Aquarium Plant Care

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Stem Plants

Stem plants are easy to propagate by cuttings; take a side shoot and plant it in the bottom. NOTE: the trimming of this material will in no way harm the plant.  Plant the individual stems of the plant in the planting material/substrate, plant anchors will aid in planting of these types of stem plants. Stem plants will root very quickly.

Alternanthera reineckii

Alternanthera reineckii

Alternanthera reineckii

Alternanthera reineckii ‘Purple’ needs plenty of light to grow and form dark-red leaves. In open aquariums it grows willingly up through the surface, and like other difficult plants growth improves considerably if CO2 is added. Shortage of micronutrients results in pale leaves. Like other stem plants Alternanthera reineckii’Purple’ is best in groups.

Bacopa caroliniana (Water Hyssop)

Bacopa caroliniana has been used as an aquarium plant for many years.

Bacopa caroliniana

Bacopa caroliniana

Apart from relatively good light it makes few demands. Its slow growth rate makes it one of the few stem plants that do not need much attention. Like most stem plants, it is most decorative when planted in small groups. Very robust and suitable aquarium plant which will almost always grow to satisfaction if kept under at least moderate lighting. Almost a must in a Dutch Style Aquarium, this plant is gorgeous as a mid-or background solitary group. Some pruning is required when the lower portions of the stems lose their leaves. Then, take out the whole plant, trim away the leafless lower parts and replant as a stepped group. Like this, the re-planted group will keep the picture for at least 6 weeks until pruning is again required.

ophyllum demersum

Bacopa monnieri

Bacopa monnieri is an easy and highly recommended plant which thrives in almost all conditions. It is a plant which is suitable for the hard water found in many aquariums. Most beautiful when a great number of shoots are planted in a group. Apart from relatively good light it makes few demands. Its slow growth rate makes it one of the few stem plants that do not need much attention. Like most stem plants, it is most decorative when planted in small groups.

Bacopa monnieri
Bacopa monnie

Ceratophyllum demersum- (Hornwort)

Ceratophyllum demersum ‘Foxtail’ has no roots as such, but it can still be planted in the bottom of an aquarium. ‘Foxtail’ differs because its leaves are closer together and it has lateral shoots, which gives it an attractive, compact appearance.

Egeria densa (Elodea)

Egeria densa (Elodea)  is a good plant for beginners and its rapid growth helps create a balance in the aquarium from the start. It can also help prevent algae because it absorbs a great number of nutrients from the water. The plant secretes antibiotic substances which can help prevent blue-green algae (a type of bacteria). The growth rate depends largely on the amount of light and nutrition available. Growth does not stop in unfavorable conditions, but the plant turns light in color and the tendrils grow thin.

Ludwigia repens

Ludwigia repens

Ludwigia repens

Variety of Ludwigia repens with striking dark red leaves and stalk. It makes a fine color contrast to the green shades in the aquarium. Plant in large groups to enhance the decorative effect, and prune regularly to encourage bushy growth. The plant makes few demands, but if light is insufficient the lower leaves tend to fall off. In strong light the color becomes more intense.

Rotala rotundifolia

Rotala rotundifolia is an easy red plant to grow in the aquarium. While it will grow in medium light, this plant really needs high light

Rotala rotundifolia
Rotala rotundifolia

to show its true colors. When lit well, the plant will grow at an angle over the substrate instead of straight up. To encourage red coloration, R. rotundifolia should be kept well lit (2.5 watts per gallon or more) with no shading. Lean nitrate levels (~5 ppm), high phosphate levels (~1.5-2 ppm), and heavy iron/micronutrients dosing will help produce intense colors out of this plant. By varying these conditions, one is able to bring out various shades from pink to yellow.

Rooted Crown Plants

Where the roots meet the stem/leaf is what is call the crown. Plant ONLY the roots of the plant in planting material/substrate up to the crown.

