Aquarium & Tropical Fish Site

Alternanthera sessilis var. 'rubra'
Bog Scarlet Hygro

 Age of Aquariums > Aquarium Plants

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sessilis1.jpg (39kb)
Photo Credit: Marcelo Drummond

Name: Alternanthera sessilis var. 'rubra'
Origin: Southeast Asia

Care Gravel Light
Special Rich Bright


This is one of the most beautiful plants you can find for sale in fish shops. Its intense, uniform, violet-red tone is unmatched, but it has one fatal "flaw" - it is NOT a true aquatic plant! This plant is suitable only for terrariums and paludariums. When completely under water, it can only survive for a short period of time, a few weeks at most. After that it will inevitably melt away, no matter how much lighting, nutrients and CO2 you've got in your tank. On the other hand, if you plant it in a shallow water setup and allow the stems to stretch above the surface, then it becomes a really beautiful and easy plant to grow. When I started getting into serious aquatic gardening, I bought this plant thinking it was the true aquatic Scarlet Hygro (Alternanthera reineckii). Needless to say that, when I asked, the shop owner told me they'd do fine underwater. When it became clear that the plant wasn't doing well, I did some research and found out the info above. So I prepared a 2-liter mini tank by adding a few centimeters of sand substrate plus some aquarium gravel additive, filled it with my tank water and transferred the plant into it. I then placed it on my terrace for indirect lighting, and the plants quickly took off and started flowering continuously! In a couple of weeks I was cutting and replanting the stems until I had a real densely planted, low maintenance mini-vase, which I kept for almost 2 years. After you learn about them, telling the difference between the Bog Scarlet Hygro and the aquatic Scarlet Hygro is easy: the first one normally has a more uniform coloration with hard, almost straight stems, and often shows straight white little root shootings as in the picture above. Aquatic Scarlet Hygro has several variants, but they usually have a distinguishable tone between the upper and lower sides of the leaves (lower side usually more intensely red), and in underwater form their stems are much more flexible.

Contributed by Marcos Avila

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