Limnophila Sessiliflora Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation

Dwarf ambulia (Limnophila Sessiliflora) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding

Limnophila sessiliflora, commonly known as Dwarf ambulia, is a fantastic aquarium plant for beginners.

This fast-growing plant has high decorative qualities. It is undemanding, easy to maintain, and very simple to propagate.

In this article, I will delve into various aspects of Limnophila sessiliflora such as care, maintenance, propagation, common issues, and more.

Interesting fact: Limnophila sessiliflora was listed as a problematic/invasive weed species in the U.S.A. under Act № 36 of 1983 and in South Africa under the Federal Noxious Weed List of 1999. This makes it illegal to import this species into these countries.

Quick Notes about Limnophila Sessiliflora

Common Name Dwarf ambulia
Other Names Ambulia, Ambulis, and Asian marshweed
Scientific Name
Limnophila sessiliflora
Difficulty Easy
Lighting Low to high
Optimal pH 5.0 – 7.0
Optimal GH 1 – 10
Optimal Temperature 68 – 82°F (20 – 28°C)
Substrate Any 
Can Be Grown Emersed
Partially
Growth Rate Fast
Placement in Tank
Background
Aquarium size 10 – 20 inches (25 – 50 cm)
Fertilizers
Low requirements
CO2 Needed
Propagation Vegetatively
Color
Green

Interesting fact: If this plant is prohibited in some countries due to its invasive properties, it is highly respected in Asian countries where Limnophila sessiliflora is used as a flavorful spice for fish dishes.

Etymology of Limnophila Sessiliflora

The genus name “Limnophila” is derived from the Greek words “Limne” meaning “Marsh or pond”, and “Philo” meaning “Loving”, indicating its affinity for aquatic habitats.

The species name “Sessiliflora” comes from the Latin words “Sessilis” meaning “Sitting or attached” and “Flora” meaning “Flower”, referring to the plant’s characteristic of having flowers directly attached to the stem without stalks.

Taxonomy of Limnophila Sessiliflora

In 1826, Karl Ludwig von Blume (1796-1862), the German-Dutch botanist, mentioned this species as Limnophila sessiflora.

In 1831, Bentham G. corrected the spelling by Blume from sessiflora to sessiliflora, and later works have generally accepted the corrected epithet.

  • Kingdom: Plantae (Plants)
  • Clade: Tracheophytes (Vascular plants)
  • Clade: Angiosperms (Flowering plants)
  • Clade: Eudicots (Dicotyledons, having two seed leaves in their embryos)
  • Order: Lamiales
  • Family: Plantaginaceae
  • Genus: Limnophila
  • Species: Limnophila sessiliflora

Distribution of Limnophila Sessiliflora

Dwarf ambulia (Limnophila Sessiliflora) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding - DistributionThis plant is endemic to Asia. It is documented as a major weed problem in paddy rice fields of India, Sri Lanka, China, northeastern parts of Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Indochina, and Malaysia.

It can also be found in tropical to subtropical Africa, Australia, and the Pacific Islands.

Limnophila sessiliflora was first brought to the United States as an aquarium plant. In 1965, it was first documented in Lake Seminole (Florida/Georgia) and has since been found in multiple Florida counties and southwestern Georgia. In Texas, it has been reported in the upper San Marcos River (Hays County), Landa Lake on the Comal River (Comal County), and Sheldon Reservoir (Harris County).

Habitat of Limnophila Sessiliflora

This versatile plant thrives in various aquatic habitats, ranging from stagnant and slow-moving rivers and streams, marshy areas, ditches, ponds, and rice fields to lakes, and damp soils.

Description of Limnophila Sessiliflora

With its bushy green foliage, Limnophila sessiliflora makes an impressive background plant in the aquarium.

Dwarf ambulia (Limnophila Sessiliflora) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding DescriptionDistinguishing characteristics:

  • Growth habit. Limnophila sessiliflora is a perennial erect aquatic plant.
  • Growth form. This plant grows with submersed and emersed plant parts. The part of the plant that grows above the water is typically quite short and usually reaches 4-6 inches (10-15 cm).
  • Plant size. In aquariums, the growth/size of this plant will essentially be limited by the size of the aquarium itself, which is why it is often stated that this plant grows up to 20 inches (50 cm) high and 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) wide. The fact is, in reality, this plant can be simply gigantic. In its natural environment, the stems may reach up to 12 feet (3.7 m) in length, growing from the bottom to the surface.
  • Stem. The submerged stem is smooth, measuring about 0.07-0.1 inches (2 – 3 mm) in diameter. The short immersed part of the stem is erect and covered with fine hairs.
  • Leaves. Limnophila sessiliflora has distinctly different submersed and emergent forms of leaves.
    The emersed leaves are lanceolate in shape and dark green. The edges of the leaves look torn and uneven, with a jagged or serrated appearance. They are arranged in 5-8 whorls and are about 0.4 – 0.8 inches (10 – 20 mm) long.

