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Family: Araceae, Subfamily Aroideae

Common Name:

Origin and Habitat: Southeast Asia: Endemic to Sumatra (Padamg Province). Grows in slow-moving rivers and streams in lowland forests; in their lower reaches, the waters are influenced by tides but remain strictly freshwater.

Ideal position in aquarium

An excellent mid-ground and fore-ground plant, best in a group; once established, this species will readily send out substrate runners with new plants.

Lighting requirements

Low to moderate; grows very well in diffused (non-direct) light, and is an excellent plant for shady spots that are not too dark.

Growth rate


Minimum Tank Suggestion


Water parameters

Soft to medium hard (< 15 dGH), acidic to slightly basic (pH < 7.5) water, optimum temperature 22-25C/72-77F but this species does well within 18-28C/64-84F. Any significant change in any water parameter may cause crypt melt [see comments under Physical Description].


In the writer's view, this is one of the loveliest crypts for the aquarium. Its leaves--dark, olive-green upper surface with a distinctive darker vein patterning and a pale rose underside in colour, oval-lanceolate in shape--make a nice contrast to other plants. It can attain close to 12 inches in height, but in lower light (shade) 4-5 inches is normal. It does well in aquaria with a cover of floating plants.

It grows well in fine gravel or sand, and once settled it will send out runners with daughter plants, though this may be slow to occur. The daughter plants may be left to form a stand of plants, or carefully removed by cutting the runner once the daughter plant has several established leaves and then planted elsewhere.

As can be seen in the habitat photo, this plant like all the crypts is a bog plant that will grow emersed and submersed.

Crypt Melt: All species in the Cryptocoryne genus require stable water parameters/conditions and light, and once planted, crypts should not be moved. It generally takes up to 30 days for a crypt to become established. Within a couple of days of any significant change in temperature, pH, hardness, light intensity or duration, nutrient availability or disturbance to the roots by moving (either within the aquarium or to a different aquarium), the plant may "melt." This condition involves the leaves disintegrating into a pile of mush, sometimes within a day or two. The roots usually remain alive, and if not disturbed (siphon away the "mush" but do not disturb the roots) new leaves tend to appear within a matter of a few days or sometimes longer, even up to several weeks or (more rarely) months. Some authorities report that introducing plants to an established aquarium (3+ months) can reduce the occurrence of a melt. Several sources mention that this species is less inclined to melt, and this has been the writer's experience; sometimes only a leaf or two may melt on a plant when moved to a different aquarium, often none, provided the water parameters and lighting are basically the same.

This species was described by Schott in 1853 from specimens collected in western Sumatra. The species epithet refers to the leaf similarity to the genus Pontederia.

Cryptocoryne naturally occur in tropical parts of SE Asia from India to New Guinea; most species occur in a relatively small area. They grow in slow-flowing streams and rivers, along the banks of faster streams, and in marshes and flooded forest; they are adapted to growing emersed and submersed according to the seasonal floods. All crypts have a fairly thick rhizome from which the leaves arise in a rosette. They generally propagate vegetatively by runners in the substrate. Flowers are produced but only when grown emersed (during the "dry" season in nature).

Crypts are quite specific with respect to light and water parameters. The species on Sri Lanka prefer slightly acidic to slightly basic pH and medium hard to hard water, while those native to Borneo and the Malay Peninsula that occur in blackwaters prefer very acidic and soft water. The latter also grow in shaded areas exclusively, while occasionally those from Sri Lanka are found in sunny locations as well as shade. While some species may have quite specific requirements, in general most crypts can be cultivated in soft to medium hard, acidic to very slightly basic water, in a substrate of sand and gravel to which fertilizer may be added. Moderate light is recommended for optimum growth. Any significant or sometimes even minimal changes to water, substrate or light will cause some species to melt as described above.

The Cryptocoryne genus was erected by Friedrich Ernst Ludwig von Fischer in 1828. The name derives from the Greek crypto (hidden) and koryne (club), a reference to the "kettle," the spadix enclosed by the spathe. The genus Cryptocoryne along with the very closely-related genus Lagenandra [these plants are native to India and Sri Lanka] comprise the Cryptocoryneae tribe within the Aroideae subfamily of the Araceae family. The classification of this genus is complicated and not all botanists are in agreement. Usually the flower must be studied to accurately identify a species since leaf forms can vary due to differing aquarium conditions. There are now over 60 species in the genus (Robert Paul Hudson), and several have numerous synonyms which add to the confusion of identification.


Kasselmann, Christel (2003), Aquarium Plants [English edition].

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