The Best Oxygenating Pond Plants (Top 8 Plant Species)


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The Best Oxygenating Pond Plants (Top Plant Species Compared)

how to attract frogs to ponds
Plants not only provide shelter to wildlife, they also work to remove excess nutrients and oxygenate pond water.

When it comes to your pond, aquatic plants provide not only a pleasant aesthetic and necessary habitat for your pond critters, but can act as important oxygenators, too! With all of the varieties and species, choosing the right plants for your pond may seem like a bit of a daunting task. Some provide excellent habitat for fish and frogs, others soak up pollutants, still others aid in oxygenating the water, and some of them perform all of these functions.

So, how do you choose which ones to incorporate into your pond, and where? Which ones are the best oxygenators? Let’s break it down!

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Types Of Pond Plants – Which Are Oxygenators?

There are four main types of pond plants – bog, marginal, floating, and submersed. Each of these in turn is broken down into two groups: hardy and tropical, respectively synonymous with perennial (2 years) and annual (1 year).

best plants for oxygenating ponds
Marginal, floating, and bog plants are great for shelter and removing nutrients, but not so much for oxygenating.

Bog plants are, you guessed it, most well-suited to damp, bog-like conditions. Essentially, they do best along the edges of ponds where the soil is moist but there isn’t much standing water, as they are adapted to have only their roots submerged. This category includes some rhubarb species, as well as carnivorous plants like the pitcher plant.

Marginal, or emergent, plants thrive in waters that are zero to six inches above their crown, otherwise known as the part of the plant that is not beneath the soil. Again, pond edges suit them best. Since part of the plant can exist within the water, they do provide some direct oxygenation. Common marginal plants are cattails (pictured), rushes, and beautiful lotuses.

Unsurprisingly, floating pond plants float atop the open water and do not require soil for their roots. They provide shade, habitat, and soak up excess nutrients (which in turn helps prevent algae overgrowth). Water hyacinth, water lettuce, and duckweed are all members of the floating plant group.

submersed plants oxygenate water in ponds
Submersed plants are the best oxygenators, as they release oxygen (O2) directly into pond water.

As you’re reading this article, presumably you’re looking for plants that are efficient water oxygenators. Out of all of the groups mentioned above, submersed pond plants are by far the best at providing oxygen and filtering your water to deter algae growth. Also known as macrophytes, they thrive beneath the surface, providing valuable underwater habitat for fish. Some of them may have portions above the surface, such as leaves or flowers. As all or most of the plant is beneath the surface, oxygen is released directly into the water through photosynthesis during the day. Hornwort, anacharis or elodea, and eelgrass are popular examples of submerged pond plants.

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Benefits of Oxygenating Plants – Why Should You Add Them?

top oxygenating plants for koi goldfish ponds
Both koi and goldfish benefit from plants, as they help remove harmful substances, combat algae growth, and supply much needed oxygen.

Why is ensuring that your pond has plenty of dissolved oxygen important? Most fish species do best with oxygen concentrations of at least 6 parts per million (ppm), or 6%. This minimum supports a more diverse array of fish species and allows for spawning; below this level, and conditions are considered to be stressful. If oxygen levels fall below 3 ppm, most fish species will die. With this in mind, incorporating oxygenating plants into your pond is a simple and vital step in providing adequate oxygen, habitat, and nutrient absorption for your ornamental pond and its inhabitants.

Another benefit is that they help prevent phytoplankton from becoming too abundant through providing shade and absorbing excess nutrients that algae thrive on. While phytoplankton are considered healthy, vital algae that also help oxygenate water, allowing algae of any kind to grow unchecked will result in overconsumption of your pond’s oxygen, fish die-offs, and your pond stagnation over time. Fortunately, as also detailed in previous articles, there are a variety of straightforward methods to help mitigate algae overgrowth.


