There is a variety of plants used in the aquascaping, each with its own distinct features and perks, anyway, today’s subject matter is the popular species Staurogyne repens.
Staurogyne repens is a small stem plant from South America renowned for its low bushy stature, fresh and vibrant green leaves, slow but steady growth, hardiness, and good carpeting ability. This species is ideal as a beginner foreground or ground-cover plant, it is quite tolerant of a wide range of water conditions, and can go several weeks without needing a single trim.
Keep reading for everything there is to know about Staurogyne repens, this guide covers the plant’s background information, appearance, as well as how to properly cultivate and care for it in a home aquarium.
Quick Notes about Staurogyne Repens
|Common Name||Staurogyne repens|
|Other Names||Mud mat|
|Tank Size (minimum)||10 gallons (~40 liters)|
|Difficulty||Easy to medium|
|Lighting||Medium to high|
|Optimal pH||6.0 – 7.0|
|Optimal GH||1 – 10|
|Optimal Temperature||22 – 30 °C (72 – 86°F)|
|Placement in Tank
||Mostly foreground / midground
|Height||8 – 10 cm (up to 4 inches)|
|CO2||Not needed – Low|
|Propagation||by side shoots and vegetative buds|
Origin of Staurogyne Repens
Staurogyne repens is a versatile aquarium plant that belongs to Acanthaceae; a family of dicotyledonous floating plants with about 250 genera and over 2500 species.
The genus Staurogyne contains six freshwater species and the most common is the Staurogyne repens which is famous for its use in decorating freshwater aquariums.
Habitat of Staurogyne Repens
This freshwater plant species originates from River Rio Cristalino in Mato Grosso in the South Amazonas. There, the small plant grows on and between hardscapes (rocks) on the shores of the fast-flowing river.
Interesting fact: Staurogyn repens also has a food value. This plant grows wild and native people often cook rice with its leaves to give a pleasant taste to the rice.
Description of Staurogyne Repens
When it comes to appearance, Staurogyne repens is identical and closely related to Hygrophila which is also found in South American waters. The distinction between both plant groups is that leaves of Hygrophila are bigger and longer than that of Staurogyne repens, in addition to the difference in growth rate—known species of Hygrophila grow faster than Staurogyne repens.
Staurogyne repens has an overall bright green coloration with a varying green or brown stems which are quite fascinating. The leaves of this species are small and thin, typically oval and broad towards the base. Also, the plant has a soft/smooth texture which makes it an easy target for plant-eating fish and some snail species, so you ought to be careful when choosing tankmates.
Staurogyne repens develops horizontally creeping shoots from the base which tend to form a low and compact covering on the aquarium floor. The typical size of the carpet is about 4 inches (10 cm), hence earning the plant a deserved spot as one of the best foreground plants for aquascaping.
Tank Requirements and Water Parameters
Staurogyne repens should be planted in a freshwater tank of at least 10 gallons (~40 liters).
This tank size ensures that the plant has sufficient room to contain it especially when horizontal shoots start to spread.
Water type, Temperature, Hardness, and pH:
Temperature: The ideal temperature range for growing Staurogyne repens is 20 – 30 °C (68 – 86 °F), best growth is attained in tanks with warm water.
pH: Even though Staurogyne repens can tolerate a huge range of pH (from 5.0 to 8.0). Optimal pH values is 6.0 – 7.0.
Hardness: The plant appreciates soft to moderately hard water with ideal values between 1 – 10 dGH.
Staurogyne repens needs bright illumination to thrive in the aquarium, thus medium – high lighting should be supplied (30 – 50 PAR). Under low lighting, the plant starts growing upwards as if it is trying to reach the surface for better light.
Maintain a photoperiod of up to 10 hours daily, keeping the lights on for a longer duration will trigger the growth of unwanted algae in the aquarium. A full spectrum LED lighting fixture can be used to provide the required light intensity.
Read more about it in my article “Advanced Guide to Planted Tank Lighting”.
The plant prefers a nutrient-rich substrate, this could be a mixture of small-sized gravel and aquarium soil or solely aquarium soil.
Keep in mind that fine-grained aquarium substrates allow the tiny roots of Staurogyne repens to penetrate easily and provide better anchorage.
