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Elodea Plant: Complete Growing & Caring Guides

Go by many names, elodea plants are also known as Anacharis, Brazilian waterweed, and elodea densa. It is a popular plant in aquariums due to its ability to discourage algal growth by absorbing plenty of nutrients. In addition, many aquarists are fond of them because of their adaptability to a wide variety of aquarist conditions. If their beauty gets your attention, you can grow some in your aquariums or water tanks. I am going to provide all the information you need to know about elodea plants, so check them out below.

1. What Is Elodea Plant?

Elodea plants are aquatic plants that live underwater except when small white flowers bloom at the water’s surface to produce seeds. All species come with strong green stems along with viridescent leaf blades. Generally, their stems are between 6 to 8 inches long, but they may grow longer in a favorable condition. In the wild, their stems can be 3 feet long and 3mm thick. They can vary in color from bright green to dark brown, depending on the time of year and environmental conditions. Besides looking really nice, these plants also provide an important nursery habitat for aquatic invertebrates and young fish.

Male and female flowers sprout from separate stems, but the ones you see at the store are of the male variety. When buying them, you will get a bunch of several tied together at the base by a small rubber band. You want to avoid choosing the ones with limpy stems or stems that are just a few in number. Another thing to avoid is the plants with black or extremely dark green leaves. Finally, make sure to check if the plants show signs of decaying, decomposing, or dying when you buy at the store. This is to ensure that the elodea plants that you choose are healthy so that they will grow beautifully.

2. How To Plant An Elodea Plant

Even if you are a beginner, you still can plant and grow your elodea plant with ease. You can either plant them in a gravel or sand substrate or just leave them floating. Just make sure that you have the right tank, the right water, and everything ready before you get your plants. Once you find them from the local fish store or online, the steps below are what you need to do.

  • Gently cut the rubber bands from the stem base. The rubber bands keep the plants in place and make them look nice in the tank during the display. If you plant them with the rubber band on, it will break the stem. So you should remove them when you want to start growing and planting them.
  • Then set the stems apart and inspect their bottom parts for any cracks that result from the tight rubber bands. If there are any, gently trim the damaged portions off with clean and sharp scissors or shears. The trimming should be at least half an inch, and it should not be longer than that.
  • Just place each stem into the gravel in the aquarium or nutrient-rich substrate. The depth should be around two inches deep with a distance of at least an inch apart. If you plant the stems too shallow, there could be stem floating stems. And planting the stems too close together will not provide enough room for growth.
  • Plant your elodea as a background plant by arranging all shorter stems in front of the longer ones. The stems will grow nicely from the back to the front, resulting in a unique forest-like display. As they grow, some stems may curl, which creates a dense arch in the tank; mostly the top part.

3. How To Care For An Elodea Plant

People often say that caring for an elodea plant is rather easy and simple because they are so adaptive. This is partly true, but I disagree because there are several important things that you should watch out for. That is because some of these plants can grow very fast they overtake the whole container, which can be bad. However, I am only going to talk about how to properly care for them in this segment. You can grow them by either floating or planting and below are how to care for one.

3.1. Feeding

Waterweed needs minerals to survive, so you want to make sure that you feed them well. Sometimes it is necessary to add an aquatic plant fertilizer to replenish depleted mineral content in their water. You can also add substrate and CO2 fertilizer if you run a tropical aquarium. If your aquarium also contains animal inhabitants, you should monitor nitrate and phosphate levels. This is to ensure that the conditions and health of the aquarium are favorable for all living organisms there. Iron is of primary concern because elodea plants deplete this mineral rapidly almost every day. When they experience iron deficiency, you will notice the most common sign, which is leaf chlorosis. If your elodea plants start having yellowing leaves at the edges, it could be a sign of potassium deficiency.

3.2. Housing

By housing here, I refer to the type of container that you put your elodea plants in. Sometimes people use them for research purposes in the lab, while most people grow them to adorn their fish tanks. Although they are aquatic plants, there are still some differences that you should know about regarding the housing for them.

