Care Level: Easy
Water Conditions: 6.5-7.5 pH, and Soft to Medium Hard
Lighting Requirements: Moderate
Temperature: 72 to 82 ºF (22-28 ºC)
Maximum Size: 12 Inches (30.5 cm)
The dwarf sagittaria (Sagittaria subulata) is a commonly available, hardy aquatic plant that is perfect for beginners. There has been some concern that the term sagittaria subulata is misleading for this tiny plant, and it may actually refer to a similar species native to the southern United States and not the species found in eastern United States. But at this time, issues surrounding the name of this plant have not been resolved.
Assuming for now that the dwarf sagittaria found in the hobby is only one species, it is native to both Colombia, and the United States. In recent years it has become established as an invasive species in Great Britain, the Azores and Indonesia.
It is primarily found in along the sea coast, and grows mainly in brackish coastal water in marshes and estuaries, though it can also be found in some streams and ponds. It can grow both partially and fully submersed, so it can adapt to a wide range of conditions in the home aquarium.
Growing dwarf sagittaria is relatively easy, and this is one of the few plants that can tolerate very high pH and hard water conditions. It should be planted in a nutrient rich substrate, or the water column should be regularly fertilized. It is especially sensitive to low levels of iron, and any yellowing of the leaves normally means an iron deficiency. At the very least, you should consider regularly adding Seachem Flourish Trace Elements, which is a must for any planted aquarium.
While it appreciates the addition of CO2 to the aquarium, it will still thrive in a tank that doesn’t have any CO2 supplementation. If CO2 isn’t added to the aquarium, you should consider providing it with higher lighting to encourage growth.
Dwarf sagittaria spreads through runners, and can form the much sought after carpet effect in the home aquarium. It should be planted in the foreground of a tank, though well-tended plants can also be placed in the background, since they can grow up to 12 inches (30.5 cm) in height. Occasionally, if kept in excellent conditions, it may send small white flowers to the surface of the water.
Dwarf sagittaria only requires moderate lighting, but it will do best when provided with high lighting. If it is kept under high lighting for any extended period of time, it will bring out a tinge of red in the leaves.
Ideally any tank containing dwarf sagittaria should be lit with fluorescent lights, and either T5 or T8 bulbs will do. A minimum of 3 watts per gallon should be provided, although it will grow far better under higher lighting.
LED lights can also be used, though there are some concerns about the quality of LED lights currently available. With that being said, some of the recent LED lights have made some major strides in quality, and they may be worth checking out again.
Dwarf sagittaria propagates through producing runners, which can be pinched off and planted in the substrate. If left to its own devices, it will spread through runners on its own, and will form a carpet in the aquarium.