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Soft Hornwort

Ceratophyllum submersum

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Ceratophyllaceae (Hornwort)
Also in this family:
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
2 metres long
Ditches, ponds, water.

Green, many petals
Minute, unstalked, solitary flowers at the bases of the leaves. Male flowers are whitish and female flowers are greenish-brown. Similar to Rigid Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) but Soft Hornwort uaually has more flowers. 8 or more petals.
Smooth or slightly warty fruit which is beaked. There are no spines at the base of the fruit. Rigid Hornwort has got 2 spines at the base of each fruit.
A floating aquatic plant which has dense, thread-like leaves which fork off from the main stem. It forks off 3 to 4 times and has 6 to 8 thread-like tips at the end. The similar looking Rigid Hornwort forks only once or twice and has 3 or 4 thread-like tips.
Other Names:
Submerged Hornwort, Tropical Hornwort.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Ceratophyllum submersum is a species of hornwort, a type of aquatic plant that is commonly found in freshwater environments such as ponds, lakes, and rivers. It is a submerged, herbaceous perennial that is known for its ability to grow in a wide range of water conditions, including both clear and murky waters. The plant is often used as an oxygenating plant in aquaria and as a food source for some aquatic animals.


Soft hornwort, also known as Ceratophyllum submersum, is a popular aquatic plant that is commonly found in freshwater lakes, ponds, and rivers around the world. It is a fast-growing plant that has been used for many years in aquariums and water gardens due to its attractive appearance and ability to provide oxygen for aquatic animals.

Physical Characteristics

Soft hornwort has a unique appearance, with a dark green stem that can grow up to 2 meters in length. The plant is composed of fine, needle-like leaves that grow in whorls of six to twelve around the stem. The leaves are relatively delicate and may easily break when touched.

Ceratophyllum submersum is monoecious, meaning it produces both male and female flowers on the same plant. The flowers are small and inconspicuous, with no petals or sepals. They are greenish-brown in color and are produced in the axils of the leaves.

Habitat and Range

Soft hornwort is native to the temperate regions of Europe and Asia but has become naturalized in many other parts of the world, including North America, South America, Australia, and New Zealand. It can grow in a wide range of aquatic habitats, including lakes, ponds, slow-moving rivers, and streams, as well as in wetlands.

Ecological Importance

Soft hornwort is an important plant in aquatic ecosystems, as it provides oxygen to the water and serves as a habitat and food source for a variety of aquatic animals. It is particularly important for small fish and invertebrates, as it provides shelter from predators and a place to lay eggs.

The plant also plays a role in water purification, as it can absorb nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from the water, helping to prevent eutrophication, which can lead to harmful algal blooms.

Cultivation and Propagation

Soft hornwort is a relatively easy plant to cultivate and propagate, making it a popular choice for aquariums and water gardens. It can be propagated by stem cuttings, which can be taken from healthy plants and replanted in a suitable substrate.

The plant requires good lighting and a nutrient-rich substrate, and can grow in both still and moving water. It is also important to maintain good water quality, as soft hornwort is sensitive to pollutants and changes in pH and temperature.


Soft hornwort is commonly used in aquariums and water gardens as a decorative plant, due to its attractive appearance and ease of cultivation. It is also used in natural water treatment systems, where it can help to improve water quality by removing excess nutrients.

In traditional medicine, soft hornwort has been used for a variety of purposes, including as a diuretic and a treatment for rheumatism and other inflammatory conditions. However, more research is needed to confirm these potential benefits.


Soft hornwort is a versatile and important plant in aquatic ecosystems, providing oxygen, shelter, and food for a variety of aquatic animals. It is also an attractive plant that is easy to cultivate and propagate, making it a popular choice for aquariums and water gardens. Whether you are looking to improve water quality or simply add a touch of green to your aquatic environment, soft hornwort is a great choice.

Blog continuation...

Soft hornwort, also known as Coontail, is an excellent plant for aquarists who want to add a natural touch to their aquatic environment. It is also great for hobbyists who are looking for a low-maintenance plant that is easy to care for.

One of the advantages of soft hornwort is its ability to grow rapidly, which makes it a good choice for aquariums that need to establish a planted tank quickly. It can grow up to 2 meters in length, which means that it can be used to fill out a tank with a lush and vibrant greenery.

Another benefit of soft hornwort is that it is a hardy plant that can tolerate a range of water conditions. It can grow in low light and high light conditions, and it can survive in water temperatures ranging from 15°C to 30°C. It can also grow in both soft and hard water, which means that it can thrive in a variety of aquatic environments.

In addition to its aesthetic and practical benefits, soft hornwort is also an important plant from an ecological perspective. It is a primary producer, which means that it produces its own food through photosynthesis. It is also an important source of dissolved oxygen in aquatic ecosystems, which is vital for the survival of aquatic animals.

However, it is important to note that soft hornwort can also become invasive in some areas, especially in regions where it is not native. It can grow quickly and form dense mats, which can outcompete other native plants and animals. Therefore, it is important to check with local authorities before planting soft hornwort in natural waterways or other natural environments.

Soft hornwort has been used for centuries in traditional medicine, particularly in Asia and Europe, for its various medicinal properties. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and antioxidant properties. In traditional medicine, it has been used to treat conditions such as arthritis, gout, and urinary tract infections.

Recent studies have shown that soft hornwort extracts contain a range of bioactive compounds, including flavonoids and phenolic acids, which have potential therapeutic effects. These compounds have been found to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antitumor activities.

Soft hornwort extracts have also been shown to have potential for use in skincare products, due to their antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are known to protect the skin from damage caused by free radicals, which are molecules that can cause damage to cells and contribute to aging and disease.

In addition to its medicinal properties, soft hornwort also has cultural significance in some regions. In Japan, soft hornwort is known as mizugoke, and it is a traditional ingredient in various dishes, including soups and salads. It is also used as a decorative element in Japanese gardens.

Overall, soft hornwort is a versatile and important plant that has a range of practical and medicinal uses. Whether you are an aquarist looking to add a natural touch to your aquarium or a herbalist interested in its potential therapeutic benefits, soft hornwort is a plant that is definitely worth exploring.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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