Home· Freshwater Aquarium Blog·How to Care for a Tiger Lotus

How to Care for a Tiger Lotus

When looking to add plants to a freshwater aquarium, there are endless choices. Color and shape are some important things to consider when trying to achieve the most pleasing look overall. One plant that is both beautiful and relatively simple to maintain is the tiger lotus or Nymphaea zenkeri. With its broad, wavy-edged leaves and variegated color pattern, it can bring a new and stunning aesthetic to your aquarium.

The tiger lotus is a bulb plant that has two kinds of leaf structures. The first type consists of completely submersed leaves that are somewhat heart-shaped and grow near the bulb. The second type is floating leaves on long, thin stems that look like lily pads resting at the surface of the water.

red tiger lotus

Tiger lotuses grow both bushy leaves near its bulb and long-stemmed lily pads that float to the water surface.

How Do You Plant a Tiger Lotus Bulb?

If you purchase this plant from Aquarium Co-Op, the bulb will arrive in a plastic pot covered in rock wool. There may be some small leaves sprouting from the bulb, but they are often damaged in transit or may melt away after being planted. Not to worry – a healthy bulb is the most important part. Remove the bulb from the pot and rock wool, and rinse off any debris that is stuck to the bulb. Tiger lotuses get rather large, so plant it the midground or background of the fish tank. Gently push one-third of the bulb into the substrate such that the shoots or leaves are completely above ground. Do not bury the entire bulb or it will rot. If the bulb is floating at first, wait for it to become waterlogged enough to sink. As the roots grow into the substrate, they will firmly anchor the bulb in place.

How Do You Grow a Tiger Lotus?

Once your tiger lotus becomes well-established, it will quickly grow plenty of big leaves, so make sure you feed it comprehensive fertilizers like Easy Green and Easy Root Tabs. To bring out the redness in the plant, provide medium to high lighting with some extra iron fertilizer.


Some tiger lotuses grow primarily green leaves with red variegation, whereas others have red leaves with a darker, reddish-purple striping.

How Do You Prune an Aquarium Lotus?

Eventually, the tiger lotus may grow so many floating leaves that it prevents other aquarium plants from getting enough light. To trim the plant, simply clip the lily pad at the base of its stem, closest to the bulb. You can also keep the plant from growing too tall by continuously pruning a few of the floating leaves, which allows the plant to grow out bushier rather than taller.

How Do You Propagate a Tiger Lotus?

Another interesting aspect of the tiger lotus is that it can grow flowers at the surface. If a lotus has lots of lily pads, it may produce a flower with colors ranging from white to yellow. When the flower wilts, it may develop into multiple seeds for you to collect. Another method of propagation is via the bulb. If the tiger lotus is doing well, the parent bulb may form little daughter bulbs that can be detached and replanted in another aquarium.

Do Tiger Lotuses Go Dormant?

Sometimes bulb plants have a dormant period, where all the leaves will die off and leave behind just the bulb. One option is to keep the bulb in the tank. After several months, it will start sprouting new leaves. You can also take the bulb out, keep it in a damp container for several months, and then put it back into the tank. After that, new leaves will sprout and begin actively growing again.



If you’re looking for an eye-catching centerpiece plant to elevate the look of your aquascape, give the tiger lotus a try. If you prefer a lily that doesn’t need as much light, read about the dwarf aquarium lily here:

Recent blog posts