Common Name: Water Lettuce
Distribution: Various tropical and sub-tropical areas
Temperature: 72-77 F (22-25 C)
Pistia stratiotes is a free floating plant for open aquariums and indoor ponds with a rosette of blue-green leaves. The leaves appear very velvety from the hairs that grow on them. It has finely branched roots that are submerged. These roots make excellent fry nurseries. The leaf which is spatulate shaped is fleshy and grows to 6" (15 cm) long and 4" (10cm) wide. Over time it may grow slower and produces smaller leaves. (In this condition it may become mistaken with Salvinia). It is easy to propagate by runners. In the tropics it is regarded as a serious weed. It occasionally needs to be pruned back to allow other plants to receive some light. Be sure to keep the aquarium light some distance away as the heat may damage the plant.
In the wild, water lettuce is a heat-loving plant found in quiet ponds and streams, but they will prosper in warm-water outdoor pools and aquariums. When restricted by lack of free water space, the plants will take root in soil.
I bought my Pistia stratiotes plants at an auction this past fall. Since I had gotten so many I placed them in various tanks. They grew very well in the tanks that did not have cichlids in them. The ones that grew the best for me was in a tank containing one honey gourami and one large angelfish. I placed 2 plants on the surface and let them be. Within a month I had 4 small plants floating on the surface. Today there is 6 plants in that aquarium. They grew runners from the mother plant to create a daughter plant right beside it. They became detached and grew separately. They have a double flourescent light over top of the tank. One light is a regular bulb and one is a daylight bulb. The tank is 20g bare bottomed tank containing also Java moss. The temperature in this tank was maintained at 80 F. The pH was 7.8 in this tank. This is an interesting plant that can be grown as a pond plant and also as an aquarium plant.
© Copyright 1999-2003 Lisa Boorman
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Aquarium Plants : Their Identification, Cultivation and Ecology by Karel Rataj & Thomas J. Horeman
To check other plant references:
Plant and Pond Book List
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