Sword of a Big Deal: How to Keep Echinodorous

Posted by Augusta Hosmer on

Read Time: 5 mins

Looking for info on easy aquarium plants with a ton of variety for any part of your tank? You've come to the right place. Here, we'll break down the Echinodorous genus of plants, highlight some epic sword species, and give you tips and tricks for keeping your swords looking sharp.

(Scroll to the bottom for a quick reference guide for how to care for Amazon swords!)

Several Amazon Sword (Echinodorous) aquarium plant species arranged on a white background

About Amazon Swords

They're called "Amazon" swords because of how prevalent they are in the Amazonian regions of South America, but these plants are native throughout the Western hemisphere. How they came by the "sword" part of their name is easy to see with their blade-like leaves. 

Echinodorous belongs to the Alismataceae (water plantain) family, making it a cousin to another popular group of aquarium plants: Sagittaria

Types of Amazon Swords

There are at least several dozen species of Echinodorous currently recognized, but they hybridize in the wild (and in aquariums) frequently enough there are too many subspecies and cultivars to organize quickly. 

You'll see a lot of these plants also listed under the Helianthum genus. The names are synonymous, though, so don't worry about trying to decide which of two species would work best for you. Because Echinodorous hybridize so often (and so quickly), categorizing all of them hasn't exactly been easy, so their taxonomy changes as we get more info. Honestly, it's hard to know exactly how many sword varieties there are at this point, but it works in your tank's favor! 

Also note there is a specific plant called the Amazon Sword (Echinodorus amazonicus/Echinodorus grisebachii), but in the aquarium hobby, anything Echinodorous is often colloquially called "Amazon Sword" or just "sword plants." So if you're looking for THE Amazon Sword in particular, be sure to specify and know what you're buying. 

Check 'em out:

Echinodorus argentinensis (AKA Echinodorus grandiflorus, Echinodorus floridanus)

Several stems of Echinodorous argentiensis on a white background. It's a light green plant with long, narrow stems and spear-like leaves

Echinodorus cordifolius (AKA spade-leaf sword, creeping burhead, Hybrid Red)

A thick Echinodorous cordifolius with many stems and leaves colored both red and light green

This variety has some of the best color on the list. Look at all the shades of red, gold, and green running through the stems and leaves.

The looks come at the cost of needing a little more TLC, but a healthy Hybrid Red is worth it. Bit of advice on this one: if you want it to keep that rich color, keep it in higher light. Why? Check out our other blog post on keeping red aquarium plants! 

Hybrid Red is actually crossbred from one of the other species on this list, Deep Purple.

Echinodorus decumbens

A few stems of Echinodorous decumbens, a green, narrow-leaved aquarium plant

A Brazillian species, decumbens is just as easy as other swords, but prefers temps on the warmer side. This species gets tall, so use it in the midground or background. 

Equinodorous major

Several Echinodorous major Amazon Sword plants planted together in a black basin of water

Always thought "major" was an appropriate species name for this one, because it can grow pretty tall and does it rapidly. With thick, ruffled leaves, this plant would make a great addition to the midground or background of any tank.

Echinodorus quadricostatus

Several Echinodorous quadricostatus, grass-like aquarium plants

Want a quick and easy foreground plant? Give quadricostatus a shot! It sends off runners and grows like a lawn in good substrate. Compare it to Dwarf Chain Sword down below. 

Echinodorous sp. "Deep Purple"

A hand holding an Echinodorous Deep Purple Aquarium Plant

(don't worry - won't cause smoke on your water)

Like the Jaguar variety below, it's clear how this sword got its name. This could be a great, subtle change of color to break up the green in a heavily planted tank without too much extra work. 

Echinodorous sp. "Jaguar"

A few stems of Echinodorous Jaguar, a green aquarium plant with dotted leaves

It's not hard to see why they call it "Jaguar." Most folks see spots on their plants and panic, but this species naturally has dotted, mottled leaves. 

Echinodorous tenellus (AKA Dwarf Chain Sword, Pygmy Chain SwordHelanthium tenellum)

A Dwarf Chain Sword Aquarium Plant, light green and puttinf off runners

If you're looking to start a carpet and you have some experience with aquarium plants, Dwarf Chain Sword could be an awesome fit for you.

Echinodorous vesuvius 

An Amazon Sword plant with spiralling green leaves (Echinodorous vesuvius)

Easily one of my favorites on the list, vesuvius has light green, spiraling leaves for some unique texture in your aquascape. Not exactly sure how it got the name "Vesuvius," but the word Vesuvius comes from a word in an extinct Italian language meaning "smoke." So maybe the botanists thought it looked like spiraling smoke. 

Regardless, it's an amazing, easy plant you're sure to enjoy. 

Other species include: Echinodorus barthii, Echinodorous radicans, Echinodorus subalatus, Echinodorus uruguayensis

Quick Care Guide for Echinodorous

Planting: Plant placement depends on your species. Most are background/midground plants because of how tall they can get. Broken out for a typical, medium tank (not a nano tank or a giant tank):

     -Foreground species: quadricostatustenellus

     -Midground species: decumbens

     -Background species: major; argentinensis; Jaguar; Deep Purple; vesuvius

CO2: Many will do fine without supplementing CO2 *as long as you have their "food" needs met* but swords will also thrive with CO2 

Fertilizers: Heavy root feeders, so make sure you have either nutrient-rich substrate or are using good fertilizers (root tabs are great for them). Consider dosing with iron as well. Many species on this list technically *can* grow without ferts if you have good tap water, but they look way better with them.

Lighting: varies by species, but usually moderate 

Tank mates: nearly anything that can handle a tropical range; these plants can thrive across a huge range of conditions. As always, watch out for them if you have fish like cichlids, though, especially the finer-leafed species on this list. 

Tank on!

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →