Water Lily In Aquarium – Facts And Care Guide

Tankarium is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.

Caring for your water lilies in an aquarium is a rewarding experience. They are among the easiest plants to grow and give you a lot of joy as they spread their lovely flowers above the surface of the aquarium or pond. If you have decided that it’s time to bring a touch of nature to your home, aquarium water lilies are the perfect choice for you.

Let’s take a quick look at some basic info on water lilies. Once you have gained all the knowledge about these lovely plants, it will be much easier for you to decide which ones are best suited for your aquarium or pond so that you can enjoy their presence!

Water Lilies: Quick Facts

Water lilies belong to the Nymphaeaceae family of aquatic plants and grow from rhizomes, which is a shoot that lies on the surface of the soil. Their leaves grow above the water surface and are circular or heart-shaped, while the petals have a round shape and range from white to pink, red, purple, and gold. They also have deep green foliage with stalks that can be one foot long or even more!

In some parts of the world, water lilies are also called lotus flowers. Many people believe that this is due to the resemblance of their leaves with those of the lotus plant. This, however, is a common misconception as they belong to different families and have little in common!

Water Lilies vs True Water Lilies

The flower of the water lily is similar to a lotus flower, but the difference lies in their leaves. Water lilies have pads with pointed tips, while true water lilies have round leaves that meet at the center of the plant. The function of both plants is the same, though–to keep them afloat on top of or just beneath water’s surface!

Popular Water Lily Species

Water lilies are actually a type of Nymphaea. There are many species of the plant, but the ‘tropical’ and ‘hardy’ types are most commonly kept as aquarium plants.

Here is a list of some popular water lily species:

Including one of these water lilies in your aquarium or garden pond will give you a chance to watch them blossom from their chalice as they open up above the water. Nothing compares to the stunning beauty of their blooms!

Caring For Your Water Lilies – The Essentials

Water lilies are easy to care for so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy them in your aquarium or garden pond. Whether you want to beautify an aquarium with beautiful water lilies, or you want to grow them in your garden pond to color it up with pink, red, white, and blue flowers throughout the year – here are some tips that may help.

Maintain Ideal Temperatures

In general, these tropical species prefer warmer temperatures. If you have tropical fish in your aquarium, then water lilies will be happy to grow right along with them. For beginners, it is best that you stick to cooler temperatures because they are easier to maintain and provide a safer environment for the fish. The ideal water temperature for most varieties of water lilies hovers around 24C or 75F.

Temperature in front of an aquarium

Tropical water lilies can survive temperatures as low as 12C or 54F. However, it is best that you don’t let the temperature go below 18C or 64F because at really low temperatures, growth may come to a halt and your lovely water lilies might not be able to bloom again. If you live in an area where winter temperatures drop really low, you can bring your water lilies indoors while they’re not in bloom and keep them there until the temperature goes back to what it is normally seasonally.

If you opt to keep your plants in warm water, you should avoid exceeding 28C or 82F so as not to stress your plants. No matter what kind of environment you opt for, remember that providing a stable water temperature is the most important thing you can do for your lilies. This will ensure their happy blooming for years to come.

Light Is Essential

Water lilies need light in order to thrive. While there are many varieties of water lilies, some can grow in deep shade while others prefer full sun. If you want your water lilies to bloom continually throughout the year, make sure they are placed where they’ll get at least five to six hours of minimum sunlight throughout the day. This way, they will reward you with lots of healthy growth and beautiful flowers.

Water lilies that need full sun will not survive without it for long periods of time. The ideal time to see your water lilies bloom at their full potential is during the months of spring and summer. This may be difficult to achieve in the winter as the days are shorter. Under those circumstances, the best thing you can do is provide your plants with tropical fish tank conditions to make sure they are safe and happy inside.

These guidelines will suffice if your goal is to provide your lilies with adequate and proper care. Ambitious hobbyists who seek to achieve maximum growth can opt to provide additional light. However, keep in mind that too much light will result in algae growth so take the time to adjust the amount of it you let into your tank.

Take Good Care Of Water Conditions

Male hand holding aquarium water test kit

Whether your water lilies are planted in a pond or an aquarium, they need plenty of room to grow and thrive. Yes – tank size absolutely matters for this plant! If you’re planting them in an aquarium, be sure to provide at least ten gallons of water per plant. And if you intend to grow dozens of water lilies, you will need to do so with a large water body, such as a pond.

No matter where you choose to grow your plants, you need to make sure that your water is clean. This can be done by performing frequent water changes or by investing in a top-notch water filtration system. Hobbyists intending to house their lilies in aquariums should steer clear of tap water that hasn’t been treated. Even the hardy water lily needs clean aquarium water to live!

