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Family: Apiaceae

Common Names: Micro Sword, Brazilian Microsword, Grass plant

Origin and Habitat:

South America, in southeastern Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina. Occurs along the banks of slow-flowing rivers, in marshes and ponds, up to an altitude of 1200m.

Ideal position in aquarium

Foreground, as low substrate cover.

Lighting requirements

Moderate to bright. [See comments under Growth rate]

Growth rate

Growth will be slow under moderate light; with brighter lighting and additional nutrient supplementation including CO2 diffusion growth will be faster. This plant will only form truly thick "carpets" with high light and CO2.

Minimum tank suggestion

Suited to any aquarium as it is a very low plant; under moderate light it usually grows around 1 to 2 inches in height, but with brighter light and CO2 is said to attain 5 or more inches. This may however refer to another species, Lilaeopsis carolinensis, which is native to Eastern North America and grows much larger than the subject species.

Water parameters

Soft to moderately hard (< 12 dGH), acidic to basic (pH 5 to 7.5), optimum temperature 22-26C/71-79F.


The common name of micro sword would suggest that this plant is related to the common swords (Echinodorus sp) and chain swords (Helanthium sp) but it is in fact more closely related botanically to the genera Limnobium and Hydrocotyle. Nevertheless, it does bear many similar features to the common swords: it grows submersed and emersed, has a rhizome, and like the Helanthium species, propagates via runners with daughter plants that will spread far from the mother plant. The writer (Byron) has pulled up a 20+ inch continuous runner with more than a dozen plants. The other common name of grass plant comes from the overall appearance, like a lawn of grass.

To plant, several sources recommend that small bunches be inserted into the substrate in a checkerboard pattern, a few centimeters apart. As the plants grow over several months, they will send out runners and fill in the open spaces, forming a carpet. Many refer to this plant as invasive, meaning it spreads everywhere; this can be controlled by periodically cutting the runners to keep it in specific areas.

A sand substrate is best for this plant, as the delicate shoots are easier to plant and will spread more easily, but it will manage in a fine gravel. It usually takes a while (up to several months) to establish.

The Apiaceae (or Umbelliferae) family, commonly referred to as the carrot or parsley family, is comprised mainly of aromatic herbs with hollow stems. It is the 16th largest family within the Angiosperms (Flowering Plants). The English botanist John Lindley described the family in 1836, deriving the name from that of the type genus, Antium, established by Carl Linnaeus who used the name of a celery-like plant as mentioned in the works of the Roman writer Pliny the Elder (ca. 50 AD).
According to The Plant List, there are 347 genera with (at present) 12,816 named species of which 2,786 are accepted distinct species.

The genus Lilaeopsis was erected by the American botanist Edward Lee Greene (1843-1915). The name means "charming the eye." The subject species was described in 1985 by J.M. Affolter; the epithet brasiliensis is Latin and means from Brazil. It is possible that this is the same species as that described by Glaziou in 1909 as Crantzia brasiliensis; the Plant List gives this name as "unresolved," meaning that it is not at this time possible to assign either "accepted" or "synonym" to the name.


Kasselmann, Christel (2003), Aquarium Plants [English translation, Krieger Publishing Company].

The Plant List, Home

Contributing Members

The following members have contributed to this profile: Byron


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