How to Grow Vallisneria in A Fish Tank

By Jecinta Muturi @aquariawise

Vallisneria Aquarium Plant Care—Types, Size, Propagation

Vallisneria is a genus of freshwater aquatic plants with several species that form beautiful aquascapes, albeit being undemanding and easy to grow in a fish tank.

Although not popular with aquarium owners, compared to other aquatic plants such asJava moss and Java fern, Vallisneria will transform your tank, growing submerged and spreading by runners into a lush underwater garden.

The plant will grow a cluster of leaves (from the roots) that have rounded tips and definite veins, with a single white flower rising to the water surface on a long stalk.

Most times, dwarf Vallisneria forms are grown in home aquariums, which include Vallisneria fortifilia, a small variety with tightly coiled leaves.

Vallisneria spirallis, which is a medium-sized variety, is also quite popular for most hobbyist’s tanks, albeit other (some) species like Vallisneria gigantea being too big thus only suitable for large fish tanks.

That said, most Vallisneria species grown by freshwater aquaria owners are tolerant and adaptable. The only requirements when growing the plant your tank is to feed them and provide them with adequate lighting.

Please read on for more insight on growing Vallisneria. We’ll look at types of Vallisneria, growing it in a freshwater aquarium, and caring for it.

Types of Vallisneria

As I’ve mentioned above, many species of the Vallisneria aquatic plants can be grown in freshwater fish tanks, though most of the time, your decision will be directed by the size of your fish tank and how you want to use the plant (foreground, mid-ground or background).

Below are some of the most popular Vallisneria forms that you are likely to get from a friend-aquarist or your local fish store.

#1 — Vallisneria fortifolia

Vallisneria fortifolia is a small species that grows thin and tightly coiled leaves that extend to between 5.9 to 7.8 inches in length. Due to the small size and ease to grow, this species is ideal for small-first-time tanks and even nano tanks.


#2 — Vallisneria spirallis

Vallisneria spirallis, also called straight Vallisneria is another common species of the Vallisneria family grown in home aquariums.

A typical Vallisneria spirallis species grows leaves that are 11 to 20 inches in length with a narrow and linear look and can range in color from pale green to reddish.

The plant can grow to an impressive three (3) feet n height, though they mostly reach this height in the wild.

In an aquarium, Vallisneria spirallis is used as a medium-sized plant, thus require a tank that is a little on the bigger side compared to Vallisneria fortifolia. It makes a particularly good background where skittish fish and fry can hide.


#3 — Vallisneria gigantae

Vallisneria gigantae is an easy species that grow fast, though it’s only suitable for large aquariums because of its big size.

Also, please note that most time the plant sold as Vallisneria gigantae is actually Vallisneria americana or Vallisneria spirallis, but in lesser occasions.

In an aquarium, Vallisneria gigantae leaves grow so long that they float on the surface, reaching anywhere from 19 to 60 inches in length and 0.7 inches wide. Hence the plant needs trimming to keep it from taking too much light and shading plant growing beneath.


#4 — Vallisneria Torta

Vallisneria torta, twisted Vallis, or corkscrew val is a species characterized by thin, green, twisted leaves that form an attractive yet hardy and undemanding aquascape.

The plant can grow to 20 inches tall hence ideal for a background of small to medium-sized aquaria. Corkscrew Vallis foliage will provide a valuable refuge for skittish fish and fry.

Tall growth is ideal for the background in small to medium-sized tanks, while short growth can be used primarily in the middle-ground.


#5 — Vallisneria nana

Vals nana (Vallisneria nana) is a thin leaf, grass-like type of Vallisneria that looks a lot like a tall hairgrass than others in the Vals family. The plant leaves are dark green in color, rosulate (about 0.4 inches), and visibly thinner than in other val types.

Vals nana is suitable as mid-ground plant, but can also be used as a background plant in small fish tanks. In the background, let your plant grow tall and fast to create a jungle-like appearance.

Given the right conditions, a val nana plant will grow like grass plants that spread along side shoots to the height of your fish tank.


#5 — Vallisneria asiatica

Vallisneria american asiatica is another attractive corkscrew variant of the hardy and undemanding Vallisneria americana plant. The type has twisted green leaves that make a beautiful contrast when planted in groups.

Its short leaves differ from most other vals and do not overshadow other plants in the tank, even those beneath it.

Vals asiatica is perfect for the background and will grow all the way to the top of the tank and provide refuge for skittish fish and fry.

How to Grow Vallisneria in Your Fish Tank

Vallisneria is one of the most common and easiest plants to grow in an aquarium. For this reason, it is also one of the first plants that aquarists attempt to grow, usually with decent success.

When planting your Vallisneria, place the roots under the substrate and the crown, where the leaves grow, out above the substrate.

To place your plant in the substrate, you can either use long tweezers or your fingers. Ideally, plug the plant into the gravel or sand then pull it just enough that only the roots remain beneath the substrate.

