Abstract The water hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes was collected in 2004 in the Siak River system, eastern Sumatra. Standard lipid extracts were analysed for n-alkanes, n-fatty acids, hydroxy fatty acids, n-alcohols, steroids and terpenoids. n-Alkanes in all plant parts were dominated by C27 to C33 compounds while the n16:0 fatty acid was dominant in the acid fraction. Here, longer chain compounds had only minor contributions. In addition to steroids typical for higher plants (C28 and C29 compounds) significant contributions from cholest-5en-3β-ol were observed. Four unknown pentacyclic triterpenoid alcohols were also present. These could not be detected in river and estuarine sediments thus suggesting either export of Eichhornia organic matter to the coastal ocean or rapid degradation.