How to Grow & Care for Coontail Plant

Written by Iris

Oct 22 2021

How to Grow & Care for Coontail Plant
Coontail Plant is a perennial herb that grows in fresh water. The leaves of Coontail Plant are strip-shaped, without petioles, and its stems are long and thin. Coontail (Coontail Plant) Plant is often placed in goldfish tanks and has high ornamental value. This article will introduce in detail how to grow and care for Coontail Plant.

Where to Find Coontail Plant

Coontail Plant can survive in a diverse variety of climates and is found on every continent except for Antarctica. It prefers to grow in still or slow-moving bodies of fresh water that contain lots of organic nutrients in the water column.

How to Grow Coontail Plant

In the wild, Coontail Plant can form little buds that drop to the ground during the cold season and sprout when the weather warms out. At home, the most common method of propagation is to cut off a side shoot or trim off the top of a tall stem. Coontail plant is very easy to propagate, reproducing by the process of vegetative fragmentation, which is common to most invasive species. Essentially, one part of the plant separates from the rest, regrowing to form a new one.
The main plant stem sends out multiple side shoots that may become detached, or the process can happen when a whole section or a tiny fragment from the top of the stem breaks free. In the fall, buds appear at the end of the stems. Those buds are shed and lay on the bottom of the pond throughout the winter, growing into new plants when spring arrives. In fact, one of the easiest ways to get Coontail Plant is to ask around and see if any local hobbyists have some extra trimmings to give away, which they are usually more than happy to share. Many Merchants do not sell Coontail Plant because it doesn't survive in shipping very well, but we have a whole collection of our favorite beginner plants for you to browse.

How to Care for Coontail Plant

Grow Coontail Plant in Water

Naturally Coontail Plant inhabits lakes, rivers, ponds, and marshes. Each of these environments have their own different structural components. The broad scope of these natural habitats means that there is no one right way to design a tank to cater for Coontail Plant. It should remain healthy in most setups.
As an aquatic plant, you won't need to worry about soil or pots. It's all about the aquarium size and condition. The good news is, you can just about use any tank or aquarium to grow Coontail Plant. However, you need to have a tank that takes at least 15 gallons before you consider growing Coontail Plant. As mentioned, it grows to a few feet and doesn't do well in limited spaces.
The water temperature should be between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature drops below that, the plant will struggle to grow and the leaves will turn dark brown. Higher temperature also isn't ideal for its survival. As for the water pH, make sure it's not below 6 or above 7.5. Pay attention to any nitrogen pile up in the tank. Higher levels of ammonia, nitrates, or nitrites will suffocate the plant.
For Coontail Plant to produce oxygen and thrive in the tank it needs bright light. You can keep the aquarium near a window that gets plenty of sunlight or you can use fluorescent lights for at least 10 hours a day. The clarity of the tank and water also affects the quality of the light that the plant gets. So make sure the tank walls are clean and the water is clear.
When kept with other plants, Coontail Plant will quickly diminish the tank's supply of nutrients. If this is the case, then it may be wise to add a fertilizer each week to maintain supplies.

Grow Coontail Plant in Soil or Water

We have already mentioned that Coontail Plant can be anchored in the substrate. However, it can also be left to float at the water's surface. But which is best?
It really depends on what aesthetic you are going for when aquascaping, as well as considering the preferences of your fish. Whether planting or floating, they makes excellent shelter for small fish, with many species using it as a site to reproduce and keep fry safe.
At this point you need to consider which fish you have. Surface dwelling fish (such as hatchetfish) would appreciate floating Coontail Plant whereas fish in the mid to lower levels (such as tetras or loaches) would prefer it to be planted.
Looking beyond shelter, floating plants provide shaded areas in the lower levels. This gives fish space to escape the light, which can really bring out their colorations.
While showing off the colors of fish below, floating it on the surface also adds a pleasant aesthetic to an area which is often devoid of attraction.
Make sure to avoid planting it close to a filter inlet so that it does not get blocked by any plant debris. Since Coontail Plant does not have roots it can be planted in most substrates, though fine-grained sands are preferable to secure the bottom leaves of the stem.