To top proper placement, you may also want to check if your plant has an extensive root system before placing it in the tank to improve its chance of development. Vallisneria appreciates extra iron as well, so fertilize it while adding a new plant in your tank.

Because of the height of a mature Val plant, place it at the back or in one corner of your aquarium. But with small and medium-sized Val types like Val torta, Val spirallis, and Val fortfolia, it’s perfectly ok to add the plan in the middle.

How Tall Does Vallisneria Grow?

Different types of Vallisneria plants grow to varying max heights. Usually, small and medium-sized species like val torta only get to between 12 and 20 inches of leaf length hence suitable for small fish tanks.

Whereas, large species like val americana gigantae can very easily top 6 feet more so in the wild, though they usually grow a little shorter in aquariums. Even then, you would still to trim them because the leaves can get quite long hogging all the lights and shielding any plants growing beneath.

How to Care for Your Vallisneria Plant

Generally, Vallisneria plants are hardy and can adapt to a range of water conditions. However, they tend to show a preference for hard, alkaline water with a ph anywhere from 6 to all the way to highs of around 9.

If placed in soft water, val plants tend to grow slower. Also, although this plant is part of a few aquarium species that can survive in brackish water, this may negatively impact its growth rate.

A gravel and sand substrate is perfectly ok when growing Vallisneria, but store-bought aqua soil for aquarium plants are better constituted, with a good balance of most of the nutrients your val will need.

Regarding the temperature, Vallisneria plants can withstand a range, with some types doing better in cold water than others. The optimum temperature is anywhere from 72°F to 82°F, but the plant will survive in lows 62°F and highs 86°F depending on the species.

Does Vallisneria Need Root Tabs?

You can grow Vallisneria in a plain substrate without root tabs, but for better plant growth and developments, root tabs are highly recommended.

Root tabs are formulated to supply key nutrients, including iron, and potassium to aquarium plants. They help new aquatic plants get off to a robust start and keep established plants flourishing.

Add a few roots tabs in the substrate when planting your Vallisneria plant for the very first time, then keep adding iron-rich fertilizer to the water periodically, particularly if you realize the plant is not growing as fast as your expected.

The continued fertilization will keep your Vallisneria looking lush and nourished.

Does Vallisneria Need CO2?

As with root tabs or iron-rich fertilization, it’s not a must you dose your Vallisneria with extra CO2, but if your goal is a high growth rate, you’ll want to feed the plant some extra Co2 as well as light.

That said, the general growth rate of Vallis plants is arguably fast, with or without the extra CO2. So, if you dose your plants, prepare for a whole lot of pruning in the long run as well.

How Do You Trim (Prune) Vallisneria?

Vallis plants produce prolific runners and healthy leaves quite fast, which albeit looking nice, the leaves frequently drape over the surface of the tank and can very easily become a tangled, spaghetti-like mess, which makes it hard to feed your fish, and shade the plants below.

So, how do should you trim (prune) your Vallisneria to keep it from getting out of control?

There are two (2) acceptable ways to cut your plant, depending on the size of the overgrowth.

If you only have a few overgrown leaves, cut the leave tops (tips) only, but in case of many overgrown leaves forming a thick layer of foliage, cut a few leaves at the base making sure you have enough foliage left for a natural drape-like reed effect.

Also, make sure you get enough space within the remaining growth to navigate around your tank to feed your fish, install a piece of equipment, or for future pruning.

All you need to prune your Vallis plants is a pair of trimming scissors, which works for almost any aquarium plant foliage.

How Do You Propagate Vallisneria

Vallisnera plant propagate through runners. Usually, a parent plant sends off little shoots, which go a couple of inches and sends off another set of leaves. Then when the new plant gets big enough, it sends out other runners which grow into a third plant, and before you know it, you have a chain of Vallis plants in your aquarium.

Usually, aquarium plants growing in a line like Vallisneria most likely propagate via runners, and are arguably the easiest types of aquatic plants to propagate.

All you need is a pair of scissors to cut a piece of the runners, with a bud or shoot and a set of roots, and replant it in your desired spot in the tank.

Please remember to only clip plants that have enough roots on them to help the plant anchor into the substrate when your transplant it.

A good (literal) rule of thumb when propagating Vallisneria is, if the tiny plant sending out runners is as big as your thumb, it’s well developed and will survive when transplanted.

Once you’ve clipped the runner, pull it out of the substrate slowly, leaving the gravel in place. Pulling the plant too fast will cause a mess in your aquarium, especially if you have a dirt substrate.

To replant it, wrap the roots around your thumb or index finger and push it down into the soil. Tuck the roots in the substrate nice and deep in such a manner that the roots grab a hold on the gravel or sand.

Remember when planting the little runners, leave the part where the leaves come out and anything higher above the substrate.

Lastly, if you plan on buying Vallisneria runners in your local fish store, get plants that have a healthy root system and at least three (3) leaves on it. Also, purchase more than one plant (preferably 4 to 6) to increase the chance of at least or two (2) surviving.

With six (6) plantlets, you can have enough plants for up to four (4) tanks in less than a year.

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