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Aquarium Plants

Hygrophila pinnatifida - a plant with a unique leaf shape

Hygrophila pinnatifida - a plant with a unique leaf shape

Hygrophila pinnatifida is an allrounder plant with a unique leaf shape originating from the Western Ghats in India. It has been sitting on the sales shelves for decades, and this plant doesn’t seem remarkable initially. Let’s get this clarified; it is outstanding! Many aquascapers love to use Hygrophila pinnatifida for their planted tanks, whether in soil or as an epiphyte plant on hardscape elements. If you haven’t kept this fascinating plant in your aquarium yet, you probably will after reading this article.

Hygrophila pinnatifida tissue plant


Shape and coloration

Hygrophila pinnatifida has solid reddish stems and leaves with lobed margins, which can have various colorations. The coloration it shows depends on external factors like lighting or fertilization. The color spectrum of the fern-like leaves can include greenish, brownish, yellowish, and reddish tones for its upper side. At the same time, the lower leaf side has a burgundy tone, which makes Hygrophila pinnatifida even more adorable.

Hygrophila pinnatifida

Growth - Planting, trimming, and propagation

There are two common possibilities for how to plant Hygrophila pinnatifida in an aquarium. Either plant its stems in a substrate to develop a bushy midground plant look or attach it like an epiphyte on wood or stone using superglue or thread. Only a few stem plants in the hobby show such flexibility regarding their site. Hygrophila pinnatifida will continuously grow towards the water surface or the lighting. Regular trimming of vertical shoots becomes necessary if you want to maintain it compact and horizontal in growth. This plant has a moderate growth rate but will grow faster, giving it a rich nutrient supply. We highly recommend regular pruning if you want creeping growth or keeping it in its initial place. Propagation is straightforward; the runners can be cut with scissors between the internodes and replanted in another spot. Lateral runners are already rooted and, therefore, better for propagation than vertical cuttings.

Hygrophila pinnatifida

Nutrition – fertilizing, lighting, and CO2

Most aquatic plant nurseries categorize Hygrophila pinnatifida either as an easy or medium plant to keep. We can use it well, even in low-tech aquariums. Still, it will need high-quality equipment and well-balanced fertilization for its most incredible look. Adding a commercially available CO2 system, a powerful lighting unit (especially for better coloration), and appropriate fertilization to your setup will lift the plant growth to its “peak performance.” In addition, the plant can show a more intense reddish coloration by limiting its nitrate (NO3) supply (below 10 ppm). Hygrophila pinnatifida tolerates lean dosing, but the nutrition shouldn’t be at rock bottom. Otherwise, the plant probably stunts. Also, keep an eye on the potassium (K) level and keep it between 5-10 ppm. Suppose a potassium deficiency if the plant shows yellow edges along the pinholes or tiny holes in the older leaves. Monitoring the water values with appropriate water tests is advisable.

Hygrophila pinnatifida

Stunning look in the layout

Many aquascapers use Hygrophila pinnatifida as an epiphyte, planting it in the upper part of their planted tank on driftwood or rocks. This kind of planting gets it closer to the light, which supports the red coloration. It also allows us to view the leaf’s beautiful reddish bottom side. Combining Hygrophila pinnatifida with moss creates a fantastic look, too. Just consider, that it can grow bushy and if planting it in higher regions, could cause shady areas beneath it. Keeping less light-demanding plants in such shaded regions is a good idea.

Hygrophila pinnatifida

Even though Hygrophila pinnatifida seems to become an epiphyte increasingly, it’s still in use as an everyday stem plant for an aquarium’s back- or mid-ground. A nicely grown bush in between an arrangement of hardscape can also give a great look to your planted aquarium.

The primarily bent leaves will wave slightly in case the plant gets touched by the filter’s outflowing stream. This action could quickly remind one of a palm tree and its leaves waving in a slight sea breeze.

Does Hygrophila pinnatifida fit in every aquarium?

Everything is possible. Even a nano aquarium can be a fitting home for this plant. To achieve a pleasant look in a nano aquarium, we recommend frequently trimming the runners and the bigger leaves.

Hygrophila pinnatifida

Plant Profile

  • Origin: India
  • Family: Acanthaceae
  • Type: Stem plant (runners)
  • Growth: Medium
  • Height: 15 cm - 40 cm
  • Width: 15 cm - 30 cm
  • Light demands: 0.50 (≥) Watt per liter
  • CO2 demands: 6-14 mg per liter

Emersed growth

Hygrophila pinnatifida can grow emersed like most other aquatic plants. So, it possibly breaks through the planted tanks’ water surface to develop some emersed growth. Its emersed leaves show a light green coloration and are broader and shorter as if growing submersed. When cultivated in daylight conditions, it will probably start blooming its little purple flowers in springtime. Its emersed characteristic gets the plant into the selection for paludarium or terrestrial builds like a Wabi-kusa.

Hygrophila pinnatifida from Tropica

Do you need help choosing the right plants for your next planted tank setup?

Our customer service would be delighted by helping to find suitable plants for you. Indeed, we will help you with other questions regarding aquariums and the beautiful world of aquascaping, too!

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