Hygrophila Polysperma Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation

Hygrophila Polysperma Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation

Hygrophila polysperma, commonly known as Indian waterweed, is an aquarium plant that can be a good choice for beginner aquarium enthusiasts. This is because it is a pretty hardy and commonly available plant for sale.

Hygrophila polysperma is prized for its beauty, color changes depending on the light, rapid growth, and relative hardiness.

Keep reading for more information on Hygrophila polysperma; I will be talking about its preferred water conditions, care, and how to cultivate it in a home aquarium.

Important: Hygrophila polysperma is a prohibited species in Florida by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council as one of the most invasive non-indigenous aquatic plants. By forming dense submerged mats, these plants impede water flow, clog irrigation pumps, and displace native vegetation.

Quick Notes about Hygrophila Polysperma

Common Name Dwarf hygrophila
Other Names Dwarf hygro, Miramar weed, Indian weed, East Indian hygrophila, Indian swampweed
Scientific Name
Hygrophila polysperma
Difficulty Moderate
Lighting Moderate to High
Optimal pH 5.0 – 7.0
Optimal GH 2 – 15
Optimal Temperature 71 – 82°F (22 – 28°C)
Substrate Nutrient-rich
Can Be Grown Emersed
Yes
Growth Rate Fast
Placement in Tank
Midground and background
Aquarium size 10 – 20 inches (25 – 50 cm)
Fertilizers
Needed
CO2 Needed
Propagation By cuttings
Color
Green to reddish

Interesting fact: Hygrophilapolyspermais listed as a medicinal plant in the Indian states of West Bengal and Karnataka. It is utilized for hemiplegia, stiff-neck, facial paralysis, and headache.

Etymology of Hygrophila Polysperma

The genus name “Hygrophila” is derived from the Greek words “Hygros”, meaning “Moist,” and “Philos,” meaning “Loving”.

The species name “Polysperma” is also of Greek origin, meaning “Many seed.” It indicates that the plant is known for producing many seeds.

Distribution of Hygrophila Polysperma

Hygrophila Polysperma Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation - destributionDwarf hygrophila is native to tropical and subtropical regions of India and Malaysiaаrom where it gradually spread to countries such as Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

In 1945, it was introduced as Eastern Ludwiga in the USA states of Texas, Florida, and Virginia. Over time, it has successfully adapted and naturalized in Florida and Texas; establishing itself in Kentucky and lakes like Virginia; present in northern Mexico.

Nowadays, Hygrophila polysperma is also present in thermally heated waters (which are uncharacteristic of natural conditions) in Austria, Germany, Hungary, and Poland.

Habitat of Hygrophila Polysperma

This plant grows emersed or submersed in stagnant (ponds, lakes, marshes, and rice fields), slow and fast-moving warm waters, or as a terrestrial plant in saturated soils.

It usually grows at a depth varying from 1 – 5ft (0.3 – 1.5 m).

Description of Hygrophila Polysperma

With its bushy foliage, Hygrophila polysperma makes an impressive background plant in the aquarium.

Hygrophila Polysperma Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation profileDistinguishing characteristics:

  • Growth habit. This is an herbaceous rhizomatous perennial plant and rooted aquatic plant.
  • Growth form. Dwarf hygrophila can be grown emersed (in paludarium) or fully submersed (in aquariums). In nature, it usually grows waterlogged.
  • Size. In aquariums, Hygrophila polysperma usually grows up to 10 – 20 inches (25 – 50+ cm) in height. In its natural habitat, the stems reach lengths of up to 6 ft (2 m).
  • Stem. This species has a creeping stem that can be ascending or erect, measuring 0.059 to 0.087 inches (1.5–2.2 mm) in diameter. It is often prostrate, 4-angled, and slightly swollen above the nodes.
  • Leaves are hairless, opposite, and exhibit variability in size. The submerged leaves are larger than the emerged leaves.

For example, submerged leaves are long and narrow with a round or slightly pointed tip, and measure 0.3 – 0.5 inches (8–13 mm) wide and 1 – 1.8 inches (25 – 48 mm) long. Emergent leaves are oblong to elliptical with a round tip, and measure 0.2 – 0.4 inches (5–10 mm) wide and 0.5 – 1.7 inches (12 – 45 mm) long.

