Marsilea Hirsuta is a popular carpet-like aquarium plant that is easy to tend and can withstand minor habitat changes. Saying that, their growth rate is slow which is actually advantageous as you spend less time pruning the plant. If you are in doubt about the Marsilea Hirsuta being ideal for your home aquarium, then, read this article. We shared in-depth details about the Marsilea Hirsuta, its easy care and propagation, which will make you want it in your aquarium for sure!

Marsilea Hirsuta Stats

Here is a table containing easily-digestible facts about the Marsilea Hirsuta:

  Common Name Marsilea Hirsuta
  Other Names Rough water-clover, Bristly water-clove, and pepperwort
  Scientific Name Marsilea Hirsuta
  Tank size  10 gallons (40 Liters)
  Difficulty  Easy to medium
  Lightning  Medium to high
 Optimal pH 6.0-7.5
  Optimal Temperature  20-25C  or 68-77F
  Optimal GH 2-12
  Substrate needed Nutrient packed 
Marsilea Hirsuta Growth rate Slow to moderate 

Marsilea Hirsuta Overview

Marsilea Hirsuta is a short perennial plant so it is perfect for the bottom of an aquarium. Its common name is rough water-clover and Bristly water-clover. They look best in the foreground as they can get lost at the back of the tank.

They are versatile and one of the hardiest foreground aquatic plants that are great for beginner hobbyists. Also, they grow gradually, making their maintenance less demanding. The Marsilea Hirsuta thrives in warm water with a close to neutral pH, and requires moderate to intense lighting.

Nonetheless, you can recreate these requirements while designing the perfect tank set up to be sure your plant will be healthy.

– Origin

The Marsilea Hirsuta was named after an Italian natural scientist called Count Luigi Ferdinando Marsilea. Moreover, Marsilea Hirsuta is an aquatic freshwater plant. It is from the family of Marsileacea, the group popularly known as the water-clover or pepperwort family.

This heterosporous aquatic species is originally from the river and lake banks of Australia. They have, however, spread through North America and Europe and thrive both partially or fully submerged in water.

– Why Is the Marsilea Hirsuta Hardy?

The Marsilea Hirsuta is hardy because you can keep it in a wide range of aquarium setups. It will tolerate tanks with water temperature, hardness and pH that is similar to their natural habitat.

– Appearance

The Marsilea Hirsuta have slim stems with leaves that look like clover at the end. The circinate leaves are small of about 0.2-0.4 inches, round, and formed in either two-parts, three-parts, or four-parts. They have a slender and long creeping rhizome that has tiny brownish hairs. Also, the plant is a dark green color that looks deeper under bright light.

The Marsilea Hirsuta produces runners as it grows, always depending on light and nutrients, causing it to spread through the substrate rapidly. Although other Marsilea variants like the Quadrifolia has floating leaves that grow outwards from the water surface, the Marsilea Hirsuta remains fully submerged with no floating leaves.

Moreover, they are heterosporous and reproduce through spore production. The spores they produce are of two kinds and they may remain dormant during long unfavorable conditions.

– Marsilea Hirsuta Growth Pattern

The Marsilea Hirsuta leaves grow dense in the wild, causing them to block off all the light reaching the substrate. They would grow horizontally under intense light. While under low lightning, they grow vertically reducing their carpet-like look, which is what attracts people to plant them in the first place.

– Marsilea Hirsuta Size

The Marsilea Hirsuta size is an average height of four inches which makes it the perfect shelter for small fishes at the tank bottom.

Marsilea Hirsuta Care

The Marsilea Hirsuta care routine is easy. Below are some care tips for the plant:

  1. You do not have to prune them often because of the Marsilea Hirsuta growth rate. Hence, you save time during the aquarium maintenance.
  2. The health of the aquarium is critical as it helps the plant flourish, so regular partial water changes and algae removal helps it thrive.
  3. You do not necessarily need CO2 injections for the Marsilea Hirsuta, but if you do add them to your tank, observe the shrimps (if you have any) as CO2 can be dangerous for them.
  4. You may not need to trim until after about two months because of the plant’s slow growth rate.
  5. However, you will need to inspect if they need trimming and prune especially when the Marsilea Hirsuta carpet gets too dense.
  6. Lightly cut the dense carpet to keep it in good shape with trimming scissors and use a fishnet to trap the clipped shoots and dispose of them.

– Marsilea Hirsuta Habitat

The Marsilea Hirsuta thrives and originates from tropical regions in Australia; hence imitating it is an excellent way to keep the plant healthy. In the natural habitat, they grow on the banks of the rivers and lakes. So, as their water levels change through the seasons, the Marsilea Hirsuta adapts. Its tolerance to the various water levels has made the Marsilea Hirsuta quite a sturdy aquarium plant.

