Hornwort Facts: Know Everything About This Plant

Prasenjit Das
Mar 03, 2023 By Prasenjit Das
Originally Published on Mar 08, 2022
Edited by Naomi Carr
This plant is native to North America
Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.4 Min

Hornwort is a popular aquatic plant that is found in both freshwater and saltwater tanks.

It is easy to care for and can be used to help purify the water in your tank. There are also some interesting facts about Hornwort that you may not know!

This plant is native to North America and is found on almost every continent on the planet except for Antarctica. In the gardening community, hornwort is a well-known name for its aesthetic beauty and its importance in the growth of other aquatic animals and plants.

In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about Hornwort, from its care requirements to its history. We hope you enjoy learning about this fascinating plant!

Lifecycle Of The Plant

Hornwort is a perennial plant, which means that it can live for more than two years. Let's see some of the facts related to the plant's lifecycle.

These aquatic plants generally start as haploid spores, which consist of a single cell for most of the species. The cell has a slender extension, namely the germ tube, that is responsible for the process of germination.

Shortly after, an octant of cells comes out of the germ tube, and one of them (mainly the first rhizoid) becomes an extension of the germ cell.

The tip of the germ tube, however, keeps dividing new cells, which in return produces protonema. Depending on the species, this protonema stage can occur at different points and remains a transitory stage in the lifecycle of hornworts.

The next stage in this lifecycle is comparatively more independent and persistent; it starts when the adult gametophyte grows from the protonema. During this stage, the plant takes a thin ribbon-like shape with a diameter of 1.97 in (5 cm).

Layers of cells on the plant contain chlorophyll making it look green or yellowish-green. Sometimes colonies of cyanobacteria find their way into the inside of the plant turning it into bluish-green.

Once the gametophyte reaches its adult size, it produces the reproductive organ or flowers.

Even though most hornworts are monoecious (they have both male and female flowers on the same plant), on occasion you can come across a dioecious (the plants that have separate female and male gametophytes) one in the same species. The male and the female reproductive organs of hornworts are called antheridia (singular: antheridium) and archegonia (singular: archegonium) respectively.

Both these reproductive organs grow the surface of the place and can only be seen once the overlying cells are disintegrated.

Once the female and male reproductive organs have completed the duties, the fusion of sperm and egg cells form a new zygote. From this zygote begins another sporophyte stage of a new hornwort.

The sporophytes come with two feet at the bottom that contains a globular group of cells. This group of cells helps the sporophytes receive nutrients from their parent plants on which they will spend their existence.

These sporophytes also have meristems just above their feet that work on producing new cells and building the third region. It is also known as the capsule and both its surface and central cells are sterile.


Hornwort is a great plant for both freshwater and saltwater tanks. It can be used to help purify the water in your tank, and it also provides some cover for fish. Hornwort is often used in aquariums as a way to reduce algae growth.

Even though the plant is native to North America, at present it can be seen almost everywhere on the planet. These plants not only survive but do well in aquatic places like streams, lakes, marshes, ponds, ditches, and seas.

In some parts of the world, they are also seen growing in humid and damp places. Hornworts also grow on the bark of trees in the cold regions with tropical rainforests. Along with mosses and liverworts, this plant is also classified as bryophytes.

Across the gardening community, hornwort is known as a hardy plant and is mostly recommended to beginners. They have a terrific growth speed and can possibly grow in any wet place.

It is estimated that a hornwort can grow up to 5 in (13 cm) in a week and can reach the height of 6.5-10 ft (2-3 m) in its lifetime, if not trimmed.

The most degrees of sun exposure, from full shade to full sun, is known for creating the best atmosphere for a hornwort's growth. However, if any species finds this atmosphere hostile, it will give you a signal by thinning out in the full shade and by turning yellow in full sun exposure.

Even though the ideal water temperature for the growth of hornwort is somewhere between 59-86 F (15-30 C), the plant can survive in cold places where the temperature drops down to 28 F (-2 C). In a situation like this where the natural conditions reach the extremes of hornwort's tolerance, the plant can shed its needles.

All in all, it is seen that hornworts do tolerate extreme cold (they are also seen in Norway) better than extreme heat.

The plants are also known for enjoying high-nutrient water where they grow at the bottom of sand, mud, and stony materials. It is seen that planted hornworts can flourish and become healthy green if you maintain similar conditions in a tank.

Did you know that hornwort can actually improve the quality of water in your tank or aquarium? Continue reading to learn more.

Caring Tips

Hornwort is an easy plant to care for. It does best in well-lit tanks with moderate levels of humidity. Hornwort should be planted in areas that have good water circulation, as this will help keep the water clean and healthy. Let's see what else you can do to provide your hornworts with a better environment.

At first, we should discuss some planting tips. It is very important to keep your hornwort in a bucket full of ordinary or pond water so that it can recover from the transportation stress.