The Most Effective Oxygenating Plants Species (Our 8 Top Picks)

While obtaining oxygenating plants is fairly simple (many can be purchased either online or at nurseries), figuring out which ones work best for your pond will take a little bit more time as different species require different things and offer slightly different benefits and drawbacks. Here we list some of what we consider the best oxygenating pond plants species commonly available in the UK, US, and Canada.

easy to take care of plants arrowhead1) Arrowhead (Sagittaria subulata)

Also known as dwarf sagittaria or dwarf arrowhead, this plant is highly recommended for beginners. Growing best in shallow waters only a couple of feet deep, arrowhead is relatively undemanding and can grow entirely submerged or partially above the water. It looks much like a thick clump of crabgrass with slightly arrowhead-shaped leaves that are well-suited for plentiful primary production, and by extension supplying oxygen. It’s not overly sensitive to temperature fluctuations, and is able to prosper anywhere from approximately 59°F to 84°F.


best oxygenating pond plants eelgrass vallisneria2) Eelgrass (Vallisneria)

With tall, wavy leaves that can grow up to two feet tall (in domestic varieties – in the wild, they often reach over five meters), eelgrass is considered one of the best submerged oxygenating plants. If it becomes too tall, you can simply cut it down and it will regrow over time from established roots. Capable of spreading to look like a surreal underwater meadow, you can keep it from dispersing too far by pulling up some of the plants, roots and all, or simply using a water rake. These are very hardy plants, suitable for deep ponds with larger fish that might damage or inadvertently rip up plants that are more fragile.


fanwort supply oxygen and habitat in ponds3) Fanwort (Cabomba)

Fanworts have bright green, fan-shaped leaves that not only supply oxygen, but also provide ample habitat and browsing opportunities for fish. Its leaves and stems are small, soft, and delicate, and so is better suited to ponds containing smaller or more docile fish. It prefers ponds with a depth of three to ten feet and a muddy bottom for its roots, and can produce small flowers atop the water’s surface.


how to grow hornwort in ponds4) Hornwort (Anthocerotopsida)

Hornwort can grow up to two feet tall, and while it may look delicate, it’s considered one of the hardiest submerged plants. It can grow either free-floating or anchored down with small weights, and with its myriad horn-like leaf structures it’s able to produce a substantial amount of oxygen. Tolerant of temperature and light fluctuations and generally not browsed on by fish, hornwort is a good choice for most ponds and is exceptionally easy to take care of. Keeping your pond’s pH between 6 and 7.5 will enable this plant to really thrive.


red rotala for fish ponds5) Red Rotala (Rotala macrandra)

Red rotala is beautiful and vivid with robust leaves that are wonderful for providing oxygen…but this plant comes at a price. It requires plenty of light, added carbon dioxide, soft water, and must have plenty of space from other plants or its lower leaves will not be able to receive enough light. If there isn’t enough iron or phosphates in the water, rotala leaves will become dull. However, phosphates act as fertilizer and adding these to your water for rotala will also feed algae.


top oxygenating pond plants waterweed6) Waterweed (Elodea canadensis)

With their dense masses of deep green curved leaflets on long stems, waterweeds are excellent oxygenators that also provide plentiful habitat and spawning sites for fish. It puts out thin stalks that stretch up to the water’s surface, where small white or purple flowers then bloom and float atop the water. As it’s very easy to grow, this plant can overtake ponds without proper maintenance. Periodic cutting or removal of some individuals may be necessary to control growth. It’s capable of remaining green through winter, meaning that it can tolerate a broad range of temperatures. While waterweeds can simply float in the water, they prefer to put their roots down into mud or a similarly fine sediment.


submerged pond plants that provide oxygen water sprite7) Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides)

Water sprite is considered a water fern, growing entirely immersed in water. It lacks a well-developed root system, meaning that it must obtain its nutrients from the water – this makes it a fine water purifier. Its delicate roots require two to three inches of gravel or a similar rocky substrate to anchor it down, though water sprites will also do just fine if left to float about. A very versatile plant, water sprite can grow in either full shade or direct light, with a pH range of 6 to 8 and water temperatures between 68 and 80°F. Due to its fast growth rate, you’ll have to gently trim the stems, being careful not to pull at the plant as their leaves and roots are thin. Another important note is that water sprite should not be incorporated into ponds with goldfish, as they seem to find these pretty aquatic ferns to be quite palatable.


how to grow water wisteria in ponds8) Water Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis)

Typically growing to just under two feet tall and about a foot wide, water wisteria is another effective oxygenator that’s known to be tough and easy to grow. With bright green, almost lace-like leaves, it’s quite beautiful and will produce blue flowers if permitted to grow above the water’s surface. It requires moderate light, temperatures between 74 and 84°F, and a pH range of 6.5 to 7.5. With this in mind, water wisteria may be better suited to ponds in more temperate locations. Like most of the other aquatic oxygenators mentioned here, water wisteria will need to be trimmed from time to time to prevent it from overtaking your pond.