  • Color. The color is green. However, when exposed to strong lighting it can get yellowish or pink tint. The color is the most intense at the back of the leaf blade.
  • Flower. Flowers are white with a blue tinge, around 0.2 inches (5 mm) in length. The fruit is like a small capsule, shaped like a thin oval, measuring 5.5-8 mm. It contains 20-30 seeds, each about 1 × 0.5 mm in size.
  • Roots. The root system is well-developed. This plant produces adventitious roots from stem nodes.

Tank Requirements and Water Parameters

Hygrophila polysperma is considered invasive in some states because it is capable of tolerating a wide range of water parameters Hygrophila polysperma.

Tank Size:

Due to its size and fast growth rate, Dwarf hygrophila can be used as a background or mid-ground plant. Thus, a tank size of 20 gallons (80 liters) or larger is recommended.

However, as long as its growth is controlled through regular pruning, it can be kept in smaller aquariums, such as 10 gallons (40 liters).

Water type, Temperature, Hardness, and pH:

Temperature: According to the study, Hygrophila polysperma grows best at temperatures between 71 – 82°F (22 – 28°C), with a minimum temperature of 39°F (4°C). In Virginia, it was documented to tolerate even freezing temperatures for brief periods.

Note: However, in New Zealand, it did not survive during the winter even without freezing water temperatures.

pH: In its natural habitat, This plant prefers and grows best at water pH in the range of 6.0 – 7.0. However, experiments showed that it is also capable of tolerating pH of 4.0–10.0 After 3 weeks, all plants in the experiment showed 100% survival at all pH levels. 

Hardness: It can grow in soft and hard water GH 2 – 15. However, it was also noticed that in soft waters it grows faster.

Lighting:

Hygrophila Polysperma Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation pink
Hygrophila Polysperma var. Rosanervig

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

This is a very light-demanding plant. Strong lighting will provide the best growth. In addition, the top leaves will turn pinkish or reddish under sufficient bright light.

It does not tolerate long-term shading well. With insufficient lighting, the stem elongates, becomes leggy, and density decreases.

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Flow:

No special requirements. This plant does well in still or strong currents.

Substrate:

Hygrophila polysperma thrives in nutrient-rich substrates. This is a very heavy-root feeder plant.

The substrate should have a minimum depth of about 1 – 2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm). This gives the plant a suitable medium to attach and provides essential nutrients for its growth.

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

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CO2 and fertilization:

CO2: Technically, it is possible to grow Hygrophila polysperma without CO2. The only problem is that its growth tends to be way slower, less bushy, and lacks a red tint.

In addition, under high light, your tank must be balanced in terms of CO2 and nutrients. Otherwise, it will be covered with algae in no time.

Therefore, I strongly believe that we need to use liquid carbon or (preferably) a pressurized CO2 system (20-30mg/l) to supply adequate doses of CO2 for the plants.

Fertilization: Although this plant is a versatile feeder it still absorbs most of its nutrients through roots (substrate).

Note: According to the study, in its natural habitat, the water is characterized by a particularly high concentration of phosphates and ammonia-nitrogen in the substrate.

Therefore, it is recommended to regular dose of liquid plant fertilizers (2-3 times a week) and root tabs (periodically). Macro and micronutrients will help to sustain healthy growth and ensure that the plants maintain the best coloration.

Note: If you keep shrimp in the tank with Hygrophila polysperma, 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 Hygrophila Polysperma

In aquariums, this plant is commonly used as a classic stem plant, planted in dense groups along the sides and as a background plant due to its larger size.

Under optimal conditions, Hygrophila polysperma will exhibit a fast growth rate. Once established, it may take only a few weeks before it will be ready for propagation and/or trimming.

Note: The plant is invasive in nature because it grows rapidly, multiplying its population tenfold in a year.

Do not allow the plant to reach the surface. You may get a big tangled mass.

Start trimming it when there are 4-6 (10-15 cm) inches to the surface of the water. You can safely shorten it by half. Do not worry, it will grow back rather quickly. Regularly trim the plant to prevent overcrowding and promote bushier growth

Planting Hygrophila Polysperma

It is better to plant this plant with about 2 inches (5 cm) between each one and to make sure that it will not shade other plants.

