Pogostemon quadrifolius / stellatus ‘octopus’ is a beautiful stem plant originating from Southeast Asia and Australia. Hobbyists and aquarium enthusiasts often employ this plant to beautify and create interesting focal points in the midground and background of their freshwater tanks.
Pogostemon octopus is a reasonably fast-growing plant, and it is also hardy and easy to grow and care for, making it an ideal species for beginners in the hobby.
Keep reading for more information on Pogostemon octopus, including how to plant and care for it successfully in a freshwater aquarium.
Quick Notes about Pogostemon Octopus
|Common Name||Pogostemon octopus|
|Other Names||Octopus plant|
|Scientific Name||Pogostemon quadrifolius (previousely Pogostemon stellatus ‘octopus’)|
|Tank Size (minimum)||10 gallons (~40 liters)|
|Optimal pH||6.5 – 7.5|
|Water hardness||Soft to moderately hard water.|
|Optimal temperature||75 – 82 °F (23 – 28 °С)|
|Placement in Tank||Midground and background|
|Leave size||up to 6 inches (about 15 cm)|
Interesting fact: This plant possesses antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. Pogostemon quadrifolius is an important medicinal plant in India and some adjacent countries and is used as a folk medicine against stomach ache, fever, cough, headaches, wound healing, heart diseases, chicken pox, and even for snake bites.
Origin and Taxonomy Problems of Pogostemon Octopus
Lots of other articles will tell you that Pogostemon octopus is a herbaceous plant and a variety of the popular freshwater aquarium plant “Pogostemon stellatus”, known for its bright reddish-purple or orange hues in high lighting and nutrient.
Well, not anymore. According to new studies Pogostemon octopus belongs to another species – Pogostemon quadrifolius.
Pogostemon is one of the major species in the family Lamiaceae, which is variable with many variations. This is a large genus consisting of about 80 species.
Unfortunately, the taxonomy of the genus has historically been troublesome due to morphological variability and putative convergent evolution within the genus.
As a result of this confusion, even in scientific literature, this plant has lots of synonims: Pogostemon stellatus; Anuragia quadrifolia; Dysophylla quadrifolia; Dysophylla rupestris; Eusteralis quadrifolia.
Nonetheless, in 2013, in the latest revision of the genus Pogostemon, Pogostemon stellatus octopus was reclassified as Pogostemon quadrifolius.
The scientific classification of Pogostemon octopus is as follows:
Species: Pogostemon quadrifolius
Habitat of Pogostemon Octopus
Pogostemon stelatus octopus is native to Southeast Asia (India (Khasia, Assam, Sambalpur, Kerala, Godavari District, and Garo Hills), Bangladesh (Chittagong), Myanmar, China), and Australia, growing predominantly in swamps, marshes, and rice fields.
The species has spread to other parts of the world — in countries like the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Pogostemon octopus is a fast-growing plant that can be grown in emersed or submerged environments that makes this plant a great choice for paludarium setups.
Why is it called Pogostemon Octopus?
In addition, this is just a good marketing move. Because catchy names always attract anyone’s attention and this helps in self-promotion.
Description of Pogostemon Octopus
Because of its thick stem and narrow leaves (o.25 inches or 6 mm), the plant looks very airy, elegant, and beautiful.
Unlike the common Pogostemon stellatus, which features reddish-purple or orange hues — the ‘octopus’ variety (Pogostemon quadrifolius) has mainly green foliage that doesn’t alter regardless of the light or nutrient intensity.
There are many whorls of linear to lanceolate leaves that are grass-like. The leaves are typically between 4 – 5 inches (10 – 12 cm) long, and they form a great perspective on the aquascape of planted aquaria.
Interesting fact: If grown emersed, Pogostemon octopus has a denser structure, the leaves become shorter and broader with small sharp edges. Also, in the emersed form, the leaves can become a little reddish. It also has small, purplish flowers (as seen in emersed plants).
Tank Requirements and Water Parameters
Unlike most other Pogostemon spp. (such as Pogostemon helferi), Pogostemon octopus is easy to grow; propagation is equally simple once growth is well-established, requiring very minimal effort.
Also, this plant is hardy and can adapt to a variety of water conditions. It grows under low to medium lighting conditions, warm water temperature, neutral pH, and soft to moderately hard water.
