Vallisneria careVallisneria is a classic plant that serves perfectly as an aquarium background. It grows and propagates rapidly, causing the leaves to drape over the aquarium top. Nonetheless, the lush jungle it creates is a perfect hiding spot for fishes, making them feel safe.

This article contains in-depth information about the habitat, nutrition and propagation of the Vallisneria plant, so you can read it and care for your Vallisneria like an expert.

Vallisneria Facts

Below are a few quick facts about the Vallisneria plant.

Scientific name Vallisneria 
Family  Hydrocharitaceae 
Subfamily  Hydrillondeae 
Order  Alismatales 
Length  11-20  inches
Light  Moderate to high 

30-50 PAR

Genus Vallisneria L.eelgrass
Growth rate Fast 
Origin  America, Asia and Australia
Aquarium plant Height  Subspecies

Gigantea : 39 inches

Spiralis: 20 inches

Nana : 15 inches

Cockscrew : 20 inches

Tank size Minimum of 10 gallons
Substrate  Sand or gravel
Ease of growing  Easy 
Aquascape  Mid-ground and background placement
pH 6.5-8.0
Water Temperature 68-82 F
Propagation  Stolons
CO2 requirement  CO2 injection is not required but recommended for fast growth
GH 4-15

Vallisneria Overview

Vallisneria is an easy plant to tend to because it requires minimal care, is hardy, and propagates effortlessly. These plants are pretty advantageous because they use up the nitrates in the tank, and you can easily uproot them from the tank areas you do not want them. Moreover, they are commonly used in aquariums as they give fast filtering results and are mostly always healthy.

Saying that, they would not survive outside water, since they are fully aquatic and need water to live.

They are divided into two popular species: Vallisneria Americana and Vallisneria spiralis. However, there are also some recently introduced variants called the Vallisneria nana and Vallisneria torta. Furthermore, the Vallisneria and its species are attractive, and they provide the aquarium with vertical background accents.

Another thing about them that is worth knowing is that Vallisnerias are hydrophytes; hence they live fully submerged in water. They are commonly found in fast-moving streams, lakes, rivers, and wetlands.

– Origin

Vallisneria is a member of the Hydrocharitaceae family, a flowering plant family that scientists have identified about 16 genera and 135 species. It was first found in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus and named after named an Italian medical scientist called Antonio Vallisneri. Its different species first originated from America, Asia, and Australia, but it has since spread throughout the tropical and subtropical regions like north and south America, Australia, Africa, and Eurasia.

– Vallisneria Growth Rate

The Vallisneria grows fast and easily. When you plant some at the back of an aquarium, they will spread through the surface of the substrate in no time. But, you may find this a bit problematic if you want them to remain at a particular area in the tank.

How to Identify the Vallisneria Plant

Vallisneria grows differently depending on environmental factors. Its physical appearance changes due to them, making it quite difficult for scientists to determine the name and variant of the plant. In some cases, they may wonder if the Vallisneria is a new plant altogether.

The regular Vallisneria looks similar and may be confused with other Vallisneria species, the Pygmy Chain Sword Echinodorous Tennellus, and some Saggitaria species. But with experience, you will find out that the Vallisneria has small spikes at its leaves’ tips. Nonetheless, when in doubt, the Vallisneria flowers come to the rescue as they help tell apart the Vallisneria species from the rest of its variants.

– Appearance

Vallisneria plants are tall that have tape or ribbon-like leaves growing from a basal meristem. These dioecious plants (have both male and female flowers) are bright greenish. Its female flowers grow on long, slender spiral-like scapes, but they are inconspicuous, whereas the male flowers grow at the base. Moreover, Vallisneria plants have a suitable mid-ground aquarium setup, but they are primarily great for background placements.

The leaves of the Vallisneria may be broad or narrow as this is dependent on the species; in any case, they are long and rosulate. They grow upwards towards the surface of the water and form tangles that can serve as fish spawning surfaces. All Vallisneria species propagate from stolons, and the tallest variants can produce one-inch broad and tape-like leaves.

The Different Species of Vallisneria Plant

Although we mentioned two popular variants of the Vallisneria earlier, this aquatic plant may have even more than scientists have been able to identify. If you decide to get the Vallisneria, choose based on tank size, display placement, and preference.

