Shinnersia Rivularis Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation

Shinnersia rivularis (Mexican oak leaf) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding

Shinnersia rivularis, commonly known as the Mexican oak leaf, is a beautiful and versatile plant. Although this plant has been well-known in the aquatics community for a long time, it hasn’t gained widespread popularity. There are several reasons for this.

On the one hand, Shinnersia rivularis is a hardy plant suitable for beginners and can grow in any substrate.

On the other hand, its extremely fast growth rate will require constant maintenance. In addition, it needs lots of light and prefers soft water to keep its bushy appearance.

If you are considering adding Mexican oak leaf to your tank, then you will definitely find this care guide helpful. In this article, I have compiled all the available information about Shinnersia rivularis, including optimal conditions for its care.

Interesting fact: Researchers suggest banning this plant to prevent it from inevitably spreading into the wild environment.

Quick Notes about Shinnersia Rivularis

Common Name Mexican oak leaf
Other Names Spring-run whitehead
Scientific Name
Shinnersia rivularis  (previously Trichocoronis rivularis)
Difficulty Easy – Moderate
Lighting Moderate to High
Optimal pH 5.0 – 8.0
Optimal GH 2 – 16
Optimal Temperature 60 – 86°F (15 – 30°C)
Substrate Any
Can Be Grown Emersed
Yes
Growth Rate Fast
Placement in Tank
Midground and background
Aquarium size 6 – 12 inches (15 – 30 cm)
Fertilizers
Needed
CO2 Not needed
Propagation By cuttings
Color
Green 

Taxonomy of Shinnersia Rivularis

In 1849, Asa Gray initially classified this plant as Trichocoronis rivularis based on specimens collected in northern Mexico by Lewis Edwards and Josiah Gregg.

The species remained in the genus Trichocoronis until King and Robinson separated it into its own genus (Shinnersia) in 1970. They based this on variations in inflorescence, corolla, involucre size, and fruit and pappus characteristics.

In 2014, a molecular study also further supported the distinction of Shinnersia from Trichocoronis.

Kingdom: Plantae (Plants)
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta (Vascular plants)
Superdivision: Spermatophyta (Seed plants)
Division: Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants)
Class: Magnoliopsida (Dicotyledons)
Subclass: Asteridae (Fused petals)
Order: Asterales (Composite flowers)
Family: Asteraceae (Daisy family)
Genus: Trichocoronis
Species: Trichocoronis rivularis

Etymology of Shinnersia Rivularis

This genus name “Shinnersia” is attributed to the American botanist Lloyd Herbert Shinners (1918–1971) who made significant contributions to the study of Texas flora.

The species name “Rivularis” is derived from the Latin word “Rivulus”, meaning “from a small stream or brook”.

In botanical terms, this plant is mostly associated with or growing in streams or rivers.

The name “Mexican oak leaf” is inspired by the distinctive leaf configuration, resembling that of oak trees.

Distribution of Shinnersia Rivularis

Shinnersia rivularis (Mexican oak leaf) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding - destributionThis plant is native to isolated aquatic systems in Mexico and the southwestern region of Texas.

In Mexico, this plant thrives in the northern Coahuila and northern Nuevo León. In Texas, its presence is limited to two specific locations along the Nueces River in Uvalde County, two sites in Kinney County, as well as San Felipe Springs and San Felipe Creek in Del Rio, Van Verde County.

However, nowadays, Shinnersia rivularis is cultivated globally as an aquarium plant. As a result, it has expanded beyond its native range and established itself even in Europe (thermal waters of Austria, Hungary, Germany, and Slovakia).

Some reports suggest the Mexican oak leaf has been found in the wild in Australia, but it is not naturalized in Australia yet.

Habitat of Shinnersia Rivularis

Shinnersia rivularis grows emersed or submersed in shallow (1 – 3 ft or 0.3 – 1 m) slow-moving warm waters. It is not found in deep waters.

