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I found a unknown Floater!?

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I live in Mexico, after new year my family and I went for an outdoor trail walk ideal activity now a days because of Covid-19. The walk was on a local creek that starts off from a natural underground spring. I didn't expect much since we live in a pretty dry area, most rivers and creeks are dry all year round and when there is creeks they are stationary and have no life other than basic frogs or insects. The creek was thin, shallow and slow moving mostly looked like any other creek I've seen, but Suddenly I spotted it, it almost looked like some algae, but it was a massive floater colony ( if you can call it that) The colors basic green and a hue of red - pink.

Upon spotting them I realized this could be a much more special place than I originally thought, along the trail I kept an eye on the creek and that helped me spot movement in the water, there was fish! it was small and it was quick to hide. 

Before leaving I remembered the floaters and took a sample with my empty plastic water bottle to analyze through observation. Since I got the sample I've been taking pictures and I'm creating a log of photos and video with my camera. From the very first moments of observing it I noticed micro fauna in the water. 10 days have passed and I've noticed Miniature snails and a few fly or mosquito larvae, thus I decided to enclose it every night and whenever I'm not around to look at it, wouldn't want them to morph into mosquitos in my room. 

The following pictures are from my cellphone, I haven't gone through all the video and pictures in my camera(higher quality) though so I wont post that now. I'm jumping the gun sharing these since I tried really hard to get Cory's attention in today's live stream and was unsuccessful. Since I got them I've done heavy searching for this plant on the internet, and I cant find anything on it. Mind you all I have little to no experience with aquariums but I've been following the YouTube channel for a long time a little under a year and every video I get closer to actually going all out in on the hobby. I'm really interested in aqua scaping maybe its cause I'm an architect and I feel its almost like landscaping duh, lol.  But in all reality I'm a noob at this, literally haven't had a fish since I was like 12, I'm 29 now. And because of the sudden discovery that I just couldn't ignore I jumped the gun took the sample and here I am 10 days later, when I really wasn't thinking about investing in a tank etc. until much further, when I know more and am 100% sure this hobby was for me. Luckily when I was a kid I had multiple bettas and I had 3 small spherical aquariums which are perfect for my tests. I used the smallest one I had, and plan on if possible to grow these plants and get enough for all three aquariums and eventually enough for a much larger aquarium in a not so far future.

Anyways, I'm sorry for the super long text, I really wanted to fully explain the context of where, when, who and why I'm doing this. And my intent with this is to get help identifying the plant and whether its a good option for an aquarium with fish. And if indeed its an unknown then look for help from local biologist or investigate on how to adequately register and name it to be found online. So far in these 10 days I've seen massive root growth and expansion in the little aquarium which I could post in a follow up post. Enough delay here are the photos. IMG_2607.jpg.f6c1e29e0d57b2e754c0dea84cd5cf96.jpg

The creek, thin, shallow and steady or still flow.IMG_2578.jpg.512c13346f6967bedf44978dad000f5a.jpg

The Floaters in their natural environment!!! Discovery for me at least. 🙂


Floaters close up in my small aquarium. (daytime, direct sunlight)


At night with dim lighting the edge lights up almost looking phosphorescent! couldn't really capture what it looks like with my cellphone with that dim light.


Upon realizing there was mosquito or fly larvae I enclosed it  letting it breath when I'm there to check on it.


Roots, most where anchored on to a twig. and the pretty much have only one root per petal, and I saw new root growth soon after setting it in my new container. I did notice root curling in the end, I cant tell if that's just a plant characteristic as in maybe used to anchor on to things as seen in the twig, or if it is the result of a certain deficiency in the water since I took the sample and added about an equal amount of drinking water( water bottle) to have the floaters float off the bottom since the container is much bigger than the small water bottle used to take the sample with. I used drinking water to prevent adding any untested unfiltered tap water which I have no idea of its ph etc ( city water). I hope I did the right thing.

If yo are still here reading this, THANK YOU ❤️

I will try to keep up with this thread daily until I get the help I need, Happy New Year to all

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2 hours ago, CharlesD said:

Wow that was a super fast response!, thank you so much, that indeed looks to be it.

Thanks to you I will be able to read up on it, and learn how to best take care of it, as well as its compatibility with aquarium fish. You are seriously a God sent. ❤️ 


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5 hours ago, Brandy said:

It looks like a very similar species I am familar with, Azolla caroliniana. And I am kinda a biologist, so I tend to remember things like that. 🙂 Glad I could help, it makes my day!