Keeping the whole plant submerged is always advisable and you can keep it there for a maximum of three days. Once the hornwort starts looking fresh and green, it is ready to be planted at the bottom of your pond.

If you are thinking of planting into a tank, then you must be aware of certain things. For example, a hornwort's natural habitats (rivers, lakes, marshes, and ponds) make it well-tolerant to different kinds of environments.

However, their fast growth speed makes it difficult to control them.

So, going for a tank that can hold at least 15 gal (56.7 l) or more water would be perfect. The hardness of the water should be somewhere between 5-15 dGH and the pH can vary from 6.0 to 7.5.

Another important thing is to filter the water in order to control the amounts of nitrogen compounds like nitrites, nitrates, and ammonia.

Lastly, if you are planning on planting hornwort in a tank, make sure that the water is clean so that enough light can reach the plant making it possible for the plant to photosynthesise. Also, consider using fertilizer from time to time, for your hornwort will quickly diminish the supply of nutrients in the tank.

If planted in ponds, hornworts need a little bit of attention now and then. Due to their fast-growing nature, they need frequent cuttings (maybe weekly or bi-monthly) to remain at the desired size.

But make sure to burn or bag the clippings for disposal, otherwise, they might find their way into native waterways. While using fertilizers or medication for fish in the pond, remember that your hornworts are sensitive to copper. It might end up killing your aquarium plants and decreasing the water quality in your pond.

You might also notice that in the first month your hornworts would shed a significant amount of needles. It happens because the organisms are still trying to get habituated to the new environment.

So, it is advisable that you clean up those needles from the bottom of your pond to avoid decomposition unless, of course, there are shrimp or fish in the water to do the job for you by eating up the debris.

If anchored at the bottom of ponds, these hardy plants can even survive a light frost. However, due to the high growth rate of hornworts, most gardeners prefer planting new cuttings at the beginning of spring.

But you can also remove them from the pond before the first frost and keep them in an aquarium or a tub where they can access a good amount of light (whether sunlight or artificial light) and keep growing.


Even though hornworts are mostly thought of as a decorative plant, there are a lot of benefits that you can actually see by planting them in an aquarium or a pond. So, let's see some facts related to the importance of hornworts.

Did you know that this plant is actually good for the aquatic animals living in your aquarium? For example, if you have any fragile shrimp species in your aquarium that are sensitive to nitrates, hornworts can actually provide them with a better and more balanced environment by gobbling up the extra nitrates in the water.

It is interesting that hornworts can be grown both by planting them at the bottom or leaving them floating in the water.

In this way, the plant act as a light dimmer for the other animals and plants in the aquarium that require less light. Apart from this, hornworts can also become an excellent hiding place for various fish and shrimp species and help the young ones survive their maturing stages.

It is said that young shrimp feed on the infusoria until they have grown enough to fend for themselves out in the open.

Apart from that, hornworts, similar to other aquatic plants, are known for aerating the tank or aquarium water by producing oxygen and depleting carbon dioxide (produced by fish) through photosynthesis. They also prevent the growth of algae and eliminate detrimental nitrogen compounds and waste to improve the quality of aquarium or tank water.

In addition, their high growth rate helps them restore quickly if the fish or shrimp in the water feed on them.


How fast does hornwort spread?

The growth rate of hornworts is extremely high. It can grow up to 5 in (13 cm) in a single week if planted in a good environment with enough light.

Why is my hornwort melting?

It happens when you change the plant's location. Hornworts do not take change very well. But, once adapted to the new environment, they will again become normal and healthy green.

What are hornworts and why are they called so?

Hornwort is an aquarium plant that belongs to the genus Ceratophyllum. The plant is called hornwort because of its horn-like structure.

What is the common name of hornworts?

Apart from the name 'hornwort', this aquarium plant is also known as horned liverwort.

Are hornworts land plants?

Depending on the species, they can grow both in soil and in water. In water, they can be seen either floating or anchored at the bottom of the water bodies, and on land, they prefer damp and humid soil.

What are the horns of Hornworts?

The horns of hornworts are basically a kind of spike that the plants grow. Once they are mature, these spikes split down lengthwise from the tip down and give the plant its unique shape.

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Written by Prasenjit Das

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature, Master of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature

Prasenjit Das picture

Prasenjit DasBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature, Master of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature

Having obtained a Bachelor's degree in English language and literature from West Bengal State University - Barrackpore Rastraguru Surendranath College, followed by a Master's degree in English language and literature from Calcutta University, Prasenjit has several years of experience as a content writer, Prasenjit has mastered the art of producing cohesive and coherent copy. To further refine his skills and continuously challenge his creativity, Prasenjit successfully completed the "Introduction to Creative Writing Course" offered by British Council. Outside of his professional pursuits, Prasenjit finds inspiration in engaging in various creative activities, including writing poetry.

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