Are Semi Aquatic Plants Toxic to Cats and Dogs?

Are Semi Aquatic Plants Toxic to Cats and Dogs?7 mins read

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Tal Halperin
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Image from Flickr

If you own an aquarium, it’s highly likely you will also want some semi aquatic plants to put in it. Indeed, semi aquatic plants for aquariums are a popular decoration. They not only make your tank look natural but also help your fish in many ways.

However, if you live in a multi-pet household, you may have some concerns. Are semi aquatic aquarium plants are toxic to your other pets? Many plants are also popular for outdoor ponds. So, you may worry that your dog or cat could get hold of them.

Have no fear! This article will break down the most common semi aquatic plants in terms of their toxicity to other common pets. Furthermore, you’ll find out what to do if your cat or dog ingests semi-aquatic plants, aquarium, pond, or otherwise. So, read on for more.

What Are Semi-Aquatic Plants?

What are semi-aquatic plants? Simply put, semi aquatic plants are any plants that can live both in and out of water. This also means potentially at the margins of ponds and so on. Furthermore, these are a common type of plant for your household pets to come into contact with, due to how popular they are in aquaria.

Why Might Your Pets Come Into Contact With Semi-Aquatic Plants?

If you have an outdoor pond and a dog or cat, you need to know which plant is which. If your dog ingests pond water that has plants floating in it, you could be in for some trouble. Furthermore, puppies, dogs that don’t care what they eat. Indeed, even cats that are sick may accidentally ingest plants. So, it pays to know which ones are or aren’t poisonous.

What Are Some of the Most Common Semi Aquatic Plants for Aquariums?

Most Common Semi Aquatic Plants for Aquariums
Just like java fern, java moss is on the smaller side and isn’t very suitable for an outdoor pond. Image from Flickr

Many of the most common plants for aquariums are luckily, non-toxic to cats and dogs. If you’re planning on creating an aquarium and you already have a pet, these are some of the best species:

Common Non-Toxic Plants

These non-toxic plants are great pet-friendly species. You can put them in your aquarium setup or even grow near an outdoor pond. On top of this, your fish will love them too!

1. Cabomba

Cabomba
Cabomba, or hornwort, is an attractive plant with spiky, feathery leaves. Image from Flickr

Cabomba, or hornwort, is an attractive plant with spiky, feathery leaves. It grows in tall spikes and is happy submerged in an indoor tank. However, it also loves to grow around the margins of a semi-aquatic habitat near a pond. It’s non-toxic, and many fish love to nibble on it.

2. Java Fern

Java Fern
Java fern is an attractive plant that, like its name suggests, resembles a fern, and provides some great hiding spaces and cover for mid-level planting that bottom-dwelling fish or shyer species will love to hide amongst. Image from Flickr

Java fern is an attractive plant that, like its name suggests, resembles a fern. It provides some great hiding spaces and cover for mid-level planting. Here, bottom-dwelling fish or shyer species will love to hide amongst. It’s not very tall, so it doesn’t work so well near an outdoor pond. But if you want an indoor aquarium and desire to avoid poisonous species, this is one of the best.

3. Java Moss

Just like java fern, java moss is on the smaller side. Thus, it isn’t very suitable for an outdoor pond. As a result, it’s better for an indoor tank and creates a soft layer of moss on driftwood or rocks. This can provide a safe space for fish to hide, lay their eggs, or even for shrimps and snails.

Anubias

Anubias is one of the most common tall aquatic plants, and it is evergreen, easy to care for, hardy. It can work in both an indoor aquarium and around the edges of a pond. It’s perfect for a non-toxic habitat and works well with some of the shorter, smaller species on this list.

1. Amazon Sword

Amazon Sword
Amazon Sword is a midsized plant that can work as a middle layer in a planted indoor aquarium. Image from Flickr

Amazon Sword is a midsized plant that can work as a middle layer in a planted indoor aquarium. It’s slightly less adept at growing outside in a pond. In fact, it is ultimately a tropical plant that will prefer the warm water of a heated indoor aquarium.

2. Mosquito Fern

Mosquito fern is a floating plant with an attractive geometric shape. It can work in both an indoor aquarium and an outdoor pond. Do you have curious pets who like to drink water from things other than their bowl? Keeping them away from it is as simple as putting a lid on your aquarium.

