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Hardiness: Easy
Light Needs: Medium
Plant Structure: Rosette
Family: Alismataceae
Genus: Echinodorus
Region: Americas
Location: North and South America
Size: Up to 28 inches tall
Growth Rate: Medium
Can Be Grown Emersed: Yes


Echinodorus berteroi has the distinction of being one of the most variable species in its genus and also one of the most agreeable sword plants available for cultivation. E. berteroi is usually found in marshes and shallow pools of water that normally dry out during the summer. As the water recedes, emergent growth develops, along with inflorescences that produce seeds. The plants usually die after flowering, and juvenile plants begin to grow when the pools fill again in spring.

The leaves of E. berteroi are highly variable and typically exhibit several forms: 1) strap-shaped; 2) arrow-shaped with a sharp tip and pointed rear lobes (this form is most common in emergent growth); 3) spade-shaped with either pointed or rounded tip and rounded rear lobes (most prevalent in floating foliage); and 4) narrow elliptically-shaped leaf blades. Leaves have between 3 and 13 veins (always odd in number) with a conspicuous network of pellucid lines or 'milk tubes' between them. New leaves can be light green or reddish green, while older leaves will be darker green. In both older and newer leaves the veins and pellucid lines are light green. Leaves are often semi-transparent, hence the trade name 'cellophane plant'.

In the aquarium, this plant will produce submersed, floating, and emergent growth with up to 13 inch-tall inflorescences if given more than 12 hours of light per day. To postpone unwanted emergent growth, the lighting duration should be kept to less than 11 hours. E. berteroi will grow in soft or hard water with a medium to high light intensity. A fertile substrate and a temperature between 68F (20C) and 81F (27C) is recommended. Baby plants do not form on the inflorescences, but seeds are highly fertile. When they are small, many of these plants will fit in a 30 gallon tank; however, one adult plant will fill two-thirds of a 75 gallon tank. This plant is very easy to grow, given proper lighting and nutrition.

Though this plant has no specific use in the aquascape, it should be noted that it is an effective filler and background plant. Younger specimens are also suited for middle zone placement, and their striking diaphanous foliage is a beautiful addition to a tank with brightly colored fish.

Photo #1: US and International Copyright 2004 by Steven Pituch All Rights Reserved.

Photo #2: US and International Copyright 2004 by Steven Pituch All Rights Reserved.

Photo #3: US and International Copyright 2004 by Steven Pituch All Rights Reserved.