Eriocaulon Cinereum Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation

Eriocaulon cinereum Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation profile

Despite its small size, Eriocaulon cinereum is an incredibly unusual aquarium plant. It looks amazing when planted both as a single specimen and in groups of 3-5 plants.

Unfortunately, in aquarium conditions, Eriocaulon cinereumis is quite challenging to keep. This is because, in its natural habitat, this species is a marsh plant. Therefore, it has high requirements for lighting, CO2 supplementation, and a nutrient-rich substrate.

So, if you have recently stumbled upon pictures of this uniquely shaped plant and decided to buy it, I strongly recommend reading this article. It is very possible that you will reconsider this idea!

In this article, I will describe everything known about Eriocaulon cinereum and provide practical recommendations that can help in the care and cultivation of this plant.

Interesting fact: Eriocaulon cinereum is often used as traditional medicine by the local community in Indonesia for fever, boosts the immune system, and treats tumor cells.

Quick Notes about Eriocaulon Cinereum

Common Name Eriocaulon cinereum
Other Names Gong grass, Pipe worts, Water Pipewort, Ashy pipe worts, BucheJha, or Eriocinereum
Scientific Name
Eriocaulon cinereum
Difficulty Difficult
Lighting Moderate to High
Optimal pH 5.5 – 7.0
Optimal GH 2 – 8
Optimal Temperature 68 – 82°F (20 – 28°C)
Substrate nutrient-rich
Can Be Grown Emersed
Growth Rate Slow
Placement in Tank
Aquarium size 4 – 6 inches (10 – 15 cm)
CO2 Needed
Propagation Cuttings and seeds
Color Green

Etymology of Eriocaulon Cinereum

The genus name “Eriocaulon” is derived from two Greek words “Erios” meaning “Woolly or hairy” and “Kaulon” meaning “stem”. It indicates its wetland habitat preference.

Basically, its name refers to the appearance of the plant’s flower stalk, which may have fine, hair-like structures.

The species name “Cinereum” is of Latin origin and means “Ash-colored”. It also refers to the color of the flower.

Distribution of Eriocaulon Cinereum

Eriocaulon cinereum Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation - destributionEriocaulon cinereum has a wide distribution in South America, Africa, and parts of Southeast Asia.

This species is broadly distributed in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Pilipinas, Kambodiya, India, Sri Lanka, from Yunnan and Zhejiang Provinces in China, Brazil (Serra dos Carajás, Pará state), Venezuela, Burkina Faso, Laos, Ryukyu Islands, State of Western Australia, Hapon, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Guinea, Kamerun, Zambiya, Anggola, Miyanmar, Namibya, Senegal, Niger, Nepal, Ghana, and Osbekistan.

Note: According to the study, this species is divided into two lineages (from Africa and Asia) which have genetic variation.

Habitat of Eriocaulon Cinereum

Eriocaulon cinereum Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation - in natureEriocaulon cinereum thrives in shallow and marshy areas and rice fields. It is amphibious, living in temporarily flooded locations. The species occurs in both high and low-altitude areas.

Note: For example, in Nepal, within its native habitat, this plant is regarded as a weed and is second (12%) in prevalence among weed species, with Rotala indica taking the lead (18%).

Description of Eriocaulon Cinereum

Eriocaulon cinereum Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation - root systemWith its needle-like leaves extending in all directions, Eriocaulon cinereum strongly resembles sea urchins. It makes an impressive foreground plant in the aquarium.

Distinguishing characteristics:

  • Growth habit. This is a freshwater, erect, annual, herbaceous plant.
  • Size. Eriocaulon cinereum is a small plant, typically reaching 3 – 4 inches (8 – 10 cm) high and 4 – 6 inches (10 – 15 cm) wide.
  • StructureThis is a rosette plant. Its leaves are arranged in a circular or radiating pattern.
  • Leaves. It has very narrow (0.08 – 0.1 inches or 2 – 3 mm), long (4 – 6 inches or 10 – 15 cm) and membranaceous leaves with pointed tips.
  • Flower stalks. During flowering, Eriocaulon cinereum develops long stalks that produce flowers at their tips. The length of these stems can reach 10 – 12 inches (25 – 30 cm). In nature, this allows the plant to reach the water’s surface, pollinate, and disperse the seeds.
  • Flowers. This species has two types of flowers: male and female. They are unisexual and appear on the same plant (monoecious). Flowers are usually pale whitish in color. Female flowers have elongated and narrow petals. Males’ petals are equal and have sepals fused into a spathe-like structure.
  • Roots. Eriocaulon cinereum develops a very powerful root system. It can be up to 2 time longer than the foliage.
  • Emergent growth. This species can grow partially above the water surface. It is not recommended to keep it completely out of the water for long periods (weeks).
  • Color. Green.

For an even more in-depth and scientific description of Eriocaulon cinereum, you can find it in this research study.

Tank Requirements and Water Parameters

Eriocaulon cinereum is quite finicky and has specific requirements for water conditions, lighting, and nutrients. Even when kept in paludariums, the plant’s rosette should always remain submerged in water.