Let’s take a look at the species that we know of in detail:

– Vallisneria Americana (Gigantea)

Vallisneria americanaThe Vallisneria Americana is commonly known as Gigantea, Jungle Val, and Giant Val. Although it does not have long roots, it has a bulbiform Rhizome. The rhizome has ten to fifteen bright green ribbon-like leaves, about one inch wide and 39 inches long. These have 15 diagonally connected veins.

They are gigantic and would fit tall aquariums as they allow the Vallisneria plant to grow well. Although the Vallisneria Americana grows fast, they propagate slowly compared to other Vallisneria species. Furthermore, they thrive in slightly higher temperatures than others.

– Vallisneria Spiralis

Vallisneria spiralisVallisneria spiralis are also known as Straight Vallisneria or Italian Vallisneria. They have bright green ribbon-shaped leaves, which have five longitudinal veins. In captivity, the leaves grow to 16-20 inches long and about half an inch wide but grow longer in the wild.

Moreover, Vallisneria spiralis gets its name from its floral peduncle. In suitable conditions, the Spiralis species propagates fast and fills the aquarium background with dense leaves.

– Vallisneria Leopard

Vallisneria leopardThe Vallisneria leopard is a variant of the Vallisneria plant. It is a bigger version of the Vallisneria Spiralis and has thicker and broader leaves with horizontal markings. Furthermore, it gets its name “leopard” due to its spotted leaves. The Vallisneria leopard grows fast with minimal care and does not have so many specific needs.

However, it still requires nutrient-rich substrate (specifically iron) and a moderate amount of light. Its leaves are tall, slender, yet thicker than the Spiralis species. They also grow vertically and look best at the background of tanks. Furthermore, the occasional trimming of leaves and runners is vital to ensure they do not get too tall.

– Vallisneria Nana

Vallisneria nanaVallisneria Nana or dwarf Vallisneria is originally from Australia. They have deep green leaves, which are quite narrow. They are usually about 0.4 inches in width and 10-15 inches long. These look similar to grass but take a lot of time to get established in the tank.

Like the other Vallisneria species, the dwarf Vallisnerias are suitable for background and mid-ground setup but in smaller tanks. They do not have specific substrate requirements and would even grow in the sand, but a nutrient-filled soil is best.

The Vallisneria Nana would grow without CO2 injection but still requires adequate lighting. What’s more, it thrives in calcium-rich, slow-moving hard water but can also flourish in other water parameters too. If you are planning to keep it under a lot of light, you should know that it would cause it to grow rapidly.

– Corkscrew Vallisneria

Corkscrew vallisneriaCorkscrew Vallisneria also known as the Vallisneria torta plant, is one of the longest variants. It is attractive and would grow up to 20 inches tall under favorable conditions. The leaves are twisted in a spiral-like pattern causing them to be slightly shorter and compact, unlike the other Vallisneria species. The leaves are a translucent light green shade creating a mesmerizing contrast when planted with others of its kind.

Vallisneria Care

The Vallisneria has a simple care routine, and in addition, it adapts to different conditions fast. They are also one of the few aquatic plants that can survive in both fresh and brackish water. Moreover, the Vallisneria would appreciate fertilizer applications in its initial growth stages, particularly if reproduced on a plain substrate.

Below are other habitat conditions to consider when taking care of this plant:

– Tank Size

The Vallisneria species grow predominantly tall; hence the least tank size should be 10 gallons. However, if you plan on keeping the larger species like Vallisneria Gigantea, you would need a much bigger tank. It is because they need room to grow, or they may choke the aquarium.

If you have already had a small tank and want something similar to the Vallisneria, try planting the dwarf Sagittaria. They look like the Vallisneria, but they are smaller.

– Water Parameters

You must ensure optimal water values in the aquarium because they help the Vallisneria and other tank inhabitants stay healthy and grow properly.

Moreover, the Vallisneria thrives in optimal temperatures of about 68 to 82 F, but they can tolerate 59-86 F. The ideal pH for the Vallisneria is 6.5-8.0 as they would not do too well in acidic environments. Although the Vallisneria thrives in water hardness between four to 18GH, they tolerate soft and hard water equally.

– Lighting

The Vallisneria thrives in medium to low-lit aquariums even though aquarists mostly recommend low. This is due to the fact that low light encourages horizontal growth as the leaves would grow towards the light. But for more controlled growth, 30-50 PAR is ideal. Furthermore, bright light helps the leaves maintain their vibrant green color and encourage lateral shoots growth.

– Substrate

The Vallisneria is not so demanding as it would grow on practically any substrate (sand or gravel) as long as there is a bioload in the tank. You may not need to put in fertilizer as it would flourish regardless. In any case, we recommend you use either gravel or coarse sand as a substrate.

