquatic free-floating perennial evergreen herbaceous helophyte belonging to the family Araceae.

Further, Water Lettuce is native to the tropical and subtropical biomes of the world, but due to its use in exotic aquatic gardening, it has become an invasive plant in many parts of the world.

Image represents the waxy leaves of Water Lettuce
Water Lettuce has waxy leaves, which protect them from decaying in aquatic habitats.

However, Water Lettuce was first discovered in the Nile River (Africa) but has shown a cosmopolitan distribution due to illegal trade. 

The plant usually grows in clusters, with individual plants getting about 4-6 inches tall and about 4-12 inches wide, showing a rapid growth rate.

Do You Know?

Water Hyacinth shows one of the fastest growth rates of any living plant.

Under conducive conditions, a single plant can triple its population in 3-6 weeks through vegetative propagation and produce many small daughter plants.

The plant has an alternate arrangement of waxy adpressed leaves with elongated ridges, organized in a rosette habit with hidden flowers.   

Due to its cabbage-like leafy, and compact appearance, the plant is monikered as “Water Cabbage” or “Nile Cabbage.”

Despite its invasiveness, the plant is prevalent in aquascaping and has multiple benefits but many detriments.

Pros & Cons Of Water Lettuce In Aquascaping

Water Lettuce has many benefits in aquascaping.

You can easily propagate the plant using daughter plants growing horizontally from stolons, which remain attached to the mother plant. 

  • Due to its floating habit, Water Lettuce can block the sunlight from reaching ponds or aquariums, preventing random algal growth.
  • The extensive and siphoning feathery roots of Water Lettuce remove heavy metal ions from aquariums and ponds.
  • Additionally, the plant removes unwanted nitrates, sulfates, and ammonium which likely can cause eutrophication.
  • Further, the draping roots of Water Lettuce provide microhabitats for tiny shrimps and fish fries.
Floating roots of Water Lettuce
Water Lettuce has hollow and feathery roots, which act as a siphon to suck up all the impurities from the water.

However, Water Lettuce has certain disadvantages also.

  • Due to its quick growth rate, the plant can take up surface area and prevent the growth of other floating plants.
  • The plant’s ability to cascade the water surface blocks the light reaching the bottom of the tank or pond and halts the photosynthetic rates of other submerged weeds.
  • In some states, the plant is illegal due to its invasive nature. The plant can become invasive and block the water transportation pathways if it escapes into the wild. 
  • Since it is a tropical plant, Water Lettuce cannot tolerate temperatures below 50°F. Hence the plant is unsuitable for growing in USDA zones 8 and below.

Caring For Water Lettuce In Aquarium

The tropical growth habit of Water Lettuce requires similar growing conditions to other tropical plants with a few additional prerequisites.

1. Light & Temperature

The major natural and artificial light and temperature conditions for growing Water Lettuce in aquariums follow.

  • Provide 11-12 hours of partial light by keeping the plants near an east-facing or a dappled south-facing window.
  • Instead, you can also offer around 12-14 hours of artificial light to the plants.
  • Additionally, present a water temperature of around 72-86°F to your Water Lettuce. 

2. Water Quality & Humidity

Water quality includes hardness, pH, and humidity for your Water Lettuce plants.

  • Retain a water hardness of around 3-8 d°GH. Ensure it does not level up above 12 d°GH.
  • Sustain a water pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Also, engage humidity levels of around 70-80%.
  • Keep the lime levels typically low and maintain salt levels no more than 2.5 ppt.

3. Fertilizer & Nutrients

  • Opt for aquatic plant food as a nutrient source for your Water Lettuce.
  • Further, feed your aquarium Water Lettuce plants every 1-2 weeks. 
Image represents the aquatic floating habit of Water Lettuce
Since Water Lettuce has a quick growth rate, you must consider a significant tank size to grow them.

4. Tank Size & Additional Equipment

A single Water Lettuce plant can grow to a considerable size and can cover the entire surface of the tank within weeks.

5. Pruning Requirements

Since Water Lettuce shows a quick growth rate, it often needs trimming to maintain its size, shape, and population in aquariums.

  • Cut the potentially damaged or discolored foliage of your Water Lettuce plants from the base using a sharp pruning knife.
  • Don’t trim the stolons or roots, and transfer the baby Water Lettuce to another tank once they reproduce haphazardly.

Do You Know?

A mature Water Lettuce plant can take about 3-6 weeks to bear clusters of new generations of daughter plants at its base.

Hence, transfer 70% of the total plants to a new tank and keep the rest in the old tank to manage their population.

Common Problems With Water Lettuce In Aquariums

Although a hardy plant, Water Lettuce can face several problems in aquariums or aquatic habitats.

  • Avoid keeping Koi and Goldfish with your Water Lettuce in aquariums, as the fish can eat their roots.
  • Insects such as Leaf Moths and Leaf Weevils can attack the leaves of your Water Lettuce. Hence, always keep them out using dilute neem oil sprays
  • The leaves of Water Lettuce can turn brown or yellow, which is a result of nutrient shortage. So, always add regular supplements of nutrient feed in the water to keep them problem free.

From Editorial Team


Water Lettuce in aquarium may not pose any problem, but since they propagate vegetatively, you must consider their growth rate at all costs.

Hence, you should dispose of their plant parts more sincerely after pruning them and keep the baby Water Lettuce from propagating vigorously.