How to Care for a Dwarf Aquarium Lily
You’ve always wanted to put lily pads into your aquarium. Check out the dwarf aquarium lily or Nymphaea stellata. This easy-to-grow, beautiful species is from India and Southeast Asia. It’s often used as a background or midground plant. Its bulb spouts a compact bush of 4-inch, arrow-shaped leaves and then eventually extends long stems of lily pads that float at the water surface. A dwarf lily, unlike your usual green aquarium plant, has interesting textures and colors that range from reddish brown to pinkish green.
How Do You Plant a Dwarf Aquarium Lily?
If you purchase from Aquarium Co-Op, you will receive a package containing one dwarf aquarium lily bulb buried in peat moss to protect it during shipping. The bulbs are not shipped with any roots or leaves as they can become damaged or melted after being planted. Remove the bulb and give it a quick rinse in water to wash off any loose dirt. Place the bulb on top of the gravel or substrate in your fish tank without burying it or else the bulb may rot. Some bulbs may float at first, but eventually they become waterlogged enough to sink.
After the bulb starts to sprout leaves, gently place it in the substrate. This prevents the bulb from being moved around by your fish or the water current. Once the roots grow into the ground, they will firmly anchor the plant in place.
After the lily sprouts leaves, push the bulb into the substrate.
How many weeks does it take aquarium plant bulbs grow? You can turn the bulb around and give it another 1 to 3 weeks to sprout. The top and bottom sides of plant bulbs are visible, but it is not possible to see until the bulb begins growing roots towards the substrate and leaves.
Why is the bulb getting moldy or covered in a fuzzy growth? When organic objects like driftwood or plant bulbs are placed underwater, they often grow a layer of biofilm made of harmless bacteria and other microorganisms. It can appear as white mold, fluffy fungal, or a few tufts of gray hair covering the bulb. If you have algae eaters, shrimp, or snails in your aquarium, they will often consume this fuzzy layer for you. As long as the bulb is firm to the touch and eventually starts sprouting, the biofilm is not dangerous to the lily and doesn’t spread to other plants.
My aquarium lily bulbs won’t sprout if I followed all the instructions. If the bulb has a mushy texture and emits a foul smell, then it is probably a dud. In our experience, we find that less than 5% of bulbs fail to revive, but if this happens to you, the next step would be to contact the fish store or plant seller where you got the plant from. Aquarium Co-Op will gladly refund or replace your dwarf lily if you email us with the order number and photos of the bulb. Dwarf aquarium lilies are one of our favorite beginner plants, and we want to make sure you’re successful with them.
Many lilies will sprout very quickly once they have been submerged in water. The bulbs produce many leaves, each one from a single point.
How Do You Care for a Dwarf Lily?
The hardy plant can withstand extreme tropical temperatures of 72-82 degrees F (22-28 degrees C). It doesn’t need CO2 injection, and can be grown in aquariums with low or high lighting. Once it starts sending lily pads to the top, you may need to prune a few of the surface leaves so that they won’t block light from reaching the other plants in the fish tank.
Dwarf aquarium lilies, like most live aquatic plants, are great for consuming organic waste compounds and improving overall water quality for your fish. Once established, lilies can grow quickly so you may need to add liquid fertilizers or root tabs.
Remove some (but certainly not all) of the lily pad if they cover the entire water surface.
Can You Propagate a Dwarf Water Lily?
As your dwarf aquarium plant grows, you may notice little sprouts of daughter plants attached to it. Simply cut off the side shoots and replant them in a desired location in your fish tank. You may have a problem with your plant’s growth. Take a look at our article on plant nutrients to find out how you can fix it.