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The Amazon sword is one of the best-known and most popular aquarium plants in the hobby. Amazon Sword Care is great stepping stone for beginners to more advanced plants and looks good in any tank. One of the Amazon sword’s best selling points is its ease of care. These plants thrive in low-tech setups and ask very little of the aquarist in terms of maintenance.
Most planted tank owners who have an Amazon Sword plant know that they need to be trimmed and shaped. But what else should you do for them? This blog post will tell you all about how to care for your Amazon Swords, from trimming to fertilizing. Don’t worry! It’s a lot easier than it sounds 😁
A Brief Overview Of The Amazon Sword
|Scientific Name||Echinodorus amazonicus/ Echinodorus bleheri/ Echinodorus grisebachii|
|Common Names||Amazon sword|
|Origin||Brazil, South America|
|Lighting||low-high, 40-250 PAR (Umols)|
|Tank Placement||Mid ground or Background Plant|
|Temperature Range||72 – 82 F|
|Height||4 – 20 inches|
|pH Range||6.5 – 7.5|
|Propagation||Transplant adventitious shoots|
|Feed Type||Root Feeder|
Origins And Habitat
The Amazon sword plant originates from the Amazon basin in the tropical South American rainforests of Brazil. There they grow in slow-flowing or still waters to a depth of 2-3 feet.
What Does This Plant Look Like?
The Amazon sword is a medium to large freshwater aquarium plant. They have an upright growth form with many leaves growing from a very short stem. The large leaves are held singly on upright leaf stalks. It is classified as a rosette plant1.
Each leaf has a prominent mid-vein and secondary veins that run more or less parallel with the margin.
When grown emersed, these plants tend to grow shorter, with smaller and wider leaf blades. Submerged plants in the aquarium have leaves that can measure as much as 16 inches long and 4-8 inches across.
The leaves are thin but firm and have a deep and dark green color with pointed tips. Amazon swords grow from a well-developed root system. The roots grow by spreading widely in the substrate
Placement And Lighting
It is best to plant your Amazon sword plant in the midground or background of a freshwater aquarium. These aquatic plants will grow pretty large so keep this in mind when planning your aquascape.
In nature, the Amazon sword plant grows in environments with fluctuating water depth so light intensity does vary with seasons and weather conditions. This makes them pretty adaptable to a range of light intensities.
Amazon swords don’t necessarily need powerful plant lighting but will grow well under a variety of light conditions. Ideally, you want to aim for about 2-3 watts per gallon.
If you do plan on growing this plant in low light, make sure it is planted in an open area of the tank with good exposure.
Amazon swords work great in nature aquariums and can also be used as an accent or specimen plant. They are perfect for amazon biotopes.
What Are Good Tank Mates?
The Amazon sword plant is a great addition to most nature aquariums and works well with the majority of smaller community fish species.
When considering new livestock for your aquarium, remember that every species needs to be adapted to the same conditions and parameters.
Most tropical freshwater aquarium fish that enjoy the same water parameters as the amazon sword will make great tank mates.
Good Tank Mates
These plants are often used in South American cichlid and discus tanks. Being a tropical South American plant, they are an obvious choice for Amazon biotopes. Ideal freshwater fish for this style of nature aquarium include:
Some aquarists keep Amazon sword plants successfully in their goldfish tanks. While this is possible, the temperature preferences of both the goldfish and the plant should be considered.
Goldfish will also feed on the plants to an extent, but fortunately, Amazon swords are robust and produce new leaves quite regularly.
Fish Species To Avoid
It is no surprise that freshwater fish like plecos, goldfish, and silver dollars will be very quick to feed on your amazon swords.
Large fish like Oscars that tend to disturb plants while they feed or for territorial reasons should also be avoided, particularly if the plant is rooted in a loose substrate like sand. African cichlids are also problematic as they will dig out the plant.
The Amazon sword plant will also be on the menu for ramshorn and bladder snails, but these inverts usually will only eat leaves that are already unhealthy or decaying.
In smaller aquariums, you probably want to avoid growing Amazon swords in a nutrient-rich substrate. By growing them in a low nutrient environment, it will be much easier to keep them to a manageable size.
For optimum growth, however, regular feeding will definitely be appreciated.
How Much And How Often To Feed
Amazon swords are root feeders first and foremost, so provided they are grown in good aquarium soil, feeding will not be strictly needed. If grown in an inert substrate like sand or gravel though, you’ll want to use aquarium fertilizers suited for rooted plants like root tabs.
Root tabs offer a long-lasting output but their performance does vary so follow the instructions on the product you have and keep an eye on your plant’s performance.
Even well-balanced aquarium soils will eventually leach out and then supplementing with root tabs can be a great option.
Root-feeding aquatic plants can also benefit from column fertilizers since there are a few important nutrients that root tabs often lack. These are the macro-nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Tropica Root Tabs are the best in the business when it comes to a complete and reasonably priced root tab product.
