Minimum Tank Size: 20 Gallons
Care Level: Easy
Water Conditions: 6.5-75 and Soft to Moderately Hard
Temperature: 22–27 °C (72–82 °F)
Maximum Size: 24 inches (60 cm)
The Amazon sword (Echinodorus bleheri) is a rossette plant that is widely available in the aquarium trade. Originally found throughout the Amazon basin, it is now widely cultivated on farms around the world.
While the Amazon sword is considered an aquatic plant, it will still continue to grow when only partially submerged. With that being said, the water level should always be maintained above the leaf blades for optimal growth.
The Amazon sword makes an excellent center-piece plant in aquariums, and is best suited for larger aquariums (29 gallons+). If it is well cared for and provided with adequate space, it can grow leave blades up to 24 inches (60cm) long. In a smaller aquarium, these huge leave blades will completely overgrow the tank, and will leave little room for the fish.
The Amazon sword is easy to care for, and will thrive in most home aquariums. It should be planted in a loose substrate, with a small grain gravel or speciality planting substrate being the best choices. It will also root in a sand substrate but requires more care when it is first planted. This is especially true if there larger fish in the tank, as they will easily pull out an Amazon sword from sand substrate before it has properly rooted.
Amazon sword plants benefit from regular doses of an iron rich fertilizer and fertilizer should be added weekly after a water change. It will also benefit from root tab fertilizers and unlike many other plants, will grow extremely well without the addition of any CO2 to the aquarium.
When choosing lighting for an Amazon sword plant, a high quality LED, or speciality plant bulb (CFL, Flourescent Tube) is the best choice. It needs approximately 3 watts per gallon, but you should be careful not to provide too much light, as the leaves of Amazon sword plants can be susceptible to algae growth.
If you do notice excessive algae growth on the leaf blades, it should be gently wiped off during the weekly water changes. It is also important to remember that Amazon swords should be checked for damaged and torn leaves during water changes. Amazon sword plants cannot repair damaged leaves, and these should be removed to allow the plant to redirect energy to the healthy leaves.
The propagation of Amazon swords is quite easy, and occurs through either division or adventitious plantlets. In the home aquarium, you will likely only ever see the adventitious plantlets, so this is what the article will concentrate on.
When dividing through adventitious plantlets, the Amazon sword will shoot out a long stem, and miniature Amazon swords (runners) will begin to develop on the stem. Once the plantlets have developed roots, they can be removed from the stem and planted on their own.
The runners should always be trimmed from the end first, to allow all of the daughter plants to fully develop. Once they have been separated from the plant, they can then be planted on their own. At this stage, any damaged leaves should be removed, and the roots should have their ends trimmed to encourage growth.
Amazon swords are compatible with most types of fish, but there are several fish to avoid. These include goldfish, most species of plecos and many of the larger cichlids unless it is property secured in the aquarium.
The greatest enemy of an Amazon sword in the home aquarium are plecos. Plecos love nothing more than to rasp the top layer of the Amazon sword off, which causes severe damage to the plant over time. The damage will either severely curtail the growth of the plant, or will kill it outright.
While goldfish are bad for most plants in general, they are especially bad for Amazon sword plants. The reasons for this are two-fold. The first is that temperature requirements are completely different for goldfish and Amazon sword plants. If you are keeping Amazon swords in a cold water aquarium, it is unlikely that it will survive for any length of time.
The second reason is that goldfish love to eat plants. While the leaves are generally too tough for goldfish to eat, their efforts to eat the plant will constantly pull it out of the substrate. Even if you replant it daily, the goldfish will immediately start working at pulling it up. Needless to say, this is not healthy for any plant.
The other fish to avoid is larger cichlids. While some will generally leave it alone, large cichlids like oscars and even convicts will constantly move the Amazon sword plant around the tank. The only way to avoid this is to plant the Amazon sword in a clay pot with mess over the top, or anchor the Amazon sword with river rocks around the base. Depending on the type of cichlid, even these measures may prove ineffective.