Brazilian Micro Sword Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation

Pygmy Chain Sword Care Guide Planting Growing, and Propagation

Today, we will be talking about the famous Brazilian micro sword (Lilaeopsis brasiliensis) or Micro sword grass which is one of the smallest and top carpet plants in the hobby.

This sword plant is prized for its small form, hardiness, tolerance, and great carpeting ability. Besides, the Brazilian micro sword is easy to grow and ideal for aquascaping the foregrounds. It forms a lush green carpet that covers the substrate densely and creates a visually appealing impression in planted tanks.

The thick carpet formed by the Brazilian micro sword provides shelter and foraging ground for fry and dwarf shrimp. In addition, it serves as a spawning ground for egg scatterers.

Keep reading for more information on the Brazilian micro sword—this includes its description, tank conditions, care, planting, propagation, compatible tankmates, and a buyer’s guide.

Quick Notes about Brazilian Micro Sword

Common Name Brazilian micro sword
Other Names Micro sword grass, Brazilian micro sword, Copragrass
Scientific Name Lilaeopsis brasiliensis
Tank Size (optimal) 10 gallons (~40 liters)
Difficulty Easy – Medium
Lighting Moderate to high lighting
Optimal pH 6.0 – 8.0
Water hardness    Soft to moderately hard water.
Temperature 64 to 77 (18 – 25 C)
Substrate Needed (nutrient-rich)
Growth Rate Slow
Placement in Tank Mostly foreground / midground
Leave size up to 7cm (about 3 inches)
Fertilizer 
Recommended
CO2 Recommended
Propagation by producing stolons/runners

Origin of Brazilian Micro Sword

The Brazilian micro sword is a popular plant species from South America. This carpet plant belongs to Apiaceae; the 16th largest family of flowering plants with more than 3,700 identified species.

The plant was formerly classified under the genus Crantzia, but later moved to the genus Lilaeopsis by J.M. Affolter in 1985.

The genus contains 7 species: Lilaeopsis brasiliensis, Lilaeopsis carolinensis, Lilaeopsis chinensis, Lilaeopsis masonii, Lilaeopsis novae-zelandiae, Lilaeopsis occidentalis, and Lilaeopsis schaffneriana which are all similar in morphology, thereby making the identification difficult.

Common names: Micro sword grass, Brazilian micro sword, Copragrass.

The binomial name of the Brazilian micro sword was coined from the words Lilaeopsis which means charming the eye and brasiliensis which hints at its place of origin (Brazil).

Habitat of Brazilian Micro Sword

Brazilian micro sword is indigenous to South America— Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina where it inhabits aquatic bodies such as wetlands, ditches, swamps, and streams.

It occurs naturally as a submersed plant as well as emersed in its habitats; this implies that it can either grow fully underwater or on the banks of water bodies.

Description of Brazilian Micro Sword

Pygmy Chain Sword Care Guide Planting Growing, and PropagationThe Brazilian micro sword (Lilaeopsis brasiliensis) has a grasslike appearance. Each plant consists of one – three green, sword-like leaves. These leaves are flat, narrow at the base, and slightly wider at the midsection with pointed tips.

Petioles are absent in this plant.

The plant features rhizomes that send out multiple shoots and roots from its nodes. Also present are the tiny, white roots which help anchor the plant firmly to the aquarium substrate.

The species Lilaeopsis brasiliensis is often considered as a subspecies of the Lilaeopsis nova-zelandiae, but there isn’t enough proof to back this assertion.

The height of the Brazilian micro sword ranges from 4 – 7 cm (2 – 3 inches), however, this is subject to variation depending on the lighting intensity, CO2 and nutrient availability.

Tank Requirements and Water Parameters

Tank size:

The recommended tank size for growing the Brazilian micro sword is a minimum of 10 gallons (~40 L). Due to its low form and excellent carpeting ability, the plant can also be used to aquascape tanks as little as 5 gallons (20 liters).

You can read more about “Top 7 Nano Aquarium Plants” here.

Water type, Temperature, Hardness, and pH:

Temperature: The ideal temperature for this plant species is between the range of 18 – 25 °C (64 – 77 °F). The plant is capable of withstanding slightly higher temperatures for brief periods.

pH: The ideal pH for the Brazilian micro sword is between the values 6.0 – 8.0. Even though, the plant is pretty hardy, nonetheless, be sure to monitor the pH level regularly with an accurate pH testing kit.

Hardness: The plant can thrive in soft – hard water comfortably, from 0 °dGH to as high as 30 °dGH. Also, the Brazilian micro sword can tolerate slightly brackish waters.

Lighting:

The Brazilian micro sword can grow in all lighting conditions. However, it forms beautiful lawns under very intensive light conditions.

