Stem plants are tall, fast growing, and every easy to propagate by cuttings. These makes them a great option to fill the background of planted aquariums. There are so many stem plants with different colors and leaf forms that you can use to impress your background. Following are some of the most popular stem plants used in the planted aquarium today.

Rotala indica (rotundifolia)

Rotala rotundifoliaRotala rotundifolia

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: fast
  • Height: 6 – 12+ inches (15 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

This easy to grow, small leaved Rotala is a very popular Rotala species for beginners. It is an ideal stem plant that will add a little red to the background. Depending on light and temperature, the red coloration is more or less pronounced. The Rotala indica benefits from regular addition of iron rich fertilizers and trace elements. It will grow rather densely, and may need to be trimmed frequently.

Like other stem plants, you can propagate this plant by cuttings. Simply cut the plant at the height that you desire, then strip the leaves off of about an inch of the stem, and plant into the gravel. Roots will form at the last node and will aid in keeping the plant in place.

Rotala macrandra – Giant Red Rotala

rotala-macrandra

  • Difficulty: advanced
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 8 – 12+ inches (20 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: high
  • CO2: high

The brilliant red leaves of this plant really stand out in planted aquariums. It is not easy to handle since it gets easily damaged and the plant newly arrived to the retail store often decays after planting. This Rotala will grow without any problem once it has adapted to the underwater environment. Sufficient light and CO2 as well as iron supplements are essential for its beautiful appearance.

Rotala wallichii

Rotala wallichiiRotala wallichii

  • Difficulty: advanced
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 4 – 12+ inches (10 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: high
  • CO2: high

Rotala wallichii has the narrowest leaf among red aquatic plants and gives a delicate impression. Beautiful leaves can be enjoyed by purchasing and planting emersed leaves rather than purchasing submersed leaves. Its demands is similar to those of R. macrandra.

It has a tolerance to trimming but its bottom stem will eventually turn black and harden through repeated trimming. If these symptoms are observed, cut off and plant the robust portion of the stem to maintain the plant. Be careful not to add too many Amano shrimps (Caridina multidentata), as these will consider R. wallichii as a special treat.

Ludwigia repens – Water Primrose

Ludwigia repensLudwigia repens

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: fast
  • Height: 8 – 12+ inches (20 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

Ludwigia repens is a very tough and easy-to-grow plant with round leaves that grow on opposite sides of stem. Its leaf color changes from green to red according to the lighting intensity and it shows bright red color around the terminal bud under high light conditions. This plant is easy to manage even for beginners because it grows even with less amount of CO2 injection and its growth rate is not that fast in those conditions.

Ludwigia repens ‘Rubin’ (Super Red)

Ludwigia repens 'Rubin'Ludwigia repens 'Rubin'

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 8 – 12+ inches (20 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

Deep red form of L. repens. Leaves smaller than those of the standard form. Provide ample light and a balanced nutrition to cultivate this plant at its optimum.

Ludwigia arcuala – Needle Leaf Ludwigia

Ludwigia arcualaLudwigia arcuala

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 8 – 12+ inches (20 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: high
  • CO2: high

This species is one of the most popular plants used in planted aquariums along with three species of Rotala rotundifolia that are mentioned earlier in this section. Use of Needle Leaf Ludwigia together with Rotala having a different shape of leaves not only brings out the most of its signature red sharp leaves but it also provides a colorful accent to the layout.

This plant poses a certain difficulty like decay of the lower stem immediately after planting. If this problem occurs, suction off the decayed stems immediately, snip off the robust part around the terminal bud and replant it in the substrate.

Hygrophila corymbosa – Temple plant

hygrophila-corymbosa

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: fast
  • Height: 8 – 12+ inches (20 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: low
  • CO2: low

This large Hygrophila is suitable for large planted aquarium layouts. It is fairly easy to grow and definitely a good choice for beginners. Its very large leaves will remain mostly green and don’t have the tendency to become brown or red under strong light. This plant will have larger stems and grow thick, long roots over time.

Hygrophila pinnatifida

Hygrophila pinnatifidaHygrophila pinnatifida

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 6 – 12+ inches (15 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

With its unique pinnate leaves, Hygrophila pinnatifida has a great impact on the overall impression of the layout. Another great feature of this plant is its highly epiphytic roots that can be strongly attached to driftwoods and stones just like ferns. The plant’s leaves turn green or red according to the light source.

Hygrophila difformis – Water Wisteria

Hygrophila difformisHygrophila difformis

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: fast
  • Height: 8 – 12+ inches (20 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: low
  • CO2: low

Water wisteria develops pinnate leaves when grown submersed in striking contrast to its oval emersed leaves. The thread-like divisions of its submersed leaves are not uniform; some are deep and some are shallow. A bush of water wisteria is uniquely appealing. This plant propagates very well by growing roots out of its stem. A fast growing plant for beginners.

Myriophyllum mattogrossense

Myriophyllum mattogrossenseMyriophyllum mattogrossense

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: fast
  • Height: 8 – 12+ inches (20 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

This Myriophyllum is perhaps one of the easiest to use in the planted aquarium among aquatic plants with pinnately-divided leaves. It grows sideways unlike other members of Myriophyllum. It forms a beautiful thicket which can form a smooth gradient outline through trimming. This Myriophyllum is easy to grow but it turns white as its roots start floating out of the substrate or its lower stem hardens over time. Its density can easily be increased by repeated trimming its abundant side shoots.

