How to Become a Cryptkeeper
Posted by Augusta Hosmer on
Guide to Cryptocoryne Aquarium Plants
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Tales from the Crypts: History of Cryptocoryne
These are some of the coolest, hardiest aquarium plants alive. The name "Cryptocoryne" is Greek, from 'crypto' (hidden) and koryne (club). They're also called water trumpets because of the shape of their stems' flower clusters (inflorescence).
Cryptocoryne plants (or just "crypts") were first described as a species in 1779, then as a genus in 1828 by botanists Anders Jahan Retzius and Friedrich Ernst Ludwig von Fischer respectively. So they've been in the hobby a while. Expeditions to find new crypt and other aquatic plant species are still going to this day in the warm, forest streams/ponds they're native to.
Because it's been difficult to classify many crypt species properly, there are also ongoing molecular genetics projects to figure out what's a crypt, what's not a crypt, what's something that looks just like a crypt but is being a poser, and so on.
Fun fact about these plants: they've been used medicinally in India for centuries to treat GI issues, and there are modern studies catching up to them to provide evidence this wasn't just a tradition. Crypt. spiralis is looking good as a gastrointestinal aid and as an antibacterial agent. Not saying you should go chomp on your crypts next time Taco Tuesday doesn't end well for you, but hey, these plants might help docs out in the future.
Cryptocoryne Species and Varieties
Crypts have a lot of variety, and most are pretty tough and forgiving of rookie mistakes. You could easily do an entire planted tank just with crypts if you wanted an easy species setup. Check out some of our favs (including some epic red plants):
Albida crypts make for easy, multicolored plants that do well across a huge range of tank conditions. Dustin's called these a mix between a wendtii and a balansae (more on those species below!) and it's easy to see why.
Cryptocoryne balansae (Cryptocoryne crispatula 'balansae')
These are some of my favorite crypts, but they do need a little more TLC than the others on this list. They're still mega easy compared to other genuses and are beginner-friendly, but balansae are slower growing, heavier root feeders and like a good substrate as a result. Love these for the ruffled look of the leaves and how tall they get.
Cryptocoryne becketii 'Petchi'
Becketii crypts have lanky, deep red stems with dark green leaves for a low-maintenance splash of color.
Cryptocoryne lutea (AKA Cryptocoryne walkeri)
Lutea looks similar to lucens, but they're distinguishable thanks to their leaves/growth patterns. Both have thinner, light green leaves and pale red stems, but their leaf shapes are slightly different. Both are hardy species with some subtle color.
I love the shape of pontederifolia's leaves. They're unique-looking, bright green arrowheads. And the bonus? The cool look doesn't come with advanced care requirements. They're still just as easy to keep as the other crypts.
If you're ever thinking "hardy aquarium plants," you're missing one if you don't include Cryptocoryne spiralis. This is a taller crypt species that even outshines other crypts for how tough it is, and it has a bright green, wavy leaf.
Cryptocoryne wendtii - Hybrid and Red
AKA the Wendt's water trumpet, Cryptocoryne wendtii has some cool varieties, including the hybrid and the red we've got in the pics above. They're native only to Sri Lanka.
Cryptocoryne Care Guide
Scientific Classification: There's a lot of heated botanist discussion on how to classify individual species, but crypts are angiosperms (grown from seeds, with flowers and fruit), and part of the Aroideae subfamily of plants (Araceae family; commonly called aroids). This makes them cousins to several other popular freshwater plants, like Pistia (water lettuce), Anubias, and Bucephalandra (Buce plants). So if you know anything about those, you're thinking, "Crypts must be easy/beginner aquarium plants." And you're right.
Planting: Plant in the substrate. Most crypts will grow better in a planted tank substrate, but many species can handle plain gravel as well (excepting balansae). Placement depends on the species. Crypts are typically midground-background plants, but can move around depending on how tall your tank is. In a medium-large tank:
Foreground - parva; wendtii
Midground - albida; pontederifolia; becketii 'Petchii'
Background - balanese; spiralis
General piece of planting advice for crypts: they're fun to scatter around a tank and watch what they do, because they usually fill in by putting off runners and looking gorgeous when they're finished.
And on another cool note, Dustin sells them as aquarium plants, but crypts can also be used in humid terrariums.
Temp: They're fairly hardy and adaptable, but they're native to warmer, tropical waters. Ideal temp range is between 70 and 80 Fahrenheit, give or take a few degrees on either end.
Light: These plants can thrive in high light, but they typically do well in low-light, low-tech setups, too, making them a great beginner choice. Keep in mind, though, crypts are naturally slow growers, so low light tanks might make them even slower.
Also, remember your red plants will grow better and keep their color more easily with higher light.
Ferts/CO2: Ditto from the lights section. Thrives with them, but can look just as great without supplementing too much.
pH: They're very tolerant and adaptable when it comes to pH; some species in the wild actually grow on limestone where it's super alkaline.
Hardness: Crypts are some of the best plants for hard water, but are adaptable across varying GH.
Fish for Crypts: Any; though, if you have cichlids, you may want to opt for some tougher plants unless you have these rooted well (they have tough roots). These plants are also perfect for tropical species and for Indian and Asian biotope tanks.
Common problems: Much like an actual crypt, these plants don't like to be disturbed. So, even though they're chill in basically every other way, they're notorious for melting no matter how they're grown. When you introduce them to your tank, expect them to be divas at first: they'll drop leaves and turn transparent and just look outright dead, but they'll come back strong and give you a great group of plants after the crypt melt.
Aquarium Plant Melt
Invasiveness: Most of the species we have listed are fine, but some crypts are invasive in warm, humid places like Florida. So be sure to check your agriculture laws, and don't release crypts into any natural waterways and make it where we can't have nice things.
If you want to try your luck at getting some cool crypt species for a discounted price, check out the Dustin's Fisthanks "Crypt Hole" Combo!
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