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How to Care for a Dwarf Aquarium Lily

Wish you could put lily pads in your aquarium? Check out the dwarf aquarium lily or Nymphaea stellata. This beautiful, easy-to-grow species hails from India and Southeast Asia and is often used as a midground or background 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?

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. (Our bulbs do not come with leaves or roots because they often get damaged or melt 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.

Once the bulb begins sprouting leaves, you can gently tuck it into the substrate so that only a third or half of the bulb is buried. 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.

Aquarium Lily Bulb 3

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 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. 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. 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.

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.

Aquarium Lily Bulb 4

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?

This hardy plant can grow in a wide range of tropical temperatures from 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.

Aquarium lily pads

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?

When your dwarf aquarium lily is feeding and growing well, it may begin to send out little shoots with daughter plants attached to them. 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:

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