Are Oxygenating Plants Enough For Fish?

The short answer here is “no.” These plants do produce oxygen throughout the day, but at night they also consume a portion of that oxygen during respiration. If you only have a few small fish in your pond, this may not be a problem. However, it’s always a good idea to utilize an electric aerator to truly safeguard the oxygen levels for your fish, particularly if you have larger individuals or a significant fish stock. Utilizing both an aerator and pond plants will provide abundant dissolved oxygen while also offering habitat and hiding places for snails, fish, frogs, and any other pond inhabitants you may have. The plants will also keep algae populations in check, while the aerator will mix the water, ensuring that it doesn’t become stagnant and oxygen is well distributed throughout all of the pond’s layers.

28 thoughts on “The Best Oxygenating Pond Plants (Top 8 Plant Species)”

  1. Hi can you tell me what is the best Pond plant for oxygen in my hot tropical climate as i am in Cairns as today outside temp is as high as 34 C

    Reply
  2. Hi.
    I am looking for a good oxygenator for climate in San Diego 60-85 degrees in a small outside pond(40 gallons). Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Hi looking for unedible plants for Gold fish pond (400 gal) that can live in temps. from 90s to 30s degrees South East Louisiana

    Reply
    • Hi Todd,

      Goldfish aren’t overly picky eaters, so it can be difficult to find plants that they aren’t tempted to munch on. Java fern is one that they truly don’t like the taste of, and it does best in temps of 60-83 degrees. In the winter, you may consider bringing it indoors and placing it back in your pond in the spring. Anubias is also rather unpalatable to goldfish, but will also need to brought indoors for winter if you water temps fall outside the range of 68-83 degrees. Duckweed and anacharis do well in broad range of temperatures, and while goldfish will eat them these plants grow so quickly that it won’t harm them and will actually help to keep the plants in check. If you’d like a more in depth list, please check out or list of plants that are both edible and inedible to goldfish: https://pondinformer.com/best-goldfish-pond-plants/

      You can also try incorporating a variety of methods to prevent your goldfish from eating your plants. A detailed list of these can be found here: https://pondinformer.com/how-to-keep-koi-from-eating-pond-plants/

      Reply
  4. I’m lookinv for the best plants for a new pond. Putting fish in it in about one month…bass, bream, catish, white perch. It’s almost an acre and close to 15ft in the deepest spot…also has shallow area…we planted 4 Cyprus trees close to where the water will be once it’s completely full….in NW Louisiana….thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Deborah,

      Thanks for reading and commenting! There are quite a few plants that would work well with your pond, from the sounds of it. A mix of submerged plants in the deep areas and emergent plants in the shallow area. You can find a guide for some of the best (in our opinion) deep water and floating plants here with a guide on what zones and depths they do best in: https://pondinformer.com/best-deep-water-pond-plants/

      I would especially recommend hornwort and anacharis, as they are wonderful oxygenators and naturally filter water quite well. They can be planted in fairly deep waters and will grow up to the water’s surface, where they’ll spread out and help provide shade and cover for your fish. American bur reed would be good for your shallow area, as well as watercress, as these both provide habitat and shading for fish while also improving water quality and adding a nice aesthetic. They can grow in shallow waters, or waters as deep as several feet, so the latter two would be perfect for your shallow area while the first two would work well in the depths. Your fish may nibble on the hornwort a bit, but it should grow back just fine. Keeping your fish well fed will reduce the likelihood of this happening. Cattails would also work well and provide spawning area, but be certain to only get the native variety, as invasive cattail is a huge nuisance as it spreads out of control quickly. Broadleaf and southern cattails would be native in your area – narrow leaf cattails are the invasive variety.

      For more plant info, we have a review of excellent oxygenators here: https://pondinformer.com/best-oxygenating-pond-plants/
      For a general review on a variety of pond plants, try this article: https://pondinformer.com/best-pond-plants/
      You can find a review of plants that grow best in marginal, shallow areas and that filter water here: https://pondinformer.com/best-marginal-bog-pond-plants/

      If you have any other questions, let us know!