The Vallisneria feeds from its root, so a nutrient-packed substrate is essential, especially if you do not want additional supplements. A sandy substrate may not be perfect if you want the Vallisneria to propagate very fast, since the sand slows down how the roots and runners spread.

– CO2 Injections

The Vallisnerias do not necessarily need CO2 injections, but they do make a lot of difference when used on the plant. They make the plant healthy, increase growth rates and cause the leaves to give off a more vibrant color and look thicker. However, there are reports of Vallisneria melting due to liquid CO2, so pay attention to the CO2 brand recommended dosage and increase gradually if necessary.

Please note that high doses of CO2 are dangerous to shrimps, so put that into consideration if you breed them in your tank.

– Trimming Vallisneria

The Vallisneria produces vertical shoots that can cast a shadow on smaller plants. So, it’s necessary to use trimming scissors and prune overgrown leaves. Do not wait until they are overgrown as they could get so dense at the top of the tank. However, the trimmed leaves may not completely heal and stop growing.

In this case, the aquarium plant Vallisneria would regrow new leaves to replace damaged ones. Also, it can be pretty challenging to trim long plants, but if you simultaneously prune and perform water changes, then it would be manageable.

When trimming, first reduce the water in the tank, pull the leaves upwards and trim to the water level. What’s more, be sure that the trimming scissors are sharp, or the ripped leaves will die off.

Planting and Propagating the Vallisneria Plant

To propagate Vallisneria is easy; firstly, the roots should go into the substrate, and the part where leaves emerge should be above. Use tweezers to place the plant and allow it to anchor, and then wiggle it a bit, so only the root is beneath the substrate.

Place the Vallisneria in the mid-grounds or tank background and plant it in small groups. Once the plant acclimatizes itself, runners will spread out over the aquarium. With time, daughter plants will also grow and send off runners too. In a healthy tank, Vallisneria would send out runners a few days after planting. As a last note, you may cut off the runners and replant or dispose of them.

– Flowering and Seed Production

It is common for the Vallisneria to also reproduce in the wild via flowering and seed, but you seldom see this in an aquarium. This is because the Vallisneria produces male and female plants, so only their pollination can cause reproduction.

The female produces flowers that float on water while the male has several flowers underwater. But when the male plant releases these flowers, they float to the top. Then waves and wind carry them to pollinate the female flowers, which in turn causes them to produce seeds. As you can imagine, waves and wind are a bit impossible to occur in a man-made tank.

Benefits Of Vallisneria Plant

– Stunning Aquascape

The Vallisneria is beautiful and has a diverse appearance depending on species, light, and nutrients. However, it’s also a great choice if you are interested in jungle aquascaping.

– Foraging Place

Vallisneria is perfect for foraging as the aquarium dwellers (snails, fishes, or shrimps) appreciate them. The plant foliage encourages biofilm growth which fry and shrimplets can feed on immediately after birth.

– Shelter For Smaller Fish

Shrimps and smaller fish use the Vallisneria for spawning as a shield. They hide in-between its leaves from predators and bright light.

– Water Filter and Oxygenation

The Vallisneria absorbs harmful chemicals from animal waste such as nitrates, ammonia, CO2, etc. It also increases the oxygen levels in the water.

– Reduces Algal Bloom

Vallisneria discourages algae growth by using all the nutrients in the tank or outcompetes it.

Common Problems Associated With the Vallisneria Plant

– Chlorosis

It is a result of iron deficiency and insufficient lighting. In this case, the plant loses its normal vibrant green coloration.

– Rot

If the plant crown is buried too deep in the substrate, the plants may begin to rot, killing it.

– Melting

Vallisneria may not thrive in aquarium water with excess liquid CO2 and low nitrate content. The plants would gradually wither and die off. However, it is common for the Vallisneria to melt initially after planting. It needs time to adapt to the slight changes resulting from different environmental conditions and water parameters.

Indeed, it may take a while for it to get healthy, but it will recover if the roots are in good shape and the substrate is nutrient-rich. Once the Vallisneria acclimatizes, it begins to send out runners, just like we mentioned. So our advice is to look out for them, to be sure that your plant is healthy.

– Reddish Colouring in the Vallisneria Leaves

The Vallisneria can show a reddish coloration when the lightning is too much or the nutrients in the water are limited.

