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The Floating antler-fern is very different from its relatives Ceratopteris thalictroides and C. pteridoides. This conspicuous, large floating fern occurs from the southeastern U.S. to South America and is also reported from Southeast Asia. Ceratopteris pteridoides grows in rivers and standing waters, either free-floating with water roots or as swamp plant, rooting in mud. It does not thrive under water. In the aquarium hobby this species is often confused with Ceratopteris cornuta that is able to grow submerged.
The triangular to lobed floating leaves may exceed 13 cm in length. With much light and nutrients, this fern may develop its very different fertile, spore-bearing leaves that are emersed, finely divided and have a very thick, inflated stalk. Many young plantlets (adventitious plantlets) form on older floating leaves.
As a floating aquarium plant, Ceratopteris pteridoides needs above all a plentiful nutrient supply and good lighting. The favourable temperatures lie between about 18 and 30 °C. Nutrient deficiency or imbalance may lead to pale new leaves and poor growth. Under favourable conditions this fern may get large within a quite short period. If the leaf rosettes have become too large for the tank, they can be replaced by some of the many young plantlets that develop on old, also detached leaves.
Young plants from tissue culture are often entangled and not easy to separate from each other. However the latter is actually not necessary. After rinsing off the tissue culture gel, they can be put on the water surface as whole clumps of several plants and separated later, if desired. The leaves broke off easily but may develop adventitious plantlets when they are left floating.
This large, decorative water sprite species looks best in open tanks. It provides shelter for the aquarium inhabitants and is well accepted by labyrinth fishes for their foam nests. Ceratopteris pteridoides is also interesting for South America-themed biotope aquariums, together with other floating plants from this region such as Phyllanthus fluitans, Azolla and Salvinia species.
Please be aware that the submerse form of this plant could contain snails and other invertebrates.