The recommended tank size for growing Pogostemon octopus is a minimum of 10 gallons (~40 liters).
This plant is not ideal for nano aquariums because of its long stems, filling up the enclosure within a few weeks. And it will require way more frequent pruning when planted in nano aquariums.
Water type, Temperature, Hardness, and pH:
Temperature: Ideally, maintain an optimal water temperature between 75 – 82 °F (23 – 28 °С) as the plant thrives best when grown in a warm temperature environment.
Nonetheless, it is also possible to keep it at 68 °F (20 °C) but the growth rate will be slower.
pH: Pogostemon octopus grows well in a neutral pH condition, i.e. between pH levels 6.5 to 7.5.
Hardness: To ensure proper growth of your Pogostemon octopus plant, cultivate it in an aquarium with soft to moderately hard water (up to 12 GH).
Pogostemon octopus will thrive in medium lighting conditions. The plant can tolerate low lighting but it should be on the higher end (20 – 40 PAR).
Therefore, endeavor to provide around 8 – 10 hours of bright illumination daily with high-quality aquarium LED lighting fixtures, or any other suitable aquarium light source.
Note: Of course, high lighting will make the plant grow faster and more robust. However, if you aim to keep its growth rate on the low end — you shouldn’t bother about providing high-intensity lighting at all.
Pogostemon octopus can grow in any substrate, including sand and gravel. That is because this plant is able to extract nutrients from both the substrate and the water column.
Having a nutrient-rich substrate (for example, ADA Amazonia aqua soil (link to Amazon)) can be a good advantage because it will require less fertilization on your part.
However, keeping it in gravel and sand is easy as well. Just make sure to dose fertilizers to enrich the tank water.
CO2 and Nutrient Supplementation:
CO2. As long as Pogostemon octopus is concerned, CO2 injection is not a necessity, thus optional. Its addition will positively impact the plant’s growth rate and appearance. However, it can do without it relatively well.
Fertilizers. On the other hand, nutrient supplementation is recommended as it helps the plant achieve a bushier look and drastically improves its coloration. Moreover, it also aids the plant to settle in quicker and attain new growth after planting.
Good aquarium plant fertilizers include Easy Green “All in One” fertilizer and Seachem liquid plant fertilizer. These fertilizers can be dosed directly into the water column to provide essential nutrients needed for the plant’s optimal growth and health.
Important: If you keep shrimp in the tank with Pogostemon octopus, 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 Pogostemon Octopus
Pogostemon octopus is an undemanding, beginner-friendly aquarium plant, so it is relatively easy to care for in a freshwater tank.
Anyway, note that you need to prune the plant’s shoots from time to time, so they don’t reach the surface of the water. Overgrowth is not a problem if you aim to achieve a jungle look in your aquarium; it depends on preference.
From observation, the plant’s stems take about 2 – 3 weeks after planting to attain giant sizes and grow to the water surface.
Thus, the first pruning event will ideally be in the third week, and you will need sharp pruning scissors (link to check the price on Amazon) to prune the overgrown stems. The cut stems will rise to the surface, so collect them with a fishnet and dispose of them in a plastic bag.
Another notable care activity is water changes. Partial water replacement is crucial since it adds more microelements (nutrition) to the water clean and improves the growth rate.
Other essential care activities include regular fertilizer application, i.e. dosing of liquid fertilizer in the water column or addition of tablet fertilizer in the aquarium substrate, plus routine inspections of the plants — in a bid to uncover and eliminate dead or decaying parts.
Planting and Propagation of Pogostemon Octopus
This species is suitable for placement in the midground and background of planted tanks due to its fast-growing long, vertical stems. Thus, Pogostemon octopus is often used to create focal points in the back area or cultivated at strategic points in the tank to highlight certain features.
Before planting Pogostemon octopus, prepare the specimens through proper disinfection to rid them of pond snails, algae, and parasites.
Next, take each stem and place it one inch deep (2.5 cm) into the aquarium substrate; make sure to maintain a 2 – 3 inches (5 – 7 cm) spacing between the plantlets.
Pogostemon octopus is very easy to propagate.
- cut off the stem at any place (personally, I prefer to cut from the top about 4 – 5 inches (about 10 – 12 cm)),
- remove the bottom leaves,
- replant these newly cut stems into the aquarium substrate.