Some recommended soil substrates for this plant include (links to check the price on Amazon):
These substrates are rich in nutrients and also allow the thin roots of Staurogyne repens to penetrate easily.
Read more about it in my article “Top 5 Substrates For Planted Aquariums”.
CO2 and fertilization:
This species can thrive without CO2, therefore it can be planted in low-tech tanks.
However, the addition of CO2 and liquid fertilizers is quite beneficial as it makes ample nutrients readily accessible for the plants, thus preventing nutrient deficiency and poor health, and accelerating growth and overall development.
Even though Staurogyne repens has a large root system, the plant still feeds from both the water column and the root system.
So, besides using root tabs, make it a habit to dose liquid fertilizers in the water column from time to time, plus CO2 — using either liquid CO2 or a pressurized CO2 system.
Important: If you keep shrimp in the tank with Staurogyne repens, 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 Staurogyne Repens
There isn’t much to do when it comes to taking care of this hardy plant, it’s size and slow growth habit make maintenance easy.
Since the plant is not a fast-grower, you won’t have to trim the shoots all the time. Anyway, if the carpet gets high or you notice areas with considerably more height than others, simply do a quick trim to keep the carpet level, neat and compact.
Note: Although everybody mentions Staurogyne repens as a carpet plant, technically, it is not. Staurogyne repens is a stem plant that does not carpet. However, we can get the carpet effect by trimming and replanting the cuttings.
You can equally utilize this opportunity to clip decaying leaves and stems; the aim is to remove the browns from the greens to achieve a uniform and attractive looking carpet in your aquarium.
Additionally, make sure to perform regular water changes to keep the water pristine and clear. Having clear water in your tank will help promote light penetration to the plants at the lower levels which include your Staurogyne carpet.
To ensure that the plants get essential nutrients in abundance, dose liquid supplements in the right amounts into the tank water. This will go a long way in encouraging healthy growth and development of the roots and shoots, if you want to maintain a fresh, dense, and bright green carpet, then you should integrate this practice into your maintenance regime.
Planting and Propagation of Staurogyne repens
Planting Staurogyne repens is not a difficult task, however, one has to follow a specific planting guideline to attain the right quantity and quality of foreground vegetation in the aquarium.
Some aquarists say that we need to observe a planting rule of one stem for every 2 gallons (~8L) in order to prevent overcrowding. Well, I don’t completely agree with them. Eventually, they will grow together into a thick mat.
However, in the beginning, it will be better to maintain a spacing of about 2 – 3 inches (5 – 7 cm) apart from each other. It will reduce the competition at the early stage and let them establish.
Bury each stem about ½ – ¾ of an inch (about 1.5 – 2 cm) deep into the substrate. The thin roots will easily penetrate the aquarium substrate when planted this way. The individual plants can be placed into the substrate using a pair of tweezers (link to check the price on Amazon).
Wait for 3-4 weeks and check the growth, if there are vast spaces that still need to be filled— throw in a few more stems.
Endeavor to dose liquid fertilizers and keep on trimming the shoots from time to time to encourage horizontal growth. Make sure that the water surface is clear enough to allow light to reach the carpet, that’s if you have floating plants in your tank.
If these events are executed properly, the desired carpeting effect will be achieved after a few months.
As for propagation, Staurogyne repens is capable of forming vegetative buds, and this habit is more common in its emergent form.
Side shoots tend to emerge from the parent plant; these parts will detach and fall onto the soil, then grow and develop into individual plants. Whereas in the aquarium, one can easily clip the mature stems and replant them in the substrate.
You do not need to take out the whole stem, just make a sizeable cutting of roughly 2 inches (5 cm) and place it into the substrate. Even without visible roots, the plants will thrive and gradually develop into a new plant, it’s that simple.
Alternative Way of Growing Staurogyne Repens
If you are starting a new tank, you may utilize the Dry Start Method (read more about it): cultivate the stems in a nutrient-rich substrate, spray water regularly to provide humidity, then fill the tank with water when the plant’s growth kicks off.
The Dry Start Method still significantly boosts the development of the slow-growing plants, cycles the substrate, and removes any algae problems!
Problems Associated with Staurogyne Repens
Melting: This is a common phenomenon witnessed in plants during a transition from emersed form to submersed form.
