plant Easy level

Salvinia natans (L.) All.

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Salvinia, Water fern, Floating fern, Floating watermoss, Floating moss, Water butterfly wings

Salvinia natans is a tiny free-floating fern forming a mat of pinnate leaves, 2.5 cm long, in whorls of three. Two elliptic, light green leaves lie flat on the water surface. A third feather-like leaf is submerged, hanging freely in the water, and functions as a root. Flotation is made possible by pouches of air within the leaves.

The Floating fern occurs naturally on still water surfaces. It provides a refuge for many freshwater fish and a natural filter from sunlight reducing the spread of algae. It grows extremely quickly under optimum conditions and can sometimes become a nuisance. It can form thick mats that completely cover the surface of the water and block out light from below. Floating Fern is cultivated as an ornamental plant for use in water gardens, aquaria and ponds.

Native to: Afghanistan, Algeria, Altay, Amur, Assam, Baltic States, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bulgaria, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Czechoslovakia, East European Russia, East Himalaya, Germany, Greece, Hainan, Hungary, India, Inner Mongolia, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Jawa, Kazakhstan, Khabarovsk, Korea, Krym, Lebanon-Syria, Manchuria, Nansei-shoto, Nepal, Netherlands, North Caucasus, Northwest European R, Pakistan, Palestine, Poland, Primorye, Qinghai, Romania, South China Sea, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Tibet, Transcaucasus, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkey-in-Europe, Ukraine, Vietnam, West Himalaya, West Siberia, Xinjiang, Yugoslavia.

Extinct in: Belgium, France, Switzerland.

Introduced into: Austria, Cuba, Jamaica, Massachusetts, New York.

Submitted by
Benedetta Spelta
18.8423061, 94.3441162
Geographical region
Southeastern Asia
Drainage Basin
Bay of Bengal
River catchment
Water body type
Water body name
Toungup (Taunggok)
Water body part
Water body course
Middle course
Water body: tributary of
Tributary name
Type locality
Java Buitenzorg, Indonesia.
Conservation status/IUCN Red List
Not Evaluated (NE)
Listed in CITES

Water Chemistry

Water information

Water type
Fresh water
Water color
Clear water
Water transparency
Concentration of sediments
Water temperature
12-30 °C
Water flow/curent

Chemical parameters

6-18 mg/l
Dissolved Oxygen


Plant form
Plant type
Plant size
up to 3 cm
Plant growth rate
Plant light demand
Aquarium equipment

Salvinia natans is really easy to care for all they demand is proper lighting and temperature.

Plant care

Salvinia natans grows on still water in full sun to part shade. This floating plant scatters small bunches on the water surface  and spreads quickly in optimum conditions.

In the aquarium the plants should not be completely submerged nor be above the ground. They should be placed in such a way that the roots are submerged in the water and the leaves are in the open air.

Salvinia natans does not have long roots like other floating plants. They have some root-like strings of green hanging down alongside the leaves.

Water care

As supplements give them a little amount of iron supplement dosing and nothing more is required.