Note that pruning of the tops equally promotes the growth of side shoots, making the plants denser.
Problems Associated with Pogostemon Octopus
Melting: Although Pogostemon octopus can thrive in low to medium light conditions, the plant may melt when grown in dim lighting for long periods.
Solution: Check your lighting conditions. It should not be too low or dim.
Fast growth/ Overgrowth: Under high lighting, Pogostemon octopus can grow fast. So, it can fill up the tank with ease. So, it may require a lot of clipping to maintain a healthy mother plant.
Solution: The plant will require regular stem trimmings from time to time to prevent it from overtaking the whole tank. Another way to control the growth rate is by lowering the light.
Discoloration (pale or yellow): Another significant issue is nutrient deficiencies. The plant will take on a pale or faded (yellowish) appearance when there are low iron levels in the aquarium water.
Similarly, insufficient amounts of macro and micronutrients will negatively impact the plant’s growth, which will be evident in its growth habit and overall appearance.
Solution: There is no better way to keep the plant in optimal health than proper fertilization and adequate care.
Benefits of Pogostemon Octopus
Aquascape: This beautiful plant can be an excellent decorative addition to jungle aquascape.
No Overshadowing: It will not choke other aquatic plants. Pogostemon octopus does not have a dense structure. Therefore, it will not completely block the light unlike many other tall and/or floating plants that can completely cover the surface of the aquarium in a short time.
Removal of excess nutrients: Pogostemon octopus helps in filtration, thereby reducing the load on the filter present in the tank. Because of its fast growth, this plant becomes a very good nitrate sponge.
Hiding place for fish, fry, and shrimp: Pogostemon octopus serves as cover and shade for inverts, small frogs, and fish.
Oxygenation: Pogostemon octopus oxygenates and aerates the tank water.
Pogostemon Octopus and Compatible Tankmates
This aquarium plant is compatible with a wide variety of freshwater fish and invertebrates.
Pogostemon octopus can be grown in tropical aquariums containing freshwater fish species, as well as freshwater inverts such as:
- Fish (for example, Bettas, Swordtails, Tetras, Pearl Guorami, Honey Guorami, Harlequin Rasbora, Danios, Cherry Barbs, Platies, Guppies, Endlers, Mollies, Otocinclus Catfish, Pygmy Cory Catfish, etc.)
- Dwarf Shrimp such as Neocaridinia species (Red Cherry Shrimp, Blue Velvet Shrimp, Snowball shrimp, Black Rose, Orange Sakura, Green Jade, Rili Shrimp, etc.) or Caridina species (for example, Crystal Red Shrimp, Caridina cf. babaulti, Blue Tiger Shrimp, etc.), Amano shrimp, Ghost shrimp, Bamboo shrimp, Vampire shrimp, ). Basically, you can keep any shrimp species with it. They will love it!
- Freshwater snails (for example, Japanese trapdoor snails, Ramshorn snails, Nerite snails, Malaysian Trumpet snails, Black Devil Snails, Asolene spixi, Rabbit Snails, etc.).
Avoid or Be Careful:
In the same vein, avoid hostile and aggressive fish species that are known plant devourers, these include Texas cichlids, Front cichlids, Jack Dempsey, Red Devil, and Oscars.
Buying Pogostemon Octopus
Pogostemon octopus can be sourced from local fish stores or reputable aquarium stores online; usually sold as bunched plants (multiple fresh-cut stems held together with foam and lead weight) or potted plants (multiple fresh-cut stems held together with rock wool and placed in a container).
A bunch/pot of this species costs between $5 – $15, and it typically contains more than five fresh-cut stems. Ensure that the specimens are fresh (healthy looking) and devoid of ill signs like decay, curls, or discoloration.
Pogostemon octopus is an excellent aquatic stem plant with stunning bright green coloration and an impressive growth form. It stands out when grown amid aquatic flora of varying forms and coloration.
When mixed with other plants, it creates an eye-catching backdrop and forms an appealing array in a freshwater aquarium.
Since Pogostemon octopus is a hardy and beginner-friendly species, amateur aquarists are welcome to try out this plant in their aquarium setups.
One of its main pros is the ability to thrive in a variety of aquarium conditions. Whether low-tech or high-tech, Pogostemon octopus will thrive and adorn the tank with lush, vibrant green vegetation provided that optimal conditions are present.