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Family: Salviniaceae

Common Name: Salvinia

Origin and Habitat: Several species are widespread throughout South America. Inhabits standing or sluggish, slow-moving waters in full sun.

Ideal position in aquarium

Strictly floating; will be best in quiet water with very little or no movement. Good air circulation between the light and the water surface is necessary to avoid "burning" the leaves.

Lighting requirements

Moderate to bright.

Growth rate


Minimum Tank Suggestion


Ideal water parameters for Salvinia

Soft to medium hard, acidic to basic, temperature 15-28C/59-82F.

Physical Description

Salvinia is a small floating fern, the sole genus in the Salviniaceae family. It consists of three leaves, two floating and one modified leaf submerged that may be mistaken for a root; the stem is branching and creeping, bearing hairs but no true roots.

This plant likes bright light; in its habitat it occurs in full sun. It also requires good nutrition from the water, and there should be good air circulation. The two surface leaves, which are larger than those of Duckweed, are green or sage green in colour, with a beautiful silvery sheen; these leaves will turn brown and melt if conditions are not satisfactory.

Although native to South America, this plant is very invasive and is now naturalized in Asia, Australia and North America. It is on the list of noxious weeds in the United States. It should never be discarded into waterways, as it has the ability to rapidly spread and choke out indigenous plants.

The genus was named by the French botanist and astronomer Jean Francois Seguier in 1754, in honour of the Italian professor of Greek, Anton Maria Salvini (1653-1729). There are currently ten recognized species, some of which are very difficult to distinguish apart.

Salvinia auriculata is the species often associated with the aquarium plant, but several authors believe this is inaccurate. Kasselmann (2003) suggests that S. molesta is the species most often found in aquaria, and according to Mitchell (1972) is likely a natural hybrid of S. auriculata and S. biloba. S. molesta was described in 1972 by D.S. Mitchell; the species epithet is Latin for damaging or bothersome.


Kasselmann, Christel (2003), Aquarium Plants, English edition, Krieger Publishing Company.

Mitchell, D.S. (1972), "The Kariba weed: Salvinia molesta," British Fern Gazette 10(5), pp. 251-252.

Contributing Members

The following members have contributed to this profile: Byron


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