How to Care for a Dwarf Aquarium Lily
You’ve always wanted to put lily pads into your aquarium. Nymphaea (or dwarf aquarium lily) is an interesting option. 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. Compared to your typical green aquarium plant, the dwarf lily provides unique textures and interesting colors ranging from reddish-bronze to pinkish-green.
How do you plant a dwarf aquarium lily?
Aquarium Co-Op will ship a single dwarf aquarium lily bulbs in a protective peat moss package. (Our bulbs do not come with leaves or roots because they often get damaged or melt after being planted.) To clean any dirt or debris, take the bulb out and rinse it in some water. 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 initially float, but they eventually sink once they have become too waterlogged.
When the bulb has begun to grow leaves, you can gently insert it into the substrate. This prevents the bulb from being moved around by your fish or the water current. Once roots are rooted into the ground, they will anchor the plant.
Once the lily has sprouted leaves, slightly push the bulb into the substrate without covering up any of the new shoots.
How long does it take for aquarium plant bulbs to grow? If you see no growth after one to three weeks, try turning the bulb over and give it another one to three weeks to sprout. Plant bulbs actually have a top and bottom side, but we cannot see it until it starts growing leaves up toward the surface and roots down toward the substrate.
Why are the bulbs becoming moldy or covered with a fuzzy growth? Organic objects, such as plant bulbs or driftwood, can often develop biofilm from harmless bacteria and microorganisms when placed underwater. This can look like white mold, fluffy fungus, or short tufts of gray hair is covering the bulb. If you have algae eaters, shrimp, or snails in your aquarium, they will often consume this fuzzy layer for you. The biofilm doesn’t pose a danger to the lily as long as it isn’t able to spread to other plants.
Why won’t my aquarium lily bulb sprout? If you have followed the above instructions with no sprouting or the bulb is mushy to the touch and emits a foul odor, your bulb is likely 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. If you purchased your dwarf lily from Aquarium Co-Op, please email our Customer Service with your order number and pictures of the bulb, and we’ll be happy to refund or replace the plant. Dwarf aquarium lilies are one of our favorite beginner plants, and we want to make sure you’re successful with them.
Most lilies sprout fairly quickly after being submerged in water, producing many leaves that emerge from a single point on the bulb.
How Do You Care for a Dwarf Lily?
The hardy plant can withstand extreme tropical temperatures of 72-82°F (22-28°C). It doesn’t require CO2 injection and can live in aquariums with low to 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. However, once they get established in your tank, lilies tend to grow rather quickly and may need additional nutrients in the form of liquid fertilizers and root tabs.
Trim back some (but not all) of the lily pads if they begin to cover the entire surface of the water.
Can You Propagate a Dwarf Water Lily?
If your dwarf aquarium lily grows well and is eating well, it might start to produce little shoots that have daughter plants attached. Simply cut off the side shoots and replant them in a desired location in your fish tank. If your plant is not thriving for some reason, it may be suffering from a nutrient deficiency, so take a look at our plant nutrients article to help you troubleshoot the issue: