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Hardiness: Easy
Light Needs: Medium
Plant Structure: Floating
Family: Amaranthaceae
Genus: Alternanthera
Region: Central/South America
Location: Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay
Size: Stem width: 12-14cm (5-6
Growth Rate: Fast
Can Be Grown Emersed: Yes


Alternanthera aquatica, a fascinating, highly modified member of its genus, can be found growing along riverbanks, lake margins, and marshes in Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia. This massive floating plant tends to root in the bottom muck and spreads its several meter long shoots across the water's surface, forming a sheltered habitat for floating communities of Limnobium laevigatum, Phyllanthus fluitans, Eichhornia crassipes, and Ludwigia helminthorrhiza. The internodes of this Alternanthera sp. are filled with air as an adaptation to a floating existence. Due to its tremendous size, it is understandably rare in the hobby, relegated mostly to botanical gardens and tropical ponds as a novelty plant.

Other than requiring a great deal of space, A. aquatica is not a very demanding species for the very large aquarium. Intense, direct lighting is the most important factor for long term success, followed by heavy fertilization of nitrate, phosphate, potassium, and traces either through the water column or substrate to spur faster, more vigorous growth and larger, more verdant stems.

A content specimen of A. aquatica will quickly try to grow out of the confines of even the largest aquarium, making frequent pruning of the floating stalks necessary. For propagation, these stalks can be planted in the substrate or left floating. Either way, they will soon take root and commence rapid growth.

This enormous floating plant is not suitable for the typical garden aquascape. However, it is highly desirable for the extremely large South American biotope aquarium, especially those which try to imitate the Pantanal region. In such a setup, one can easily recreate the biologically diverse floating communities found in the wild and provide a sense of security for the various characins and cichlids that share this plant's native range.

Photo #1: US and International Copyright 2004 by Oliver Knott All Rights Reserved.

Photo #2: US and International Copyright 2004 by Oliver Knott All Rights Reserved.