Anubias barteri var. nana
Anubias barteri var. nana

Planting these plants too deep can cause rotting of the stem and therefore premature death of the plant.  Plant anchors will aid in planting of these types of plants.

Anubias barteri var. nana is a small, attractive plant which thrives in all conditions. It grows slowly, and the leaves survive for several years, giving slow-growing algae the chance to become established. The best result is achieved by planting on a stone or tree root. Fishing line can be used to attach the plant until it gains a hold. If planted on the bottom the rhizome must not be covered because it tends to rot. It flowers frequently under water. It is not eaten by herbivorous fish.

 Cryptocoryne wendtii (Brown)

Cryptocoryne wendtii (Brown)Echinodorus “Kliener Bar”

Cryptocoryne wendtii (Brown)

Cryptocoryne wendtii “brown” is a beautiful brown variety of Cryptocoryne wendtii. It is a mistake to believe that Cryptocorynes require soft water. In large parts of Sri Lanka the water is hard, so Sri Lanka Cryptocorynes are almost all suitable for hard European water. If the plant is affected by the so-called “cryptocoryne disease”, do not remove it from the aquarium because a few weeks later it will produce new shoots.

Echinodorus “Kliener Bar” (Amazon Sword)

The color is a rusty red. It is brought about through strong lighting with good substrate and water fertilizer with iron. These plants have the best leaf shape and size for aquariums and are a great multiplier. Leaves are green if grown above water and grow only good color underwater. The plants you will receive will have both green and rusty red leaves. By giving this plant strong light and good fertilizer with iron included it will bring out the color. Once establish this plant is a strong grower and great multiplier. The leaf shape and size is better than any other sword plant regardless of the color. Use substrate fertilizer at first to get it going with the liquid firts. With the firts and strong lighting you can get a very dark to rusty red color. They have a great contrast to light green plants in the tank.

Echinodorus tenellus

Small foreground plants for aquariums are in short supply, but Echinodorus tenellus is one of the best. The runners spread round the aquarium. A true “lawn” effect is only achieved at high light intensities, so you must make sure larger plants do not overshadow the plant. Plant individual plants a couple of centimeters apart (easiest with tweezers). A nutritious bottom promotes growth.

Eleocharis parvula (Dwarf Hairgrass)

Eleocharis parvula (Dwarf Hairgrass)

Eleocharis parvula (Dwarf Hairgrass)

Eleocharis parvula has short leaves and fast growth making it one of the most impressive carpet-forming foreground plants. It spreads rapidly by runners. It is a relatively easy and undemanding plant that does best with good light and a nutritious substrate. Can be planted in small portions in the substrate and can form a dense carpet in a matter of weeks given the right lighting and conditions. When the leaves get too long they can be pruned with scissors to about 2cm height, encouraging new growth.

Glossostigma elatinoides

Glossostigma elatinoides is much in demand in Japanese-inspired aquariums. It is one of the smallest aquarium plants, and thus a good foreground plant.  A difficult plant demanding a lot of light. Grows upwards if light is poor. Make sure larger plants do not overshadow it. When planting in the aquarium small clumps (approx. 1/8 pot) should be placed at intervals of a few centimeters to help the plants grow together more quickly. CO2 addition and soft water promote growth significantly.

Hemianthus callitrichoides

Hemianthus callitrichoides is one of the smallest aquarium plants in the world, and creeps over the bottom with millimeter-sized round leaves. If planted in small clumps a few centimeters apart, it will spread rapidly and cover the bottom like a  carpet. Hemianthus callitrichoides is an attractive foreground plant for small aquariums. Found on Cuba west of Havana.

Hemianthus callitrichoides

Hemianthus callitrichoides

Heteranthera zosterifolia (Water-Star Grass)

Water-Star Grass is an extremely beautiful plant which forms a lot of side shoots and thus quickly forms a bushy plant group. In stronglight growth is intensive, and the plant must be pruned before it becomes so compact that no light reaches the lower leaves. Water roots often form on the stem. In open aquariums it forms small yellow flowers if some shoots are allowed to spread on the surface.