Coontail Plant Pruning

As previously mentioned, Coontail Plant grows remarkably quickly and needs proactive management to keep it under control.
  • In the aquarium
When the plant's stems get too long, use a sharp pair of scissors to nip off the excess growth, working from the top of the stem. coontail does tend to shed its needles fairly regularly as part of its normal growth process. Use a net to scoop the debris out of the water so that it doesn't clog your filter intake. Excessive shedding usually happens when the water temperature is too high. Provided that your fish will tolerate it, lowering the temperature may help to solve the problem.
  • In the pond
If you're growing coontail in an outdoor pond, the same rules apply. Be sure to prune the plants regularly to prevent them from taking over and clogging the surface of the pond.
There are several options that you can use when it comes to controlling coon’s tail in a large outdoor body of water. Some herbicides that contain 2,4-D, diquat, endothall, and fluridone have shown good results, but the effects are often expensive and short-term. Caution should be used when using herbicide, as some chemicals can decrease dissolved oxygen levels, which can harm your fish. With any form of herbicide, always follow the manufacturer's directions carefully. You can find a suitable treatment that may include herbicides through a website search.
For long-term control, grass carp can be effective when stocked at appropriate rates as they will eat coontail. However, you should check with your local wildlife department before introducing grass carp, especially if there is a chance that they could escape into surrounding waters.

Coontail Plant Compatibility

Coontail Plant is compatible with all fish, and is one of the few plants that will survive in a goldfish tank. That’s not to say that the goldfish won’t nibble on the plant, but it’s spiky nature and phenomenal growth rate, ensures that it will survive in a goldfish tank – as long as they aren’t too hungry.
It is also an excellent plant to have in live-bearer tanks, and as stated before – is a great refuge for baby fish. It provides a food source for the small fish (infusoria living on the plant needles), and the spiky needles generally keep the adult fish away from the baby fish.

Common Problems With Coontail Plants

Coontail Plant is an incredibly easy to grow plant. So easy, in fact, that in some countries of the world, it’s considered an invasive species. That means you pretty much don’t have to do anything to keep it healthy.
There are some issues, though, that crop up, because, well, plants are plants and humans are human. Things happen, things change, and some things get missed or go unnoticed for just a little too long.

Coontail Plant Overgrowth In the Aquarium

Thanks to the famous rapid growth of the plant, one of the most common issues with growing Coontail Plant is the domination it may make over the rest of the aquarium.
Its size makes it ideal for large aquariums and ponds – rather than small tanks, though it can be kept in aquariums down to 15-gallons in size – in mid-light environments.
This is an especially challenging problem for the rest of the aquarium rather than the plant, admittedly.
You see, when the plant dominates the fish tank, it prevents other plants and the fish inside from getting light because the Coontail Plant is covering the water surface. This will kill any grounds plants and will stunt the health and growth of your fish and other critters down there.
To regulate this issue, you need to regularly maintain the plant by cutting the stems and dividing the plants. (We’ll talk more about trimming below.)

Coontail Plant Turning Brown

Quite often, any plant turning brown is the result of either too much light or transplant melt.
This means you should trim off the dead leaves – a few at a time, not all at once – and let nature take its course. It usually resolved itself within a few weeks.
If you notice, however, that the plant is doing poorly still after some time, test the water nutrients and temperature to make sure things are neither too hot nor too nutrient-poor.
Adjust temperatures or dose some fertilizer to improve these situations.

Coontail Plant Needle Shedding

Another common problem is how much it can shed. Though not always the case, Coontail Plant may shed its needles at an intense rate. This is more likely when it is first introduced to the tank, while it gets used to the setup, so do not worry if you see shedding initially. They will always shed in small amounts, but if it is happening more than usual then it is likely that the temperature in your tank is too high. If safe to do so, try lowering the temperature and test the nutrient levels to ensure they are at the normal levels.

Coontail Plant Care FAQs

Is Coontail Plant invasive?

Coontail can be highly invasive, rapidly taking over water bodies due to its fast growth rate and tolerance of a wide range of water conditions.

What does Coontail Plant look like?

Coontail is light to dark green in color. The plant has long stems with multiple side shoots, ending in whorls that comprise six to 12 needles. The plant will grow on the water’s surface or anchored in the substrate. Coon’s tail bears tiny brown flowers in the summer and buds in the fall.

Is Coontail Plant edible?

Coontail is eaten by waterfowl and also by some species of fish, including grass carp. In the aquarium, gouramis and angelfish will sometimes eat the plant’s leaves.

What will kill Coontail Plant?

Coontail can be killed by certain herbicides that contain 2,4-D, diquat, endothall, and fluridone.