Here are some habitat details to consider when creating the perfect home for your Marsilea Hirsuta:

– Substrate

When the Marsilea Hirsuta is fully submerged, it prefers soil substrate, but fine-grained sand is also a good alternative.

– Lightning

Place the Marsilea Hirsuta under the light in the tank, but be sure that other tall plants or nothing else is casting a shadow or blocking the light source.

– Nutrition

While planting Marsilea Hirsutas, you should space them out to reduce space and resources competition, and also plant them in the foreground.

– Water Parameters

The aquarium water should be warm like a tropical habitat, so a temperature between 68-77 F is adequate. In the wild, the rivers and lakes are neutral, but aquarists recommend a pH of 6.0-7.5 while the Marsilea Hirsuta is in captivity. The range and water conditions are wide, causing them to be effective for community tank setup.

– Plant Supplements

You do not necessarily need additional supplements to aid growth as they would grow without them. However, when any signs of damage are noticed, fertilizers and CO2 injections would cause an enhancement in color and growth rate.

– What Aquarium Size Does Marsilea Hirsuta Need?

Because the Marsilea Hirsuta grows to an average height of four inches, a 10-gallon tank is perfect for it. However, they would also look great in larger aquariums, but you would have to add other taller aquatic plant species as well. This is because those would help fill in the empty background space at the top area.

Some Issues Associated With Marsilea Hirsuta

– Severe Transition Effects Of An Emerged Marsilea To A Submerged Marsilea

Marsilea Hirsuta that used to be emergent and replanted as a submerged plant always severely suffers the aftermath; the leaves may melt and shed. Naturaly, the plant would need time to adapt to the new habitat. However, when it recovers, the new growth would tolerate the environmental conditions better.

– Growth Direction

The Marsilea Hirsuta carpet plant would grow vertically rather than horizontally under low light. Hence, to get the best carpet grass, provide sufficient light for at least eight hours daily.

– Wrong Water Parameters

Although transplanting, as mentioned earlier, can make the Marsilea Hirsuta melt, the wrong water parameter is also a culprit for this effect. If the water temperature is warmer than 79 F, the plants may begin to show signs of distress.

– Stunted Growth

Owning to the slow growth rate of the Marsilea Hirsuta, it may seem like it is not growing for an extended period, especially after planting. At this time, the plant is trying to anchor and form strong roots, so do not be alarmed.

Marsilea Hirsuta Tank Mates

Marsilea Hirsutas are ideal for a community tank because they are compatible with most environmental conditions. Bottom-dwelling fishes would mostly benefit from the Marsilea Hirsuta as it shields them from the bright light and creates a refuge for hiding from predator fishes.

Now, let’s take a look at the suitable and unsuitable tank mates for the Marsilea Hirsuta, so you know which fish you can keep around them:

– Suitable Marsilea Hirsuta Tank Mates

Fishes like Mollies, Pygmy, Zebra Danio, Bleeding heart Tetra, Otocinclus catfish, Neon Tetra, Kuhli loaches, sunburst Platy, white mountain minnows, corydoras catfish, killifish, cherry Barb, swordtails, yoyo loaches, and other species top-dwelling species are compatible.

Invertebrates like dwarf shrimp (Japanese trapdoor snails, mystery snail, ramshorn snails, Rabbit Snails, Nerite Snails, Black Devil Snails, Malaysian Trumpet Snails, and Asolene Spixi) and shrimps (like Ghost Shrimps, Crystal Red Shrimp, Caridina cf. Babaulti, and Blue Bolt Shrimp) are also good options of tank mates.

– Unsuitable Marsilea Hirsuta Tank Mates

Fishes you shouldn’t keep in the same tank as the Marsilea Hirsuta include African Cichlids, Goldfish, Koi Fish, Rainbow, Jack Dempsey, Oscars, and Clown Coaches. This is because they are known to enjoy eating and uprooting the plant. However, if smaller species nibble on the Marsilea Hirsuta, it can most likely withstand it. Moreover, freshwater crabs and crayfish are also not suitable tank mates because they would tear up the plant.

If you think you do not want tank mates for the Marsilea Hirsuta, try building a paludarium with them. They can also thrive alone in a tank.

– Purchasing Advice

They are affordable, and you would generally get the Marsilea Hirsuta plant for around five dollars. You can save money by buying a little and propagating them to produce more. However, look closely at the plant at the point of purchase to ensure it is not damaged or showing any signs of deficiency.

– Quarantine Your Marsilea Hirsuta Plant

It is critical to quarantine your Marsilea Hirsuta plants before placing them in your aquarium. This is because they could have pests like snails, parasites, or predators like nymphs and dragonflies.

Although you can treat them or get rid of the pest with certain chemicals, the pesticides may be dangerous to the Marsilea Hirsuta tankmates as well.