Hydrocotyle verticillata

Unlike other Hydrocotyle species, this plant retains its trailing growth form. Optimum growth is only achieved in strong light and soft, slightly acidic water. It does not need to be rooted, but can be used as a floating plant. Hydrocotyle verticillata is definitely a foreground plant which can also be used in garden ponds. It can also be used as an indoor plant if the soil is kept moist. Be careful if used outdoors, it can be invasive.

Hydrocotyle verticillata
Hydrocotyle verticillata

Lilaeopsis brasiliensis (Microsword)

Lilaeopsis brasiliensis can grow very compact, but a “lawn effect” is only achieved at high light intensity. When planting in the aquarium small clumps (approx. 1/8 pot) should be placed a few centimeters apart to help the plants grow together more quickly. Place in an open position without shading from other plants to ensure good light. Lilaeopsis brasiliensis can be used in garden ponds, and also tolerates low salt concentrations in brackish aquariums

Lilaeopsis mauritiana (Mauritius Microsword)

Beautiful, dense grassy groundcover. Leaves narrower than those of L. brasiliensis but growth is considerably faster. Less demanding in terms of lighting but a real carpet can only be achieved under ample light. Leaf blades are clearly constricted into several segments and have a round diameter. This Lilaeopsis species demands less light than Lilaeopsis brasiliensis. Tropica’s founder, Holger Windeløv, found it on Mauritius in 1992. The plants height and distance between its leaves depend on the light intensity. The more light it gets, the lower the plant and the denser the leaves. The runners spread round the aquarium. Plant by dividing the rock wool into approximately 6 segments and pull into the substrate for a firm hold. After 24 hours you will observe the first new leaf blades growing towards the light. If your initial planting is dense enough, you will have a nice carpet after about four weeks.

Sagittaria subulata

Sagittaria subulata is an ideal, undemanding foreground plant whose short runners form a compact group. Place individual plants 2-4 cm apart. This plant may cause problems because in certain conditions it suddenly grows to a height of 50 cm when it grows older. But if it is then moved into the background it may become low again. In the aquarium it sometimes sends a long flower stem to the surface, and small white flowers unfold just above the water surface.

Vallisneria americana “gigantea” (Jungle Val)

Vallisneria americana (gigantea) is an easy plant that grows fast, suitable for large aquariums. In most aquariums the leaves grow so long that they float on the surface. So the plant needs pruning to stop it taking too much light from plants growing beneath. The leaves are tough and strong, so they are not normally eaten by herbivorous fish. Vallisneria americana is easy to propagate using runners, which are prolific if the bottom is nutritious.

Vallisneria spiralis (Italian)

Vallisneria americana (natans) is a hardy plant for beginners. It has fine, narrow leaves so it does not overshadow other plants much. Easy to propagate using its many runners.

Mosses, Liverworts, Ferns & Decorative Algae

Theses aquatic beauties and an exotic deep green look and depth to your landscaped tank.

Ceratopteris thalictroides (Water Sprite)

This plant normally grows fast, but the addition of CO2 may be necessary to promote growth. In small open aquariums it can grow out of the aquarium and form beautiful surface leaves. The finely branched leaves are very decorative and provide good contrast to other leaf shapes. In good light. Ceratopteris thalictroides grows fast and helps prevent algae by consuming large amounts of nutrients. This makes it a good starter plant in small aquariums.

Cladophora aegagrophila (Algae Ball)

Cladophora aegagrophila is not really a plant, but a ball of algae, so it is a decorative exception from the rule about avoiding algae at all costs. It is normally found in shallow lakes, where the movement of the waves forms it into a sphere. In an aquarium it must be turned regularly to keep it in shape. Cladophora aegagrophila can be divided into smaller pieces, which become spherical with time, or which form a carpet, if attached to roots and stones. Protected in parts of Japan.