You simply need to plant it deep enough in the substrate to keep it from floating up; there is no special method or trick involved in the planting process itself.

Tip: use a pair of tweezers (link to check the price on Amazon). 

Unlike some plants that can be left floating until their root system develops and they are ready to be planted in the substrate, it is not advisable to do so with Hygrophila polysperma.

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Propagation of Hygrophila Polysperma

Hygrophila polysperma can propagate by shoots growing directly from the leaf tips (under optimal conditions) and through vegetative propagation (main) specifically by cuttings. Sometimes, even detached leaves or their fragments are capable of rooting and developing into new plants.

Simply cut the upper portion of the stem with a pair of sharp scissors. The ideal size of these cuttings should be 4 inches (10 cm) long.

Afterward, make a hole in the substrate about 1 – 1.5 inches (3 – 4 cm), place the stems gently in the hole, and cover with the substrate.

In 7 – 10 days, the healthy stems will develop roots and grow into new plants.

Problems Associated With Hygrophila Polysperma

Fragile. The stems of hygrophila are brittle and fragment easily.

Solution: Be careful during trimming and handling the plant.

Ugly roots. This plant develops adventitious roots at the nodes along the stem. There are not many of them but I find them ugly anyway.

Solution: It is not possible to completely avoid them. Therefore, trim them.

Leggy. When the stem reaches the water surface, the plant often sheds leaves at the lower part. As a result, it looks like a palm tree with a bare stem and lush foliage.

Solution: Trim it or place it behind driftwood or rocks. This helps decorate the bare stem.

Fast growth/ OvergrowthUnder high lighting and CO2, Hygrophila polysperma can grow like a weed. It can fill up the tank within weeks. So, it will require a lot of clipping.

Solution: The plant will require regular stem trimmings to prevent it from overtaking the whole tank.

Relocation: This plant has a well-developed root system. Do not try to simply pull it out.

Solution: The only thing I can think of is to be extra careful with this plant.

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Quarantine Hygrophila Polysperma

Unless you are completely sure that Hygrophila polysperma is safe, for example, it was grown in sterile/laboratory conditions (in vitro) and the in vitro pot is not damaged or opened, do not forget to quarantine and disinfect it first to avoid the risk of contamination and poisoning.

DO NOT introduce a new plant to your tank right after you bought it.

  • The plant can have parasites, pests like snails, or even predators (dragonfly, damsefly nymphs, etc.).
  • It may already contain residues of chemicals (pesticides) to remove parasites, snails, etc. These chemicals are extremely poisonous to fish, shrimp, and other invertebrates.

To find out more, read my articles:  

In Conclusion

Hygrophila polysperma is an attractive and decorative aquarium plant. It is an excellent choice for creating a tropical atmosphere in the aquarium.

Although this plant is not for beginners, it is relatively easy to grow when its specific requirements are met.

Proper lighting, suitable temperature, and nutrient-rich substrate will ensure the healthy growth and beauty of this plant in the aquarium.

References:

  1. Karataş, Mehmet, Muhammad Aasim, Ayşegül Çınar, and Muhammet Dogan. “Adventitious shoot regeneration from leaf explant of dwarf hygro (Hygrophila polysperma (Roxb.) T. Anderson).” The Scientific World Journal 2013 (2013).
  2. Doyle, Robert D., Matthew D. Francis, and R. Michael Smart. “Interference competition between Ludwigia repens and Hygrophila polysperma: two morphologically similar aquatic plant species.” Aquatic Botany77, no. 3 (2003): 223-234.
  3. Gabka, M., and PAWEŁ M. Owsianny. “First records of the Hygrophila polysperma (Roxb.) T. Anderson (Acanthaceae) in Poland.” Roczniki Akademii Rolniczej w Poznaniu. Botanika-Steciana13 (2009).
  4. LA, ORGANISATION EUROPEENNE ET MEDITERRANEENNE POUR, and P. R. O. T. E. C. T. I. O. N. DES PLANTES. “Pest Risk Analysis for Hygrophila polysperma.”

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