      Reply
  5. Hello, I have a small pond i am looking for a couple of non invasive plants that will give me a bit of height. I did have horsetail but I have since read that can be very invasive and send of spores so I will be removing that tommorrow.

    Reply
    • Hi Susan,

      This depends on where you live! I don’t need an exact location, of course, but simply letting me know if you’re in the UK, west coast of the US, the midwest, etc. will help me to narrow down which species are native to your area and safe to plant. Also, how much lighting does the area receive where you’d be placing the plants?

      Reply
  6. Hi,

    I have my first pond at about 1500 gal. My pond is 4’ deep with shelves at 20” or so. I do have a waterfall as well as aeration. What’s an all around good plant list for aesthetics as well as all around functionality? I will have koi and I’m on west coast. California summer gets about 105 deg where I’m at.

    Reply
    • Hi Jason,

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      I would say that some of the more hardy plants that would both look good and help to keep your pond aerated and clean while surviving the California heat would be: water lettuce, parrot’s feather, *native* cattail, horsetail/equisetum species, and water lilies. Lemon bacopa also tends to prefer warmer temperatures – 105 degrees might be a bit high, but so long as the water doesn’t get that hot, it should be fine. It tends to enjoy waters that are anywhere from 70 to 85 degrees, and as an added bonus they can trail and hang over waterfalls, which adds an extra nice aesthetic. Watercress will achieve a similar affect, and is pretty adaptable to both hot and cool conditions.

      Reply
  7. Hi I’m looking for pond plants for a turtle and fish pond in AZ where temps can reach 100f. My pond is about 3 feet deep and is about 2,000 gallons.

    Reply
    • Hi Joshua,

      What temperature do you generally keep your water at? Some hardy plants that should be able to withstand Arizona are parrot’s feather, water lettuce, vallisneria/eelgrass, water wisteria, native cattails, and horsetail/equisetum species.

      Reply
  8. I have my 5 year pond at about 1500 gal. My pond is 4’ deep with shelves at 15” or so. I have a 4000 GPH waterfall as well as a side water “slide over 4 feet of stone fed by two 1500 PGH pumps going through OASE 8000 filters. What’s an all around good plant list for aesthetics as well as all around functionality? I have 7 Mature koi (20 inches or so) and I’m on the east coast. Pennsylvania summer gets about 85 but winter is 20 degrees If I have to replant each year that’s OK. I have a lot of green algae. My pond stays green all summer. Any suggestions appreciated. I tried some water Lillies a few years ago but they introduced String Algae. It too me 3 years to finally get rid of it! I am a little gun-shy about ordering mail order.

    Reply
    • Hi Leonard,

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      I should think that parrot’s feather, fanwort, vallisneria/eelgrass, native cattails, horsetail/equisetum, water lettuce, and hornwort would all do well and are effective oxygenators/filterers, and those should be able to resprout the following spring. Marsh marigold, cardinal flower, swamp lily, and watercress are all emergent plants that would not only add pops of color, but also help to filter the water. All of these should also be able to resprout from roots or seeds the following spring.

      As far as the string algae goes, I recommend always thoroughly rinsing any plants that you buy, whether in person or via internet ordering. You never know what conditions they may have been brought up in or accidentally introduced to, so best to rinse them off a few times before introducing them to your pond.

      Reply
  9. Hi, I just finished my small (150 gallon) pond in my yard and are looking for plants to put in. I live in the San Francisco Bay Are, so the weather is mild. For mosquito control I plan to put some goldfish in in the near future. So far I have some water hyacinths and duck weed in the pond. What else would you suggest I can plant?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Michaela,

      Thanks for reading, and congrats on building your pond!

      First, I would ask if you know which species of duckweed that you used – some species are invasive in California. Water hyacinth is also considered quite invasive throughout California. I know it’s a pain, but if you can get those out of your pond and safely dispose of them without spreading them to other areas, please do! Otherwise, birds and reptiles visiting the area may transport the seeds to other areas and cause them to spread to natural waters where they’ll spread quite quickly and damage habitats. Duckweed in particular is a very fast grower, and hard to get rid of once it’s established. As someone who has spent years trying to professionally remove and kill invasive species in a variety of ecosystems and seeing the immense damage they cause, please remove them as soon as you can! Here’s a list of some of the most invasive plants in California: https://wric.ucdavis.edu/photo_gallery/photos_aquatic_weeds.htm

      I did some digging and found a pretty useful list of aquatic plants that are native to California and fairly easy to plant in garden ponds: https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8369.pdf Many of them are quite attractive, as an added bonus!