Marsilea hirsute

Marsilea hirsute is a fascinating plant, usually delivered with leaves like a four-leaf clover. After a transitional period it develops different types of leaves, possibly a low form with single leaves like a large Glossostigma, or alternatively develop two, three or four-lobed leaves varying in height, depending on the growth conditions. Whichever form the plant adopts, it forms runners and spreads rapidly round the aquarium forming a beautiful dark green groundcover.

Microsorium brassii

The perfect beautiful Aquarium plant! Commonly known as Needle Leaf Java Fern it is a different species from Java Fern (Mirosorium pteropus). To date it has only been collected on the New Guinea mainland and at Manus Island nearby. Documents indicate that it is very rarely collected and completely submerged when collected. I have been unsuccessful in growing it above water as I have Java Fern. It does grow easily, when submerged, in both low and high light levels.  It is rhizomatous, creeping commonly, growing on rocks and logs.  This stunning plant does not out grow its’ surroundings but will slowly and beautifully multiply. I received this gorgeous plant from Dr. Tan at the University of Singapore by exchanging with them an aquatic moss that they requested for research in 2004. It has become, by far, my most favorite landscaping aquatic species adding a look of elegance and exotic tranquility to its’ environment. This plant is also used by the world famous aquatic landscaper Takaski Amano in his stunning Nature Aquarium layouts. They must not be planted in the substrate/gravel otherwise their roots (rhizomes in many cases) will rot. Plant them on wood or stone.

Microsorum pteropus (Java Fern)

Microsorum pteropus is a water fern which should be grown on a root or stone, attached with fishing line until it has gained a hold. If it is planted in the bottom, do not cover the rhizome because it will rot. Easy to propagate by splitting the horizontal rhizome. A hardy plant which grows in all conditions. The black spots under the leaves are sporangia (reproductive organs), not signs of disease as many believe.

Microsorum pteropus (Windelov Lace Java fern)

Microsorum pteropus ‘Windeløv’ is a patented variety of Microsorum pteropus, named after Tropica’s founder Holger Windeløv. Its finely branched leaf tips make it one of the most beautiful aquarium plants. A hardy and easy plant for both beginners and the more experienced. Best results are obtained by planting it on a stone or tree root. If planted in the bottom the horizontal rhizome must not be covered. This plant is not eaten by herbivorous fish.

Riccia Fluitans (crystalwort)

Japanese Takashi Amano has inspired many aquarium owners to keep Riccia fluitans submerged. It can be kept down by tying it to a stone with a piece of fishing line, but new shoots always grow towards the surface, so it may be necessary to prune it with scissors. Under water Riccia fluitans thrives best with added CO2 and in good growing conditions small oxygen bubbles form on the leaf tips. As a traditional floating plant offers good protection for young fish. No roots, fast grower and can be grown emersed.

Taxiphyllum barbieri (Java Moss)

Taxiphyllum barbieri is a hardy plant which makes few demands on the water or light. The moss grows willingly on any surface, so it is ideal for decorating stones and tree roots or concealing installations in the aquarium. Attach the plant with a piece of fishing line until it has gained a hold on the bottom. If its growth becomes too luxuriant, it can be pruned with scissors. In breeding aquariums Taxiphyllum barbieri is a wonderful hiding place for the young fish.

Vesicularia dubyana (Christmas Tree Moss)

A special moss originally seen in Japanese aquariums and known as “Amazonia Willow Moss”. Also called “Christmas tree moss”, because of its side branch structure which distinguishes it from ordinary Vesicularia dubyana and looks like fir tree branches. It is more demanding than ordinary Java moss and grows more slowly. It attaches readily to roots and stones, and as it spreads in the water it needs pruning to keep its shape attractive. See also Taxiphyllum barbieri.

Zephyranthes candida (Water Onion – Dwarf)

Long strap-shaped leaves. Similar in appearance to a small green garden onion or chives.