Enhancing the Hue: Expert Tips for Achieving Richer Red in Red Root Floaters (Phyllanthus Fluitans)


Phyllanthus fluitans, commonly known as Red Root Floaters, is a decorative floating plant native to the tropics of the Americas. It is characterized by its round leaves sprouting alternately on a short stem and distinctive tufts of short red roots. These floaters are not only aesthetically pleasing but also play a functional role in aquariums by absorbing ammonia and nitrogenous waste, while providing a habitat for microorganisms and shelter for shy fish. Phyllanthus fluitans thrives under conditions unsuitable for submerged plants, making it an excellent alternative for many aquariums.

Key to Reddening Red Root Floaters

The color of Red Root Floaters' leaves ranges from green to reddish, largely influenced by nitrogen availability. To achieve a redder hue in the leaves:

  1. Light Exposure: These plants need sufficient light to propagate and flourish. Minimal light levels are essential, but higher light levels can increase propagation rates.

  2. Nitrogen Levels: The red coloration in leaves intensifies under low nitrate/nitrogen levels in the water. In contrast, higher nitrogen levels lead to greener leaves and faster propagation.

  3. Water Flow: Gentle water currents are preferred, as overly turbulent flow can damage the plant.

  4. Fertilization: While not always necessary, especially in tanks with other nutrient sources like livestock or soil, dosing with a nutrient liquid fertilizer can accelerate propagation rates. However, be mindful that a large number of floaters can block light from reaching plants growing in the tank substrate.

Propagation and Trimming

Red Root Floaters grow rapidly with sufficient light and nutrient sources. They can cover the water surface densely, potentially impacting surface gas exchange and oxygen levels in the tank. In such cases, floating corrals can be used to manage their spread. Excess plants should be regularly removed to maintain optimal conditions.


  • Red Root Floaters grown in water with low nitrogen levels tend to develop reddish leaves, even under low light conditions.
  • Conversely, in environments with higher nitrogen levels, the leaves will be greener, and the plant will grow more quickly.
  • In densely planted tanks where nitrate limitation occurs due to higher plant density, new leaves may turn reddish.
  • When transferring floaters from a nitrogen-limited tank to one with higher nitrogen levels, the old leaves remain reddish, but new leaves produced will be green. This indicates the plant's adaptation to the available resources.


Manipulating light and nitrogen levels are key to enhancing the red coloration of Red Root Floaters. While balancing these elements, it's important to consider the overall health and oxygen levels of the aquarium, ensuring a thriving environment for all its inhabitants. With these tips, aquarists can enjoy the vibrant beauty of redder Red Root Floaters in their aquatic setups.

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