Therefore, for optimal growth, the plant requires moderate – high light intensity to put out numerous shoots, regardless, the plant will survive in all lighting conditions.

It is important that you provide T5/ T8 fluorescent tubes or LED lighting for this purpose. Keep the tank well-lit on a daily basis, and maintain a photoperiod of about 10-12 hours.

Read more about it in my article “Advanced Guide to Planted Tank Lighting”.

Substrate:

Now, for the substrate requirement, Brazilian micro sword appreciates a nutrient-rich substrate, preferably iron-rich clay or aquarium soil. This gives the plant a suitable medium to attach its fine, delicate roots, and provides essential nutrients for its growth.

Other kinds of aquarium substrate may as well be utilized but you will achieve the best results using the recommended substrate type.

Some recommended soil substrates for this plant include (links to check the price on Amazon):

Read more about it in my article “Top 5 Substrates For Planted Aquariums”. 

Co2 and Fertilization:

It is possible to grow Brazilian micro sword even without CO2. The only problem is that this plant finds it difficult to grow rapidly without CO2 supply, and the likely outcome would be a moderately growing, sparse carpet.

So, for a luxuriant carpet, essentially, CO2 is a huge requirement for this plant species.

CO2 helps to speed up the growth of the shoots and aids in attaining a dense and compact form. In addition, CO2 injection will help the plants stay healthy and more vibrant.

Another vital requirement is fertilization, you should supply plant fertilizers rich in macronutrients and micronutrients regularly to keep the plant in good shape always.

Important: If you keep shrimp in the tank with the Brazilian micro sword, I would highly recommend reading my articles:
CO2 in a Planted Tank Guide
CO2 in a Shrimp Tank

How Copper Affects Dwarf Shrimp
Shrimp Safe Plant Fertilizers
The point is that a high level of CO2 and Copper (most fertilizers contain copper) is extremely dangerous to the shrimp.

Care and Maintenance of Brazilian Micro Sword

Although the Micro sword grass is relatively undemanding, it is not the easiest carpet plant to maintain in the aquarium. This plant will struggle in a low-tech tank due to its strong need for CO2 supplementation.

So make sure to provide an adequate supply of CO2. This can be through CO2 canister or liquid carbon of which the Seachem Flourish Excel Bioavailable Carbon (link to Amazon) is a good example, and this should be dosed regularly to ensure that the tank water gets sufficient amounts of carbon which will be tapped through the plant’s leaves.

Furthermore, dose fertilizers rich in macronutrients (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium) and micronutrients (Iron, Manganese, Boron, etc.) to encourage optimal growth and development of the plant.

You can also read “How to Spot Nutrient Deficiencies in Aquatic Plants”.

Lighting is another major factor that determines how this plant will turn out. So try to provide moderate-high lighting, and avoid placing the plants in shaded areas during planting— this is to ensure it gets enough light that will enable it to achieve the much-desired carpeting effect.

During a routine cleaning, make sure to stir the carpet gently to release debris, food particles, and detached stems to the surface, these can be siphoned afterward.

In addition, prune the decaying/dead shoots and the carpet, in general, to keep it low, compact, and attractive.

Lastly, make sure to perform regular partial water changes to maintain good water quality, and ensure that the water parameters are kept within the proper ranges.

Planting and Propagation of Brazilian Micro Sword        

To attain a nice and aesthetically pleasing carpet, you need to follow a specific approach to planting. Avoid planting the stems in one large clump, instead, divide the bunch into smaller clumps, and place them a few centimeters apart from each other to achieve a good spread in the foregrounds.

Additionally, you should not plant the clumps very deep into the substrate, rather maintain a depth of about ½ inch (1 – 1.5 cm).

You can use a pair of tweezers (link to check the price on Amazon) to gently place the stems into the substrate to avoid damage.

The plants might detach from the substrate after planting, so make sure to always place them back in, and they will anchor firmly after some time.

The Brazilian micro sword propagates easily by producing stolons/runners that bear independent daughter plants, and these are capable of covering the aquarium substrate at a fast rate.

The numerous daughter plants can be cut off and replanted in the substrate, or allowed to run their course naturally without intervention.

Problems Associated With Brazilian Micro Sword

Emersed to submersed: A transition from emersed form to submersed form will trigger a melt of the green foliage, however, the plant will recover from this state when it settles fully in the aquarium. During this process, do endeavor to dose liquid fertilizers and provide ample lighting to help the plant survive.

Algae: Micro sword grass is susceptible to algal growth, especially if the light is excessive and nutrients are plentiful.

These factors encourage the build-up of algae on the plant’s leaves, thereby leaving the carpet completely messy. You can actually introduce tank cleaners like Amano shrimp, Red Cherry shrimp, Nerite snails, etc. to maneuver through the lawn and polish off the algae films.

