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Hardiness: Easy
Light Needs: Medium
Plant Structure: Bulb
Family: Nymphaeaceae
Genus: Nymphaea
Region: Africa
Location: West Africa
Size: Height: 20-80cm (8-32in)
Growth Rate: Medium
Can Be Grown Emersed: No


The water lily Nymphaea lotus 'Red' (sometimes known as N. zenkeri 'Red') can be found growing in its native habitat of tropical Africa in bodies of stagnant water ranging in size from lakes to small, temporary pools. It has been without question the most popular species of its genus to be kept in home aquaria. Bulbs and juvenile plants are available far and wide, sometimes for sale under the name 'Red Tiger Lotus'.

N. lotus 'Red' is a bulb plant which produces both submersed and floating leaves. Though the plant will grow under low light, higher light values should be favored by the aquarist if the formation of floating leaves is to be avoided. If these floating leaves do develop, however, it is often best to trim them before they get to the surface, since it will be difficult to discourage further foliage of this type once the plant knows where the surface is. Along these same lines, plants that already develop predominantly floating leaves can be trained to discontinue this growth habit if a vigilant trimming of developing floating leaves is practiced. Though a nutritious substrate is doubtlessly the most important factor in the successful cultivation of this plant, CO2 supplementation and the regular fertilization of both the substrate and the water column produces favorable results. However, since particularly strong specimens achieve a size that is by and large impractical for most home aquaria, most aquarists who keep this species tend to employ measures to contain it in some way. One of the most popular methods to this end is the planting of the bulb in a pot, the idea behind which being that the smaller space will better contain the plant's root system and ultimately limit its growth.

Propagation of N. lotus 'Red' can usually only be achieved if the plant is allowed to form a handful of floating leaves and subsequently develop one of its night-blooming flowers. The seeds that develop after the flower has wilted germinate easily. Bulb division, as well, is possible but is rare, and is only successful if the severed portion contains a crown from which leaves have already developed.

Though this species can easily achieve large dimensions, it is not without a place in the aquascape. Young specimens possess superb contrast value in tanks that include primarily green plants, and larger plants make wonderful centerpieces if they are placed well and trimmed regularly.

Photo #1: US and International Copyright 2004 by Tula Top All Rights Reserved.

Photo #2: US and International Copyright 2004 by Tula Top All Rights Reserved.

Photo #3Flower: US and International Copyright 2004 by Krystal Duguay All Rights Reserved.

Photo #4: US and International Copyright 2009 by Dave Manthei All Rights Reserved.