    The submerged leaves are finely divided in feathery shape; they are about 1 inch long and are arranged in whorls of 6-1 (or more) leaves around the stem. These leaves can be oval, elongated, or lance-shaped. These leaves generally measure 0.4 – 1.5 inches (10 – 40 mm) long.
  • Flower. Limnophila sessiliflora is a flowering plant. It has small purplish-blue, blue-violet, or pink axillary flowers without stalks. They are solitary and located on the uppermost part of the stems above the water. In nature, the flowering of this plant usually continues from July to September (In Texas, through November). The seedsare brown to dark brown and have conic to cylindric shape.
  • Roots: The root system forms a fairly strong root mass, consisting of numerous thin, white roots. Also, it can produce roots at each stem node.
  • Color. Green.
Top 10 Weirdly Beautiful Aquarium Plants Limnophila Sessiliflora var. Orange
Limnophila sessiliflora var. Orange

Note: Limnophila Sessiliflora var. Orange stands out from its typical green counterparts with its stunning orange hue, bringing an extraordinary touch to any aquarium.

For a more detailed and scientific description of Limnophila sessiliflora, you can read in this study.

Tank Requirements and Water Parameters

Dwarf ambulia (Limnophila Sessiliflora) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding flowersLimnophila sessiliflora is beautiful and easy to care for, often considered nearly impossible to kill by many aquarium enthusiasts.

Both beginners and experienced aquarists can enjoy its low-maintenance nature and striking appearance. With proper care and pruning, it adds a lushness to any aquatic setting.

Tank size:

Due to its significant size and very fast growth rate, Limnophila sessiliflora can only be suited in larger (high, especially) aquariums starting from 20 gallons (80 liters).

Over time, this plant will become so large that you will have no choice but to trim and divide it.

Water type, Temperature, Hardness, and pH:

Temperature: Although Limnophila sessiliflora does best in warm tropical temperatures from 68 – 82°F (20 – 28°C). This plant can also tolerate cold water up to 60°F (15°C); it will just start growing slowly.

pH: Practically all articles dedicated to this plant indicate that Limnophila sessiliflora can grow within a pH range of 6 to 8. This is indeed true, as the plant is highly resilient and not demanding of conditions. However, according to research, the optimal pH range varies from 5 to 7. So, slightly acidic water is preferable for it.

Hardness: It can grow in soft and hard water GH 1-20. However, in my experience, it grows better and faster in soft to moderately hard water (GH 1-10).

Lighting: 

The question regarding lighting for this plant has sparked considerable debate over time.

To begin with, I need to say that this plant will generally grow under any lighting conditions, making it suitable even for low-tech tanks. However, under moderate to high lighting, the growth of this plant significantly, I would even say, exponentially, accelerates.

Maintain a standard photoperiod of 10-12 hours daily. 

Returning to the debate over lighting.

There is an opinion that the plant maintains a more lush quality under low light. Whereas under strong light, it tends to stretch out and become what’s called “leggy.”

Personally, I don’t think so. It has been observed multiple times that under strong lighting, the distance between nodes significantly decreases, whereas under low lighting, it increases.

A sure sign that Limnophila sessiliflora lacks light is when its top leaves droop downward. However, if the leaves are upright and cover the stem, it indicates that the plant is receiving sufficient light.

Furthermore, this issue is directly related to the plant’s nutrition and trimming, which I will also discuss below.

An interesting feature of this plant is that it slightly folds its leaves at night and then reopens them in the morning.

Related article:

Flow:

Limnophila sessiliflora can tolerate moderate water movement, but avoid strong currents. It does not like it.

Substrate:

Everybody knows that Limnophila sessiliflora obtains most of its nutrients from the water column. As a result, sand and even gravel substrates are often recommended for this plant.

Well, it is true to some degree.

It is possible to grow this plant even in inert substrates. However, if you plant it in nutrient-rich substrates you will see how strong its root system can be! You will see the changes in its appearance as well.

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CO2 and fertilization:

CO2: Although CO2 addition promotes growth significantly, using a pressurized CO2 system is not mandatory. This is optional.

Important: It is crucial to maintain a proper balance of CO2 and nutrients for high-light demanding plants. Using intense lighting without CO2 injections and/or fertilization is not recommended, as it can lead to significant algae issues.

Fertilization: Limnophila sessiliflora needs moderate to high nutrient levels. Therefore, regular dosing of liquid plant fertilizers (2-3 times a week) is required.

Note: If you keep shrimp in the tank with this plant, I would highly recommend reading my articles:

Care and Maintenance of Limnophila Sessiliflora

Dwarf ambulia (Limnophila Sessiliflora) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding - 2In aquariums, Limnophila sessiliflora is usually used as a classic stem plant, planted along the sides or background due to its larger size.

Under optimal conditions, be ready to trim this plant weekly, since it can exhibit an extremely fast growth rate.

Do not allow the plant to reach the surface. 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.

Tips:

  • Frequent trimming will gradually make the plant bushier as it can branch out at the cut.
  • Trim the plant in a staggered pattern, ensuring that lower levels of the plant receive light. Otherwise, if light doesn’t reach the lower leaves, the plant sheds them and becomes leggy.
  • If the lower part of your plant has become bare, you can cut off a healthy, beautiful top and plant it separately. As for the remaining unattractive portion, you can simply cut it down to the roots and leave it. In this case, the root system will produce new growth for the remaining plant as well.

Planting Limnophila Sessiliflora

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.

If you decide to plant Limnophila sessiliflora after trimming and it keeps floating, you can leave it floating until its root system develops and it is ready to be planted in the substrate.

Note: Despite the fact that Limnophila sessiliflora can continue to grow and develop roots even when it’s floating, it’s not recommended to leave it in this state for the long term.

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Propagation of Limnophila Sessiliflora

Limnophila sessiliflora reproduces in two ways:

  • By seeds. Its flowers will produce viable seeds. According to the study, each flower can produce up to 150 seeds, with a high germination rate of up to 96%.
  • Vegetative (Cuttings). In aquariums, this is the main method of propagation. Simply cut off the stems and plant them. Just ensure that the cutting is at least 2 – 3 inches (5 – 7 cm) in length. In a week, the new plant will already have a root system.

Problems Associated With Growing Limnophila Sessiliflora

Fragile. The leaf blades of the plant are sensitive to mechanical damage (though not as much as Hornwort).

Solution: It’s important to handle them with care during maintenance tasks.

Brown leaves. The lower leaves lose their green coloration and become slightly brownish when the plant grows too big.

Solution: Check your lighting and nutrition. You can also trim the top and replans it while completely removing the lower part.

Leggy. When the stem reaches the water surface, the plant may shed leaves at the lower part.

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

Fast growth/ Overgrowth: It can shade its neighbors. Under high lighting, fertilization, and CO2 Limnophila sessiliflora can grow like crazy. So, it will require a lot of clipping. A LOT!

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

Relocation. This plant does not like to be moved. If you plan to relocate or remove this plant, be very cautious! Do not pull it out, it will be a complete mess!

Solution: Cut it down to the roots or proceed with care.

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Benefits of Limnophila Sessiliflora

Versatility: Limnophila sessiliflora is one of the plants that can grow emersed and submersed. It can grow in low and high-tech tanks.

Removal of excess nutrients: As an extremely fast-growing plant, it sucks up nitrates like there’s no tomorrow. It will absorb and utilize harmful chemicals that are emitted from the animals’ waste, decayed plant matter, and tap water such as heavy metals, ammonianitrites, etc.

Reduces algal bloomThis plant helps in reducing the overall probability of algal bloom in the given environment. The plant is pretty greedy for nutrients. So, it simply outcompetes algae.

Hiding place for fish, fry, and shrimp: It will serve as an excellent cover and hiding place for inverts and small fish. They love to play in it and pick on it.

Foraging place: Acts as a buffet of biofilm, which is an ideal first food for newly hatched fry and shrimplets.

Oxygenation: Thanks to its serrated leaf surface, it cleans the water from turbidity and oxygenates it.

Quarantine Limnophila Sessiliflora

Unless you are completely sure that Limnophila sessiliflora 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

Limnophila sessiliflora is a fast-growing and versatile plant. It quickly adapts to almost any conditions and absorbs nitrates like a sponge. This plant can be a great addition to any (low or high-tech) tanks.

At the same time, it should be noted that many of these advantages can, over time, become a burden for the aquarist because this plant also requires a lot of trimming and without proper control, it will overshadow everything it can.

 References:

  1. Wang, Guang-Xi, Hiroaki Watanabe, Akira Uchino, and Kazuyuki Itoh. “Response of a sulfonylurea (SU)-resistant biotype of Limnophila sessiliflora to selected SU and alternative herbicides.” Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology68, no. 2 (2000): 59-66.
  2. SPENCER, WILLIAM, and GEORGE BOWES. “Limnophila and Hygrophila. A Review and Physiological.”  Aquat. Plant Manage23 (1985): 7-16.
  3. Yang, Yuen-Po, and Shen-Horn Yen. “Notes on limnophila (Scrophulariaceae) of Taiwan.” Botanical Bulletin of Academia Sinica38 (1997).
  4. Correll D, Correll H. 1972. Aquatic and Wetland Plants of the Southwestern United States. Environmental Protection Agency. Washington, D.C. 1777 pp.

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