3.3. Aquarium

Many people like the look of elodea plants in the ponds or tanks because they look really nice. The containers for the plants should be large enough to submerge them entirely in the water. Remember that they can grow if they are free-floating, but they grow more vigorously if roosted in a substrate. When you keep them indoors, make sure to provide them with 10 to 12 hours of light per day. This amount of light should be at 3 to 5 watts per gallon of water, and fluorescent lights will do. Along with that, you should keep the temperatures between 45 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on which elodea plants you have.

3.4. Lab

You can actually use the plants immediately right after you rinse them if you want to use them for research purposes. However, in order to achieve optimum results, you should transfer them to water and leave them under the lights for 2 days. Doing so allows the plants time to recover from any shock during the shipment so that their conditions are better. When using them in a lab, you should house your elodea plants in a shallow container that has a broad surface. The best water to keep them in is spring water because tap water may contain chlorine and chloramine. You should also avoid deionized or distilled water because it lacks the minerals that the plants need.

When you get them, remove the rubber bands from the stems, then spread them into one layer in the water. Then use a fluorescent-type light bank or a 23-to-32W mini fluorescent bulb for light. In case you want to keep them for multiple days first before using them, make sure to replace the water regularly. For example, on every third day, replacing about ¼ of the water will do to prevent minerals from depleting.

3.5. Light

This type of plant does well under moderate light, and it can die in low-light tanks. To stay on the safe side, it is better to keep the light bright because they do well in high light situations. The thing to watch out for is when the light is too intense or on for too many hours. That is because green hair algae or other algae can begin to grow on your plants which are not pleasant. This will occur on older leaves and stems that are closest to the surface. The best amount of light should be bright enough, and it should not be longer than 12 hours a day. Elodea plants thrive in moderate lighting, and they will quickly die if the light is inadequate.

3.6. Maintenance

Elodea plants can grow very rapidly under the right conditions, and that is where maintenance comes into the picture. As time goes by, they will develop white fine roots that will branch across the substrate. You may also see other roots sprouting from the stem that will either remain dangled or go into the substrate. Many people prefer to keep them dense and long to provide cover for the aquatic pets in the tanks. However, you should consider trimming them down if they start to take over a tank. All you need to do is gently trim away some of the long stems so that they remain looking nice. As long as the tank conditions are good, the stems will always grow back, so don’t worry. If they overgrow in the pond, then you will need to pull or prune the entire plant.

3.7. Soil

These plants grow in most soil, but they prefer sandy sediment that is rich in minerals. At the same time, the neutral in the sand or soil should be neutral. When growing, the stems extend from a fibrous root system that stabilizes the plant in the soil at the pond bottom. The root system pulls nutrients from the soil to nourish the plants, so you want the soil to be nutritious. In case you worry that there are not enough nutrients, you can always add fertilizer like aquatic plant fertilizer.

3.8. Space

Another important thing to have in mind when you want to grow and plant elodea plants is space. These plants can grow very fast with their long stems spreading everywhere, so space is very important. Its stems can grow from 4 inches to 3 feet long at maturity, and its size varies depending on the water depth. In shallow water, it may only spread to a foot long. No matter what, you want to make sure that your aquariums or ponds have enough room for the plants to grow. If the space is small, consider planting less, so they don’t overcrowd your tanks.

3.9. Sun

For those who grow the plants outdoors, you want to make sure that they receive enough sun for photosynthesis. Remove the branches and other objects that create shade over the plants. With sufficient photosynthesis from sunlight, your waterweed will grow healthily in your pond for you. Another important thing about the sun is that it helps generate dissolved oxygen in the water. It is not only beneficial for your elodea plants but also for the fish that share the same habitats. If your waterweed is in deep shade, it will not thrive or survive.