Some beginners to the hobby may wonder if there are water lilies suitable for a reef tank. Unfortunately, it is not recommended to keep these plants in a reef tank. They do not tolerate saltwater very well. The salt will build up in the soil over time and suffocate the roots. Stick to freshwater for these unique species, and you’ll be good to go!

Choose An Appropriate Substrate

Water lilies may look like giant floating plants with big leaves and flowers, but they do have roots that grow beneath the surface of the substrate. If you’re planting them in a tank with gravel as your substrate, be sure to choose a small-grained type with larger rocks mixed in so that you won’t hurt their delicate roots.

Plants growing in ponds may require a thinner substrate since there is more soil available for them to grow. You can use sand, black soil, or peat as your substrate. Just make sure it’s organic and not treated. If you choose a non-organic substrate such as clay, its chemical composition will interfere with the levels of acidity and alkalinity inside the water lily’s system. This will eventually cause diseases and other issues.

Close up shot of hands scooping gravel.

In addition, many hobbyists believe in placing a layer of pea gravel at the bottom of their ponds or aquariums to accommodate water lilies. This can help support their roots and keep them anchored. You can also opt for something simple like smooth river rocks. The choice is yours! However, ensure that your substrate isn’t sharp as it can damage plant roots and harm your fish in the process.

See also: How Much Substrate Do Plants Need?

Make Sure They Receive Sufficient Nutrients

Water lilies are generally fed right through their root body by fish waste and other decaying organic matter that is rich with nutrients. However, many hobbyists choose to provide additional nutrients for their lilies as well. By using a nutrient-rich substrate and slow-release fertilizers, you can achieve stunning flowers and a great deal of growth. Check out our list of top aquarium fertilizers here.

The best way to add nutrients to your water lilies so they can benefit from it is by adding a handful of organic fertilizer pellets directly at the root ball. The root ball can be identified by its distinctive appearance – it resembles a network of fleshy roots surrounded by smaller, white hair-like roots. It will usually be buried under several inches of substrate, so you can place your fertilizers directly near it.

Water lilies can also benefit from liquid fertilizers as well. These are usually easy to use and safe for the fish that live in your aquarium. All you have to do is follow the instructions on the bottle and top off your tank whenever necessary. It’s a good idea to use a product specially formulated for aquatic plants and water lilies. Remember to fertilize your plants according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


Are Water Lilies Poisonous?

Water lilies are not poisonous, but some of the chemicals they use to defend themselves can be. They usually produce toxic substances in their leaves and stems that ward off predators. It’s best for your fish if you avoid contact with these blossoms or consume them before touching any part of your aquarium’s ecosystem.

You should also keep your water lilies away from your fish and corals. Touching them may cause some damage to the tissue of these organisms, and they may even die because of infections like fin rot or fin burns.

How Do We Plant Water Lilies In An Aquarium?

Planting water lilies in an aquarium is much like planting them in a pond or any other body of water. The first thing you should do is anchor the roots of the plant in some substrate. This may require you to dig around underneath the root ball using a gravel cleaner or another similar tool.

Afterward, place your water lilies carefully inside your aquarium. You should try to position them in various areas so they won’t interfere with each other if they grow too large. Don’t worry about where they’re planted. If you want, your substrate will eventually help them spread out and grow in a wide area.

What Are Some Common Beginner Mistakes?

There are several common beginner mistakes when it comes to caring for water lilies. These plants aren’t that difficult to take care of, but some people may not be ready or willing to deal with them at first.

One of the most common mistakes is over-feeding your plants. Some people may think that they’re not getting enough nutrients because of the way their leaves look, but this isn’t a good indicator. In fact, most water lilies can survive for weeks or even months without any food at all.

Another mistake is to keep your light on too long. While water lilies do need sunlight to photosynthesize and provide nutrients for your plants, too much of it can be harmful. Water lilies do not need light 24 hours a day, and your aquarium’s ecosystem will benefit from having lighting just during the daytime.


We hope this article taught you everything you need to know about caring for the elusive water lily – particularly if you’re thinking of growing them in your aquarium! From the ubiquitous dwarf water lily to the extremely rare tiger lotus, all of these plants will do wonders for the appearance of your aquarium.

Have you ever grown water lilies in your aquarium? Do you have any other questions about these majestic plants that you’d like to know before growing them? Let us know in the comments! We’re always happy to answer your fishkeeping questions.

Until next time, happy fish keeping!

Wanda is a second-generation aquarist from the sunny tropics of Malaysia. She has been helping her father with his freshwater tanks since she was a toddler, and has fallen in love with the hobby ever since. A perpetual nomad, Wanda does her best to integrate fish-keeping with her lifestyle, and has taken care of fish in three different continents. She loves how it provides a nice break from the hustle and bustle of life.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.