In an outdoor pond, it is less easy to keep pets away and you can’t control as much whether your dog or cat interacts with the water in your pond. However, unlike some of the other, poisonous species we feature further down in this article, it won’t leak toxins into the water.

Are Any Semi Aquatic Aquarium Plants Toxic To Cats and Dogs?

The short answer is yes. It’s not always that you come into contact with them. But there are a few notable species that can definitely give your pet an unpleasant stomach upset at best, or require a major visit to the vet at worst. So, read on to identify these and learn about what to do if your pet ingests them.

What Are The Most Common Toxic Plants?

Some of the most common plants you may find in aquaria that are also toxic to other pets include marsh marigolds, irises, water hyacinths, pothos plants, and peace lilies, another kind of houseplant. Some of these are classic aquatic plants, some are found only in outdoor pond environments (such as in a setup with common or comet goldfish or koi carp), though pothos is a regular houseplant.

Recognizing Poisonous Plants

There’s no easy way to recognize poisonous plants. Away from the water, plants with dark or colorful berries are often toxic, and it can be a good rule of thumb not to pick these. But with water plants, there isn’t a hard and fast rule!

Some of the most common toxic aquatic plants fall into the category of irritants, that can upset your pet’s digestive system.

Most Common Toxic Plants

1. Water Hyacinth

Water Hyacinth
Water hyacinth is an invasive South American species that can be popular in many garden ponds, especially if you don’t know what it looks like. Image from Flickr

Water hyacinth is an invasive South American species that can be popular in many garden ponds, especially if you don’t know what it looks like. It is closely related to the popular floating plant water wisteria, which is an option that many people like for their indoor fish tanks and outdoor ponds as well.

Unfortunately, water hyacinth is toxic to both dogs and cats. However, it’s also an invasive species in both the US and Europe, so if you see it, don’t feel guilty about simply removing it from your pond setup. You won’t be destroying any habitats, your fish don’t particularly need it, and it removes a potential danger for your dog or cat.

2. Marsh Marigold

Marsh Marigold
Marsh Marigold is an attractive plant with a bright yellow flower that may remind you of a giant buttercup – and you would be right, for these plants are in the same family. Image from Flickr

Marsh Marigold is an attractive plant with a bright yellow flower that may remind you of a giant buttercup – and you would be right, for these plants are in the same family.

However, the plant is quite toxic and irritating to both cats and dogs, even in humans it causes heart symptoms, nausea, and vomiting. It is in fact one of the most irritating and most common poisonous plants you will encounter near ponds, although it is rarely an indoor aquarium plant. Either way, it makes sense to learn how to recognize it, so that you can remove it if you ever need to or keep pets away from it in unfamiliar environments.

If you suspect your dog or cat has eaten Marsh Marigold, it’s best to get to the vet immediately. The quicker you do, the less time the irritants within this species will have to work on your pet’s body.

3. Irises

Irises
Irises are a common marginal or aquatic plant that you may find in many goldfish ponds. Image from Flickr

Irises are a common marginal or aquatic plant that you may find in many goldfish ponds. Unfortunately, they are toxic to both dogs and cats. You may see irises also listed under the name ‘water flag’ or ‘sweet flag’, or similar.

You can identify irises by their blue or yellow flowers which have a unique shape, normally with three outside petals and a central cluster of petals. They have all, broad, sword-shaped leaves, too.

They are mostly irritant but still unpleasant for your pets, so it’s best to take them to the vet if you suspect they have eaten one of these plants.

4. Water Lilies:

Water Lilies:
Water lilies are easy to identify They normally have classic, many-petalled flowers floating on top of the water or on a lilypad. Image from Flickr

These are some of the plants that are toxic to cats as opposed to dogs. Unfortunately, they also can release some of their toxic alkaloids into the water. In fact, all kinds of lilies – both water lilies and true lilies – are actually toxic to cats. The day lily family is also toxic. Although water lilies, true lilies, and day lilies are not related, all can have adverse effects.

Water lilies are easy to identify They normally have classic, many-petalled flowers floating on top of the water or on a lilypad.

5. Pothos Plant

Pothos Plant
Image from Flickr

What is the pothos plant? You may not see this plant in your average aquarium store. In fact, it is more common to find it in a garden center. However, it has recently become trendy to grow this unique interesting houseplant with its heart-shaped leaves as an ornament to your aquarium, with its bare roots submerged in the water and the plant growing on the top of the tank.