Azolla caroliniana is more common here in the Carolinas. 🙂


Azolla has an interesting history and is thought to be responsible for the massive oil and gas deposits underneath the North Pole. Azolla has the same requirements as duckweed, meaning it will grow with little effort your part.

There are also 2 other floating plants besides the Azolla in the photo above.

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Azolla is neat in that in full sun it turns very red, while in shade it's very green. I've grown it in my water garden before and toyed with using the different colors to make messages from the fish. Have the solid green carpet of Azolla then use the red Azolla to write "FEED US" or "NO FISHING" or something similar using some red grown in full sun. The colors last a while before fading so it would be doable. You'd have to make a stencil for the messages, but it could be fun. It would be a good way to surprise visitors to the garden.  "Just ignore the fish. They're always nagging me for something." In a few days the red would fade and you'd be back to the solid green carpet and could do a new message. It could be a pretty effective marketing tool in a retail water garden setup. People would wonder how you did it. 

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They really do lock together nicely. If you had multiple ponds, some in sun, some in shade you could write messages in the green Azolla in the red Azolla ponds and the red Azolla in the green Azolla ponds. It would be a neat little attention grabber in the right retail market or for a garden tour.

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I've been wanting to post again for a while, but work has me occupied all day long. So anyone that was interested in the follow up sorry for taking so long. As Brandy so quickly pointed out, the plant is an Azolla variety, could be an Azolla Filicloides, or a Azolla Caroliniana as Daniel pointed out, or Azolla Cristata as ive been reading, and to me it seems to be that variety, either way its in the Azolla family.

Following I'm sharing some amazing pictures of its super fast reproduction, as I have taken pictures almost daily and now am stupefied at the speed of its carpeting.


This is a picture I had shared before, it's the earliest picture I took of its top view and it is 5 days after I collected the sample 06-January-2021.


This is the root system it had again 5 days after the sample was taken. Picture taken the 06-January-2021


To accurately understand its rapid growth found and pointed out in the literature, as its described as a very invasive species, I decided to start making a count, now the count is not perfect, but it gives a general idea of the overall numbers. This count amounted to just over 110 plants. Mind you this was 5 days after my sample was taken and I'm certain it had already grown in number, thus why I started taking pictures from above to use computer programs to help me out in the count ( I used illustrator to put markers over the ones I counted as I marked the count on a notebook).


Just three days later it looked so different. Picture taken the 09-January 2021.


The root system began to show new growth as you can see in the top of the picture, new roots are growing


To my surprise my count was just over 110 plants again, but the total surface cover was easily doubled. It should be noted most of these plants already showed to be getting ready to split into 2 or 3 parts, probably the ones making that new root growth.


And three days later on the 12-January-2021, the Azolla had effectively carpeted the container.


The root growth was impressive to say the least, and it was already difficult to see through the contained as before.


At this point the total count was impossible to truly define do to its overlapping leaves. but I used the darker areas as a pointer of the middle of each plant and made my count that way. The total count amounted to just over 180 plants. 

In just six days the Azolla had grown 50% of its total population, that was impressive.

I have many more things to share about this, because of microorganisms in the water sample, specifically having noticed mosquito larvae in the water I decided to plug the top with wrapping paper, since I cant keep an eye on it 24/7, and I didn't want to wake up one day with a room full of mosquitos or come back from work to a similar scenario. Besides wanting to share the microorganisms i found i want to share some issues I've stumbled on. Now what I hadn't thought of was their original environment and the environment I was exposing the plants to, do to direct sunlight and the top being enclosed humidity was building up every day, even if I unplugged it under supervision every day for multiple hours, it was spending most of the day enclosed ever since I started working again this week. Now the plants where found as I said before in a creek made of a underground spring, on a very dry terrain, so the plants must be used to having a dry air around it. And this seems too be causing me some trouble I will share on my next post, probably later today, since my lunch break is about over. 🙂

Have a nice day people. ❤️ 

Edited by CharlesD
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It grows insanely fast. The ones I had in my water garden came as a single plant in the roots of a water hyacincth. Within weeks it had covered the pond. (Which is 4'x8'.) It's pretty impressive stuff. Most floating plants grow insanely fast. I just threw out a big bowl of my assorted floaters yesterday and you wouldn't know I got rid of any looking at my tanks now. 

