Life in the Bowl: Riccia

Riccia fluitans whose common name is crystalwort is an aquatic floating plant of the liverwort family which is popular among aquarists as a retreat for young fry and smaller breeds of fish and crustaceans. Liverworts are different from most other plants found on this site in that they lack vascular tissues for transporting water and nutrients within their bodies.

It often forms thick mats on and under the water surface, a hardy plant which makes few demands on the water or light. It can be anchored into position using fishing line or netting or just left free floating. If its growth becomes too excessive as it usually will given enough time it is a good idea to trim the riccia (like a hedge) in order to keep it's vibrant green appearance. If riccia is allowed to grow to much when anchored with line or netting the riccia at the bottom will become white in color and be generally less healthy.

Riccia is narrow and flattened with forked, ribbon-like branches. A few white, root-like structures sometimes appear on its underside. Over the years aquariumist all over the world have discovered various ways to anchor this plant to rocks, wood and even the substrate itself using an assortment of methods ranging from the above mentioned fishing line to more exotic methods like entwining it within the stems and roots of other plants.

Riccia fact Sheet

  • Scientific Name: Riccia fluitans
  • Substrate required: none
  • General appearance and dimensions: flat, branched, and ribbon-like, up to 2 cm long and 0.5-1 mm wide, growing in fibrous clumps
  • Light requirements Low to High (usually the more light the better)
  • Temperature 15 - 30oC
  • Hardness tolerance soft - hard
  • pH tolerance: wide range from acid to alkaline
  • Easiness of Care: very easy to average
  • Placement: free floating or anchored to wood or rocks.
  • Growth characteristics: Spores and budding (a new plant forms from a vegetative outgrowth of a mature plant).
  • Propagation: cuttings, any cutting will grow into a new plant
  • Typical Uses: nutrient sponge, decoration, spawning substrate
  • Distribution: occur nearly worldwide.
  • Habitat: Mostly floating in sheltered shallow water of ponds and swamps that tend to be warm and nutrient rich. Can be found growing with duckweeds and similar floating plants.

Possible Sources for Riccia: