Floating water moss (Salvinia)

When talking about Salvinia, we are not talking about a specific plant species, but rather a genus, which is made up of multiple variations with similar characteristics.

Today you will learn general data on Salvinia, as well as specific data on some of the best known species that exist today. Nor should we forget that these plants are not the typical species that need soil to grow.

General information about Salvinia

Floating water moss, or Salvinia, is a free-floating aquatic plant that is not prone to disease and decay. It is an annual plant that will float on water due to the amount of air in the plant tissue. This excess air makes the fern look fluffy in appearance.

This is an interesting and easy-to-grow option for a water garden and aids in water purification due to its filtering aspect of removing organic material from the water. Floating water moss can be a wonderful addition to a water garden or pond that has fish or other living creatures due to this purifying aspect.

There are many differences between the Salvinia species. The Salvinia molesta or giant Salvinia can be an invasive weed that grows rampantly in the areas most warm of the world. It is used as free floating moss for aquariums and water features due to its decorative nature without invasive characteristics.

Most typical species

Salvinia minima

The Salvinia minima is one of the 12 recognized species of Salvinia. Native to Central and South America and the West Indies, it has been found in the wild in several states in North America.

Due to its invasive nature it has been banned in some of them, including Texas. It is related to the Azolla, another genus of floating plants. The Salvinia minima is also known as sequins water, water moss and various other names, but actually it is a floating fern.

Due to some characteristics that the plant has, it tends to be confused a lot with Salvinia natans. One way to identify it is to get a magnifying glass and look at the hairs on the leaves. Typically, the hairs on Salvinia leaves are joined at the top in a kind of «egg beater. «

Salvinia annoyed

The Salvinia molesta is native to southern Brazil and northern Argentina. It grows year-round and has been found in North, Central, and Southwest Florida where it is rapidly eradicated when found. It grows rapidly and produces a dense floating canopy on the surface of ponds, lakes and rivers.

This pesky variation is a floating water fern that thrives in slow, nutrient-rich, warm, and sweet waters. It spreads aggressively by means of plant fragments. It can be cultivated by aquarium and pond owners and is sometimes released through flooding or intentional spills.

There comes a point where Salvinia annoying grows so large that it can greatly reduce the flow of water, as well as the amount of sunlight and oxygen that the water needs. Because of this, the dark and stagnant environment negatively affects biodiversity and the abundance of freshwater species, including submerged fish and aquatic plants.

Invasions of Salvinia molesta can disrupt wetland ecosystems and cause loss of habitat for them. It prefers the warm tropical, subtropical, or temperate areas of the world and grows best in calm or slow-moving bodies of water, such as ditches, ponds, lakes, slow rivers, and canals.

In stagnant water it forms stable floating mats. Salvinia invasions also pose a serious threat to socio-economic activities that depend on open, flowing and/ or high-quality water bodies.



Free floating fern which has stems without roots ( although the third hanging leaf looks like roots ), hairy, about 10 cm long. It exhibits great variation in its shape and structure depending on habitat conditions, such as space and the availability of nutrients.


It occurs three by three, although they can also appear two by two, but with the third leaf finely dissected and hanging, similar to the roots.

This is rounded and broadly elliptical, two centimeters long, with a cordate base, upper surface with 4 hairs attached at the tips (similar to an egg beater), lower surface hairy.


In a walnut-like spore ( a multicellular structure ), it crawls underneath.


Salvinia benefits include reducing nitrates, making them a great nitrate sucker that sucks you out of the water. Additionally, it provides shelter for fry, shade for a controlled section of your aquarium for any submerged plants or inhabitants who prefer a little less light, and as a grazing source for shrimp.

This isn’t a great source of nutrition for higher aquatic creatures though, compared to protein-rich duckweed, for example. In its natural habitat, however, it will outcompete duckweed, proving to be dominant in most water bodies.


The floating water moss is a small plant that only reaches less than 10 cm in height, but can reach 40 cm in width with its spread. The plant loves humid areas, so it is perfected by assigning it to a water garden and only needs moderate maintenance to survive.

An area of ​​sun or partial shade of the landscape is perfect for this plant, and it can withstand mild frosts, with temperatures down to -2ºC. It is a non-flowering plant that only has foliage and adds a slight airy feel to the water garden.

To plant Salvinia, pour the young plants into the water, long after the date of the last frost in the area. These will spread quickly and create a moss barrier in the water.

This will give the garden some texture, a light and airy look with the moss, and a fine cover to the other living creatures in the water garden. The stem will grow producing more leaves and may have more than 20 floating leaves along it. At some point the stem will separate and grow into 2 plants.

You can speed this up by dividing the plants manually by dividing the stems. I would advise you to leave at least 4 leaves on each plant if you try this. The lighting should be medium and no CO2 is needed. Adding more intense lighting and CO2 can help growth.

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