To quarantine the plants you should:

  1. Immerse them in a bucket of water and add a water conditioner to them.
  2. Leave them in the water for five days and make sure to implement daily water changes.
  3. Add in more water conditioner each time as its concentration drops after a water change.
  4. After the five-day quarantine, rinse the plants with clean tap water.
  5. Now, they are ready to be introduced into your tank.

How to Plant Marsilea Hirsuta

Below are some steps to follow when planting Marsilea Hirsuta:

  1. Firstly, check if the substrate of your tank is up to one to two inches, as the Marsilea Hirsuta roots need room to anchor.
  2. Then, prepare the plants you want to propagate by splitting the clumped Marsilea Hirsuta into individual pieces because it should have stolons and roots.
  3. Place the pieces on a tray, lightly spray aquarium water on them or put a damp paper towel over them, which would keep them moist, so they do not dry off.
  4. Next, use a pair of tweezers and pick a Marsilea Hirsuta plant out of the pieces.
  5. Place it into the substrate at an angle of 40 to 60 degrees and cover the root adequately.
  6. Gently release your hold on the tweezers and plant it while wiggling it to make sure the substrate has a firm hold on it; it would help it settle into the soil.
  7. Space out the next plant at about one inch from the first and uniformly plant all your Marsilea Hirsuta.

Another method of planting the Marsilea Hirsuta is the dry method. Below are two ways you can try it out.

– Dry Start Method Using Lazy Planting

To propagate Marsilea Hirsuta using this method, it does not require actual planting. Simply prepare your Marsilea Hirsuta by cutting it into small one to two inch pieces. Then scatter them over the substrate and let them grow.

– Dry Start Method on Hardscape

After filling the aquarium with the substrate, you would plan your design and place the plant in a hardscape. In this case, you can opt for driftwood or stones, which should go into the tank before you begin planting.

Moreover, plant the Marsilea Hirsuta into the substrate, then watch it spread out and grow over the hardscape. Observe the growth and create your perfect design patterns by pruning and trimming when necessary.

– Molt Problems in the Marsilea Hirsuta

Molt problems are a common complaint when aquarist try the dry start method. They show up when you add more than enough water to the plant and excessively mist the substrate. Although the substrate needs water, it should be moist, not flooded.

However, if your Marsilea Hirsuta develops a molt or fungus problem, you can get rid of it. Mix one part of H2O2 with four parts of water and spray lightly. Do not drench the plants as they can cause more damage.

– Propagation and Planting

The rhizome division is how the Marsilea Hirsuta reproduces. The plants grow out new branches which eventually separate to form a stand-alone plant. You may speed up the Marsilea Hirsuta growth rate by cutting up one to two inches from a new branch and replanting them in another area of the substrate.

Be sure the trimmings have some leaves on them, or photosynthesis would not occur, which is critical for growth. Furthermore, we’ve already mentioned that Marsilea Hirsuta grows slowly, so it would take a while for the new plant to mature; hence, patience is critical during propagation. You can also use spore production while you propagate Marsilea Hirsuta, but you can do that mainly when the plant is growing outside water.

Is Marsilea Hirsuta Suitable for Your Aquarium?

Apart from comparing the water parameters and habitat conditions of aquatic plants with other aquarium dwellers, individual preference is also a factor to consider. It is common knowledge that carpet species are time-consuming to tend to, but it is different for Marsilea Hirsutas. They are hardy, grow slowly, and have an easy maintenance routine. This is why they would easily fit into a freshwater setup, as they have an adaptable water condition range.

You can propagate them easily, so a little would go a long way and turn into a dense carpet with time. If you want a carpet, they add vibrant color and an excellent sense of depth to the bottom of aquariums. They can survive fully and partially submerged

Benefits of the Marsilea Hirsuta Plant

– Aquascape

They are an excellent choice as they beautify the tank with their dense carpets.

– Shelter

They serve as shelter for small bottom-dwelling fishes and shrimp. They also create great spawning surfaces for egg-laying. Furthermore, if you wish to breed freshwater shrimps, the Marsilea Hirsuta gives them a perfectly flat surface to stand on.

– Foraging

The Marsilea Hirsuta is a good ground for foraging, and they encourage biofilm growth which newly-hatched shrimps and fishes feed on at first.

– Oxygenation

The Marsilea Hirsuta gives off oxygen and uses photosynthesis to filter the aquarium water.


Indeed the Marsilea Hirsuta is an undemanding versatile plant but here’s why we really think it is an excellent plant for your home aquarium:

  • They accept a wide range of tropical water conditions
  • They require at least a 10-gallon tank size to grow appropriately
  • They do not necessarily need additional supplements and fertilizer to grow
  • Marsilea Hirsutas are very easy to take care of, and they don’t need pruning often compared to other carpet plants
  • They serve as shelter and spawning surfaces for fishes

Get this perennial plant from your local store and enjoy all these benefits and more. If you do, our guide should be by your side so you can make sure that the Marsilea Hirsuta is healthy and happy with its tank mates.

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