Tropica Root Tabs are superior to many store brand root tabs like API. Roots tabs created for the professional aquascaper!
Providing macro supplements after each weekly water change is recommended for the most vigorous growth and Amazon swords will also benefit from a regular iron supplement.
The amazon sword plant grows just fine without CO2 injection. Maintaining a healthy aquatic plant is all about balance though, so in some cases, CO2 will be helpful.
A plant that is grown under strong lighting, for example, may well develop problems with algae growth on the leaf surfaces if not provided with extra carbon dioxide. A CO2 system could be a good investment if you are planning a mass planted tank or amazon biotope setup.
There are plenty of different Echinodorus plants available in the aquarium trade. Things often get a little confused in the hobby and the true identity of your plant isn’t always that certain.
There are 3 plant species that are often called Amazon swords. Some say they are all the same, while others argue that each deserves its own name.
These species are:
- Echinodorus amazonicus
- Echinodorus bleheri
- Echinodorus grisebachii
The Amazon sword plant is pretty easy to care for and needs little maintenance once it is established in the home aquarium. Amazon swords do not need much in the way of trimming or pruning.
You might want to trim some shoots if the plant is taking up too much room in your fish tank, but it is better to make sure your tank is large enough to accommodate this plant before you bring it home.
If you do trim them, be sure to remove the leaf and stalk completely. Leaves that are cut in half will not survive.
Like all plants, Amazon swords do have their preferences, so let’s take a closer look at their needs.
Planted Tank Parameters
Amazon swords are ideal aquatic plants for tropical aquariums but they can also be grown in slightly cooler water. Their ideal water temperature is anywhere between 72-82 degrees Fahrenheit. You will want to plan a heater if you are keeping fish that like warmer water like Betta Fish or Discus Fish.
Amazon swords do best in a pretty narrow pH level range and will grow best in water of Ph 6.5-7.5. Water hardness in the range of 8-12°dGH is recommended.
Amazon swords are not particularly sensitive to water quality and like most aquarium plants, will improve water quality to an extent by taking up excess nutrients in the system.
The most important factors for maintaining good water quality in the planted aquarium are:
- Performing regular partial water changes
- Using a water conditioner when adding new water
- Cycling your tank before introducing fish
- Stocking your fish tank with appropriate numbers and sizes of livestock
- Not overfeeding your fish
- Using adequate filtration
- Protecting the beneficial bacteria in your filter media
A quality filter is one of the most important pieces of hardware in the aquarium. This is especially true in planted tanks.
Amazon swords certainly do their bit in improving water quality in the aquarium, but cannot be considered a substitute for a good filter. Amazon swords have large leaves that can get sucked up against the intake of your filter so bear this in mind when choosing where to plant one. These large leaves can potentially be an ammonia producing factory if they break off and are left unattended. Filtration with lot of biological filtration is recommended. For large scapes, consider a quality canister filter.
The Amazon sword plant does not mind a bit of flow in the water. They are most suited to freshwater tanks with a low to moderate current, however.
Although this plant is able to survive the stronger currents it experiences in nature during the rainy season, the Amazon sword is not adapted to grow in powerful rivers and will not thrive in those conditions.
Maintenance isn’t the most fun side of our hobby, but it is probably the most important. Your Amazon sword plant, like all your other plants and livestock, will look and live far better in a well-maintained tank.
Testing Water Conditions
Testing water conditions is an essential part of your regular maintenance routine. This can be done quite easily with a test kit from your local pet shop.
It is best to test your water before bringing an Amazon sword plant home to be sure your water parameters meet their needs.
Concentrations of nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia can increase in time, especially in heavily stocked or uncycled aquariums. Be sure to test your water just before and just after a water change to get a feel for how stable your water conditions are.
How To Set Up Your Aquarium Tank
One very important factor to success when growing the Amazon sword is providing enough substrate depth for the extensive plant roots to develop fully. Aim to provide 2 or 3 inches of substrate for this plant.
They are naturally adapted to grow in the fertile soils of the Amazon river basin and will therefore appreciate a rich aquarium soil.
That being said, aquarists with smaller aquariums can also grow this plant in a sand substrate or fine aquarium gravel as this will result in slower growth and a more manageable plant at the end of the day.
Considering the size that Amazon swords can reach in good conditions, 20 gallon tanks are the minimum recommended size. They can, however, be grown in smaller aquariums but they are likely to dominate something like a 10 gallon aquarium and limit the swimming space for your fish.
How To Propagate
Propagating new Amazon swords can be very easy if you have a strong, established plant. The secret is to provide the parent plant with a healthy environment and a little time.
The Amazon sword plant will produce a runner from its crown that extends along the surface of the substrate for a few inches to produce plantlets or daughter plants.