3.10. Water

As a freshwater organism, you should always keep your elodea plants in dechlorinated tap water. Because most municipalities tap water contains chlorine and chloramines, you should treat it with a dechlorinating agent first. This is to ensure that they live in the best conditions and water quality that help with their growth. Speaking of conditions, the water temperature for your plants should be in a range between 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. These plants can actually survive in much cooler conditions, as low as 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Another thing to remember is the water parameters for your elodea plants. They do well in a wide range of water conditions, but they have specific favorable water environments. Elodea plants like water with pH between the range of 6.5 to 7.5, so keep that in mind as well.

4. How To Propagate An Elodea Plant

The main reproductive strategy of these plants occurs when the stalks detach from the parent plant, float away, root, and produce new plants. However, you can also propagate them if you want to expand your collection at home. The steps are quite easy and simple, so feel free to follow the instructions below.

  • Cut a healthy stem that is at least 8 inches long, and it should have numerous leaves.
  • Trim the leaves at the base of the stem and bury the stem 2 inches deep into the substrate. It will quickly develop roots and start growing within days or a few weeks.
  • You can propagate as many as you want to a new tank by repeating the process. As long as the conditions are favorable, the propagation will always be successful.

Lazarus The Fish Boy has a quick video about how to propagate an Anacharis, so check it out.

5. FAQs:

5.1. Is elodea a good plant?

Yes, it is. Elodea is a great plant that is common in aquariums, water gardens, as well as other water sources. It is easy to grow and care for, and it is a wonderful aquatic plant for beginners out there. The best part is that they are very beneficial to the aquatic animals that share habitats with them. Besides the fact that they can be invasive in some areas, elodea is all good.

5.2. Is elodea a plant or algae?

It is a plant, but its appearance often makes people think that it is an algae. Elodea plants look similar to some thin flat or tubular green algae, but they actually belong to the Plant Kingdom.

5.3. Is an elodea plant invasive or poisonous?

Elodea plants are invasive, and they are illegal in a number of states in the United States. Some of them are Alabama, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and Ohio.

5.4. Where can I find elodea plants?

They are native to both North and South America, but you can find them online or in some local pet stores. You can also buy them all year round, and growing them is also easy and simple. The only problem is that some states restrict the shipping of Brazilian waterweed because it is an invasive plant. So if you are not picky with the species, consider online shopping a native non-invasive option that is available instead.

5.5 What are the benefits of elodea plants?

Waterweed is very useful in the aquariums and other regular fish tanks out there. Anacharis has the ability to take up water pollutants and inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria by limiting nutrients in the water. When they are dense, they provide a hiding place for timid fish and shrimp in the aquarium. Things are the same with many other several small aquatic creatures besides fish and shrimps. Some fish like goldfish, gouramis, swordtails, and tetras like to nibble on them. Along with that, these plants are also sources of vital nutrients for any aquatic animals outdoors. Ducks, geese, and swans actually enjoy feeding on waterweed, which makes them great as outdoor plants also. Not to mention that they are reliable and excellent oxygen providers, elodea plants are quite beneficial for both indoors and outdoors.

5.6. Disposal Note

Brazilian waterweed or Egeria Densa is considered invasive species in many parts of the world. So you should not release them into the environment after research or other purposes. In some states, it is even illegal to release them or other organisms without a permit into the environment. Waterweeds have been known to clog up waterways due to the lack of natural predators. The best way to dispose of them is to place them in a sealed container and freeze them for 72 hours. Then discard the container in the trash without opening it, simple as that. For more information, you can contact your local state Department of Agriculture.

Wrap Up

Elodea plants are one of the best plants that you should have for freshwater display tanks or ponds. They are beautiful, resilient, versatile, and very easy to grow and take care of. Plus, with the fact that many aquatic pets like them, these plants are simply amazing to have. So if having them is legal where you live, you should definitely go for them. I include everything you need to know above, but feel free to ask if you have any questions.

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