When an emersed grown Staurogyne repens is cultivated submersed in an aquarium, the initial leaves will melt/die-off to usher in new leaves, and growth of the plant continues. So, as long as the stems are green, there is no need to worry too much, it will resprout.
Note: Sometimes Staurogyne repens can melt after months of thriving. Aquarists called it – Staurogyne melt syndrome. Unfortunately, nobody really knows what causes it.
Discolored leaves: Yellow or faded leaves are often a sign of nutrient deficiency. To remedy this, boost the iron (Fe) content of your tank water by dosing enough quantity of chelated iron.
In the same vein, make sure to provide sufficient macro and trace nutrients to support the active and healthy growth of this species. The availability of essential nutrients in the substrate and tank water in addition to CO2 will help keep the leaves fresh and bright green always.
You can also read “How to Spot Nutrient Deficiencies in Aquatic Plants”.
Leggy growth: The aim of cultivating a low foreground plant in the aquarium is to achieve a nice, compact carpet in the forefront, unfortunately, there are instances where the plant tends to grow vertically towards the surface instead of horizontally.
Keep in mind that the stronger the light intensity, the more dense and compact the carpet will be, when the carpet is grown in low light, it will assume a leggy and unattractive appearance.
Staurogyne repens and Compatible Tankmates
The delicate and palatable nature of Staurogyne repens makes it picky about suitable tankmates. The plant will survive in tanks with critters that won’t see its soft leaves as a snack. Compatible tankmates include:
Staurogyne repens is best kept with small, peaceful community fish such as Bleeding heart Tetra, Neon tetras, Mollies, Killifish, Swordtails, White Mountain Minnows, Zebra Danio, Sunburst Platy, Endlers, Mollies, Otocinclus Catfish, Pygmy Cory Catfish,
Considering the fact that Staurogyne repens can tolerate a wide range of pH, it is possible to keep it with any dwarf shrimp species.
Once again, ornamental snails should not be kept in a tank with low PH for a long time. It will negatively affect their shell. However, if your pH is close to 7.0, it is possible to keep almost any snail or dwarf shrimp you like. For example, Japanese trapdoor snails, Ramshorn snails, Nerite snails, Malaysian Trumpet snails, Black Devil Snails, Asolene spixi, Rabbit Snails, etc.).
However avoid species that may find Staurogyne repens palatable, e.g. like Koi fish, Goldfish, Oscars, Rainbow, Jack Dempsey, Clown loaches, African Cichlids. These species can really cause problems in the planted tanks.
In addition, Staurogyne repens and most types of crayfish or freshwater crabs are not a good combination as well. These animals will cut, eat, and uproot everything in the tank. So, be warned!
Buying Staurogyne Repens
This species is readily available in local fish stores, if you don’t find it at nearby stores, head over online as there are plenty of online vendors that stock this plant.
One thing you may want to avoid is obtaining unhealthy or damaged plants since they don’t do well when cultivated in the tank.
Typically, healthy stems are fresh, upright, with green or slight brown coloration. A sizeable bunch containing up to 10 stems can be purchased for $5-$10 and that should be enough to aquascape a 10-20 gallon fish tank.
Quarantine Staurogyne repens
Do not forget to quarantine Staurogyne repens before putting it into your aquarium if necessary! For example, there is no need to do that if these are “in vitro” plants, it means that they are cultivated on nutrient media under sterile, laboratory conditions. In all other cases:
- The plant can have parasites, pests like snails, or even predators (dragonfly, damsefly nymphs, etc.).
- It could also be treated with chemicals (pesticide) to remove parasites, snails, etc. However, these chemicals are extremely poisonous to fish, shrimp, and other invertebrates.
Note: According to the study, Staurogyne repens is hard enough to tolerate a relatively high concentration of Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). Even more, the best results were found in explants treated with 5.5% H2O2 for 20 min.
To find out more, read my articles:
How to Quarantine and Disinfect Aquarium Plants.
How to Remove Snails from a Shrimp Tank.
Pesticides in Shrimp Tanks. Plants Quarantine.
If you are looking for a hardy plant that can form a beautiful and thick lawn on the bottom of your aquarium, the Staurogyne repens is a perfect fit.
This plant is slow-growing, thrives with or without CO2 and takes up to 2-3 months after planting to densely cover the foreground of your tank, therefore eliminating the need for frequent trimming of the shoots.