However, pothos is irritating to dogs and toxic to cats, due to the calcium oxalates in its stem. These are an irritating chemical that can cause burning and swelling of the lips or other parts of the mouth and esophagus passages that it come into contact with. Unfortunately, this can be dangerous or fatal, more so to cats than to dogs. Therefore if you’re planning to do this kind of setup with a pothos growing in your tank, ensure you keep it somewhere you know your pets absolutely cannot reach. If they do ingest any, it’s imperative you take them to the vet immediately.

What To Do About A Pet Who Has Ingested A Poisonous Plant?

Image from Flickr

If your pet has ingested a poisonous plant, there are several ways of dealing with this. If it’s a mildly poisonous plant or your pet only ingested a small quantity – such as with the pothos plant – you might just have to give them some medication for an upset stomach. But with a more dangerous plant such as marsh marigold that can prove to be a powerful irritant on your pet’s digestive system, you may find a visit to the vet is necessary.

Emetics:

If the situation is really severe – i.e. your pet has actually eaten a lot of a particular kind of plant, or the plant is very toxic, your vet might give them something to make them vomit. Alternatively, your pet may vomit on their own.

However, a more common option is that your vet will pump your pet’s stomach to remove the plant.

Keeping Your Pets Away From an Indoor Aquarium

The most common circumstance in which pets come into contact with an indoor aquarium is with cats that like to watch fish.

Especially for kittens or cats with a strong hunting instinct, the allure of a fishbowl may simply be too great a temptation to resist! Cats that like to sit by a tank may, in the worst circumstances, knock it over, and potentially end up coming into contact with the plants within it.

Securing Your Tank – How To Keep Your Tank Out Of Your Cat’s Way

Unfortunately cats are very good climbers, and most owners know this from experience. If you’ve ever seen your cat climb from shelf to shelf or up curtains you’ll realise they may find it easy to get to your fish tank.

The best thing to do is just to look around, and ensure you position your tank somewhere that isn’t very appealing to your cat. You should also make sure that your cat has enough enrichment and stimulation so that they are not tempted to access the fish tank. Providing them with a cat tree and a scratching post can make a huge world of difference in deterring them from creating chaos and havoc in the rest of the house.

Keeping Your Pets Away From Your Garden Pond

Keeping Your Pets Away From Your Garden Pond
You can always install a fence, wall, or gate between your pond area and the rest of your garden. Or, you can plant hedges or other impenetrable plants as a deterrent. Image from Flickr

Lastly, if you have a garden pond it’s crucial you know how your pets interact with it and how to keep it secure. Some dogs and cats are fine, tending to avoid ponds. Most cats are not huge fans of water, so as a result, they won’t try to enter your pond unless it’s by accident. However, some do like to fish and this can expose them to toxic or irritant plants that may be growing around the edges. If you are concerned, some plants such as rue, lemon thyme, and pennyroyal can repel cats by the smell alone.

Are you still concerned? You can always install a fence, wall, or gate between your pond area and the rest of your garden. Or, you can plant hedges or other impenetrable plants as a deterrent. However, it is still very important to train your puppy or older dog so that you can rest assured they will not go near the pond.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes the array of common plants can be overwhelming, especially if you’re unsure which ones are toxic. However, once you know some of the worst offenders, you can rest easy knowing that your dog or cat won’t be likely to come across a toxic species.

Furthermore, this guide should have shown you that if your dog or cat does ingest a poisonous plant, you still have time to act. However, prevention is better than cure, and recognizing the biggest culprits goes a long way to keeping your pets safe.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Else Can I Keep My Dog Away From My Garden Pond?
Training your dog to understand that there may be no-go areas in the house or garden is much simpler. If you constantly tell your dog ‘away’ when they go near the pond, they will soon learn that this area is forbidden.
Are The Poisonous Water Lilies Different From Regular Ones?
No, they’re actually the same. You may be surprised to hear the attractive water lilies you often see in childrens’ drawings, with a frog sitting on the lilypad, are poisonous to pets. However, they are not only toxic to cats but also really common, so it’s always best to check your garden pond for them before introducing a new pet. If you can, get them removed, and ensure you leave it a while before letting your pet near your pond.
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Sydney Perry

Sydney Perry has loved fish since she was a child and has enjoyed keeping many varieties over the years, ranging from black moors and shubunkins to betta fish. As a lover of nature and of Japanese culture, her dream tank is an Iwagumi aquascape, combining fish with carefully crafted aquatic landscapes in miniature.