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8 minutes ago, Daniel said:

Azolla grows so fast that it is implicated in the great Azolla Event of 49 million years ago flipping Earth's climate from greenhouse to icehouse:



Somehow freshwater fern and ocean don't mix in my mind. The oceans were always salty, so a freshwater plant would likely not survive in the salt water. Even a plant as tough as Azolla. The only reason we have freshwater (unsalted water) is because when water evaporates it leaves the salt behind. When it then precipitates out as rainfall we get freshwater. The theory that the water stratified with salt water down lower and a thin layer of freshwater on top is a bit iffy to me. It doesn't take much of a disturbance to break the surface layer stratification. The poles aren't as affected by tides, but they still have some minimal tides and just that movement should be enough to break the surface layer stratification. I think the alternative idea that the Azolla washed into the Arctic from freshwater rivers makes more sense. Azolla pushes itself around a pond filling every void and Azolla in a slow moving river would push those plants nearest the mouth of the river out into the bays and eventually the ocean creating the layer of fossilized Azolla that was found.

To say the stuff grows fast is an understatement. Mine started out as a single plant stuck to a water hyacinth I'd bought. Within a month or so it had covered my 4'X8' pond and I was weeding it out. It's very prolific. It's a fun plant to play with though with it's color variation. Put it in full sun and it turns bright red. A bit of shade and it's a very pretty green. It's a very neat little floater.

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32 minutes ago, gardenman said:

Somehow freshwater fern and ocean don't mix in my mind. The oceans were always salty, so a freshwater plant would likely not survive in the salt water. Even a plant as tough as Azolla. 

During that time period in the Eocene the Arctic ice cap wasn't so much of an ice cap as it was a shallow freshwater lake as per these 2 images courtesy of the Azolla Foundation:



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I've read that and I've also read the alternative theory of it being pushed into the ocean from the freshwater streams and rivers that fed the Arctic ocean. I think the being pushed into the ocean from the streams and rivers makes more sense to me. It's a very impressive little plant. If you get it growing someplace where it's happy, you'll have a lot of it. Massive rafts of it being pushed out of the rivers then hitting the saltwater and dying, sinking down into the anoxic regions and lying there makes the most sense to me. 

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  • 1 month later...

CharlesD, If you don't mind me asking were in NM are you from? I would love to be able to collect some of that for my own setup but do not am not able to travel very far at the moment. I do not want to introduce something into my local watershed but if it is already here might be nice to add to the tank.

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  • 6 months later...

@Ender97 my bad Ender, i really disconnected for a long time, and never noticed this message, im not from New Mexico, i live in Mexico, Baja California. Just south of the border from San Diego. I really have no idea were you could find some near you, but you should look around, maybe you'd be surprised at what you find, specially on streams that are flowing year round. Also be careful, even though i took such a small sample, somehow, i took in snails, fly larvae's, other insects larvae's, and even what i thought was a  parasite. all in one single scoop. So really id recommend placing the plants in a separate/quarantine tank to observe for any hitchhikers. in my case i took samples from what i had and moved them through another container, where i let them grow again, and then i added them into my main tank. Also i made a massive mistake, many months later, i decided to make a maintenance session and placed all the floaters i had in a separate container, topperware, and for whatever reason i thought i could leave them there for 2 days as i left the city, when i left i closed the topperware hoping this would keep the container from loosing too much water from evaporation as well as i didnt want mosquitos to lay any eggs on them, as i for whatever reason placed this topperware outside in the sun..... when i came back just 2 days later, all the plants were basically dead, anywhere from 70-80%, most of them died to some fungus that ran rampant in the intense humidty of the topperware. Sadly what i had left was a few from 3 different species of floaters, and simply what was left of these azollas got out grown by the other floaters, duckwheat mostly, little by little i lost the azollas, until i had no more. i should've placed them in a separate container all by themselves, trying to keep a sample colony or whatever. Last azollas i saw in my tanks was about a month and a half ago, i tried to keep up on them to rescue the plant, and even though i thought of separating them since back then i opted to leaving them in the tanks cause the water there is much richer in nutrients than just any other container... sadly like i said it didnt work, and now i have learned my lesson, i plan on going to pick another sample, but i havent had the chance to go again, as it is some 2 hrs away from where i live.


Sooo yeah recaping, be carefull with what you take from the local waters, quarantine the samples, and be carefull with closed containers that can affect the floaters with too much humidity. Good luck!

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