The objective of the study was to treat eutrophic river water using floating beds and to identify ideal plant species for design of floating beds. Four parallel pilot-scale units were established and vegetated with Canna indica (U1), Accords calamus (U2), Cyperus alternifolius (U3), and Vetiveria zizanioides (U4), respectively, to treat eutrophic river water. The floating bed was made of polyethylene foam, and plants were vegetated on it. Results suggest that the floating bed is a viable alternative for treating eutrophic river water, especially for inhibiting algae growth. When the influent chemical oxygen demand (COD) varied from 6.53 to 18.45 mg/L, total nitrogen (TN) from 6.82 to 12.25 mg/L, total phosphorus (TP) from 0.65 to 1.64 mg/L, and Chla from 6.22 to 66.46 g/m(3), the removal of COD, TN, TP, and Chla was 15.3%-38.4%, 25.4%-48.4%, 16.1%-42.1%, and 29.9 %-88.1%, respectively. Ranked by removal performance, U1 was best, followed by U2, U3, and U4. In the floating bed, more than 60% TN and TP were removed by sedimentation; plant uptake was quantitatively of low importance with an average removal of 20.2% of TN and 29.4% of TP removed. The loss of TN (TP) was of the least importance. Compared with the other three, U1 exhibited better dissolved oxygen (DO) gradient distributions, higher DO levels, higher hydraulic efficiency, and a higher percentage of nutrient removal attributable to plant uptake; in addition, plant development and the volume of nutrient storage in the C. indica tissues outperformed the other three species. C. indica thus could be selected when designing floating beds for the Three Gorges Reservoir region of P. R. China.