Benefits of Pygmy Chain Sword

Aquascape: It is an excellent ground-cover plant. The Brazilian micro sword is one of the great choices for aquascapes. It forms a dense and lush green carpet that complements the aesthetics of an aquarium.

Removal of excess nutrients: Lilaeopsis brasiliensis has heavy metal absorption properties. It is helpful in absorbing harmful chemicals. According to one of the experiments, this plant absorbs almost 90% of the copper and lead in two days!

Shelter: The lush green carpet provides shelter for bottom-dwelling fish, fry, and shrimp. This plant is a great spawning medium for egg scatterers to lay their eggs.

Foraging place: Brazilian micro sword also serves as a foraging ground for inverts— shrimp and snails. This plant will be an additional place for the growth of biofilm, which is an ideal first food for newly hatched fry and shrimplets.

Oxygenation: The plant helps in oxygenating and filtering the aquarium water by means of photosynthesis.

Prevents gas pockets: Brazilian micro sword has a well-developed root system that will help to break up anaerobic pockets in the substrate.
Note: Hydrogen sulfide pockets (H2S, the gas smells like rotten eggs) can be really dangerous to your fish or shrimp. 

Brazilian Micro Sword and Compatible Tankmates

The Brazilian micro sword should be kept with docile freshwater fish and inverts. It’s important to have species that will rummage for tiny food particles, debris, and algae films present on the thick carpet.

Fish:

The plant is best kept with small, peaceful community fish such as Bleeding heart Tetra, Neon Tetra, Mollies, Killifish, Swordtails, White Mountain Minnows, Zebra Danio, Cherry Barb, Sunburst Platy, Endlers, Mollies, Otocinclus CatfishPygmy Cory Catfish,

Shrimp:

Inverts are not left out. Considering the fact that Brazilian micro sword can tolerate a wide range of pH, it is possible to keep it with any dwarf shrimp species.

Freshwater snails:

Once again, ornamental snails should not be kept in a tank with low PH for a long time. It will negatively affect their shell. However, if your pH is close to 7.0, it is possible to keep almost any snail or dwarf shrimp you like. For example, Japanese trapdoor snailsRamshorn snailsNerite snailsMalaysian Trumpet snailsBlack Devil Snails, Asolene spixi, Rabbit Snails, etc.).

Avoid or Be Careful

Considering its very fast growth, Brazilian micro sword can also be kept with plant-nipping fish species, but not the boisterous ones that may attack their huge root network. However avoid species that may find the plant too palatable, e.g. like Silver dollars, Bueno Aires tetras, Koi fish, Goldfish, Oscars, Rainbow, Jack Dempsey, Clown loaches, African Cichlids. These species can really cause problems in the planted tanks.

Brazilian micro sword and most types of crayfish or freshwater crabs are not a good combination as well. These animals will cut, eat, and uproot everything in the tank. So, keep it in mind.

Buying Brazilian Micro Sword

This beautiful carpeting plant is quite affordable; with a pot retailing for about $5 – $10 in local fish stores.

During purchase, you need to be on the lookout for healthy specimens because those have higher chances of thriving in your aquarium.

You can identify healthy plants by glancing at their shoots. It should possess vibrant light green leaves, with the absence of rips, algae, dead tips, and discoloration. Also, the roots should be intact and abundant to enable the plant to anchor well and take-off nicely in fish tanks.

Quarantine Pygmy Chain Sword

Do not forget to quarantine Brazilian micro sword before putting it into your aquarium!

  • The plant can have parasites, pests like snails, or even predators (dragonfly, damsefly nymphs, etc.).
  • It could also be treated with chemicals (pesticide) to remove parasites, snails, etc. However, these chemicals are extremely poisonous to fish, shrimp, and other invertebrates.

To find out more, read my articles:  

How to Remove Snails from a Shrimp Tank.
How to Quarantine and Disinfect Aquarium Plants.
Pesticides in Shrimp Tanks. Plants Quarantine.

In Conclusion

It would really be a great idea to have an adaptable and prolific carpet plant in the foreground of your freshwater planted tank, and that’s why you should consider obtaining and planting the Brazilian micro sword.

The plant will help to create an illusion of greater tank size with its delicate, cushion forming, and small leaves features. It is generally slow-growing in an aquarium as it requires plenty of lighting, large nutrient levels, fine substrate material, and optimal CO2 levels.

This carpet plant is a good substitute for Dwarf Hairgrass and Dwarf Sagittaria since they are all small, easy to grow, and capable of adorning the aquarium beautifully with a compact, vivid green carpet when fully grown.

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