This happens quite naturally and the plantlets will grow out in their position or they can be moved. Wait for the plantlet to develop strong plant roots of its own and some healthy leaves before severing it from the parent plant.
The plantlets can then be moved and replanted in the substrate as you wish, but be advised that these new plantlets will be more sensitive than mature Amazon swords.
Health And Disease
Signs Of Good Health
Healthy Amazon sword plants will be all green in color and produce new leaves regularly. The plant will have an upright growth form and have leaves that are not dull or see-through.
The leaves will grow to full size and be free of algae growth. Mature established plants will send out runners that produce daughter plants.
Signs Of Poor Health
Amazon sword leaves that are translucent or turn yellow or brown are occasionally noticed. This is often a sign of a mineral deficiency in the water.
If you notice this problem, try supplementing your plants with iron and macros like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous. any discolored or dying leaves should be removed to prevent ammonia production.
This problem should not be confused with melt that often happens soon after planting. Here an article from the University of Florida that goes over common fungal issues.
Common Health Issues And Treatment
Often, many leaves will die off after first planting a new aquarium plant in your tank. This is a common problem that is known as melting.
It happens for a few reasons but it is important to note that it can happen to even the healthiest Amazon swords, even in ideal water parameters. Melt happens as a result of shock from being set in different conditions to what the plant has been grown or kept in.
Aquarium plants are often farmed emersed. Once submerged under the water, the existing leaves may not survive this radical change, but this doesn’t mean the entire plant is in trouble. Usually, the plant will produce new growth that is adapted to the new conditions.
It is important to remove melting leaves from your aquarium before they decay and break up in the water. Rotting leaves are not only unsightly, but they can also affect your water quality.
Even in healthy, established specimens, diseased or unhealthy leaves should be removed. By doing this you can limit the spread of infections to other leaves.
Algae growth on the leaves of your plants is a common but frustrating problem. The most common causes for this issue are:
- Lighting that is too strong
- The lighting period is too long
- The water nutrient levels are too high
- The nutrient levels and CO2 are too low for the lighting provided
Unfortunately, removing the algae growth will not solve the problem until the root cause is found and fixed.
Some keepers report that the Amazon sword plant is susceptible to damage by some pests such as ramshorn and bladder snails. It is more likely that these snails are feeding on unhealthy, decaying leaves rather than healthy plants, however.
Snails love aquarium plants because they offer great places to hide and forage. Often, when bringing a new aquarium plant home, you may have a few snails hiding between the leaves that you weren’t aware of.
If you don’t already have snails in your tank and don’t want to introduce them now, it’s worth carefully inspecting and washing off new Amazon swords before adding them to your aquarium.
Another, more extreme, but very effective method is to dip your Amazon swords in bleach. This can be a risky procedure though because bleach is a harmful chemical for both plants and animals.
To do this safely, it’s important to use a very mild mixture of bleach and water. 1 part bleach to 20 parts water is a good strength for killing pests without damaging plants.
Even at this weak level though, prolonged exposure to the bleach will harm your plants so dip them for no longer than 2 minutes and then rinse them off carefully before planting out in your tank.
Where To Buy These Plants
Amazon sword plants are one of the most popular aquatic plants in the hobby and not difficult to find at most outlets that sell fish and aquarium plants. If you prefer the convenience of online shopping, Buceplant offers quality tissue culture amazon swords as well as regular farmed plants. This plant is widely cultivated so it should be regularly available.
A classic background aquarium plant. Grows large and will be a centerpiece in your aquarium
Do they need to be planted?
This species must be planted to grow well in the home aquarium. Suitable aquarium substrates include aqua soils or sand and gravel that are enriched with root tabs.
Can they grow out of water?
Amazon swords can be grown emersed or partially submerged. In nature, these plants usually grow only partially underwater and produce flowers that are visited by butterflies!
In a small, open-topped freshwater tank, Amazon swords may grow large enough to break the surface of the water.
Do these plants need fertilizer?
Amazon sword plants will need fertilizer if not grown in a plant substrate with good nutrient content. Using slow-release root tabs is an excellent way of feeding them if you have an inert aquarium substrate like sand or aquarium gravel.
Can they grow in low light?
Amazon swords can be grown in low-light setups which makes them a great choice for beginners with low-tech setups. In nature, this plant can be found growing in both sunny and shady positions which means they are pretty adaptable to lighting in general.
Do they need soil?
Planting Amazon swords in soil often brings the best results. That being said, you can also plant Amazon swords in sand or aquarium gravel. If you do go the sand or gravel route, don’t forget to enrich the soil with plant food in the form of root tabs.
Whether you’re just starting out with a new aquarium, or you feel like you have space for just one more species in your planted tank, the Amazon sword definitely deserves your attention. The combination of low-tech needs, low maintenance, and really great looks makes this one plant we definitely recommend.
Have you tried planting an amazon sword? What other plants do you like? Leave us a comment below!
Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping – both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.