      Of the above, I would definitely try using coontail and/or hornwort, as those are both excellent oxygenators and your fish will appreciate being able to hang out among their leaves. Rushes, arrowheads, and pickerelweed (all listed as safe for your area) are planting along pond edges, and are pretty good at helping to filter water. Pickerelweed also has quite pretty flowers, if you’d like some added aesthetic! But any of the plants in the link would work well for your pond. Do be aware that coontail and hornwort will need to be trimmed from time to time, especially in such a small pond.

      I hope that this was helpful, and best of luck!

      Reply
  10. Hi, I’m just finishing daming a 2 acre pond on east texas, zone 10. I want to plant the bottom with something that won’t just completely choke it out. Suggestions? I will plant a portion of the banks too with iris, pickerelweek, and things of the short. I will also have lillies in the shallower areas. Suggestions welcomed.

    Reply
  11. I’ve recently purchased duck weed and it’s starting to cover quite well now the weather has warmed up
    The pond is shady
    Should I worry about lack of oxygen?
    I have a fountain
    And 3x 5 m pond 2feet deep at lowest

    I have 40 small 5cm koi 10 X 7inch Koi and two large 18 inch koi

    Also water lilies

    Reply
  12. I have tried to get rid of my duckweed in my pond thought it was harmful to the fish as it covered most of the pond so should i let it stay

    Reply
    • Hi Muriel,

      You ideally don’t want all of your pond to be covered, so I would say definitely cut it back so that 50% or less of your pond is covered – enough to provide shade for the fish, but not so much that it’s preventing light from getting through to other plants.

      Reply
  13. Hi ..great insights !
    I have a small patio pond which is 34 inches in diameter and 18 inches deep. Will be putting in water Lilly definitely and guppy fish for mosquitoes. I don’t plan to have any aerator / fountain. What plants would you suggest that flower and also provide oxygen? I stay in india where summers are about 45 degrees Celsius and winters range from 5 to 20 degrees Celsius. Thankyou

    Reply
  14. Some great information, thank you.
    I have a small pond with 4 goldfish. Have started to get some string algae. What plants would be good?
    I am in Melbourne, Australia.

    Reply
    • Hi Michelle,

      Rushes are absolutely wonderful for filtering water and helping to keep algae at bay! There are a number of species native to Victoria that you should be able to grow in your pond. These include: Hoary Rush (Juncus radula), Finger Rush (Juncus subsecundus), Hollow Rush (Juncus amabilis), Yellow Rush (Juncus flavidus), Green Rush (Juncus gregiflorus), Tall Rush (Juncus procerus), Pallid Rush (Juncus pallidus), Loose-flower Rush (Juncus pauciflorus), Joint-leaf Rush (Juncus holoschoenus) and Broad-leaf Rush (Juncus planifolius). Rushes in general are pretty hardy and can tolerate varied pH levels and even temporarily dry conditions, so they’re pretty easy to plant and maintain.

      Other plants native to your area that filter water are water plantain (Alisma plantago aquatica), water hyssop (Bacopa monnieri), swamp stonecrop (Crassula helmsii), swamp weed (Selliera radicans), and running marsh flower (Villarsia reniformis). I’m sure there are loads of others! A quick online search for Victoria native bog/aquatic plants should yield more results if my suggestions are not what you’re looking for.

      Hope that this helps!

      Reply
  15. Hi there!

    Over the summer I installed 2 small ponds (about 700gal each) connected by a short stream with a skimmer in the bottom pond pumping up to the top one with a waterfall in both.

    We have started one lily in each (chromatella and albida) pond and a Yerba mansa in the top one on a shelf. They all seem to be doing well. The lillies are starting to turn colour (I hope for fall)!

    We are on Vancouver Island, BC Canada. (Zone 7b or 8a).

    We have three small gold fish in the top pond only. There is a little algae starting to grow on the rocks in the pond. We’re wondering the best natural way to control it without any chemicals.

    Thank you very much.
    Chris

    Reply

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