Myriophyllum tuberculatum – Red Millfoil

myriophyllum-tuberculatum

  • Difficulty: advanced
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: fast
  • Height: 8 – 12+ inches (20 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: high
  • CO2: high

This Myriophyllum grows red- brown fine leaves in whorls on its dark, hard stem. Red Myriophyllum makes an excellent contrast to all the greens of other aquarium plants and this planted at the rear of your tank will give impressive structure. Its narrow leaves with oxygen bubbles looks fantastic.

It is rather difficult to grow and requires abundant light and CO2 supplementation along with the application of liquid fertilizers. This plant is often damaged when newly arrived to the retail shop. It is advisable to verify the condition of the plant before purchase.

Limnophila aquatica – Giant Ambulia

Limnophila aquaticaLimnophila aquatica

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: fast
  • Height: 8 – 12+ inches (20 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: high

This is the largest Limnophila and just a few stalks of this plant look extremely striking. Ensure that you have a large enough tank if you want to keep this plant because it requires a lot of space. In clear, soft water, whorls of more than 10 cm can be formed. A disadvantage is that its whorled leaves are very soft and fine, and therefore it will be hard to remove algae on them.

Limnophila sessiliflora – Dwarf Ambulia

limnophila-sessiliflora

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: fast
  • Height: 6 – 12+ inches (15 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: low
  • CO2: low

Limnophila sessiliflora is a great alternative to Camboba because it requires less lighting and is much easier to raise. It grows in almost any aquarium and is definitely a good beginner’s choice. In well-controlled environment within planted aquarium, this plant expands extremely fast and can affect the overall balance of the layout. It is easy to grow, but requires regular trimming to maintain in the layout for a long time.

Limnophila aromatica – Ambulia conferta

limnophila-aromatica

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 8 – 12+ inches (20 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

Extremely attractive plant when given favorable conditions. It is often used as the focal point due to its intense coloration and leave texture. Providing high intensity lighting and additional CO2 is critical to having this plant display properly.

Ammannia gracilis

Ammannia gracilisAmmannia gracilis

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 8 – 12+ inches (20 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

With its elegant opposite leaves opening at an upward slant, this attractive Ammannia gracilis can be fully appreciated by using it as a focal point in a large tank. Transition from emersed to submersed form is rather hard, especially in summer when water temperature rises and the risk of plant decay is higher. This plant will be very easy to grow once it has adapted to aquatic environment.

Cabomba caroliniana – Green Cabomba

Cabomba carolinianaCabomba caroliniana

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: fast
  • Height: 8 – 12+ inches (20 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: low

Green Cabomba is a spectacular addition to the background of any aquarium. This plant is an easy-to-care species and not very demanding provided that plenty of light is supplied. If there isn’t enough light, the Cabomba will begin to lose its leaves and decay its stem. Frequently transplanting or trimming the plant can also kill it or cause it to look really bad until it gets stabilized again.

Eleocharis montevidensis – Giant hairgrass

Eleocharis montevidensisEleocharis montevidensis

  • Type: stolon
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 8 – 12+ inches (20 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

This hairgrass develops the same shape of leaves as Eleochalis acicularis (a beautiful carpet plant) but it grows taller beyond 12 inches. Because of this characteristic, this species is suitable to be planted in the background. This hairgrass grows a little slower than Eleochalis acicularis.

This hairgrass as well as other tall hairgrass is usually used in the background of the layout. These produce an atmosphere that resembles a grassy field. With such features, the tall hairgrass is suitable for driftwood layouts that focus on the expression of natural ambience.

Vallisneria spiralis – Jungle Val

Vallisneria spiralisVallisneria spiralis

  • Usage: background
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Growth: fast
  • Height: 8 – 12+ inches (20 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: low
  • CO2: low

There are a variety of Vallisneria species from Vallisneria nana for small tanks to Vallisneria gigantea for extra large tanks. These plants are very popular in the aquatic hobby because they don’t have much requirement and is very easy to grow. Vallisneria spiralis is a species of Vallisneria that features narrow and long leaves making it an ideal choice for the background.

Heteranthera zosterifolia – Stargrass

heteranthera-zosterifolia-star-grass

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: fast
  • Height: 8 – 12+ inches (20 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

Great plant that is easy to grow but does offer a challenge in maintenance. Without careful watch this plant can quickly become untidy and unkempt looking in your tank. It can be forced to grow low and form an almost carpet like growth. Frequent pruning will spur this plant into producing lots of side shoots and become very bushy. The bottom leaves will turn black if shaded or micronutrient starved.

Mayaca fluviatilis – Bog Moss

Mayaca fluviatilisMayaca fluviatilis

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: fast
  • Height: 6 – 12+ inches (15 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

This strong aquatic plant has needle leaves and is suited to the background location of a small aquarium having a width of 24 inches or below. The extremely soft and flexible stem makes it a delicate stem plant for accent groups. It creates beautiful contrast against darker or broad leaved species. Its terminal bud easily turns whitish when not in good condition.

Pogostemon erectus

pogostemon-erectus

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Type: stem
  • Growth: medium
  • Height: 6 – 12+ inches (15 – 30+ cm)
  • Lighting: medium
  • CO2: medium

Several groups of the Pogostemon erectus make the feel of parts of a coniferous forest in the background. This plant can be grown in both hard and soft water as long as enough free CO2 is supplied. Growth depends strongly on the fertilizing regime, plenty of Nitrogen promotes strong growth. Given daily doses of specialized Nitrogen fertilizers, the growth will be lush, fast and dense.

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