Vallisneria Tank Mates

The Vallisneria has leather-like leaves with small spikes on the edges, making them coarse to chew; hence most herbivorous tank dwellers cannot eat them. On the other hand, bottom digging fish are to be avoided because they can uproot the plants easily.

Aggressive fishes like Oscars, Silver Dollars, and Cichlids are also not a good option because they can tear out the Vallisneria leaves.

Moreover, fish species that are classified as egg scatterers, and Livebearers are perfect tankmates. They use the surfaces of the Vallisneria as spawning and hiding spots. Some aquarium snails and shrimps like to play in-between its leaves and do not destroy them, making them good tankmates as well.

– Suitable Vallisneria Tank Mates

Calm Fish

Calm fish like the Pygmy, Red Wagtail, Guppy, Blue Wagtail, Otocinclus Catfish, Neon Tetras, Cory Catfish, Cherry Barb, Rasboras, Green Swordtails, and Platy. These are good tankmate ideas as they would not destroy the Vallisneria.


Most shrimp would not harm the Vallisneria. Some examples are Blue Velvet Shrimp, Orange Sakura, Rili Shrimp, Black Rose, Green Jade, Snowball Shrimp, Red Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina species), Blue Tiger, Caridina cf. Babaulti, Amano Shrimp, Crystal Red Shrimp, Vampire, Bamboo Shrimp, and Ghost Shrimp.


Snails can eat up the plant, save for a few species like the Malaria Trumpet Snails, Ramshorn Snails, Japanese Trapdoor, and Nerite snails.

Vallisneria Purchase Advice

You can buy the different species of the Vallisneria for less than $10 in local aquarium stores or online. You may make purchases based on preference and tank size. For a small tank, Vallisneria Nana, Spiralis, and Asiatica would be a good choice, whereas Vallisneria Gigantea is suited for big tanks.

However, they all have similar features yet have distinct differences that are observable. Also, some store vendors may mislabel the Vallisneria species. You may end up with a different variant than you intend, so be observant as larger species need space to grow properly. Also, check the plants to be sure they do not have an odd discoloration or rots.

Differences Between Sagittaria and Vallisneria

It is easy to mix up the Saggitaria with the Vallisneria during purchase, especially when they are still small plants. They look almost identical but have different features that can distinguish them. Let’s take a look at each difference more closely:

– Leaves

  • The Vallisneria has thin flat leaves, while the Saggitaria has sturdy leaves thicker from the base.
  • The Vallisneria has transparent leaves, unlike the opaque Saggitaria leaves.
  • The veins of the Vallisneria leaves are not noticeable, but you can not miss the central vein of the Saggitaria leaves, especially as you touch them at the center ridge of the leaf.
  • Vallisneria has hook or hair-like spikes at its leaves’ tips, but the Saggitaria leaves are smooth all through.

– Runners

Vallisneria species send out runners above the substrate, Saggitaria sends theirs beneath the substrate.

Quarantine Vallisneria

It’s is ideal you quarantine your plant before introducing it to your aquarium. However, if you can ascertain that it is sterile, then you may not need to. For instance, if the in vitro pot was damaged before reaching you, you would need to quarantine the plant to avoid contamination.

In any case, these are the steps you should take in order to quarantine a Vallisneria effectively:

– How to Quarantine Vallisneria

To quarantine the plant:

  1. Immerse your Vallisneria plant in a bucket of water and add a water conditioner to it.
  2. Leave it in the water for five days and make sure to implement daily water changes, and add in more water conditioners each time.
  3. After the five-day quarantine, rinse the plant with clean tap water.
  4. After completing all the previous steps, your plant is ready to be introduced into your tank.

– What Are the Reasons to Quarantine the Vallisneria Plant?

In short, pests and parasites. The plant may have various hidden pests and parasites (nymphs and damselfly) waiting to manifest. These can contaminate the tank and infest its dwellers as well.


Vallisneria taking care ofHere are some reasons why you need the Vallisneria in your home aquarium.

  • The Vallisneria is an easy to grow plant
  • They create a beautiful background in aquariums
  • They would propagate quickly in a nutrient-rich substrate
  • They thrive in a wide range of optimal water conditions
  • They require minimal care to flourish

We do indeed recommend the Vallisneria because of their fascinating translucent leaves. They provide shelter to your tank inhabitants and are aesthetically pleasing. Now, after reading this guide, the only thing left for you to do is to plant a small bunch of Vallisneria, then watch it effortlessly reproduce throughout your tank!

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