Tank size:

Due to its small size and slow growth rate, Eriocaulon cinereum can be easily put in nano aquariums.

At the same time, in my opinion, it will not be a good idea to keep this plant in very small aquariums.

  1. Due to its structure, this plant does not like to be densely planted.  
  2. In small aquariums, it is more difficult to maintain water parameters at a stable level, especially if you lack experience.

Therefore, I would start with a 10-gallon (40 liters) tank.

Water type, Temperature, Hardness, and pH:

Temperature: Eriocaulon cinereum does best in warm tropical temperatures from 68 – 82°F (20 – 28°C). This plant does not tolerate cold water well.

pH: This plant prefers a slightly acidic pH in the range of 5.5 – 7.0. It was noticed that too alkaline water negatively affects the plant.

Hardness: It can grow in soft and medium water GH 2 – 8 and KH 1 – 4.

Keep in mind that even if your GH is around 8 and your KH is 4, these values are already considered borderline. Еhere is a high chance that Eriocaulon cinereum may react negatively.


Eriocaulon cinereum requires at least medium-high lighting levels (30–50 PAR or 70–100 Lumens). Additionally, maintain a standard photoperiod of 10-12 hours daily. 

Related article:


This plant can tolerate moderate water movement, but avoid strong currents. In its natural habitat, it thrives in stagnant waters.


Eriocaulon cinereum is a heavy root feeder! It needs nutrient-rich substrate. Keeping it in sand or gravel substrate is absolutely not possible.

Due to its massive root system, the substrate depth should be at least 3 inches (7 – 8 cm).

Related article:

CO2 and Fertilization:

CO2: CO2 supplementation is highly recommended. In aquariums, it is very difficult to grow this plant without CO2.

Important: Additionally, it is important to remember that high-light demanding plants must be balanced in terms of CO2, and nutrients. It is never recommended to use strong lighting without CO2 injections, in simple words, you will have algae problems. A lot!

Fertilization: Eriocaulon cinereum has a large root system. Therefore, it is recommended to add root tabs periodically. The plant needs nitrates от 10-20 mg/l and phosphates 1-2 mg/l.

Important: If you plan to add this plant to a shrimp tank or high-tech planted tank with CO2 and regular fertilization, I would highly recommend reading my articles:

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 Eriocaulon Cinereum

This plant is not for beginners. Even experienced aquarists who are skilled at creating lush underwater landscapes may find maintaining it quite challenging.

  • Eriocaulon cinereum is small and ideal for the foreground.
  • It grows very slowly. It may take up to 4-6 months to reach 3-4 inches (8 – 10 cm), provided it’s been properly cared for.
  • This plant doesn’t tolerate shading at all. Therefore, when planting it, make sure its neighbors don’t overshadow it.
  • Keep in mind that the depth of the tank is also important since it also influences the light perception. So, even if you have strong lighting, in a deep tank, Eriocaulon cinereum may still not receive enough light.
  • It is essential to monitor water parameters, CO2 injection, and regular fertilization. Macro and micronutrients should be added simultaneously.
  • In its natural habitat, this is an annual plant, so even under ideal conditions, its lifespan is short, and you’ll need to propagate it.

Planting Eriocaulon Cinereum

The roots should be buried in the substrate. Ensure that the roots are adequately covered to promote stability and nutrient absorption.

Depth: Depending on the size of the plant, the recommended planting depth for Eriocaulon cinereum is typically about 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters) deep in the substrate. It will be enough to be securely anchored in the substrate.

Spacing: To create a beautiful aquascape, it will be essential to space the plants correctly. Place them at least 3 – 4 inches (7 – 10 cm) apart from each other to achieve a good spread.

Eriocaulon cinereum Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation - emersed growthTip: Eriocaulon cinereum is usually grown in greenhouses. Like with many plants, it may melt away once submerged. When this happens, decaying leaves can hinder the growth of new shoots, potentially leading to the demise of the plant.

To prevent these issues, place the plants sideways on the substrate, securing them with a stone or staple. They quickly turn upward, and the old stems won’t cause any issues.

Propagation of Eriocaulon Cinereum

This plant can be propagated in two ways:

  1. through cuttings (division)
  2. seeds

Сuttings (Division)

This is the most common method in aquarium keeping.

  1. The plant must be carefully removed from the substrate.
  2. Divided it into 2-3 parts by the rosette. Use a sharp knife or razor blade for this procedure. Be careful, don’t cut yourself.
  3. After separation, remove unhealthy leaves, and cut about 1/2 to 1/3 of the roots if you have problems with planting them (roots can be very long).
  4. Plant it in a new location.

Problems.  Mother and daughter shoots may die after such division. Damaging the plant can lead to its demise.

Another variation of this technique is dividing a mature plant in half. Under favorable conditions, a complete bush can grow from one-half. As the plant grows, if viewed from above, you can see how daughter shoots begin to form from the mother plant.

