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Family: Acanthaceae

Common Name: Giant Hygrophila

Origin and Habitat: Widely distributed throughout SE Asia from India to Indonesia. Occurs in marshes.

Ideal position in aquarium

Excellent as a background plant along the sides and back of the aquarium; different stem lengths can be arranged for a terrace effect but leave 5-6 cm (2 inches) of space between stems.

Lighting requirements

Grows well under moderate light; the shoots will be stronger and thicker under more intense light. The reddish variant requires brighter light.

Growth rate


Minimum Tank Suggestion


Water parameters for Giant Hygrophila

Medium-hard to hard (4-15 dGH), slightly acidic to basic (pH 6-8) water, temperature 20-28C/68-82F. May grow best in slightly basic hard water with optimum temperature 24-28C/75-82.


This stem plant is suitable for a plaudarium as well as the aquarium. If allowed to grow emersed, the lower leaves in the water will die off, but the plant will often flower.

Since this is a natural marsh plant, available plants will often have been cultivated emersed by nurseries, and when initially planted in the aquarium the stems frequently lose their existing leaves; new aquatic leaves will appear. As the leaves of this plant are fairly large, the stems should not be planted close together or the lower leaves, being deprived of light, will fall off. Planting other low plants in front of the group of stems, or using a piece of bogwood, will serve to hide the bare lower stems.

Propagation is done by cutting off side shoots (after they are about 4 inches in length and have several nodes from which roots and leaves emerge) and burying the cut ends in the substrate. This is an ideal plant for a new aquarium due to its rapid growth requiring the assimilation of nitrogen (as ammonium) and nutrients which also helps combat algae. It is also a good plant for beginners, as it is hardy and easy to cultivate provided it is regularly trimmed. It needs a good source of nutrients, so regular liquid fertilization is beneficial to maintain a healthy plant; yellowing leaves is usually a sign of insufficient nutrients. A substrate of fine gravel or sand is preferred.

There are several man-made varieties having leaf blades that differ in shape and size. These varieties are sometimes seen under names such as Hygrophila corymbosa "lacustris," H. c. "Siamensis," H. c. "longifolius," H. c. "angustifolia," H. c. "stricta," etc.

This species was first described by Carl Ludwig von Blume in 1826 under the name Nomaphila corymbosa. In 1895, Gustav Lindau determined that the plant was actually in the genus Hygrophila. The genus name Hygrophila comes from the Greek hygros [moist] and philein [to love] and means moisture-loving; all species in the genus prefer moist conditions and naturally grow in swamps and along streams. The species epithet corymbosa is the latinate of corymbous that refers to the inflorescences, meaning a broad and flat-topped cluster of flowers in which the outer flower stalks are longer.

The Acanthaceae or Acanthus family is large, containing some 250 genera with 2650 species; the various plants are flowering and occur in practically every type of habitat; two genera (Justicia and Hygrophila) contain aquatic species. Hygrophila has about 125 species of which roughly 40 are aquatic. Only a few of these are seen in aquaria.


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

Wilson, Rhonda (2006), "The genus Hygrophila," Tropical Fish Hobbyist (June 2006).

Contributing Members

The following members have contributed to this profile: Byron


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