Spotlight: The new Aquarium and Pond Plant ID App

Aquarium and Pond Plants iconThe worldwide demand for plants suitable for use in aquaria and ponds is being serviced by a multi-million dollar worldwide trade. An unfortunate consequence of this is that many of the plant species involved in this trade end up being released into local waterways. This sometimes causes serious ecological consequences where the introduced plants become dominant species, displacing native plants and causing other water management problems. Some of the worst examples of this include water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), Salvinia (Salvinia molesta), East Indian Hygrophila (Hygrophila polysperma) and Cabomba (Cabomba caroliniana). As a result, the movement of aquarium plants across international borders is of great concern to biosecurity agencies and those responsible for managing aquatic weeds in rivers and wetlands

Preventing the introduction of invasive aquatic weeds into new areas, and slowing their dispersal once introduced, importantly requires correct identification. However, the sheer diversity and phenotypic plasticity of aquatic plants makes identification a considerable challenge, one which was initially addressed by Shaun Winterton and colleagues in APHIS/USDA in 2004 when they developed a Lucid identification key to aquarium and pond plants of the world. Aimed at those concerned with aquatic weed problems, those trading in aquarium and pond plants, and other interested parties, this tool was initially distributed as a CD Rom.

A second edition was released in 2007, followed by release of a third edition, as an online key; the most recent update of this online key was released in September 2018, when the following features were added:

  • 129 new genera; now a total of 270
  • 1,460 photos added to enhance both new and existing taxa
  • Image gallery that is now filterable
  • 6 additional aquatic federal noxious weed species are represented
  • Illustrated glossary with many new terms
  • Restructured, more usable Lucid key

As with many important Lucid identification keys, the next stage in this continuing project has been the development of a Lucid Mobile app version of the aquarium and pond plant key, which is currently being tested and near release as both Android and Apple versions. This app version provides users with a convenient identification tool that can be used to identify genera of freshwater aquatic and wetland plants in the field, independent of any Wi-Fi or mobile connection.

It includes those plants currently cultivated commercially in nurseries around the world for the aquarium and pond plant trade as well as some genera grown in private collections or in association with ornamental ponds. It attempts to capture a snapshot of the industry, covering all the freshwater taxa in the trade as of 2017.

Note: This app version is part of the complete Aquarium & Pond Plants of the World tool at