Remove the daughter plants that will form just beneath. This is how they propagate it in the wild.

Don’t split the plant just for the sake of wanting more, only split if you see more than one plant in a cluster, and then the plant has to be ready.

Therefore, it will be less risky to only divide the plant if there are multiple plants in a cluster. Avoid splitting it solely for the purpose of increasing the quantity.


Once the flower stacks reach the water surface, the flowers will produce viable seeds.

This is a more complex method and requires a lot of time and effort. Additionally, this method cannot guarantee any results.

  1. Prepare a transparent plastic container.
  2. Add a 1-inch (2.5 cm) layer of substrate.
  3. Add water along the edge.
  4. Scatter the seeds randomly.
  5. After 2-3 weeks you will see the growth.
  6. When the plants have 5-6 small leaves, it is ready to be planted underwater.

Problems. Even if you try to buy seeds of Eriocaulon cinereum online, which is also quite challenging as very few sellers offer them, you might receive counterfeit or poor-quality seeds. Due to their tiny size, you’ll never be able to verify their quality.

That is why this method is not popular among aquarists.

Uncommon – Adventitious Plantlet Formation

Actually, there is a third method – when the daughter plant grows directly from the flower.

I’ve read a lot of scientific literature and many studies about Eriocaulon cinereum, but nowhere was this method even mentioned.

Note: It’s quite possible that we need more research on this plant.

So, a Russian aquarist filmed how a daughter plant developed from the flower stalk and eventually grew roots, separating from the mother plant.

Trimming Flower Stalks in Eriocaulon Cinereum

Eriocaulon cinereum Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation flower stalksIf you decide to grow this plant, you will inevitably get the development of flower stalks. Unfortunately, this indicates that the plant is ready for natural propagation (by seeds), and after it releases seeds, it will die because it expends all its energy during this process.

To avoid this and prolong its life, aquarists either cut off the flower stalks as soon as they begin to form or gently pull them out with their fingers.

I can tell you upfront that, unfortunately, both methods do not work.

When Eriocaulon cinereum initiates the flowering process, we cannot stop it. It will keep sending more and more flower stalks and waste energy.

Sure, it may survive for an additional 1-3 months, but it will wilt away with a 99% probability.

Note: Sometimes, though not always, you will notice the formation of daughter plants in the areas around the flower stalks. They tend to emerge as small rosettes, extending in various directions. This is a good moment to divide it into multiple plants.

Problems Associated With Growing Eriocaulon Cinereum

Ugly flower stalks. The flower stalks are tall, thin, and less aesthetically pleasing compared to the rest of the plant. When flowering begins, especially if you don’t remove the flower stalks, the plant undergoes a significant visual deterioration. This can be a concern for aquarists aiming for an attractive aquascape.

Solution: Unfortunately, there is no long-term solution for this issue. As mentioned earlier in the article, some aquarists remove the flower stalks, but new ones will grow in their place.

Eriocaulon cinereum Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation - deteriorationShort lifespan. This problem is also related to the flower stalks because, once the plant initiates the preparation for flowering, it directs all its energy and resources exclusively towards this goal. In nature, this is an absolutely normal process as it allows Eriocaulon cinereum to reproduce successfully and spread quickly. However, in an aquarium, constant monitoring of this plant can become problematic as it will need to be relocated/removed.

Solution: None. This is an annual plant.

Relocation. If you decide to relocate/propagate the old Eriocaulon cinereum, it can turn into a real problem as well. This plant forms large MASSIVE roots that can uproot a huge part of your tank. The length of their roots can be 2 times larger than the plant itself.

Solution: The only thing I can think of is to be careful and take this plant out very slowly during vac cleaning.

Algae. This plant is a slow grower, even under favorable conditions. It makes this plant susceptible to algal growth, especially if the light is excessive and nutrients are plentiful.

Solution: Algae can be curbed by making some adjustments to the lighting intensity, regular water changes, and the introduction of algae-eaters into the tank.

Related articles:

Demanding. This plant is not easy to grow. Eriocaulon cinereum is very demanding in terms of lighting, nutrients, and CO2.

Solution: Provide optimal conditions.

Benefits of Eriocaulon Cinereum

Aquascape: In aquariums, Eriocaulon cinereum is often used to visually define the boundaries between the foreground and midground.

Foraging place: The structure of the plan acts like a buffet of biofilm, it also catches all the free-floating particles. Therefore, it creates a natural feeding ground for the shrimp. They will be constantly grazing on it.

Prevents gas pockets: This plant 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. 

In Conclusion

Eriocaulon cinereum is a truly amazing plant. It can enhance the aesthetics of any aquascape. 

However, there are three main issues that can deter aquarists from using this plant in their aquariums. Firstly, it can quickly perish under unfavorable conditions. Secondly, the growth and propagation process itself can be challenging. Thirdly, the plant undergoes significant visual changes during flowering.

For these reasons, I would recommend carefully considering these drawbacks when choosing Eriocaulon cinereum for your aquarium.


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