Description of Shinnersia Rivularis

Shinnersia rivularis (Mexican oak leaf) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding - profileThis plant is a perennial and long-stemmed plant.

  • Growth form. Shinnersia rivularis can be grown partially emersed (in paludarium) or completely submersed (in aquariums).
  • Stem: In aquariums, it usually stands at an average height of 6 – 12 inches (15 – 30 cm) and spreads in the water environment up to 4 – 6 inches (10 – 15 cm). In its natural habitat, the stem may extend up to 3 ft (1 m), measuring 0.1 inches (3 mm) in thickness.

Depending on the size of the plant, the spacing between leaf nodes in the lower part is somewhat wider (from 1 – 3 inches or 2.5 – 7 cm) than in the upper part (from 0.4 – 1 inches or 1 – 2.5 cm).

  • Leaves: This plant has leaves that are positioned opposite each other and attached directly to the stem. These leaves are either one- or three-nerved, with a broad oblanceolate shape or three lobes. They measure mostly 0.8 – 1.2 inches (2 – 4 cm) in length. The surfaces of the leaves may be a bit fuzzy and sometimes have glands.
  • Color: The color of the leaves typically varies from shades of light green to brownish-red when exposed to bright light.
Shinnersia rivularis (Mexican oak leaf) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding - Weiss-GrünWhat makes this plant special is that, under optimal lighting conditions, it develops distinctive white veins on its leaves.

Dennerle aquarium plant nursery noticed this characteristic pattern and managed to develop this form, naming it Shinnersia rivularis “Weiss-Grun” (‘White-Green’).

Shinnersia rivularis (Mexican oak leaf) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding - flowers

  • Flowers. Shinnersia rivularis is a flowering plant. The flowers appear above the water. The flower petals are white and about 0.08 inches (2 mm) long, with wide, bell-shaped throats. The seeds are prismatic and have 4–5 ribs, sparsely dotted with glands and hairs.
  • Roots: The roots are weak in the beginning but become massive when the plant settles.

For a more detailed and scientific description of Shinnersia rivularis, you can read here.

Tank Requirements and Water Parameters

Tank size:

The recommended tank size for growing Shinnersia rivularis is a minimum of 10 gallons (~40 L).

Because of its growth potential, tall tanks are better than long tanks for this plant. In short tanks, it will reach the top very fast and start trailing along the surface.

Water type, Temperature, Hardness, and pH:

Temperature: According to the study, Shinnersia rivularis will thrive in a broad temperature range from 60 – 86°F (15 – 30°C), making it suitable for cold-water aquariums. It’s worth noting that its growth will be significantly faster in warmer water.

pH: This plant prefers water pH in the range of 6.0 – 8.0

Hardness: The plant is adaptable to a range of water hardness values (2 – 16 GH). At the same time, it has been observed that this plant also grows faster in softer water.

In general, it can be said that Mexican oak leaf easily adapts to any aquarium environment.

Lighting:

If we are talking about optimal conditions, Shinnersia rivularis will definitely benefit from moderate to high lighting and a photoperiod of 10-12 hours daily.

Nevertheless, it can adapt and grow well even in low-tech tanks. The main problem is that with insufficient lighting, the stem elongates and density decreases.

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Flow:

In nature, Shinnersia rivularis grows in slow-flowing water, so a gentle water current would be optimal for its cultivation.

Substrate:

Shinnersia rivularis is very undemanding and does not have specific substrate quality requirements.
Note: In nature, it can be quite invasive, earning it the label of a “super weed”.

In aquariums, it pretty much grows in anything (sand, gravel, etc.), needing only 1 – 2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm) depth.

Note: It can even grow as a floating plant in aquariums until it finds a place to anchor itself and develop roots. Additionally, when grown floating, the leaves noticeably become smaller.

Basically, this is a versatile plant and absorbs nutrients from the water column and roots at the same time.

