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Synonyms: Echinodorus tenellus
Hardiness: Easy
Light Needs: Medium
Plant Structure: Rosette
Family: Alismataceae
Genus: Helanthium
Region: North, Central, and South America
Location: Locations of specific aquarium varieties are unknown
Size: 2-3 inches (5-8cm)
Growth Rate: Fast
Can Be Grown Emersed: Yes


Helanthium tenellum, known as the pygmy chain sword, has a very wide distribution from the northern United States to South America. Two quite distinct varieties are known in the aquarium trade. The most commonly sold form has narrow dark green leaves only 1-2 mm wide. The most recently formed leaves can have a dark red coloration under good lighting and nutrition. A much less common variety has light green leaves that are much shorter and broader, being up to 4 mm wide at the base, tapering from the base to the tip. In the broad-leaved variety, there is no tendency to produce red pigmentation. Plants of the second variety, if uncrowded, stay very low to the substrate, whereas the first variety produces upright leaves, even if uncrowded.*

H. tenellum spreads rapidly by runners, forming a dense turf in good light and a much more sparse growth in shaded areas. While growth is faster with CO2 fertilization, the plant grows well in tanks where the fish provide the only CO2. Frequent pruning is necessary to keep it from invading every part of the tank. Emersed, the narrow leaved variety produces a very delicate, small plant with tiny flowers, whereas the broad leaved variety produces a considerably larger, more robust plant.

Photo #1 Submersed: US and International Copyright 200 by Drinda Jacobson. All Rights Reserved.