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CO2 and Fertilization:

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

Fertilization:As I have already said, Shinnersia rivularis is a versatile feeder. Therefore, if you do not have nutrient-rich substrate then regular dosing of liquid plant fertilizers (2-3 times a week) is recommended.

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

Care and Maintenance of Shinnersia Rivularis

In aquariums, Shinnersia rivularis is commonly used as a classic stem plant, planted along the sides in the midground, or background due to its larger size.

Be ready to trim this plant pretty often since it exhibits a fast growth rate even under low–light conditions. Once established, it may take only a few weeks before it will be ready for propagation and/or trimming.

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 Shinnersia Rivularis

Plant this plant with about 2 inches (5 cm) between each one. A solitary stem looks thin and elongated, but planting Shinnersia in groups gives it the full, lush look it needs.

Keep in mind that, eventually, this plant forms extensive mats. So, make sure that it will not shade other plants in the future.

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.

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

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Propagation of Shinnersia Rivularis

Shinnersia rivularis has vegetative propagation, specifically by cuttings and side shoots.  

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

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

The new stem will develop roots and grow into new plants very fast.

Planting and trimming:

Constant trimming of Shinnersia Rivularis often leads to the development of numerous side shoots. The leaves of these side shoots can be considerably smaller than those on the original plant, resulting in a less appealing appearance.

Therefore, to maintain the plant’s beautiful characteristics, do not hesitate to uproot it from the substrate and replant the tops in the same location. This ensures that the leaves remain succulent, large, and visually striking.

Problems Associated With Shinnersia Rivularis

Fast growth/ Overgrowth: Under high lighting and CO2, Shinnersia rivularis will grow like a weed. It can fill up the tank within weeks. So, it will require a lot of trimming. A LOT!

Solution: None. Just be patient.

Leggy. When the stem reaches the water surface, the distance between the leaves significantly increases, creating a leggy appearance. Sometimes it may

If the plant’s stems grow rapidly upwards, and the distance between leaves increases, it suggests insufficient lighting.

Solution: In some cases, it suggests very low lighting, so check it. In other cases, trim it or place it behind driftwood or rocks. This helps decorate the bare stem.

Pale leaves. Pale and less vibrant leaves and stems of Mexican oak is often a sign of iron deficiency.

Solution: To address this issue, it is recommended to supplement with mineral fertilizers.

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Benefits of Shinnersia Rivularis

Hiding placeIs dense mat serves as cover and shade for inverts and small fish.

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

Reduces nitrogen: Because of its fast-growing rate, Shinnersia rivularis acts as a sink for nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen. It has been reported to efficiently remove nutrients, heavy metals, and organic contaminants. 

Reduces algal bloom: This plant is so greedy for nutrients that it simply outcompetes algae and cyanobacteria (allelopathic interactions).

Quarantine

Shinnersia Rivularis

Unless you are completely sure that Shinnersia rivularis 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

Shinnersia rivularis can be a good choice for beginners because of its hardy nature and versatility. It can be used in summer ponds, paludariums, and aquariums since it comfortably thrives in various aquarium environments.

So, if you are looking for a large, fast-growing, and easy to care plant, Mexican oak leaf ticks all the boxes.

However, due to its rapid reproduction and robust growth, this plant often requires frequent replanting and thinning. Keep this in mind if you plan to choose it.

References:

  1. Eliáš, Pavol, Michal Hájek, and Petra Hájková. “A European warm waters neophyte Shinnersiarivularis—new alien species to the Slovak flora.” Biologia64, no. 4 (2009): 684-686.
  2. LEMKE, DAVID E., and MONIQUE DUBRULE REED. “A NOTABLE RANGE EXTENSION FOR SHINNERSIA RIVULARIS (ASTERACEAE, EUPATORIEAE) IN TEXAS.
  3. Romanowski, Nick. Wetland weeds: causes, cures and compromises. CSIRO PUBLISHING, 2011.

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